…So there I was, waiting for the family to arrive, sitting alone in the saloon of a yacht with only a Kindle and my thoughts for company. Under most circumstances, I’m comfortable with that. It’s a good place to be. But the apprehension was building up in me. If I was going to spend the next week with a different family, it seemed only natural that – when we weren’t sailing – they would do their thing and leave me to do mine. I don’t have a problem with that. I’d prefer to interact, but it wasn’t essential. Though there was the potential for interaction that could be uncomfortable for all of us…
By this time, I’d been shown the layout of the boat. Compact is a good word to use. Lacking in privacy seems a useful accompanying phrase.
The core of the accommodation was the saloon, which included a desk where the radio and maps were housed, a small kitchen area, and two bench seats that faced each other with a folding table between them. Although the seats could double as beds, t have to say they didn’t look overly comfortable to me.
At the rear of the saloon, a companionway (or steps, to the uninitiated) led up to the deck. On either side of this were doors leading to cabins which had less than a square yard of floor space, a locker and a bed you had to crawl on to because the ceiling was low. I had one of these, and the son of the family joining me would be in the other.
The front of the saloon had two doors, one leading into the remaining cabin – a double – the other to the heads – or toilet. I say the toilet, but this room included a wash basin and shower, though took up less floor space than a decent-sized wardrobe. As well as the door into it from the saloon, there was also a door between it and the adjoining cabin. Neither had a lock on it.
As I now know, being shown where things are isn’t enough on a boat, particularly where the toilet facilities are concerned. You need clear instructions on how to use them. Pay attention, ladies and gentlemen, this is important.
First of all, don’t put paper down the loo. The guidelines were: if it hasn’t passed through your body, it shouldn’t go down there. Some things become part of your routine, don’t they? So, if you’re on autopilot, you forget these things. There’s no nice way of putting this: fishing out of used paper did occur during the week.
Secondly, the flush is a little more involved than simply pressing a handle down. A pump at the side of the loo had to be used to put water in the bowl – drawing it in from the sea – or evacuate the bowl into the sea. And when I say pump, I mean hand-pump, and you had to work it vigorously – and noisily.
It was starting to hit home that the glamour and excitement of the sailing life may not live up to my expectations. And my first experience like this was going to be with complete strangers who were already a unit.
Of course, there was also the potential language barrier. Being British, I’m automatically exempt from having to learn a second language. I can probably get by with a little French or German, but we are talking very basic stuff here. I have a smattering of Spanish I can drag up and, at a push, can say hello, please and thank you in Portuguese. Norwegian wasn’t even on my radar.
The chances were that they would know English – hence the Brits being exempt from learning languages. But the potential to feel isolated was high.
It’s fair to say that, as I sat and read my book, I had to keep going back and rereading it.
Still, when I heard the clattering of feet and suitcase wheels on the pontoon outside, I steeled myself to go and greet my new companions.