Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: capsize, children, Eurovision, kielder, sailing
So what did I do on the weekend? I did magic things. I taught Childers to sail. How old? About 4ft.
They were all boys and I am starting to get a little paranoid – I feel like starting a ‘your sex needs you!’ campaign to get more girls and women involved – although ironically the majority of the instructors (in fact all bar one!) on the day were women.
This course has not had a good run – we have been down on Oppies, waiting for new ones so for the first two days of the course we ran the session in Wayfarers and in pretty strong wind.
You’ve never seen the fear and exhilaration on a little persons face as when you give them the helm on a boat with two other kids and an instructor in it and tell everyone else to lean out to balance the boat. Small fists grab the tiller extension and knuckles whiten as the wind gusts into the reefed small sail.
I decided to stop if one of them cried.
None of them did, but there were a few wobbly bottom lips, and a degree of peer pressure coming into play!
The weather for Saturday had not looked much better throughout last week, blowing 18 gusting through 38 – with rain all day. I had visions of theory all day. So the surprise was arriving at Kielder having driven through torrential rain (a months worth fell on the North-east in the one day) and finding mist, drizzle and … No wind.
It was about the only thing I hadn’t planned. Well when I say planned, I mean thought about with a
glass of wine cup of tea during the preceding week.
There were however brand new Oppies to unpack we actually unwrapped them from the plastic!
I would love to say they were quickly rigged, but of course they weren’t – not helped by myself and the AI actually having only vague ideas on this – note to self – really need a crib sheet. But we were finally ready to go with boats lined up, helmets on and a lot of shivering – it was freezing, still damp and really overcast.
So we started on sending them out like little ducks one after the other pushing of boats towards a patrol boat – asking them to tack (or in childers speak ‘push the stick away and duck)’. Some got the hang of it quicker than others, but with expert coaching from the patrol boat we soon had the whole group rotating through the boats. Some kids had got the hang so well they went round and round and round for some time.
The only problem with this was the direction of the wind. There wasn’t much, so there was a lot of sitting around, it was also an onshore wind which meant that we had to send them across the foreshore to keep them on a reach – with the added complication of trying to stop small enthusiastic not-very-good-at-steering boys from running the brand new boats aground or clipping the foils by coming in too close to the shore.
The thing with seven small boys as well is that the second your back is turned they are off doing something you don’t want them to do. Like swimming in the lake, checking what holds up the jetty, playing ‘splash the other kids and only by mistake the instructors’. I was a little unamused.
Got my own back by explaining to everyone we would need to do capsize before we finished for the day. Apparently the lake was cold. I really hadn’t noticed having spent the day up to my chest in it catching and returning boats.
As always they delivered the goods and they went to get changed having had ‘the best’ day.
They were happy. I was cold. And wet. Turns out my drysuit had a leak. I drove home with no socks and recovered in front of Eurovision.
Bonnie Tyler was our entry – famous of course for ‘Turn Around‘ – maybe she had spent a lot of time up to her chest screaming at kids to push the stick as well.
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: capsize, kielder, powerboat, sailing, topper
I don’t have kids, but I spent Saturday with other peoples. That’s right five of them. Just me and a rib driver. And they were all going to be in boats. On the lake.
As I was teaching RYA stage three this means that at least they could all sail – and I even knew some of them (advantage – I know their names / disadvantage they all know me too and are wondering what exactly I am doing teaching them to sail). My issues started before I even left the clubhouse as on getting changed I realised I had brought my husband’s dry suit – so was going to have to wear my wetsuit. It felt a little like gym class at school where if you forgot your kit you had to do PE in your vest and pants. Especially as some of my students helpfully pointed out the couple of holes in my funky attire as we walked down the foreshore – nothing like a confidence boost to start the day.
So this was where I encountered my first problem. To start the day I had thought we would have a little chat (and I mean little – tiny in fact – I was planning it would go ‘what is your name and what have you sailed before’). This took almost twenty minutes. This was because five kids all with a limited attention span, distracted by other groups around us messing on with other boats, a bit of wind and a lack of interest in the chatting. But this is good! Less chat more sailing I thought – so off we went onto the water – first group out despite the torturous amount of time it seemed to take to rig the boats (Toppers). I thought I had briefed where we were going to be sailing very carefully. As five kids set off in five different directions….
I reiterate – I don’t have kids, so I can’t tell you how surprised I was when this happened. And Kielder is a big place for what suddenly seemed like very small children on their own in little boats. I have to admit to a moment of blind panic. Literally. I just stood in the rib wondering what the hell I was meant to do.
