If you’ve missed any of the earlier posts in this series, this’ll make more sense if it’s read in the right order. Links to each part are given at the bottom of the page.
For those of you who haven’t read any of my older posts about boating, I should point out that, apart from being a qualified dinghy sailor, I’m also qualified to use powerboats. That isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, but the point I’m making is that I’ve developed a degree of competence with boats whether under sail or power.
The thing is, I can also drive a car and have been known to use a van on occasion. But I don’t drive lorries. I’m sure I’m capable of it, but I haven’t been presented with the opportunity to drive one, so I don’t have the experience.
Most of the dinghies I’ve sailed have been around 14 feet long, the powerboats probably about the same. The yacht was 37 feet long.
You’d think that, if the prow was facing out of the moorings, then – in layman’s terms – driving forwards out of the parking slot would be easy. Relatively speaking, it was, but I still mucked it up, timing the turn out into the harbour so badly we nearly (fortunately only nearly) collided with one of the boats moored alongside us.
I’m not sure why I was given the helm first – probably just the luck of the draw. Still, having cleared the moorings, we made steady progress towards the edge of the harbour, pausing just inside to hoist the sails. Inevitably, it wasn’t the smoothest of drills, but eventually the sails were up and I was given the green light to go ahead.
Even under power, yachts don’t go that fast. So the edge of the harbour, which seemed so close, still took a while to reach before we could turn and head out of its shelter and on to the sea proper.
Up to this point, I hadn’t appreciated how effective the shelter of the harbour walls was. The day was sunny and mild, with a wind speed of – if memory serves me correctly – around 10-15 miles an hour. We weren’t facing storms, hurricanes or tempests. But the sudden shift in the movement of the water was more than noticeable. My steady stance at the helm became something of an ongoing shuffle as I tried to maintain my position behind the wheel. With the sails up and now catching the wind, the boat was heeling to one side as well, so I found myself having to lean against it to maintain something resembling an upright position.
Of more concern to me, though, was the return of a sensation I hadn’t felt on the water in a long time – a slightly queasy roiling in the stomach.
Before lunch, a discussion had been held about taking sea sickness tablets. It’d been a while since I’d last experienced anything like sea sickness, so my initial reaction had been to not bother. However, some comments made by Clive – and an awareness that my stomach could never be described as cast-iron – gave me pause for thought. As a compromise, I’d decided to take one. I say compromise because the recommendation was to take two. Now I was beginning to wish I’d followed the advice.
As it turned out, this first day proved to be the windiest day we had, and therefore the roughest seas we experienced. So, in spite of my discomfort, for the rest of the week I stuck with just taking one tablet, and it seemed to do the trick.
For that afternoon, though, I had to live with the consequences of my decision. I wasn’t sick, nothing serious happened, but the awareness of this underlying discomfort did distract slightly from the enjoyment.
That said, we had a great afternoon. After a short while, we cut the engine, and then we were, for the first time, at one with the elements. For me, there are few things more thrilling than the wind rushing over your body, the sense of it powering into the sails to drive you on, the rolling of the seas beneath you (even when queasy), and the occasional splash of water as the boat crashes into the waves. And all of this with no mechanical sounds.
It was easy to lose track of time – something that happened repeatedly through the week – as we rode on and on, the points we were aiming for drawing closer only very gradually, and the sounds of seas slapping against the boat and washing away again.
We each took turns, rotating around the various jobs that needed doing – helming and trimming the separate sails.
There are some experiences you feel could just go on and on and you’d be happy for that to happen. We sailed partway across to Lanzarote, then headed back to port. I didn’t want it to end, but I had to accept that it was more important to be safely in the harbour before the sun set.
This first day had been good, a reminder that – regardless of any other concerns I may have – this was the reason I’d come on this trip. And, if anything, my enthusiasm for sailing had grown even more.
Links to previous parts to this story: