The Knitting Sailor

Just like a mountain goat
October 9, 2012, 8:59 am
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Having ran the Great North Run I thought I would never run again. Ever. Not even for a bus.

So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself back on the start line this weekend.  I don’t really know how it happened – well I do – it was a really clever marketing mail about two weeks ago suggesting I might like to take part in the Kielder 10k.  Well it was Kielder and we were going to be up for the weekend as we were both on duty for the Sunday – so I thought why not?

Having signed up for this it was then patiently explained to me that this route was basically made up of hills.  Lots of hills.  This made me a little aprehensive  – I know from the GNR they aren’t my strength, but as I had signed up now I decided I just needed to man up and get on with it.  So I’ve actually gone and done some hill training – running up and down the banks off the beach, and even going to Hexham to run up Causey Hill ( got lost on the way, ended up running up and down and through the park about 47 times followed by finally finding said hill by the time I was already totally exhausted and deciding by the time I got half way up that it was a stupid idea anyway and going home for a nice cup if tea and a giant sit down).

It was ‘only’ 10k do I reckoned if I could do it in comparable time to the GNR I should be looking for a 1.15 finish time.  And if it got really tough then I could always get the bus like last years Kielder marathon winner!

So Saturday dawned, bright and cool, and I got changed into my kit.  The idea was that competitors went a parked in a local village and were then shuttle- bussed to the start at the main visitor centre – Leaplish.  But it tuned out that I felt a much better idea would be to save myself the hour or so all of that was going to take and instead abuse my position and get a lift in a rib instead!

Arriving at Leaplish

So 500 competitors turned up in buses, and I turned up in running gear and a buoyancy aid. It was a good look.

I shouldn’t have been scared of the whole thing, but I was starting to get very nervous. In addition to the 10k there was also the run, bike, run starting at the same time (individual or team, run 11k, bike 26, run 6) so the pace was packed. Lots of people had come with me to cheer me on though which was great – and their plan was to go and sit in the pub while I was running – which kind of felt a little unfair.

For the start we all just piled in – I hung back so I was right out of everyone’s way.  The waiting was the worst – I was doing it on my own, so you just start to worry you wont cope and wondering how come everyone else knows how to do stretches and stuff.

Nail biting start

Lots of people in front of me

And then we were off. It was very hard to try and get going as the paths are only 2-3 abreast and it turned out that I wasn’t the slowest there – I actually needed to run past some people.  And then the hill started. I had been warned that the first mile was rough – straight up and it just kept going.   But I was managing.  In fact I was still running past people.  Actually – some people were walking already!  I was a running god!! Until I hit the mile. And it was still going up.  I had been lied too!  I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up for and I could see more and more people in front of me stopping. I pushed through, got round a corner… And it levelled out.  I have never been so pleased to see some flat in my life.  It’s amazing what a bit if achievement can do to push you on though – because all of a sudden I wasn’t at the back any more, I wasn’t walking and the kick I got from it was amazing.  I started watching my pace and trying to improve – every mile I managed a little faster, overtook a few and started to think that I was actually doing OK.  I did have a wobble – it was around the 7-8k when we rounded a corner and I saw the waterski club – and by water that is a LONG way to Leaplish (you tend to have to beat all the way too) and my heart just sank – but before I knew it I was past the 8k mark and realised I’d nearly finished!
As I got close to the finish it was clear everyone was stepping up their game – but I didn’t want to push too hard incase I couldn’t finish … I rounded the corner, saw the finish line, heard someone shout my name and just decided to run like billyo – and I did – I took 5 places in that last 200m and sprinted over the finish line.

I was thrilled – I felt I’d actually ran a race, with the the GNR I was just happy to get round.  And my time? 1.03.  Like I said – thrilled.

I just need a podium now…

I think it might be the first time ever I have actually enjoyed running.


In which it was meant to be
October 1, 2012, 9:08 am
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I am a firm believe in life having a way of working out – and this last week has just reinforced that.  Somehow the right people and places will appear in your life at just the right time to help you along the way.

When I started sailing it was because my hubby and I had a random conversation and decided it was something we would really like to have a go at.  But having visited a few sailing clubs we didn’t really feel like we fitted in anywhere.  Over a few drinks with friends we discussed this, and identified two other couples who would be keen to start as well.  So without much of a plan we now had a group of us.  Because of this we could then afford to buy a boat.

