Last year, I started writing about my relationship with water. Obviously, we all have one – let’s face it, a good part of our body is made up of the stuff. But some of us are more connected to it than others.
The reason I started writing about it was because I had a story to tell – of kindness and friendship and camaraderie I’ve rarely experienced. But I didn’t feel it would make sense without some background. So I wrote about my affinity with water, starting here, and a short series of posts followed.
Then I got distracted so, in practice, never told the story I really wanted to. Then, a few days ago, I was talking to someone and realized that eighteen months had passed since those events took place. So it’s time to put that right.
Clearly, it would be useful to have some of that background I wrote about, but don’t be put off by that. It’s not essential. And I hope you enjoy the tale that unfolds here.
In spite of previous assertions suggesting otherwise, I’ve not always been a good sailor. By that, I mean that, on the few occasions I’ve crossed the channel on a ferry, I’ve felt very nauseous, though somehow managed to hold the contents of my stomach together. Even the ferry to the Isle of Wight has been known to leave me feeling queasy.
And yet… I’ve always liked the idea of being on a yacht and crewing it. So I have been on many boating trips when on holiday, and – more often than not – managed to overcome my rebellious stomach and somehow enjoy the experience.
With my decision to start dinghy sailing, I took a step forward. Because I live in the middle of the country, this is mainly sailing on lakes, but it’s taught me the basics, and I love being out on the water, and preferably on my own – or at least with someone else who isn’t worried about capsizing.
Still, there was that desire to get on a yacht and sail at sea nagging away at me and, finally, I decided it was time to do something about it.
I’ve said I enjoy dinghy sailing on my own, but the responsibility of taking on a yacht alone, or even as the skipper, is something I feel very apprehensive about. So, even now, I have no burning desire to be in charge. Instead, I’d just like to be a useful part of a crew.
Useful is a key word here, because I’m not noted for my practical skills. Elsewhere I’ve commented on my ability to tie knots – or should that be inability? I also find it hard at times to understand certain concepts. For instance, when I passed my dinghy course, I knew the phrases “Broad Reach” and “Close Haul” (there are many others in that collection) but I never really understood the differences. As they refer to where the wind is coming from, that can cause communication problems if you’re at the helm and someone gives you an instruction (another reason for me to sail alone).
So I was conscious I had some deficiencies, but wanted to improve so I could be an asset to a yacht and not a liability. If I could do that, I figured, I’d be in with a chance of being invited to help crew. Thus, I decided to take the minor step of obtaining my RYA Competent Crew certificate.
I say minor, because it’s pretty much the lowest rung on the ladder. But it’s not a tick box exercise that takes half a day. This requires spending at least 5 days living on a boat.
Now, I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but the weather in the UK isn’t very consistent. And, even in the height of summer, anyone going on holiday in the UK will generally take twice the amount of luggage they’d carry if they were travelling to Spain, Italy or Greece. Go on a caravan holiday, and you can probably double that again. Imagine the prospect of spending the best part of a week on a floating caravan…
I did imagine it and, frankly, it horrified me. So I went to the Canaries instead. Specifically, I went to Corralejo in Fuerteventura, with the promise of sailing between that island and Lanzarote for six days.
It was the end of January when I flew out of a damp and cold East Midlands. The weather was going to be warm, the sea was going to be calm, and when I got home, I’d be qualified. What could possibly go wrong?