Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Learning to sail
Before September, I'd hear the word sailing and think yacht clubs, jersey shirts, around the world sagas, record breaking and Olympic gold medals. Mention the word tall ship and I'd say something stupid about pirates. Start talking about lines, clues and bunts and I'd guess you were talking about the rules to a board game. Five months on since I stepper aboard the Southern Swan and things have definitely changed.
Some how I've ended up working on a beautiful ship, in an environment I never imagined. The only previous experience I'd had was manning a small sailing boat in the lake district. It was a school trip and I was thirteen. By the end my sailing partner was in tears and I was amazed I hadn't crashed. After that I didn't go out of my way to give it another go.
When the job started, I remember being shown the different lines (fact of the day, on a ship all rope, except that on the bell, is called line whether its used for mooring, pulling or throwing) and thinking;
a) what language is he speaking? is it English? if so I think I've lost the ability to speak it!.
b) how will I remember where each line is kept, maybe I should keep a diagram in my pocket.
c) who made up these names and what were they on? Did he really just say 'c*&#t line'?
d) Knots? but I never did that badge in Guides!!!!
There was a little part of me (i.e a booming voice) that kept saying 'you think you can do this, really? REALLY???!!!'
Strangely, I found climbing the mast and working out on the yards one of the easiest things. I just took my time and worked up my confidence. Then slowly things started to sink in. I now feel pretty confident with the sails and the only mooring line I need to master is the main (as this entails throwing a heaving line to shore when coming in, my muscle power needs to improve).
And then this mean mistress showed up. Meet the Soren Larsen, another Danish ship that the company has taken on.
Between April and October she can be found touring the pacific islands, but for this Ozzy summer she has been doing charters in the harbour. She's a beast compared to the Southern Swan. Her lines are heavy and her Fore mast is a hell of a lot taller. But due of my time on the swan, its easier to make sense of it all. I can remember quickly where the sheets, clues and bunts are, I can shout the distances on headline and help bring her safely alongside. Sure, I'm no hardened sailor and know very little about sea life, but at least I can say, five months on from my first day
a) He's speaking maritime English. don't worry I have my phrase book.
b) you'll take note of subtle differences and remember which is line is which. If in doubt give a little tug and see where it leads.
c) very bored (and lonely) sailors made up the names.
d) Knots are there to be learnt. even if you don't get a badge.