So we started looking at boats instead of sailing clubs – figuring that one would naturally follow the other.  The boat we eventually went to look at was at a fairly remote club – but that was OK – our intention was to see if it was alright, buy it, bring it home and sort it from there – it wasn’t as if we would need to go back to the club, one of the closer ones would work out sooner or later.  Once we got there however that all changed.  We were immediately approached by members keen to say hello, cups of tea and general chat was provided along with some tyre kicking on the boat (turns out we should have spent more time on the boat, but at the time we understood more about tyres).  By the time we left that day we had bought a boat (an Enterprise.  Hot tip DON’T buy an Ent as your first boat.  Especially not a wooden one.  There’s a reason there are so many for sale so cheaply), joined the club, got on a waiting list for training and had already capsized the boat once.  My husband is now the commodore and we are firmly committed to this remote club up in the wilds of Northumberland.

The Dirty Nelly – post re-furb!

When I moved company some years back I was fairly apprehensive – I had been with the previous company for nearly ten years, so leaving felt like a huge leap of faith.  But on starting my new job I found a welcoming environment and a friend.  It turned out this friend knitted.  It all started with a pair of fingerless mittens (Fetching – I think everyone in the world knit them) that she wore throughout the winter.  And when I admired them for the 47th time she suggested I knit some – remember this is an experienced knitter and was never going to fall into the trap of knitting some FOR me – oh no, knitting my own had to be the answer.  So I bought some needles and wool and after a few lunchtimes of wondering how you were meant to knit with five needles in a circle, I had knitted nine of them.  This might seem an odd number, but it took me this many to get two roughly the same size.  Knitting is now really important to me and although I go through fits and starts, I have made new friends and created beautiful things by persevering… but I needed that help to get me started.

Fetching fingerless mitts!

Which brings me to Spinning.  Spinning and I weren’t getting on.  I was kind of managing.  I knew that I had to set myself a goal or else I was not going to keep going for long enough to get any level of proficiency.  But it was all feeling a little like hard work.  Until i popped into the Knit Studio.  As my favourite yarn shop it’s always a treat – but it was also a surprise to find everyone there spinning with a drop spindle!  This had never happened before – mostly you find people knitting or browsing – but I had never been there when spinning was going on.  In a further stroke of luck – I had my spinning with me!  What followed was 45 minutes of intense teaching and coaching from a new friend.  No wonder I was struggling – I hadn’t understood enough of the basics to make a go of it – I was working against the fibre rather than with it.  By the end of my lunch hour I felt like I had made a bit of progress, and over the weekend I have been spinning my heart out.  In fact it looks a bit like this.

How impressive!

I know – still a bit lumpy, but definitely better!   And now I have someone to take all of my spinning woes too.  (she has no idea what she’s let herself in for by giving me here Ravelry name!)

So it turns out that  if you smile, are pleasant and just ask, it’s amazing how you can find the help you need – and make a friend or two along the way.


Something to write home about
August 29, 2012, 8:54 pm
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So this weekend was packed at the sailing club – we had visiting T15 windsurfers, cruising, racing, BBQing and the clubs Little Americas Cup on Monday.  It was probably the busiest weekend the club has seen for a while – despite appalling weather – veering from no wind and sunshine, to torrential rain with anything from no wind to really strong gusts coming in.

Now the Little Americas Cup is one of my favourite events – in homage to the original yacht racing in which our Olympic Gold Medal winner Ben Ainslie is competing at the moment.  Sorry – promised I would drop the Olympics didn’t I.

You’ll notice I said ‘Little’.  So don’t think this

think this

It’s a one day series ran in those infamous Toppers…… yep we’re back to those again… and the whole club match races against each other in these tiny craft, all on the same course in back to back races ran really close to shore for maximum jeering.  It can be a long day as you need to race everyone in your group and then there are semi’s between your group and the other groups and then up to a finals.

Having not done enough sailing this year I really felt this would be a great idea – especially in the sheeting rain with promises of big winds and gusts of up to 38 knots.  What I actually thought was ‘what the hell, I’m always knocked out early doors and at least I’ll have shown willing and with any luck I’ll be able to justify some cake if I’ve been sailing’.

So after an evening of preparing in the bar we were all ready to go.

Race preparation well under way

Following my recent posts about Ood’ing it’s also a really complicated one to run.  This year our Rear Commodore was back in the chair having ran this for a number of years.  And he did something I have never seen before.  Set up a course with a running start.

What this means is that the start line is DOWNWIND, round a P course and then a beat UPWIND to the finish.  I only worked out what this meant as I wasn’t in the first race, so I could watch how to do it, but the course looked a little like this –

I’ll have a P please Bob

Actually the wind and rain were a bit more wonky than that, but you get the gist!