At least I finally came up with an answer. Count the sails. Four and a half. Ok – so despite having spent longer than I thought possible on rigging boats, one of the sails has actually fallen down. Fortunately with a sailor who quickly got that probably the best idea was just sitting there while we went and got her. All the while frantically trying to keep an eye on the other four kids and checking they are ok. The number of things I am now worrying about for these childers is getting terrifyingly long.
- That they fall out of their boat and I don’t see
- That they fall out of their boat and are eaten by a monster
- That they fall out of their boat and I forget they are even there and we all go home missing one child
- That they all fall out of their boats at the same time and I don’t know which to go after first
- That they fall out of their boat, I go to rescue them and make things worse (for example the noise of the rib attracts the monster I am subconsciously sure lives in the reservoir which then eats the child)
I don’t know how I am going to explain any of this to the parents.
Having unceremoniously dumped the topper and sailor back on the jetty we dashed back out – just in time to catch up with one of the boats as it capsized. Good news though… I saw it, we are on our way and there appears to be no monster about (sorry I get that it is highly unlikely that a prehistoric Nessie-like monster that eats people is living in a manmade reservoir in Northumberland. I also have a blind irrational moment every time I hit the water that says otherwise however. Admit it – I bet I’m not the only one….).
So this is where my training kicks in – and something I have lots of experience in. Unfortunately the small person I have been trusted with not drowning (henceforth known as SPIHBTWND) involved doesn’t. Nor much inclination to get in the water and right the boat. Fortunately due to the mast head floats (phew – did something right!) the boat has not inverted. So having yelled gently encouraged the SPIHBTWND into the water and round the back of the boat it quickly becomes obvious that there is no way this boat is coming back up with the VERY VERY SPIHBTWND on the centreboard. After two attempts at picking up the mast to right the boat from the rib have failed, said SPIHBTWND now at risk of hyperthermia rather than drowning I am getting a little worried. So I jumped in.
Well to be fair, I got the boat righted, child back in it and myself back onto the rib. This now means every single time I have been sailing this year I have ended up in the water – even when I haven’t been sailing myself. It’s not getting any warmer. Fortunately the monster hadn’t seen me.
Well after this high drama and a bit more sailing about it was time for lunch. I got ashore and all I could think was “I still have a whole afternoon”! I don’t know what to do. Like at all. Mind completely blank. And so far it’s been a shambles of random sailing around without them learning anything. And they are all at different levels – some are out of their depth, others are bored – I would be bored – WHAT DO I DO!
Over a luxury lunch of a tin of Pea and Ham soup I came up with the answer. Competition and chocolate.
Well we seem to have the same attention span, so maybe we have the same motivators as well?
We had THE BEST afternoon. We discussed the sailing area and why it’s important in about 3 seconds – and then we scrapped all the boring theory (they are as bored with it as I am – its turning out me + kids with limited attention span = perfect match!) and shot back out to do a tacking competition.
It was glorious! All of a sudden there was some real focus and motivation. There was earnest concentration. There was sailing where they were meant to sail. There was no woosing out. Those who weren’t so great improved immeasurably, those who were more experience were entertained and working harder to be successful than in the morning. I actually did some half decent coaching! And they had big sailing smiles.
They enjoyed it so much that when the wind came up we even got though some boring theory (sorry – really useful, relevant and improving your sailing theory) at the end of the day when other groups had given up. And of course a ‘Britain’s got Talent’ style award of a chocolate bar for the winner of the competition. It was great. I loved it. They loved it. When asked how they had found the day one of the girls said “It was really good. It wasn’t like a course though”. At this point a note of fear and dread struck me as I dared to ask why. “It was more fun” she said.
You know what – I’ll take it. So it might have been a bit disorganised and they might have spent more time sailing about enjoying themselves than doing some of the things that we should have been covered, but surely the point is to improve their skills and keep them engaged? Well I managed that for at least some of the day. I have two Saturdays left – and I am planning FUN. And I reckon if they are enjoying themselves then maybe they might just learn something along the way.
I was flushed with success. Until somebody asked me – “Did you check they didn’t have a nut allergy and were allowed chocolate?”
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: Anchoring, capsize, knitting, kwsc, Parrot, sailing
So I know you must be dying to know what happened on my seamanship course….
Arriving at the lake bright and early I was thrilled to be greeted by requisite RYA course weather – drizzle, freezing cold and blowing a hoolie. So it was with great joy we changed into our sailing gear (and no, to my disappointment no-one was wearing an Arran jumper or had a parrot with them – not even the instructors) and made for the classroom. Now my favourite bit of our classroom is that it has no heating, extra uncomfortable seats and no kettle – although it does have a whiteboard – so some consolation there.
