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|Book Review||The Sailing Edge|
By Jeff Dray
Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no middle ground.
It would be nice to have one's own jetty to sail from , in the same way that swimming would be nicer if you had a private pool.
Once back at home there is the maintenance to do, there might be a small modification to the rig that you thought of when crashing through the surf .
This is always a good excuse for not decorating the living room.
After a few days and a few visits to the local boaty bits shop you will notice that there are lots of extras that you can lavish on your craft. Resist the temptation. You can on the whole live without these extras.
A good buoyancy aid is a good
A decent watertight sandwich box is the other "must have" accessory.
Out on the water, in the open part between navigation channels there are ample opportunities for you to get stuck for hours at a time on the mud. This can be a very relaxing affair, so long as nobody notices you and tries to rescue you. It is pointless to get out to try to push the boat back into deep water, the mud only allows one way movement and any attempt to fight it results in the boat being filled with more mud than you can imagine. If pushing off with an oar or a spar fails, settle yourself down for a sleep under the sail. No one can run you down so there is no risk. The sail is useful for keeping sunburn at bay.
It is, apparently, not acceptable to lounge in a small in a small boat. Simply lying back staring out over the water leads to suspicions of loitering with intent, voyeurism and every unsolved crime since the disappearance of Shergar.
You can overcome this by taking a fishing rod with you. Don't worry about taking tackle or bait, just tie a small pebble to the line and fling it over the side. Doing this causes far less trouble, if you use a hook and bait you may have to wake up and deal with a slimy messy fish.
Moving around in the boat can cause some unexpected convulsions. Remember that pushing against things will not push large objects away, it will push you onto an obstruction that you have not seen yet. You are constantly reminded of Newtons third law of motion. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a small boat when struggling to extricate oneself from a tight corner surrounded by projections that threaten to hole the boat or even yourself. Coming alongside another boat is always a tricky time. Common sense tells you that, if you are both being affected by the same waves, you should both rise and fall in the water together. Coming along side any other craft in open water for the first will clearly dispel this illusion. Watch out for your fingers. The only certainty is that the point at which the two boats make contact is where you fingers are. Standing up, shaking your fingers around and swearing takes you back to the earlier point about Newtons third law.
Buoyancy aids and life jackets are generally considered to be a good idea. They keep you warm and pad you from the hard edges in the boat. Apparently they are also quite good at keeping you afloat when you fall in.
Mine is very good for keeping out those cold sneaky draughts that plague small boats.
When you are a good distance from land, you encounter the sensation of not moving at all. It seems to take ages to cover the distance between shore and that small island that looks like an ideal spot for lunch, yet when that huge iron channel buoy comes into view and you realise that the tide is sweeping you sideways onto it, it approaches at the speeds of light. The ground you lose avoiding the collision takes ten times longer to recover, yet when you finally arrive at that lonely beach, you are on the shingle and aground before you know what has happened.
Every one has seen the comedy cut where the person gets into the boat but leaves one leg on the shore. Ive done it but, to my credit, managed to extricate myself without getting wet.
This kind of evolution is always performed when there is a large audience. A coach load of grannies from Manchester stand there, licking their ice creams and shouting encouragement.
"Oopsy dear, mind you dont split your difference!"
"Bit wobbly innit love?"
"All aboard for the skylark!" (Apparently this was a catch phrase from a radio series in the 1950s)
I recover my dignity, such as it is , and sally forth across the sparkling waters of the harbour. Its a perfect day, the sky is blue, gulls wheel overhead and the wind is perfect for the trip. I have arranged to meet a friend on the island, we plan to share a couple of beers and perhaps light a barbecue. A few yard from shore the plan changes. The phone rings. I know I should have left it behind but it comes in handy.
"Jeff, have you got your front door key with you? Ive locked myself out"
"Yes dear, meet me on the quay next to the bloke who sells crabs from his boat"
I arrive at the quay to find SWMBO looking agitated. I pass my keys over and make as if to veer off again.
"Are you coming back for lunch?"
"No Ive got sandwiches, Im meeting Tom over on the island."
"Huh! I suppose youll be all day!"
"No Ill be back for tea"
This is apparently the wrong thing to say. What I should have said is:
"Oh what the hell! I cant be bothered with sailing, why dont I come home and spend the afternoon dragging around the shops with you?"
Finally I get across to the island, hoping Tom hasnt been waiting too long.
On the beach theres a stick wedged upright between some stones. It has been split and a piece of paper inserted into it.
Its a note from Tom:
I eat my sandwiches, noticing that the sky is not so blue and the wind is not so warm. I set sail again. So much for the forecast that promised a moderate south easterly all day, temperatures in the mid 70s and no rain.
Many people may remember the famous BBC weather forecaster Michael Fish in October 1987 assuring people that, although winds would be quite strong, the rumours of a hurricane were entirely groundless. 24 hours later Southern England had lost an estimated 5 million trees and several hundred houses were no longer habitable.
The wind gets colder and weaker.
I hear a popping noise as large drops of rain start to hit the sail. The rain gathers in strength as the wind fails.
Over in the distance I can see the quay, about four miles off. There are no other boats moving now, just me and sheets of water. I don my waterproof and lean over the stern to raise my rudder.
In doing so I scoop up a bucketful of cold seawater in my sleeve and shudder as it runs down inside my coat. The Minn Kota comes into play and soon I am rippling along, the mainsail wrapped around me to keep the rain off. Back on shore some *&^$%^ has parked his car across the top of the slipway. Caring nought, I drag the boat out and across the bonnet of the Ford. Its covered in scratches and sand, I drag the boat home planning to take a nice warm bath. When I get there shes still at the shops with my keys.
I spend the next hour in the back yard, washing the grit and salt off my gear and watching our two cats who are inside, enjoying the warmth.
I love sailing.