So the clubs six Toppers were rigged and tied to the jetty and the racing began.  Each race is between two people from a group – and three of these races take place on each start.  So you get a hoot to start the countdown – which is two minutes and at the end of this two minutes the first pair set off, followed a minute later by the next pair, and the third pair go a minute after that!  Added to which to keep it fair you must change boat every race – so that there is no tactical advantage from one of the very high quality boats being set up better than another (i.e. having all its bits in working order).  The boat to avoid has usually been Jester – with a slow leak, but after some remedial work prior to last years race he went from zero to hero becoming the most favoured boat due to his racing orange colouring.

It’s not confusing at all.

On top of this watching the adults trying to climb onto these ridiculously light boats from the jetty is a sport all of its own… I wasn’t the only one who had my only capsize while trying to swap boats between races.

But the unusual course and start were not the only oddity.  This year we had the tightest racing the club has seen in at least my time.  People were doing tactical maneuvers, ‘covering’ people on the upwind leg, positioning themselves for mark overlaps, stealing wind on the downwind and generally doing things you would not expect to see.  And as its so far into shore and ran from the jetty – there are always lots of spectators waiting for their next race – cheering – and it turns out… taking notes.

So what started as a few people who had worked out some tactics, became a few more people who had also got tactics, followed by lots of people who had tactics and the tightest racing we have seen for ages.  Both the semi finals and finals all went to sail-off’s the results were so close.

Watch and learn

So why am I telling you all this?

Well firstly because I thought you would be interested in what is in our club an unusual and fun event, secondly to tell you about an exciting downwind start, thirdly to share what a great way of running racing this is for raising the standard of racing across your club and get more people involved, and lastly

Thunderous applause from the crowd

I actually came third in a proper race event.

I still don’t believe it.

Ooding with Ernie – the fastest milkman in the west
August 18, 2012, 9:33 am
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Well ok – he’s not really a milkman. He does however hold more trophies than anyone else in the club having swept the board (again!) in last year’s racing and this is the song we like to sing about his successes.  So last Sunday I found myself heading out to ood with Ernie and Tess (all the photos on this post are courtesy of Tess as I forgot my camera).  The plan was that we were going to be indoctrinated into the dark art of the ood.

I’ve done it before. Several times. It’s not been pretty – and I was hoping that having many hands and an expert to share the secrets would be a help.  It was.  In the first instance even just having someone who knew what they were doing having the same problems as you are is helpful – and it turns out some of it really wasn’t me!

The first difficulty is the setup. So you need a committee boat and everything that goes with the racing.  We have a pretty nifty flag stand so it only took us the half hour to find the additional shortened course and individual recall flags. This is despite the fact the same flags are used in the same boat every week.  I am sure we have flag pixies.

So then you need to find the idiot ood sheet to identify which is which.  But of course this is stuck down the back of the computer in the race office for some reason, and there is only one copy of it, so until it’s found just before launch you are guessing.

Its definitely one of these…..

Then you have to test the horn. And the radio. And the handheld radio for when the radio in the boat doesn’t work (usually when you have spilt your tea on it).

And then get all your extra kit (pencil, spare pencil, watches, binoculars, dry bag which is already wet inside, whistle and of course not forgetting your horn pressing finger).  There are other things as well but we forgot most of them, so well stick to the basics that we actually remembered.

You then need to make sure you are properly dressed – and have a buoyancy aid on.  Just because you are ooding doesn’t mean you won’t end up in the water when waving overenthusiastically at a patrol boat when the two radios you tested pack up.

So having done all this – we finally got on the water.  And now, at no charge I am going to share the secrets of the ood as imparted by the milkman.

The dark arts of the ood

Decide on your course. I always try to stick to triangles or a trapezoid.  I struggle with anything much more complicated as a competitor myself, but it turns out some races have specific requirements.    This is a great tip – turns out races are meant to be a certain length of time, and sometimes a pre-determined layout – SOOOO never knew this – so this should affect the course.  So should the type of boats.  This is when it is useful to have remembered the signing in sheet from the clubhouse so you know who is racing in what…

You can then work out where the wind is coming from and get your patrol boat to lay the windward mark.  Do this by holding up a flag and seeing how it streams.  Note – make sure you aren’t using the racing abandoned flag to do this.

