Heavy weather, on watch alone, hand steering, and growing stronger. Ahhh..in my element and loving the challenge of reflecting on my practice to support women in gaining the skills and confidence to “cruise".
Winds have increased to a sustained 30 knots with gusts to 39 from the west. I'm rising over each 8-10 foot swell and turning the wheel quickly to surf down the face increasing our speed to 9.5 knots. Galloping over these swells are 3-5 foot wind waves, frothing at their bits as they charge across the sea. Dale is asleep below. We're passage-making and in a trough. It's my watch, 4 hours of hand steering ahead.
Steering with core:
1. Increases physical capacity to hand steer for hours in strong conditions. Previously, I would succumb to muscle fatigue.
2. Exercises the lower body. Glutes and quadriceps are largely neglected muscles while sailing in average wind and sea conditions.
3. Self-empowers as each muscle is confidently grounded and engaged to manage the situation rather than wait out a watch being tossed as a victim of circumstances.
4. Moves one into a state of peace one hundred percent focused in the moment, on the elements, and in maintaining a well-centered body.
How it's done:
~ Plant feet firmly in a grounded position off-centered from the wheel.
~ Engage abs, thighs, and glutes and hold the wheel with two hands resting on a spoke mid-thigh level (rather than gripping like a car's steering wheel).
~ To turn the boat to starboard and surf down the wave, extend arms straight, but not locked. Then lean forward slightly pressing your core through your arm, rotating the wheel down.
~ To turn even more, walk hands up each spoke, like rungs on a ladder. As each spoke reaches the level of your fully extended arm, lean forward at the waist to allow your weight to press it down with all core and leg muscles fully engaged. This takes all strain off the arms and relaxes the shoulders.
~ Right before reaching the bottom of the wave, turn the opposite way. This time, lean slightly forward at the hip and reach for a spoke down low. Maintaining relatively straight arms, pull up with upper body. Just a slight movement.
No need for a gym today, I've taken care of vessel, crew, and me! Time past quickly this watch as I engaged in a good ol'fashioned workout with Mother Nature.