After a bit of an introduction we boldly ventured out to undertake the first exercise – man over board. Now I am always surprised by the accuracy of this exercise – I’ve never known a woman fall out of a boat….
As we were short of club Wayfarers I had offered to use my husband’s boat. This is a high honour indeed as he is actually grand chief poobah of the club – a position in which he is colloquially known as the NSC… None Sailing Commodore. In fact this is such a well-known fact we have even had problems hiring boats abroad before around this very title. However his recently souped up (by this I mean he has stripped out all the seats and put slippy paint on the floor to speed movement around the boat) Wayfarer was now my very own for the day.
So off we went to rig ‘British Racing Beige’ (as it’s known). And then I had a moment of clarity. Its rear sheeted. We all know what happens to me in rear sheeted boats…..
Off we went to rescue a milk bottle on a buoy. I get the theory. I just can’t do it. Having mown down said milk bottle a couple of times I finally managed to haul it aboard, fortunately unhurt by its recent misadventures.
At least by this time I had started to get back into how the boat was rigged and that any sudden movements with your feet were liable to leave you in a heap on the floor as your feet slid towards the other side of the boat due to the racing paint. If only he had realised it was meant to go on the outside.
It turned out that this was just the first in a series of things that I was just not very good at. Anchoring for example. You know I mentioned about how deep the reservoir is? So this means you need to anchor quite close to shore, which turns out to be harder than you would think as by the time you have deployed the anchor you have drifted right onto the shore and might as well just have beached. Don’t think I’ll use this one.
So to be fair at the end of the first day things weren’t looking too hot. In fact it was still raining as it had on and off all day, so a beer and the cast on of a new knitting project was just the cure.
Isn’t it pretty? It’s going to be a tank top which will take only five balls of wool (let’s not mention a certain cardie – 19 balls and counting and I’ve had to send for more ‘very- hard-to-source-discontinued-wool’ for which I have almost had to sell body parts to afford).
Day two was definitely a better start – a little better weather (I mean it was raining marginally less) and I was starting to feel like I’d got my eye in.
The absolute highlight was learning to sail backwards. Who knew that the main reason for learning this is actually just so that you can look really cool. And I looked cool – and went for miles, and will now be using it (unnecessarily) at every opportunity just to show off.
This was closely followed by rudderless sailing which me and my crew nowhere near mastered, but spent 45 mins just throwing ourselves around the boat, hauling on sheets and alternating between fear and giggling hysteria as the boat careened about the course.
Last part of the course was the Inversion Capsize. I was really cold by now – so couldn’t make up my mind whether I was pleased or not when told I didn’t have to do it ‘as they had seen me do it plenty of times before’. Hmmm.
The upshot? I passed – so I am now an official able seaperson!
I guess what this proves is that really when it comes down to it sailing is more about looking cool (first time for everything) and having a laugh than anything else, making some friends and picking up some skills on the way.
And look what my husband bought me.
Yesterday was my new sails first outing.
I was tremendously excited. And really very nervous. The club was super busy with everyone getting back into it and a committee meeting following racing, so there was much interest and acclaim for the funky newness of the whole thing. People were oohing and ahhing (and I could see thinking ‘what the heck is she bothering with that for’!) and being generally enthusiastic. By the time I had fitted my new pimpy toe straps I was feeling that my boat was bling-tastic!
Of course on the comfort of land it’s amazing how far you imagine you lean out the boat on your toe-straps….
My boat was further complimented by my shiny new buoyancy aid (can you tell it has been Christmas and bonus time since the last time I was sailing? Without the bonus I defiantly wouldn’t have stretched to the buoyancy aid).
This is in pink. Pale pink. A bit girly girly pale pink rather than bright pink girly ROAR! I was somewhat disappointed in this, but have had the perennial struggle of buying a buoyancy aid that suits a more ‘ahem’ feminine figure. When I have the time I will mainly be making my fortune by investing in bright pink neoprene manufacture and a female mannequin – how hard really can it be to produce female–friendly sailing equipment? In pink? Maybe I could knit it.
So fully equipped I was ready to take to the water. And I did. It was AMAZING sailing. For the first time in any wind (and yesterday was topping a force 4 early 5) I actually had some control over the boat. I did things like deciding where I was going to go. In the first instance this was straight over the side when I established early on I am a fat lump and really don’t hike out of the boat far enough to require my straps that loose. To be fair I hadn’t decided on this – it was a consequence of where I decided to go (On a reach. Very fast). The good news on this was that I didn’t die, so therefore the buoyancy aid obviously works.
