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  • Ruth Hakanson

A Lady Slipper Journey

This life enhancing journey began with a car, ferry, train, bus, and legs to arrive in Newport, Rhode Island from Long Island, New York carrying two soft duffel bags (no wheels on boats), a backpack, and a purse.

I was excited to meet my skipper, crew mates, and the beautiful Dufour sailing vessel named Lady Slipper, that would become my “world” for the next 2-3 weeks. Hoping that our combination would gel as a team. Many unknowns existed, yet I was optimistic from what I had heard and read prior to my acceptance of crewing to St. Thomas USVI. I was excited to expand my sailing knowledge, due to my willingness to contribute my time and knowledge to this crossing. I had no idea of the extent that I would learn, simply being receptive to the teachings of a well-studied Captain that was eager to share his expertise, along with his experienced crew.

Approaching the dock, I was met by Tom, now my “brother from another mother”! Tom’s kind, calm, contemplative, humorous-at-perfect-moments personality, along with his sailing experience and problem-solving skills were priceless. As we walked to the boat I met Doug, our skipper (a bit familiar to me from our zoom calls yet always great to meet someone in person)!

We walked along the docks till I was introduced to Lady Slipper. There, I was asked to make myself at home after being given a tour of the boat. My first assignment was to familiarize myself completely with every inch of this beautiful, organized vessel by opening every cabinet, to know where everything was stored. A first for me as most skippers can be a little possessive of their “home”, wanting full control. A surprising yet great approach to be able to sail with someone that wants his crew to know everything, and possess the same knowledge base as he so we could be of utmost support and help. I even re-packed the battery big power tools, in order of possible need, thus familiarizing myself with which emergencies they would be required for!

How cool was that!

Basically, throughout the trip, Doug would teach and share everything he knew! And he knew his boat best! How lucky was I to have a skipper who truly wanted to share all the aspects of this sailing passage. He had high expectations yet gave even more. I was allowed to figure everything out and be secure in my ability to execute everything, including: all electronics, line handling, sail trim, bilge info and other systems of the boat. I may have teased him about the extent of his logbook, yet everyone was aware at all times of what was happening on the boat!

The day after my arrival, I met Tim, a kind, easy going, soft-spoken, helpful and considerate man who not only was a terrific sailor but was a very knowledgeable EMT. Every so often he’d share information or show me an amazingly helpful safety technique or device in a quiet, in the moment, way. He was a super team player and a great communicator. I looked forward to seeing him as my watch time usually followed his, who being very thoughtful, made sure that I not only knew what his 3-hour watch was like but gave me tips, and ideas what to expect on my watch for the next few hours. I looked forward to our exchange.

On the second night into the third night found myself facing subconscious fears:

1. Trusting the boat

2. Recognizing the need for connection/communication with others to get clarity and more understanding which released my subconscious fears

3. Solo night shifts in over 24 knots of wind

When I was alone at night in my cabin with my own thoughts as the boat pounded and sometimes slammed down the sides of waves and through them, my mind had “fun” imagining me floating in the middle of the ocean after the boat cracked in half! Lol, I almost slept with my PFD! At the time I had to distinguish whether this was my imagination or a real possibility. Up on deck the next day I asked more specific questions in our conversations to learn more about the structure, weight, and design of the vessel.

Knowledge is priceless. In knowing more about the boat and admitting to others some of my thoughts / concerns, it was a seamless adjustment to trust over fear and I felt relaxed and at peace through all types of conditions in the upcoming days.

There were many nights between midnight and 6:00 a.m. that I would be on my solo watch in very high winds & seas. Being tethered with an AIS MOB and a PLB provided me more feelings of safety. At night, I was extra careful when going behind the helm to read the compass and other instruments, as it was very close to the back of the boat. The Dufour has a short, sharp transom that drops off into the water. It felt like inches between me and the huge seas.

I met learning challenges every day and worked through these with a sincere appreciation for the skipper, crew mates, and myself! We all held positive attitudes and a team mentality each and every day. I discovered that my internal understanding was far greater than my expressive language to describe executing of certain sailing maneuvers. That may be from sailing solo for most of my life and taking orders when racing. It was Interesting to have to articulate or communicate to others. I even enjoyed radioing confirmation to nearby ships of our intended crossing.

Reading each other’s energies and emotional state of mind was fairly easy in close quarters. Our skipper was attentive and aware to “check in” with everyone and to share where he was at. With lots of transparency and honesty, a relaxed accepting environment was created. Each crew member was valued and honored for what they may want or need. Gratitude and appreciation were palpable.

It was fulfilling for me to know I was a part of assisting a man fulfilling his dream journey.


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Som Varma
Som Varma

Amazing summary. Reading this I felt I was right there with you!



What an adventure! I got to know Doug before his adventure and turned down an opportunity of a lifetime. Glad the crew has made it this far. Can't wait for the next phase.


Hmmmm… Craig it’s not too late!

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