What a week ! – it was great to get back out on the water and finally start the course but it did feel a bit like going back to school and being the new boy in the class. Something I haven’t experienced for well over 35 years having moved from Elmrise primary to the legendary Stanley Green primary in Poole back in the early 1980’s. However my initial fears were quickly overcome with a very warm welcome from the instructor and the other students that I would be sharing the boat with. With the quick exchange of pleasantries over, we quickly found a common ground of the love for sailing , the desire to learn and another Tottenham Hotspur fan to share the love for Sir Harry Kane with !
The classroom (boat) for the week was going to be ‘Quantum Leap’ and the playground was to be around the Solent to learn new skills and be tested through various practical drills throughout the week. This was to be a mix of advanced power handling, navigation exercises and sailing skills of picking up a MOB (man overboard), a mooring buoy and anchoring all under sail and with no engine intervention. The skill and expertise of the Instructor made it look easy and effortless in all conditions, truly amazing and aspirational to be half as good as him, however these are all skills that on exam day will need to be nailed first time. This week demonstrated upon first and second attempts, that this is something that will take time to master, much more practice, practice, practice in the coming weeks required.
Mother nature was kind enough to provide the challenging conditions for the week, we experienced close to zero degree air temperatures, driving rain, hale, gale force gusts, sunshine and even the unseasonal snow shower. The downside, this limited the opportunities to get the camera out due to the rain but also because for most of the week I didn’t have any dexterity in my hands due to the wetness of the cold sea water and constant wind chill. – Key learning, much better gloves required next week !
They say if you can sail in the Solent you can sail anywhere, it will be fun in the coming weeks to put that to the test, but certainly the Solent provides all the ‘fun of the fair’ to learn in, with regards to tides, wind, major shipping lanes, big ships, working naval and industrial ports, along with picturesque anchorages and berths for the night that are only accessible if you calculate the height of tide correctly and don’t spend the next 6 hours sat aground on a mud bank waiting to float off again with the fear of the keel damaged or the skipper’s pride severely dented.
As well as the sailing and the close quarter boat handling in marinas, one of the challenges is to learn to live a board a boat, from cooking to sleeping arrangements, these are all tests that are as much about sharing, communication, working together and having a sense of humour more than anything else. Something our Brexit politicians are unable to do, perhaps we should send Theresa May and Parliament to sea, with a clear instruction of don’t come back until you can agree on how to work together. My guess is by the second day, when they are cold, hungry, tired and experienced strong wind & sea conditions they will quickly unite.
Many many learnings from the week, without doubt you have to consider the tide direction (set) and speed (drift) in everything you do, either work with it to get somewhere or work against it to retain control whilst trying to enter or leave a marina berth, most of us can’t afford to scrape or damage that shiny very expensive Sunseeker just opposite. Communication is so, so key, clear instructions of the plan, the actions that need to be taken by you and the crew, make sure you take the time to plan appropriately, writing a plan on paper and then standing outside in the rain, that perfect plan quickly turns to paper mash and dissolves, not great when trying to navigate at night with little margin for error. Transits and bearings, you need to remember to line up your target and hold to it, whether it be a buoy or a MOB, the approach is the same, just remember to take the MOB to the windward side and the buoy to the leeward side so you avoid all doubt that will not have have to swim in the icy sea to release the wrapped buoy around the keel. The best line of the week, ‘slow is pro, unless there is a blow’ when it comes to tricky boat handling in challenging tide or wind conditions.
Next week brings a distance sail in the English Channel, a passport is required, who knows where we will end up. Definitely the week will bring more challenges both mental and physical with the likelihood of little sleep ahead, the good news new gloves have been delivered ( where would we be without Amazon Prime?!) there is great hope that it will be another good week of learning, progression and enjoyment.
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