And as an additional bonus I was able to pop the boat straight up with no problems at all – this is why we like reservoir sailing – it is not possessive when it comes to your boat and gives it straight back to you.
This is all to do with having a boat which is no longer overpowered for me. To be fair I didn’t get the kite up – I think I may have ended up in a death-roll, but what a difference to the entire boat. Definitely money well spent – I would advise any RS Vareo sailor who feels the same about their full size sail to give the Storm Sail a go – I can’t see me going back based on yesterday.
So after a bit of adjustment I had a fab blast and feel well equipped for the season ahead.
I am bold. I am intrepid. I am not going to win the pity prize at this year’s prize giving (honestly – how many times can you win the best improvers and still actually be rubbish? Last year they decided that if they gave it me again I would have to keep it – so they made up a prize for me – I think just so that I keep sailing and everyone has someone to beat – the ‘Perseverance’ award – Gosh I was proud).
So my next plan is to decide which series I am going to compete in. I am planning on doing this on general magnificence of the trophies rather than what I have a hope of winning – so I think the Summer Series may be it. Just wait till I win it and can show it to you all…
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: Anchoring, beard, capsize, Captain Birdeye, kwsc, Parrot, sail, sailing
I had to share – I have just got my sign up instructions for the seamanship course I am doing at Easter. I felt this might be a wise thing to do for when I sail in the sea (I don’t intend to – but you never know), wear Arran jumpers (I will never do this – do you know how much knitting there is in one of those things??) or smoke a pipe (obviously a health no-no).
So it was with great excitement I opened the email inviting me to the course.
“We will be using Wayfarers for the course which will include a full inversion capsize, lee shore leaving and landing, man overboard, sailing backwards, rudderless sailing, coming alongside, picking up moorings, anchoring, being towed and reefing afloat.”
- “full inversion capsize” – e.g. swimming beside an upside down boat – that’s fine – lots of practice a this one.
- “lee shore leaving and landing” – not too concerned – given where I sail I think I have done this lots without the fancy name. So now I shall be able to discuss it with aplomb.
- “man overboard” – falling in – giant tick.
- “sailing backwards” – I have quite literally no idea of what this is. I can’t even guess. I have been sat here 5 minutes….
- “rudderless sailing” – surely this is actually known as ‘drifting’? I wasn’t aware there was a professional way of doing this, so I am afraid I may well have picked up a number of bad habits already…
- “coming alongside” – another one I can do! Fortunately they didn’t say ‘coming alongside and then stopping in a controlled fashion’. When I do this I like to call it ‘crashing’. Usually the boat I come alongside calls it this too. And the insurance company.
- “picking up moorings” – Hmmm…. think this may be ‘coming alongside and then stopping in a controlled fashion’…. I’m checking my new insurance docs right now just to ensure I’ve still got this one covered. Yes… explains the rise in premium however.
- “anchoring” – I sail an RS Vareo on the deepest reservoir in Northern Europe – trust me – I’m not going to be managing an anchor on that long a chain on such a little boat. Unless a tattoo is compulsory to pass the course?
- “being towed” – definitely been towed before so I should pass this bit – although more usually its ‘boat being towed with me sat in the patrol boat’, but sure it won’t be that much different.
- “reefing afloat” – just one thing… I’ll say it slowly…. FULLY BATTERNED SAIL. If I could reef afloat I wouldn’t need to know about points 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 or 9.
I don’t see parrot-balancing on the list!! It’s the only REAL reason for me doing this and I would have thought would have been fundamental to this type of course.
Fortunately my beard-cultivation is coming on well.
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: cake, capsize, rnli, sailing, sunderland, topper
Last Saturday saw the North East Instructors conference… it may horrify you to find out I am actually an assistant instructor so I was actually invited and didn’t just sneak in the back way! This was held at Sunderland Yacht club which is a great venue…. but is on the sea. Given the title of this post you may note that this could be significant.
I have to admit I was somewhat nervous about attending, primarily because I know lots of these people can actually sail, take it seriously and would be likely to discuss things I didn’t understand while I stood on looking nonchalant. Can you tell this has happened to me before? Also my brother also came along, and he actually understands a lot of this so there is sibling rivalry to contend with too. But it was actually a great day – opened with some presentations – some of which went so far over my head they were out of sight (and let’s be honest… I get bored easily), but then we got down to the actual activities! In the morning I had signed up to do both conventional and asymmetric spinnaker sessions – which I hoped would equip me with vital tips on how to do it (never mind teaching it!). The best bit about these sessions was meeting some other guys from Tynemouth Sailing club that I actually knew and one of the coaches who had given me some valuable tips while at the club last year (foremost amongst them being ‘get your arse out the boat’) – I am not alone!
