Sometimes it takes a gust of enthusiasm to get blown away by sailing, writes Simon Walker

WIDENING YOUR HORIZONS: Sometimes it takes a gust of enthusiasm to get blown away by sailing.
WIDENING YOUR HORIZONS: Sometimes it takes a gust of enthusiasm to get blown away by sailing.

The wind was estimated at a “firm” 29 knots, and the hangover a looming Force 9.

Such were the conditions for my first serious crack at sailing the other day.

I’d been talking about it for years. How I’d love to get on the water and cruise idyllic realms without a care in the world.

Out of the blue it was mentioned someone had a boat and they needed crew.

Would I be up for it, they asked, and was I used to getting yelled at?

I looked at my partner and thought, “What do you reckon?”

But still there were things to consider.

The night before I was scheduled for farewell drinks for a friend  at a swanky establishment where I suspected my cup may runneth over with enthusiasm. And the day of the event was forecast to blow, meaning it might well be cold and I might get wet.

 Did I really need to be cold, wet and dusty? Then I thought of Captain Cook, and Pugwash, and, arrr, this be the opportunity you be waitin’ for boy.

So I grabbed it, wondering if soon I may well be grabbing my guts too.

Arriving at the marina with a medicinal packet of Tim Tams, I was struck by how horizontal the flags were blowing.

Just like they do in a typhoon.

I’d been informed that insurance considerations meant you couldn’t take your boat out  in anything over 30knots.

A check of the BOM  had the lake pushing 29, so apparently we were good to go.

Not sure what insurance would have made of  the sight upon arrival at the wharf, either.

My skipper-to-be a full 20 foot up a wildly swaying mast trying to rivet some pulley for a rope.

Talk about risky business.

And when the repair, which took at least 40 minutes  to attempt failed, no one was keen to scamper back up that stick again.

My sailing education was beginning already.

Wind blows, things break, and there’s ropes … lots of ropes.

In fact, the phrase “learning the ropes” is now a lot clearer, after I learned to disentangle them from my feet, every two minutes.

My job was to pull those ropes, hard and fast, whenever yelled at. The human winch.

Which would be all well and good if the boat didn’t keep going vertical every time  the wind blew – it’s called sailing, I’ve since learned.

Apart from pulling ropes, the only other order was to not fall overboard.

That slows the boat down and this was something the skipper frowned on.

Another thing to watch out for was the boom, so called for the sound it makes when it swings round and hits you in the head.

“That will kill you,” was the succinct instruction from the skipper, and a key KPI of a good day on the water is coming back with as many crew members alive as you set out with.  

Eventually we parked the boat, packed everything away and drank beer and really I’d have to say I found the experience quite intoxicating.