Then attempt the impossible task of using a little gadget to work out where start line goes.  No, I don’t know what it’s called, it does degrees and stuff!  Having done this, start the impossible task of getting the pin dropped by the patrol boat.  Remember that instructions like ‘left a bit, right a bit’ aren’t going to help as they aren’t on the same boat as you.  This is also a good time to remind yourself that in good radio protocol you don’t say ‘Over and Out’. Or ‘10-4 good buddy’.

Having decided your course then hold it up on the board and try to make sure that you don’t fall in while attempting  to show it to boats as they sail past.  Hot tip – while doing this with boats sailing around the committee boat competitors will often shout you a question – if you don’t hear what someone shouts at you from their boat, don’t say yes in a vaguely distracted way.   You have almost certainly put your foot in it.

Now the next hot tip is about time.  We run on a three minute start.  But it’s all about the four minutes. Set the watches for four and all start them together – it reduces the things you do in the actual start sequence and also means you can check that all if the watches are running at the same time in case you accidentally stop one while waving at the patrol boat and have to rely on one of the ‘backup’ watches for times. This has never happened to me. Honest.

You can then count down from four minutes to the actual start of the three minute sequence.  Wise competitors can sail close to the committee boat to try and get a fast track into how the sequence is going as you count down to others in the boat with you.  If you find this is the case a good round of replacing the number with the word ‘rhubarb’ always throws them off the scent.  Remember this will also confuse the heck out of the others in the boat with you as well.

‘Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb!’

This next piece of advice is where I have fallen down.  Don’t ood alone.  I have normally ooded alone. Let’s be honest – I only ever do it out of lack of anyone else to do it. And it turns out this is the root of all evil.  At the start of the three minutes you have to switch off the radio, blow the horn and pull up random flag as detailed on the idiot ood sheet.   At one point in time I would also be trying to start my watch as well.   Turns out what you also need here is a minion helper to do one of these (get them to do the flags it’s scarier) while you count down and blow the horn. Continue to do this all the way through the three minute sequence while trying to not let idiot ood sheet blow away. Both watch the line for infringement and be ready to put up the recall flag if required.  Make sure you aren’t standing on it.

So as long as you get a clean start then its all good and having successfully navigated the start sequence give yourself giant pat on the back. Congratulate all others on the boat and sit back and watch the fun.  Remember to switch the radio back on ad check in with the patrol team.  It makes them feel loved.

You do get a great view of the racing and tactics while on the committee boat. So as long as it’s not cold wet and windy (hysterical laughter about the one day of sailing at Kielder that hasn’t involved at least two out of the three) then this can be the fun bit.

That’s the Boatfixer with his Dennis the Menace kite up!

But all too quickly the fast boats will be upon you – so make sure you have your pencil and paper at the ready.  There is no point using a pen.  The ink WILL run in the rain.  (of course it’s raining.  Its Kielder remember?)  Take times for each boat on each lap. That way if something goes wrong and the race is stopped for any reason or you forget to finish the race then you can still get some results.  Don’t wave at people as they go past – it looks unprofessional.  If there are two of you a good way to do times is for one to watch the line and read out tines, the other to note them.  If possible have two pieces of paper on clipboards to put your with times on – this is helpful for when one of them blows away.

Taking lap times is also a good way to get a measure of the time it is taking boats to get round – this will also give a measure of how many more laps you can sensibly run in the time remaining – if it’s taking 25 mins for one lap and its only due to run for 30 minutes then you need to think about shortening the course.  Who knew?  And you need to do this before the first boat has finished the lap you want to end on as you have to find the flag, press the horn and run it up the flagpole before they cross the line.  Realising it would be a good idea to shorten the course once a couple of boats are already over the line can mean that anyone you shorten on now will have to sit around and wait while the boats you released do the extra lap.  No one minds this – much.  Especially when it’s raining and there isn’t much wind so they are stuck sitting in the middle of the lake for 25 mins watching you watching the boats you let through before you made up your mind and cursing silently under your breath.

So whether you finish as you had planned, or you shorten the course early, the only difference with your last lap is that once they cross the line you blow your horn at them so they know they have finished.  Do not put up the shortened course flag and then get side-tracked into a conversation.  Boats WILL cross the line and you won’t have a time for them.

And that is apparently all there is too it.  Check the wind and your start line… and go again!

So what was the result of all of this?  I got a finish for every competitor in every race.  I didn’t run a general recall. I didn’t abandon a start sequence.  I didn’t; have to ask anyone if they had won.  I also didn’t go home feeling like I needed to lie down in a darkened room for a few hours.  I’m calling it a win.

I’m smiling and everything….