But the highlight of the day was yet to come with the water based sessions in the afternoon. There are a few things you should know about before we go on.
- I have never sailed on the sea, believing it to be a big scary wobbly thing
- I have not sailed at all since last November
- I am not in – shall we say – peak physical condition after a winter spent eating cake
- I am not about to admit to most of the above in present company
It was also blowing a force 5-6. The bottom line on this was that very few people wanted to go out!
But myself and two others decided to take to the water in Toppers (small single handers) and do some start line race training. I was not about to show fear. No way was I going to back out. So after some sitting around talking about it off we went down the beach with our Toppers. It was at this point a few things started to slightly concern me.
- When you leave a boat on a beach, a few minutes later it will have moved – what’s all that about! Note to self – must investigate this ‘tide’ thing.
- The Toppers were rear sheeted – I haven’t sailed a boat like this for some time
- It really was VERY WINDY and REALLY GUSTY
- Other more experienced people were looking at us a bit funny
But not to be deterred, I launched and quite literally shot off the beach. It was fast. It was exciting. The sea spray in the face was actually really nice and atmospheric. I had no idea how I was going to stop this thing. However feeling very proud of myself I managed to get slowed down and practised a few tacks – this is fine, I can do this – as another gust hit and I flew back across the bay. I felt a bit sick – but kind of in a good way. By this point the other two guys were out too and the Instructor in the patrol boat was desperately trying to get us all into a line behind the boat. No chance! But that was OK – I was actually having the time of my life whizzing around, ineptly tacking with rope entanglement due to doing it the wrong way, nosing into the waves and getting a face full of water as I was sitting too far forward and nearly falling out at least once due to poor use of toe straps. But I was LOVING IT.
Right up to the moment the biggest wind gust knocked me over and unceremoniously dumped me in the water. This was not as much of a disaster as it sounds – the water actually being a lot warmer than at Kielder, and in an optimistic frame of mind I started to move round the back of my rapidly inverting boat. And it’s over. And the centreboard has come out. Not a problem for your intrepid Knitting Sailor – a feel underneath and a wriggle and its back, I’ve got the boat back up on its side and… it’s stuck. I mean literally. It is taking my entire cake-ballasted weight to keep it on its side. It WILL NOT come any further up. This could be due to
- Massive wind that is still blowing from behind me blowing against the bottom of the hull and stopping it from coming up
- The mast is caught on something
- I have miraculously turned into a tiny and petite fairy light person
As I know the last to be incorrect, it must be one of the first two. Equally I seem to be moving rapidly towards the mouth of the bay. Looking around however – one of the others is also over and having similar problems. But hark! What is yonder sound? It is the motor of a patrol boat – hooray!
Well that didn’t work. My boat is still not upright and now we are both being picked up by the patrol boat and going to be taken in. I am very sad because of the lovely time we were having. And also due to the naive belief that if my boat would just come up then I would be able to sail back myself. It is now being disassembled on the water. Poor boat. So with 5 people and two toppers all rafted up on the patrol boat, we are ready to return and ignobly hang our heads in shame.
Well we were. But the boat wouldn’t start. And the mouth of the river and the open sea is getting very close. The wind is pushing us ever closer… and no one is responding to the increasingly frantic radio calls which we can barely hear over the wind which is howling around the boat.
Fortunately some of the people on the boat were also instructors (proper ones, who actually know stuff) and at what was starting to feel like the last possible minute – we found and dropped an anchor. Great. We were stopped. Within spitting distance of the pier and people out for a Saturday walk, who were enjoying the spectacle, unaware we were only minutes from certain death. By this time with my usual oblivion I was waving back.
By this time the bay was deserted, everyone in their right mind had gone in for a cup of tea…. when racing across the waves was a rib! Hurray! Driven by my brother – great – mocking ahoy, and the Principle from our club – so no shame there! Now in a great stroke of luck, not only does Chris instruct on Powerboats, he is also in the RNLI – so who better to perform a rescue! Well there was much shouting and passing of Topper hulls about the place and eventually between Chris’s rib and a second rib that was sent out once they had radioed back to base the boats were all returned to the beach and a tow commenced. Or would have if the anchor we had despatched was not now holding us fast. So after hacking the rope free and calling goodbye to our pier-based audience we were finally released and returned to the club.
Well I’m no expert on these kind of things, but I suspect that it’s the first time a rescue of five instructors has had to happen at a conference such as this. To their credit, nobody mocked, not even my brother.
I had a fab time and can’t wait to get on the water again, just maybe not in the sea on a Topper.