Time on the Water


By: Caki Diehl

It was the typical low country sweltering summer day. Sweat oozed from every pore as I walked down the long, wide planked pier to the boat, the weathered wood creaking beneath my flip flops. The sun beat down from the Carolina blue sky. I took in the familiar muddy scent of marsh and surveyed the harbor. A soft, warm breeze brushed my face. Ahhh…

I reminisced about a conversation I had earlier in the week at the marina with a friend.

Friend: “You go out alone?”

Me: “Yes!”

Friend: “Wow!  How do you trim the jib and steer at the same time?”

Me: “Spend enough time on the water and you just figure it out!”

I was no stranger to going it alone…Just because your first mate has gone golfing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sail! Or as one sailor said to me, “You don’t need no man.”

Regardless of who’s on board, THERE IS ALWAYS A LESSON.

I register other conditions. Gazing beyond the rows of bobbing silvery masts with their clanking halyards, I see two boats gliding across the water just in front of Charleston’s spiked roofs and steeples.  This magical skyline seemingly melts into a modern suspension bridge standing like two capital “A’s” among the clouds.

Another breath in as I digest the scene, a nexus of manmade, spirit and marine energy. Here, I feel at home, everything makes sense. A motor boat whizzes by and a container ship makes her way out to sea.

Today’s wind is particularly light which is challenging, especially if your boat has no motor like mine. Bullheaded, I stay the course.


With the boat rigged and enough wind to sail, I head out toward Ft Sumter and soak in the familiar lull and lapping of the waves. I stay to the left of the channel, avoiding the large ships. Remember, my boat has no engine, I must be doubly cautious.

The high traffic in the channel can be dangerous for a boat. These ships are 250 tons, are 1000 feet long and move at 30 Knots. It can take them 5 miles to stop. The big ships rule the narrow passage.

As I passed Shutes Folly Island to my right, the light breeze turned lighter and my hopes of smooth sailing started to fade. I would need to course-correct. I immediately used what power I had to head back to the dock. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in the channel with no wind.

And then there was NO WIND.

I was stranded in the calm water a few feet from the shipping lanes.

My thoughts: God please don’t let a freighter come my way! Ugh. I will be fine. Maybe I shouldn’t have come out…I can always radio the dock if needed…what if my radio doesn’t work?  Tomorrow’s headline in the Post: “Novice Sailor Dies Alone in Still Conditions”. That’s ridiculous! I will be fine…and then…

Out of nowhere a puff came! It was a miracle and I was moving again! Pushed downwind toward the marina and SAFTEY, I breathed a sigh of relief.

The Lesson

The Lesson? We are ALWAYS one puff away from a change in the air.

Be it a warm southwesterly draft, or a snappy gust from the north, be prepared and be flexible.

If you’re feeling low, worried or stuck, just wait because the breeze is right around the corner. You can depend on it.  That’s just the way the world works.

Keep at it; there are no shortcuts. You’ll figure it out, it’s all about time…and for me, time on the water!

Check out other stories about my sailing adventures here:



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