The Knitting Sailor

Thunderous applause required
December 11, 2012, 7:59 am
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So after 5 years of trying…. I finally won an actual proper bona-fide sailing series in a proper club event and at prize giving on Saturday got a real life proper prize.

This is significant as I have frequently received the pity prize at the club.

Now I appreciate the understanding that I am an achievement junkie and like to have prizes to keep forever and ever (yes, I still have all of my Brownie badges and certificates for every half assed training course I go on – I mean who actually keeps these things).  But it had been getting a little ridiculous.

My first full year of Sailing I won the Best Improvers award.  I was very proud to have won this award.  It was voted for by the club.  I might not have won anything, but I was IMPROVING.  Having sailed a club Comet for the year I thought this was a good start.  And I got a funky pottery bowl to keep illustrating this important point.

Second year, I raced a lot in my hubbys Laser (I say it was his – he bought it, refurbed it and then didn’t even put it in the water once – his type of sailing) but wasn’t getting so much better….. in fact I had made a season out of getting capsized and not being able to get the boat back up.  This was not the case when sailing other people’s Lasers.  We sold the boat – it was obviously not me, it was the boats fault and that it was 100 years old and very heavy and therefore I wasn’t very good.

The Nelly Afloat.  It was a little prophetic.

The Nelly Afloat. It was a little prophetic.

The club obviously thought I was doing good too.  I got the Best Improvers award.  Again.  At this point I was still suitably touched about the fact that people cared.

Third year I got a new Laser.  It had go faster Orange and yellow stripes on the bottom of it.  It had a pimpy sail with lots of patterns on it.

InternatioNelly - being sailed by my brother.

InternatioNelly – being sailed by my brother.

This was going to be my year.  Sure enough, third time lucky….. Best Improvers award.

Now by this time I have to admit to getting a little peeved.  Just how much better did I have to get to actually win something??  Or even just get a place?!?!  GRRRR!

So that was the obviously the reason that I made the thoroughly sensible decision that what I needed…. Was a faster boat.  I took this decision over a long period of about three hours in the pub and promptly went home and bought a faster boat off E-Bay.  The logic was impeccable.  Now there was an itty bitty little problem with this.  I bought an asymmetric boat.  I have always wanted one, and in fact had previously owned a baby one (no PY though, so couldn’t race it).  The itty problem was that pretty much no one who was racing regularly had an asymmetric, never mind anything of the same class or type.  So no one to learn off.  And it turns out, handicap racing round the cans, well not so great for asymmetrics.  A lot of fun, but no cigar.  At committee last year I was one of those who thought it would be great to encourage those who were racing, but not being very successful, so we came up with a new prize – the ‘Doing lots of racing but never coming 1st, 2nd or 3rd’ award’.  I thought this was a great idea.  Until come prize giving, I won it.  On the plus side at least it wasn’t the Best Improvers which, let’s be honest if I had won would have had to be renamed in my honour.   This was all particularly embarrassing as series’ were by now being won by people I had been involved in training in the first place.  You know, people who couldn’t sail at all six months ago.

So that brings us to this year.  I haven’t raced much.  This is in some ways down to truly horrible weather which means we haven’t stayed at the club so much, and also due to truly terrible performance putting me off a little.  But I did take part in a few events, and triumphs this year include ‘Not being last in the May Open’ and coming third in the Little Americas Cup.  That’s right I got an honest to God third.  In a Topper.  In the rain.

I rock.

So at the prize giving on Saturday I dressed appropriately and proudly received my first ‘proper’ award following five years of sailing prowess.

Worth winning or what???

Worth winning or what???

It needs a little plaque to put it on now – I have yet to add my previous triumphs…

The moral of this tale?  I’m just out to buy a Topper…..



Oh – and in case you are interested my brother won this year’s Best Improver.





November 4, 2012, 10:17 pm
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The year has definitely turned, this morning there was frost on the garden which was covered with fallen leaves  – the end of the year seems to be creeping ever closer.

