Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Monday, 22 February 2010

DNF: Finished

Blimey, over a week since my traumatic second attempt at sailing and here I am, at work, procrastinating and finally finishing the story. So, where was I? Ah yes....I had decided to give it another go.

The first part of the race was fine-ish. I mean, I am still crap at tacking; I can't tell where we are on the water (in relation to all the other boats), I still don't understand what he means when he says 'down wind', ' into the wind' and 'reaching', which, incidentally, is nothing to do with dry heaving; but I was able to look around a bit and the layout of the ropes in the new boat is less daunting so I was able to find my 'tweakers' and 'downhauls' much more easily. At one point we were coming 4th after having been last over the start line!
And then we capsized the first time.

I think it was probably my fault. Hey, I'm sure it was. I can't remember what I did though. It might have been a bit to do with Himself who was cursing and hollering something about the new tiller being 'unresponsive' and 'weird'. I had been afraid of this. The last time we sailed Himself was able to compensate for my incompetence with his genius sailing but then, he knew his boat very well. This time it was a new boat with a whole raft of idiosyncrasies and my general uselessness was more difficult to factor in. Anyway, we were in the drink.

The first thing that happened was that the boat immediately turned turtle. I was caught amongst the sails and ropes (as happened last time...only a LOT further from shore) and I struggled in the open sea to swim to the front of the boat. Himself meanwhile, was discovering that the design of this boat meant that he couldn't easily get up onto the hull to reach the centreboard as the body of the boat was too wide and slippy. With more tricks up his sleeve than Popeye, he kicked around underwater until he found the boom, then stood on it to give himself the extra inches he needed to reach up to the keel. Slowly but surely the boat began to turn over.

Meanwhile, I was swallowing water and trying to fight down panic as I held the nose of the boat and made my way down the side to get in at the stern, once it was righted. At the stern I met a new obstacle. This boat has a bar across the back (and not one dispensing rum, which I could have done with at that point), meaning that you have to haul yourself, your rubber boots full of water, your wet clothes, your sodden PFD and your lead like limbs, UP and over to get back in. I got stuck halfway.

See the bar at the back of this, the 2010 National Champion 'Jet Lagged'.
Our last boat did not have one.

"I can't do it..." I screamed,"I can't get in..."

"Please get in the boat."

Himself's voice was so desperate and pleading that I reached down into my diaphragm and gave an ungainly bellow, much as a ninja might whilst launching himself at an opponent, and hauled once more with all my might. I was back on board. Himself quickly followed and although I suggested right then and there that we head back to shore and give it a miss, he was undaunted and confidently issued instructions until I had; untangled the jib, rescued the whisker pole from over the side and rethreaded the jibsheet....a very tricky exercise with no glasses on.

We were now in last place.

Can I express to you how much I could not have cared less which place we were in?

We continued on; but now every tack was messy and felt dangerous. I didn't seem to be able to do anything right ( I was exhausted), the mast rotation handle (see left) was knocked out of position and didn't want to co-operate and Himself was wildly cursing the tiller which seemed less and less sensitive at every tack. We were on the last leg when the inevitable happened. We were in again.

This time it was definitely my fault. I couldn't get the mast to rotate and I'd stayed in the wrong side of the boat too long wrestling with it. As we 'came about' we heeled over and the addition of my weight on the starboard side meant that we just kept going. This time the sail came down on my head and something hit me hard on the leg. It's all a bit of a blur now. Suffice to say, tired as we were, it took longer to right the boat this time; it took longer for me to get on board and, just as I did, Himself lost his grip and I was drifting away from him out to sea.

Now, the terror I felt when I found myself trapped under the sail, the terror I felt as I saw the boat drift away from me on my last outing, the terror I felt when I realised I was about to squeeze an object the size of a small watermelon out of my nether regions, these were as nothing compared to the terror I felt alone in a small dinghy, heading out to sea. It was like being a four year old trapped in a runaway car. I had NO IDEA how to sail that boat. Have I mentioned I am a control freak?

"Let the sails flap, LET THE SAILS FLAP," Himself screamed at me from the water.

"WHAT THE H*** DOES THAT MEAN???????" I screamed back. I had checked all the cleats and all the ropes appeared to be loose but I was still moving away from him!

"%$#@ the tiller!!!!" he bellowed.

Now, that first word was the problem. He wasn't swearing, it was just that I didn't have a clue what he was saying. It could have been 'push', or 'pull', it could have been 'parboil' the tiller for all I knew. All I did know was that I had to do something.

Of course, I did the wrong thing.

I pushed the tiller, the sails filled with wind...and I was off.....out to sea...on my own...

