The Knitting Sailor

Parrot not included
March 29, 2012, 7:05 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

Apparently –

“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.”


  1.  “full inversion capsize” – e.g. swimming beside an upside down boat – that’s fine – lots of practice a this one.
  2. “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.
  3. “man overboard” – falling in – giant tick.
  4. “sailing backwards” – I have quite literally no idea of what this is.  I can’t even guess.  I have been sat here 5 minutes….
  5. “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…
  6. “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.
  7. “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.
  8. “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?
  9. “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.
  10. “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.


Captain Birdseye - the Consummate Seaman and Parrot Balancer extraordinare



EcoBuild and Socks
March 27, 2012, 7:36 pm
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , ,

Last week I had the most extraordinary week away at EcoBuild – nothing to do with sailing or knitting, but work related I’m afraid.  For the uninitiated EcoBuild is just what it says on the tin – a trade show of products and services for those involved in the construction industry – with an ‘Eco’ thrust!  I had had a great plan around this – take sock knitting with me for train and in-between working on the stand etc.  After all, we wouldn’t be THAT busy… would we???

What ensued was three days of total madness.

I know you will be bored if I tell you too much (and I’ll bore myself!), but there were some genuinely interesting things going on. The real life Dulux dog from the adverts was there (and getting treated better than any of the other exhibitors with his own podium, walkies on demand and a job description that basically required him to sit around getting petted), there was a huge display of wool and (plastic) multi coloured sheep – advertising the use of this fantastically versatile product as insulation (what a waste), and a fab stand advertising marine ply via the medium of wooden fish in a tank (we stole lots as souvenirs for everyone’s kids).

I also enjoyed that we were staying in Canary Warf and got to walk over the ‘Apprentice’ bridge (I fancy not looking quite so stern – or as steady after some light evening refreshment) as well as zooming backwards and forwards to the ExCel in Black Cabs (not half as glamorous in real life).

It was a hit for the business, and I loved getting the opportunity to talk to so many customers – although next time I may take a little more note of the line in the staff brief to ‘wear comfortable shoes’ and ditch my 6 inch stilettos next time … well they were comfy at the start of the day.  In my head.

However all this high excitement meant that as I returned to Newcastle on the train my knitting was still sitting, forlorn and abandoned in the bottom of my laptop bag.  This is now starting to induce guilt, and as everyone knows, guilt means avoidance, which means more guilt and then just not doing it.  I now have both a cardie and a sock giving me the eye in this way.

However I have finally got back on track with some junk, instant gratification knitting and have actually finished something!

It is actually the cutest sock in the world – made even cuter on the basis it’s finished.  You will note I say ‘sock’.  The second one, well, isn’t yet!

This is all as a result of a fantastic day out at the Knit Studio in Newcastle on Sunday.  Despite having knitted socks before, myself and my mum (a sock knitting virgin) went along to Anne’s workshop and had a great time.

It was a fantastic day and my Mum loved it too – she went a bit –

As for me I knitted my cute sock and its sister last night – I will have them all finished for a baby present by the end of tonight.  The only point of concern is that although very cute my socks look like the baby they are for may need to be a large baby, or grow into them… while everyone else’s are baby sized, mine are definitely for an older child.  I wondered if maybe I was being overly critical, but apparently the average babies foot is 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.  My socks are five inches long by 4 inches wide.  This is OK as I feel sure it will only be a matter of time before I meet a giant baby and it’s good to be prepared.

Now to finish that Cardie…

Working party. There wasn’t wine.
March 21, 2012, 6:43 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , , , , ,

So there are many sailing and also knitterly things to tell you about.  First off my most special of special things arrived this week.

It looks like this –

It is a new and shiny sail for that most beloved of all boats Diagonelly*.  No, not like the Harry Potter books, like a boat that is called Nelly and goes diagonally.  The long winter nights just fly by….

*There is a story here.  It could be long and involved….. so I’ll save it for when you have been drinking wine….

But I am super excited.  This was purchased at the boat show and I didn’t’ quite think it was real as the boat show is an unreal and magical place, but both my beautiful sail and scrumptious boat cover have now arrived and I am a very happy bunny.  I am sure with this and my continuous toe straps of delight I will be triumphant in winning SOMETHING other than the wooden spoon or the ‘turning up award’ this season.  In fact I am thinking about getting quite serious about the whole thing and maybe practicing and getting fit and stuff – and as someone who is definitely thinking about getting off the bottom of ballast and doing like running and sit-ups and pretend spinnaker hauls I think people should be very afraid.  In fact I am quite exhausted by the thinking about it – I must be fitter already.

I have not even dared to unwrap it properly – I have quickly and neatly transferred it into its official sail bag and will be moving it to the boat fixer to add my numbers.  I could do it myself, but I am just too scared of spoiling the magic.

My cover however is fully fitted and looking glorious.

I know this as this weekend was the working party.  Turned out there was no wine.  Not much of a party in my view….

As it was on Mother’s day I did the decent thing that every daughter does and went on the Saturday instead – thus allowing me to multitask and help the club on Saturday, and have the family for mother’s day on Sunday.  That’s right, I cooked, it wasn’t toast, and no one died – all round a win.  A further win was booking the pair of us onto a sock knitting class at the Knit Studio next week – super exciting!

So the best thing about Saturday was that having managed to track down two more balls of the requisite wool on the internet I managed to knit nearly all the way there in the Exception – only one pocket front and the hem pattern to go on the cardie.  Problem with this is…. I’m going to run out of wool again.  I am sure the cardie has turned into a wool black hole as there is no way on the yardage and gauge it should be taking this.  At this rate it will have cost so much I will be forced to live in it for the rest of my life to get my money’s worth.

The worst thing about Saturday however was arriving to the most beautiful day in the world.

Note lovely sunshine, light breeze, jetty beckoning all sailors to launch.

And having purposely not having brought my kit having to do boring things.  I did cleaning of spiders and grot from the outside of the club house and washing of all the windows.  They look like this – so you can now actually see things like the racing through them.

I felt like a perfect wife… all the way up to the point that Michael reminded me that to be a perfect wife I would have washed the windows at home as that is where he actually lives and would most benefit from being able to see out of the windows of.  I feel this is nit picking.  After all you can’t see boats from our windows – so what’s the point?


In which I am very nearly swept away
March 15, 2012, 10:24 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , , ,

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.

  1. 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.
  2. The Toppers were rear sheeted – I haven’t sailed a boat like this for some time
  3. It really was VERY WINDY and REALLY GUSTY
  4. 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.

Picture from Google Earth – that’s right – the whole drama was caught by satellite....

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.

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