The Knitting Sailor

I have a confession to make
April 30, 2012, 6:51 pm
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been holding out on you.  It’s not that I don’t like you, or trust you not to mock, I just wasn’t sure how to tell you.

You may have noticed I have not been doing much knitting of late.  You may also have found it strange that I have been doing a few courses recently.  This is not usual, but is actually indicative of the run up to the course I completed last week… a Dinghy Instructors course.

I await you re-joining me having climbed back onto the chair you have just fallen off.

Back with me?

I have been an Assistant Instructor for a little while now and last year had a great time teaching small childers to sail (the ones that made it through the first day – I managed a 50% success rate – who knew children could cry that much?) and running some Level 2 sessions (and finding out when back ashore that capsizing with learners is sort of frowned on.   I thought I was helpfully showing them how to put theory into practice).  So when it was suggested I took this next step I was a little, shall we say concerned?

But the Principle seemed to think it was a good idea and surely he knows best?  Right?

I have spent the last six months racked with fear.  Fear of not being a good enough sailor.  Fear of not being dependable enough (all of the other trainers in the club are like grown up responsible people you would trust your {dog / child / house / insert other prized possession here} with).  Fear of really complicated stuff I would need to actually know about.  Basic Aerodynamic theory anyone?  And please just don’t mention airplane wings…..

So how was it?


  • Being able to use my backwards sailing on a regular basis
  • Learning what Gradient wind is (go on, ask me a question – 3 ½ hours it took and I am so proud of myself…)
  • Land Drills – who knew sailing was easier without wind and water?
And then you just trip over the mainsheet...

"And then you just trip over the mainsheet..."

  • Showing off with knots
  • Meeting some fab new friends from other clubs
  • Getting to see some of the fantastic presentations done by others on the team – and learning heaps from them (Apparent Wind!  I kind of get that too!  It’s all about vectors … and …. bikes … and … stuff… )
  • Getting to wear all of my hats all at once due to the cold and wind and rain
  • Teaching everyone the 5 essentials song
  • Getting on with my tank top and beer in the evenings

Beer and Knitting

  • Successfully driving and anchoring a powerboat on my own (!!!! I know!!!!!)


  • Getting frozen into my camper van
  • Becoming completely unable to sail when under pressure (Literally.  Just sitting there looking blankly at the instructors in a powerboat)
  • Having to admit the boat floating away from the jetty due to being ineptly tied on was mine
  • The pre-course questionnaire.  Knew that Aerodynamic theory would come into it somewhere
  • Initially thinking that VARK was a type of alien
  • Trying to teach Trigger Pull starts based on only the theory I had learnt the night before…. in no wind.
  • Looking out of the van in the morning only to see this


  • Taking quite literally no suitable food with me (tea one night was someone else’s left over potatoes and a bowl of popcorn.  This is not the hallmark of a responsible adult)
  • Let’s not talk about my man overboard…….

It was an amazing experience.  And I take my first group of students as a qualified instructor on the 12th of May.



In which I am provincial
April 27, 2012, 7:17 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , ,

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the best place there is to sail in the entire world in response to a challenge laid down by Tillerman.  Now this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, the key reason for this being that I haven’t sailed many places.  Now Tillerman is very clear – you could even write a blog about somewhere you haven’t sailed, but think would be great.

Well this is all well and good, but I’m a bit provincial and haven’t been far, and I don’t know how much you can really recommend somewhere you haven’t sailed yourself.  I could say the most out of this world sailing is on the Lakes of Titan – but who would believe me, and what’s my evidence for that one?  (HERE obviously – you can find anything on the Internet)

I obviously have a favourite place to sail – my home club – but have had some other amazing experiences sailing in Tighnabruaich, Bassenthwaite, Fornells and of course in Sunderland (OK – there was more rescuing than sailing that took place there, but you get the idea).  So where should I recommend?

I think I have to go with my heart on this one – sailing at Kielder has quite literally changed my life.   I learnt to sail there in the rain after buying a leaky old Enterprise and have sailed there ever since.  We actually have four closer sailing clubs and yet we still come back here.  Why?  Well have a look at THIS.

Got it?  This is a club video put together last year and it sums up why Kielder is the best place to sail in the entire universe (yes, even better than Titan).  It’s not just the place, it’s the people.  We have found friendships we didn’t expect and more support and enthusiasim than we could have dreamt of.  The people we sail with make our sailing what it is, make us want to return and share the moment with them.  What would a race be on your own?  A post sail beer, with no one to discuss the finer points of why your boat is better than theirs?  A cruise with no one to water bomb?

Without the people we sail with would we want to sail?


So I believe when you are sailing with friends, the best place to sail – is right where they are.

Be afraid, be very afraid….
April 23, 2012, 7:46 am
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Flushed with success, Able Seaman Knitting Sailor (doesn’t really work does it?) has gone straight to the next challenge – driving a powerboat!

I have never driven a powerboat before as I think they are scary dangerous things and what’s the point as they don’t have a sail.  But I started a proper course to learn how to zoom around our stretch of water.

I’m not a very good driver in a car and this kind of persisted with the powerboat.  I thought I was doing really well until it was pointed out that closing my eyes every time I got above 3mph maybe wasn’t the best approach.  But I persevered and look what I won!

That’s right – a licence to drive a powerboat when accompanied by my small brown princessly dog.

Shameless Advertising!
April 19, 2012, 7:04 pm
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I'll be there with bells on!

Looking cool….
April 17, 2012, 7:00 pm
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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…..

Wayfarers at dawn - the three minutes it wasn't raining.

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.

Perfect Parott

Justify your knitting
April 5, 2012, 6:56 pm
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , ,

I’m sometimes asked why I knit.  This is often from someone vaguely surprised that I do something ‘crafty’.  I suspect I don’t come across like this.  In fact let’s not go into what I think I sometimes come across as right now.

I usually say that it’s very relaxing, but actually this isn’t really it.  The reasons I knit are complicated

  • You can’t drink at 9am in the morning.  Well you can, but there’s a name for that.  Retired.
  • When your head is full of complicated stuff it can be very therapeutic to spend a little time focusing on how to make a bit of wool do something funky.  Won’t solve the complicated thing in your head – in fact may just add an additional complication (why have I got 358 stitches when I should only have 73?  Yes this has actually happened. There may have been wine involved) – but at least it gives you something a little more solvable to deal with (pull it out, pull it all out, see now its just wool again and can’t hurt you with naughty extra stitches).  See – one problem solved!
  • I’m a glory hound.  So I just love wearing stuff I knit so that people can compliment me on it and I can go ‘I knit that’ and they can be astounded. The fact it is actually something really simple and has lots of mistakes in it remains a secret known only to me.  And my husband. And the dog.  And frequently the neighbours if there are a few mistakes.  And sometimes the cold-caller from India who would really like to talk to me about making sure I am getting the best deal on my gas and electricity.
  • It’s like being in a secret club – you can always spot a fellow knitter – usually down to point 3 – and then have a perfect in for getting talking.  Actually on reading that back it makes me sound like a weird knitting-stalker.  I’m not I just obviously don’t get out much.
  • It takes the edge of all of those dull telly program’s that you sit through with your needles – trust me – Glee is better with knitting and long car journeys are transformed into a knitting assault course as you juggle the stitches round corners and over unexpected bumps.


What I also love is the wool you can buy just to have and hold and stare at and imagine the possibilities of all the things it could be.

And then put it away mindful you have a cardie to finish.

Off the Blocks!
April 2, 2012, 7:09 pm
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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!

Toe strap-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.

Shiny new!

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.

Funky Monkey

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…

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