Ernie’s Tips

Make sure you go out onto the water well equipped – extra pencils, papers and watches are never going to go amiss

Make sure you know the length and course for each of the racing you are running.  If you aren’t sure this info should be in your race office somewhere

Display your course info clearly.

Get on with it – people are there to race, not watch you spend hours minutely adjusting a start line.

Have a friend to help with the flags and take times.

Start your sequence a minute early to give you time to prepare.

Time every lap

Be mindful of the different speed boats you have on the course and remember your race will be the length it takes you slowest boat to finish

Know where your flags are in case you need them

Concentrate – ALL THE TIME – the race might have just started but you still need to keep an eye out to make sure you aren’t surprised by any fast boats getting round a small course while you are still pouring the tea.

Get races finished and started quickly.

My Tips

Wear a hat – it makes you look more important

August 16, 2012, 11:45 am
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This strange race is much misunderstood.  Unattractive, with a tentacled face, gleaming red eyes and requiring an interpreter they do however speak with one voice, based around their low-level telepathic field, which also allows them to project through time and space.

This is what I did at the weekend.  No really – ood stands for Officer of the day.  So on this day, once a year I have to be calm, consistent, organised, encyclopaedic about RYA rules and beyond reproach.

(OK, OK, the club changed the duty last year from ood – splitting it into to ROD and COD (race officer of the day and committee on duty) – but to me we’ll always be ood’s – there’s nothing like pushing through a lunch que declaring ‘ood coming through’ while waggling your hand in front of your face.)

It’s normally a disaster.  Last year I got shouted at for running all the timings wrong in the Stern Chase (I wasn’t – they were right – no consolation), had to check who won with the two lead boats as I wasn’t sure from the angle they finished at and didn’t manage to log finishes at all in the Ramblers series.  Fortunately the competitors were all pretty forgiving – especially when one of them twigged I had gone to hide in the race office and cry.

But it’s a really stressful day, allot to cope with on your own, and as our duties tend to be on the same day each year I always get the same challenging mix of races – two short back to backs ran on the water in the morning, followed by a one hour shore start Stern Chase (often with half a dozen and more different classes all with a different time start) with an on the water finish followed by one long race usually started and finished from the shore.

Phew.  We run handicap racing at the club too – so following all of these you then need to be able to work the race program on the club abacus computer to get a result.

After last year I swore never again.

I’ll tell you what happened tomorrow.

Those Five Rings!
July 17, 2012, 8:06 am
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I can’t believe I am actually excited about the Olympics, but I have to admit to a creeping sense of butterfly’s as the first athletes arrive, the news is jam-packed with images of the venues all across the UK and we have the lovely Boris (London Mayor) popping up to add to the general madness of the event (favourite press conference of the morning – after a bus driver taking athletes to the Olympic Park got lost for 4 hours Boris’s response was that the athletes would have had “more of a scenic view of London“.  Gotta love him.).

He is as mad as he looks….

There was also an unfortunate  incident where BAA managed to ‘lose’ the Australian Sailing teams sails – surely a minor point….

As usual though we seem intent on shooting ourselves in the foot with huge amounts of coverage of things that are going wrong – but you know what?  There is always something that goes wrong – can we talk about some of the good stuff???

The Olympics have been great for Sailing in the UK with lots of additional funding for training across sailing clubs in the UK, and an amazing venue at Weymouth that hosted its first events –to ‘practice’ – last year.  I had the opportunity to go to one – the RS games, but couldn’t make it – something I bitterly regret as having heard about how fantastic the sailing was from others who went, it really was a big miss.  But what of the legacy?  Well its been a great few years, with UK Sport pumping in £22 million to the sport – this has provided training and coaching days at clubs, grants for equipment as well as some big investment in the new sailing academy.  We’ve topped the medal table for the last three Olympics, so this seems completely worthwhile…. but what about after the Olympics?  Well the indications seem to be that that’s it.  Within our own club we have had training funding to allow for an adult coaching day every year, been able to provide a heavily subsidised summer camp for the kids complete with full complement of trainers and coaches, and also some new equipment in the form of a Wayfarer and 6 oppis.  there have also been ‘Sail for Gold’ events and regattas across the country – and even inflatable torch relays taking place!

But all of this will be stopping post-Olympics – although we can keep the equipment!

So will it harm us?  I think the biggest problem facing Sailing in the UK is not all about investment – our big problems are membership and participation.  Across the North East we see falling numbers in clubs as a whole, and even in healthy clubs falling numbers on the water.  Some local clubs are now pooling resources and members to keep afloat, Open meetings are seeing few boats travelling and others hitting critical points in revenue.