Today was also an important day for us as it has been the day that my husband’s time as Commodore of the sailing club came to an end.  Following the AGM he stepped down and handed over to the new incumbent.

Having held the position for two years, it is obviously the end of a period in which we have both been heavily involved in all aspects of the management of the sailing club – from the glad handing and prize giving, to the politics and procrastination that goes with any volunteer role.

I don’t really think either of us had any real idea of what it was all about in the beginning, it was the job nobody wanted (and were a little nervous of, given previous events) and it was only with commitments of support from many others that the Mr felt able to step up.  We felt very strongly that the future of the club was uncertain without leadership, and the club was important enough to us both that I encouraged him to take the role – but really, I was unsure as to how he would cope and what it would mean.

Over his time he has brought his own stamp to the role – accessible, approachable and down to earth, he has shown a completely different side of himself than that I knew, and his time has seen the Club continue to stand firm in a difficult time for sailing in the North East.  He has encouraged new blood onto the committee and ensured the inclusive nature of the club is maintained as well as juggling relations with the water authority and the legal entity we operate via.

There have been lots of highs –

  • the annual prize giving – always went well despite the run up stress of making sure all the prizes came back and that everyone knew who won what
  • the rib replacement program – a long drawn out process but working with the treasurer we have a shiny fleet of fantastic boats at our disposal for rescue and patrol
  • celebrating 30 years sailing at Kielder along with the Yacht club – bonus points that we remembered!
  • encouraging Windsurfing and supporting the enthusiasm of one member who has now developed a full program complete with equipment mostly gained from grants thanks to the support of the committee
  • getting approval for the new bar – and financially supporting it by drinking the stock!
  • getting the Water Authority on board with a new boat registration system to make members lives easier
  • actually doing some sailing!  Although obviously this threatened his title of the None Sailing Commodore!

The lows?  Well let’s not dwell on those – but I bet he would say that it was that only a couple of weeks ago a long established member still identified him as ‘Vicky’s Husband’ – he threatened to get a badge made at one point.

His action, hard work and commitment have meant that we still have a thriving club to be a part of, that we are coming through the recession strongly and with some new revenue streams open to us and some great people to take us on into the future.  So it’s an ending of sorts – but also a new beginning too.

So from the bottom of my heart – thank you for wearing the big hat Mr.


Just a little love and engineering
October 12, 2012, 8:23 am
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The problem with eBay is that you go looking for one thing and end up buying something totally different.  Sometimes this is because you have had a wonderfully convivial evening at the end of which there seems to be nothing more to but to buy a wreck of a boat unseen from the other end of the country.  Sometimes it’s because you only realise you REALLY need something once you have seen it pop up on the screen.  Sometimes you get carried away and get into a bidding war over something you don’t really want just because if other people are bidding then it MUST be good.  On this occasion my downfall was none of these.

I had visited this online emporium to look at spinning wheels. Spinning wheels are very expensive so I thought by having a look here I might be able to pick one up super cheap.  Alas, it was not to be – even on eBay they seem to go for quite a bit.  But just as I was about to give up a surprise item popped up.  It was a knitting machine!

Now I have used a knitting machine before, my mum used to have one and I remember many a happy hour spent untangling wool from it.  I can’t remember what I made – but I’m sure it was good.  I texted my mum to ask what had happened too it… She confidently assured me that she had sold it or given it away.  I was thinking about it lots now.  I had had a lovely time playing with it.  It made a special knitting machine noise and everything.

The auction had a very bad picture.  I like it when that happens as it usually means that no one else would be bidding on it.  The description was a bit pants too, but on closer reading promised the boxed knitting machine came with books and an intarsia carriage!  Wow.  I was getting very excited by this point.  I decided to sleep on it as the auction didn’t finish until the next day.

The morning dawned bright, cheerful, and very,very quickly as I was up at an ungodly time for my team meeting.  It was a really busy day and only after lunch that I realised, horror of horrors, that I had missed the end if the auction!!!!

I was devastated. In my head I had already knit four jumpers and a pair of socks on it.