"NOT THAT WAAAAAYYYYYY..." I heard from Himself as his voice faded into the spray.....

No kidding.

I immediately let go of the tiller and the boat fell over....again. This time was really bad. I was caught under the sails. I swallowed a huge mouthful of seawater. The wind was coming up to about 15 knots now and the boat was rising up above my head and threatening to crash down on me in a mighty frightening way. If had thought the previous two times were bad, I was sadly mistaken. This was very nasty indeed.

I am not sure how I got myself to the front of the boat but it involved a lot of 'O God..O God's. I was vaguely aware of the rubber rescue boat roaring towards us, initially keeping its distance but quickly circling closer as they heard my panic. I didn't know where Himself was and I kept hysterically calling for him. Suddenly I was aware of the rescue guy holding his hand out to me.

"Hang onto me, you're going to be alright."

"No, no, I can't let go of the boat, I mustn't leave the boat, where's my husband???"
"Just give me your hand, you'll be alright."


"Listen to me, we won't leave without him, just give me your hand..."

And so it went on for about a minute until the guy actually shouted at me quite crossly,

"You HAVE to LISTEN to ME!"

He coaxed me to let go with one hand and I swung suspended in the water between the two boats for a few moments. It became quickly apparent that we couldn't stay like that for long without endangering the rescue boat (which was just a rubber ducky with an outboard) and so the process began again as he tried to convince me to let go of the boat. Eventually I calmed down enough to be hauled into the rubber ducky, reassured by the fact that I could now hear Himself's voice.

Himself meanwhile, had been swimming the 50 metres between us; swimming in rubber boots, clothes and a sodden PFD. He was exhausted. He couldn't reach the centreboard to right the boat. He begged for them to throw a rope over it and help pull it towards him but they couldn't hold the ducky steady in the rising seas. In desperation he made a leap for it, bodily, straight up out of the sea, caught on and clung there, waiting for the weight of his body to slowly, ever.... so...... slowly, right the boat. The highly polished and sharp edged centreboard (see right) bit into his upper arms but he hung on. By the time the boat came up, he barely had strength enough left to pull himself over that sodding bar at the back.

He lay there for sometime in a huddled heap and finally called out breathlessly,

"I need her to help me sail it back in!"

Well, at that point there was NO WAY I was getting back into that boat!

I have to shamefacedly admit that I left my brave hero of a husband to single handedly sail the dreaded beastie back to shore whilst I was ferried in, in the relative comfort of the rescue boat.

We were a long way out to sea. Half way back I had calmed down enough to start feeling sheepish and to be able to marvel at my husband's sailing ability as he used the mainsail only and gently guided the boat back to safety.

When we got back onto dry land and he was speaking to me again, we discovered that part of the problem was indeed the tiller which had come loose in its housing. So it wasn't just me.

So, will I go again?

Yes. It's like childbirth. The agony fades.
Anyway, I've got to be able to do better than that pathetic effort.....

Just found this picture of our new boat, being sailed by its previous owner.....(note bar at back!)

image credit 1

image credit 2

image credit 3

image credit 4


ktjrdn said...

you. are. insane.

That's all

Amy Jo said...

Yeah, I don't know how you do it. I wouldn't be setting foot on that vessel ever again. Best of luck to you!

Kevin C Jones said...

H made some bad choices for sea trials. If the tiller was going to break, he should have had only one sail deployed and no crew aboard.

Arizaphale said...

Yea, I guess. If he knew the tiller was going to break......

Prof J said...

Good grief! I think the sooner you get my student crewing for Adrian the better! For both you and Adrian, we don't want you to drown!

Anonymous said...

wow this was a capturing story (pardon the pun) .. and I could feel the same tightness and panic in my chest as i read it.. you are surely one brave lady!!!! thanks for sharing your adventures....

TCC Library assistant!!XX

Stacy said...

Oh wow. Yes. You are insane to do that again! I'm so glad you survived that ordeal, but you sure you really want to do that again??? I can only imagine the marital strife that would occur in my household if we tried to sail together. It wouldn't be pretty.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness!!! I am behind in reading and just came upon this scary scary tale!!!
How insanely brave of you to even consider going back out there with Himself.

I am NOT a water person and so am breathless and freaked out just reading your tale!

What a great sport you are, however, to want to share in your husband's hobby. I think that I'd be going back to volunteering to set up the luncheons for the weary sailors! :)

Elisa said...

oops - hit the button too soon....last comments were from me! :)

Anonymous said...

If you EVER think of going near a boat smaller than the Queen Mary again I shall tie you up and forceably restrain you! And as for Himself ... wasn't the idea that he was going to buy a one man boat so he wouldn't have to dragoon unwilling family members to crew for him? Honestly ...