So what does this mean for us?  We sail at Kielder – Britains most remote village.  That means we are a ‘destination’.  We don’t run anything during the week – because we can’t get people here!

So it’s all about the weekends, and with the weather as it has been (for anyone not local, continual torrential rain has lashed the North East pretty much consistently for the last six weeks throughout the worst drought the UK has ever seen and hose pipe bans galore), the price of petrol, and general economic doom and gloom we have definitely suffered in terms of numbers at the club of late.  But it’s not a new problem – ever since we have been at the club it’s been a continual cry – although membership is pretty steady we have  declining numbers in our racing on a Sunday, which is seen by some as a key indicator of the health of the club.  But since we joined the club now also has an active Cruising contingent who sail on a Saturday, and from the enthusiasm of just one member we are now established as a Windsurfing club – complete with new members, training centre accreditation and a dozen new boards (courtesy of another grant!).

My problem is I can only do one thing at a time.  I can either train or sail, windsurf or dinghy sail, be or duty, or go on a cruise.  So the more activities we provide the more options there are – and our club is becoming a more varied and diverse place to be.

So is this a bad thing?  I don’t know and maybe only the coming years can tell us if this diversity is what saves or sinks us.

The Olympic sailing starts on the 29th of July – we have a fantastic team and its all being televised – maybe I start the membership drive there?  Go GB!

Kielder Jubilee
June 5, 2012, 12:54 pm
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As the country celebrates with fireworks, a flotilla and festivities galore, we at Kielder were not to be out done.

We had our very own sail past from the yacht club.

The Queen herself was pleased to attend – I employed my very best curtsey.

As you can see in these times of austerity she even wore the same outfit as she did back in 1982 when she opened the resovoir.

Even the dog was looking patriotic.

After a walk around, she stayed for a bite to eat before dashing back to London for the evening festivities.

The NSC (none sailing comodore) even put in an appearance.

So a rare event indeed.  We hope to see the queen back in the near future for a cruise and a BBQ, we’ve let her know we have some spare wetsuits she can borrow if she or Philip doesn’t have one to hand.

In the meantime, it was a weekend to remember – and from all at the club – God Save the Queen!

(Thanks to Laura for the photos!)

‘Zebra Boat’!
May 24, 2012, 2:43 pm
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Saturday is my last session of teaching childers and I am feeling a little sad already.  None of them have drown, they can all sail better than when we started and I feel like I have been at least a little responsible for that.  I wonder if they will remember any of this when they get older and become Olympic Sailors, Sailing Instructors themselves, or even just Sales Managers that sail on a weekend.

When I was little I remember learning lots of skills and they have all played some role in who I am today.

My first experience of the water was learning to Windsurf.  Unsurprisingly I wasn’t much cop, but my Dad used to take myself and my brother to the Lake District for a week every summer, during which it rained torrentially and I spent more time paddling the board round than Windsurfing.  I loved those holidays and remember even now the life skills I learnt from them.  These included valuable things like ‘don’t touch the wall of the tent when it’s raining as the water will come through’ (nope – three summers on I would still do it and just get wet for the rest of the night), ‘fishing’s great as long as you don’t catch anything‘ (how scary is something wriggly on the end of your line – I stopped even using bait after a while) and ‘don’t wee in the lake – it’s your dinner‘ (Pot Noodle, lake water and a primus stove being key to our diet at the time – I later discovered my brother had never heeded this advice).

I also remember learning to knit – actually with my Nana – although my Mum used to knit too.  This was on weekends spent at their bungalow and I remember having worked through a mound of brightly coloured acrylic finally producing a small stuffed clown.  It had taken what seemed like forever, and I was really proud of it, but I can’t even remember what happened to it once I finished it – did I keep it?  Give it away?  No idea – I just remember the sense of achievement I had on finally completing it.  But I don’t remember ever knitting again following this until I was a lot older and started a new job and made a knitting friend who got me hooked.

At this point I guess I should round up by saying ‘and I remember when I started selling stuff’ – no such luck – and no doubt why it is a more hard-won skill – as it has its roots in nothing I learnt when I was young.

So whatever they go on to do I guess I can take some small pride in the hope that one day they will fondly remember sailing round and round a patrol boat trying to come up with a sailing term beginning with ‘z’…..

And I still have this Saturday…..

Five go Sailing
May 16, 2012, 7:51 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , ,

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?”


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.


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