Unable to resist checking how much it had gone for I called up the listing.  It hadn’t sold.  I couldn’t believe it!  Undeterred I dropped the seller an email offering cash and a collection later that night – it was in the same village as one of my friends from the sailing club and I thought offering to pick it straight up might close the deal.

After a nervous wait I got a response.  YES!  I was now the proud owner of a ‘zippy-punch deluxe’ which I immediately decided to name Jeremy.

I was so excited.  And when it turned up at the club I was beside myself.  I unpacked it from its original box and polystyrene packaging and started to set it up in a corner of the club house.

Unpacking my amazing knitting machine

It was like new and had obviously hardly been used.  Having put it all together I moved the carriage across the needles for the first time.

It was amazing – it sounded just like my mums, all knitty and clippy and zippy!  I threaded it up, and with much reference to the manual, cast on.

This is kind of where it all goes wrong so if you are of a nervous disposition please stop reading now…

Having moved the carriage right to left, I tried to return the carriage to the right.  It wouldn’t move.  On closer inspection it appears that the needles were all getting caught underneath the knitting carriage – when they were meant to be inside it.  Well I had a few words with Jeremy, but even talking nicely to him wasn’t solving the problem.  After half an hour of this a qualified engineer and all round fixer-of-things finally stepped in and brought his years of experience to bear on the problem.

Open carriage surgery

And then it looked like this.

I’m not sure there are meant to be bits left over

That little bit of cardboard is really important.  It’s one of the bits that were screwed into Jeremy to make his knitty mouth bigger so the needles pop back into it.  Special thanks to my special engineer friend!

An hour (and some beer) later and we were ready to go.  It worked!  Well…. kind of.  It turns out the problem with knitting machines is that they don’t quite do what you expect.  After a perfect cast on and rattling backwards and forwards I discovered a little problem.

What’s that bit of loose thread on the right there?

My first bit of knitting looked very exciting.  Except that there were some needles without wool on them any more.

Well that’s OK – I have special tools to pick up stitches with.

Turns out the special tools to pick up stitches need to be used every time you touch Jeremy.  I think he is a bit sensitive having been left in his original box for so long.  It is now past midnight.  Everyone else has had beer and I just have a grumpy Jeremy and some hacky looking wool I have spent most of the night untangling from Jeremy’s innards.

All of a sudden it comes to me – what I made on my Mums knitting machine.  The reason I couldn’t remember was because what I actually made was – nothing.  I just spent hours doing exactly this!  Are knitting machines the biggest con of all time?  How do Marks and Spencers get jumpers knitted if they don’t work?  I must be missing something.

I am sure that Jeremy just needs a little love and he will be just fine.  And after all it could have been worse – an evening playing with wool is never wasted.



Should have bought a spinning wheel.

Fly by
October 10, 2012, 7:23 am
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This Sunday while everyone was standing around talking about it (as there was no wind) and enjoying the gormet lunch I had prepared (bangers and mash with gravy) as I was on duty, and the water authority who runs the resovoir was busy with the marathon, we has a visitor.

What no sails?!?!?

This landed on the lake, taxied round, pulled up the foreshore and stopped for a cup of tea.  The club was fascinated – even if it had broken the speed limit on landing!

The sea plane was home made and flies from Ravenglass every weekend visiting Scottish lochs, southern lakes, and now us!

The wings detach!

It’s wincy!

It’s a first – I’ve never seen anything like it and hopefully the water authorities didn’t see it and its fly past once it took off and headed for home!

‘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…..

May Open – a knitting triumph!
May 6, 2012, 10:27 am
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So the KWSC May Open event takes place across the 5th and 6th of May.  I have been very excited about it as it was going to be an opportunity for me to sail my own boat for once – only the second time this year with everything else that has been going on.  And as an instructor, victory would surely be mine!

The wind has been, shall we say, light.

Overenthusiastic wind forecast

What the lake actually looks like is this.

Howling Wind

It’s a knitting triumph.

A busy weekends sailing


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

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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