My life might have taken a different tack (excuse the sailing pun) had I chosen to sail round the world on my gap year rather than learn to be a dingy and windsurf instructor. I’ve always loved big boats. The sense of adventure that they offer, the design and shape of them and the quirkiness of the living space beneath the decks. But for some reason at that cross roads I chose the smaller craft. Probably at the time, the cooler craft.
Since then and a few years on I’d occasionally google a sailing school to see how much the Day skipper or yacht master costs. Balk at the price and push that into the ‘one day’ pile.
Until we moved to Cornwall in January. When the dreaming turned into gumtree, eBay and blogs. I have this idea of piling us all in the boat on a Friday, sailing up a creek, catching mackerel that we’ll cook on a beach, camp, watch the dawn, go to a pub on the river.
I had my eye on a Drascombe Luger as It’s pretty much a dingy, which I know how to sail but It can have an outboard motor and take it on adventures with the family. But I quickly discovered the world of day sailors and how reasonably priced they are. I convinced myself – and the missus – that this was something great for the family. An adventure we all can get excited about, share and simply spend time together. Rather recklessly I called a few owners not really thinking I’d go for it. Then I saw one that looked just right, it was small, looked in good nick, the interior looked clean and newish. It was a Hurley 22 called Moondance. I went to see her and loved her straightaway. I discovered that Hurley have an active facebook page and realised that this is the perfect entry level yacht.
I bought her. We bought her.
I am, or was, a dingy instructor so I know how to sail. I know how to plan a trip and about weather, tides etc. But I’m not hugely experienced on bigger boats. Thusly I’ve read some books, I’m taking an online navigation course and done a VHF radio course. And I think I’m good to go. I think.
This is a change of perspective. Before I thought “Obviously you have to have a yacht master qualification to own a boat! Or A boat driving license or something? It’s the sensible thing? Surely?” I don’t know whether I’m alone in this but I really thought you had to be super rich and super qualified to be a yacht owner. I think both are misnomers. And barriers to entry for me. You do have to be safe on a boat, you should know a bit, you should know your close hauled from your gibe. But you don’t need to be a yacht master. I might save up for Day skipper or even better save up for Adele to do it. But in the mean time I’m going to clock up the hours and experience.
As long as we are safe and we take it slow we’ll learn. I’ve been out twice now. Made a few mistakes learning about winches and the outboard. I fluffed my first attempt at leaving a pontoon, rocked picking up my first bouy and nearly t-boned another boat leaving the same buoy. The first sail I just motored, getting used to the helm, where to sit, and how she manoeuvred. The second sail i ventured to put up a sail. I fluffed the first tack (turn into wind) but the first gibe (turn away from the wind) was great. The second tack was better. So bit by bit I’ll learn, hopefully the girls will learn too. My 6yo was loving it, wanting to get involved in everything. Once we’ve got the basics going we can explore further, go for longer, figure out how to make coffee while sailing. You can’t do that on a windsurfer or surfboard!! I’ve realised that coffee and food is the bedrock of my adventuring now.
I enjoy the pleasure of sailing but, really it’s the enabler of going somewhere, even it’s just the pub on the other side of the estuary. It’s also the enabler of chatting to your sailing buddy. I dream of the adventures. Sailing the Atlantic is on my bucket list, we’ll see. Not in Moondance that’s for sure.