Tag Archives: learning to sail

Sailing

A little while ago I wrote some fiction regarding a conversation I had with Mr. Death. You can read it here.

It is a work of fiction but, as with many things, it had elements of true life in it – some of my real life experiences. One of the true items in that story is my desire to learn a new language – French (probably) and to learn how to sail.

Recently, we went on holiday. We went to Antigua. It was bloody brilliant. We flew out via Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (the posh class!) That was an eye opener. I’m not sure how PIL managed it. I think she got the geeks at work to hack into Virgin Atlantic and get us an up grade. Or it might have been her using the gazillion air miles we had accumulated over the years. We arrived at Gatwick, checked in and went to the Virgin lounge. We were offered champagne! It was 6am! Of course we accepted – it was free! We had all kinds of nibbles offered. More champagne was consumed. Our flight was announced and, slightly the worse for wear we staggered off and got on the plane. The leg room! Unfuckingbelievable!

We arrived in Antigua after a wonderful flight, being waited on hand and foot, totally refreshed and ready to go.

It was lovely. Smashing sandy beaches. Plentiful bars and restaurants. Pools dotted around. Absolute bliss. I noted a number of small sailing boats. Catamarans. I thought to myself, I can get started here. A problem arose though. We are a family that goes on holiday and we SLOB! We lie in the sun. We eat. We drink and that was the problem. Greg and I crept off to the gym at 6.30 each morning. We got back, we all showered and went for breakfast. By 9am we were sprawled out by the pool. At 10, when the bars opened we were getting a bit hot so we’d go get a drink. The intention was always to get a soft drink, 10am being a bit too early to hit the hard stuff but the bar man would point out;

“It’s midday somewhere man.”

So we had rum as well. And with no concept of portion control, they were heavy on the alcohol. After a hearty lunch I was probably too pissed to go sailing, let alone learn anything so I didn’t go.

As a great believer in not doing things by half, I decided my first experience of learning to sail would not be on board an eight foot dinghy but on a proper 50 foot sailing yacht! And that’s what we did. We chartered a yacht for the day. It was called Jabberwocky and it was owned by Nick and Kaye, who are two of the nicest people you could wish to meet.

We got a cab from the resort to where Jabberwocky was parked at a place called Jolly Harbour. Antigua is full of places with lovely names like that. We set sail. We had a choice. Snorkelling or beach. We’re slobs so we chose beach and we headed off to a place called Deep Bay. It was on our way here that I carried out my first ever sailing task:

I set the genoa!

I have no idea what that is or what I was doing except it involved some hard physical labour and I think I set the sail in front of the mast. I felt inordinately pleased with myself.

We arrived. The anchor was dropped and we took the little RIB to shore. It was just as you would imagine a desert island to be. Warm seas lapping on a soft sandy beach. There were a couple of other people there but it was heavenly. There was a small fort, Fort Barrington, on the hillside. Greg, CJ and I went off for a wander while PIL and Ed sat on the beach and swam in the sea.

The beach at Deep Bay with Jabberwocky in the background

Time for lunch back on Jabberwocky. PIL, Greg and CJ took the RIB back. Ed and I swam back. I decided on back stroke but because I’m useless, without noticing, I started to swim back to shore. The others found this immensely funny. I just got tired!

Jabberwocky at anchor in Deep Bay

Lunch was lovely. Afterwards, we set sail again heading back to Jolly Harbour.

Jabberwocky setting sail back to Jolly Harbour

Once we got out of Deep Bay, I set the genoa again and joy of joy, I took the helm and steered the yacht on it’s way back to its home port.

Me at the helm of Jabberwocky

I was in heaven. It’s a lot harder that it seems and I’m sure my course was more than a bit ziggy zaggy but I was having a great time. The rest of the family were up at the pointy bit at the front and then they started to sing!

Having an absolutely brilliant time.

 

Over the sound of the waves and the wind in the sails I couldn’t make out the words but the tune was just about audible. One of them them was singing “Sailing”, the Rod Stewart song. Despite my surprise at one of my children actually knowing this song, I felt a huge sense of well being and happiness well up inside me. We were having a great time. My family up at the front burst in to laughter and they all started singing. As they did, the wind carried the words to my position at the helm. This is what they sang:

All together now.

We are sinking

We are sinking

To the bottom

Of the sea

Dad was steering

Hit an island

Didn’t see it

Blind old git

 

Hit the island

Of Antigua

How did Daddy

Manage that?

We have sunk now

And we’re swimming

All because our

Dad’s a prat!

Charming!

Despite this, I will learn to sail and soon I will be visiting a local sailing club and begin lessons. I may just stick to smaller dinghies or catamarans but, who knows, I may go onto larger boats. We shall see and I will keep you informed about my progress.

Of course, let’s not forget that I also want to learn a new language but since trying my hand at sailing, that will now be TWO new languages to learn. The reasons why will follow soon.

Have a lovely day.

More Dick soon.

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A Meeting

It was the cold that woke me up. For a brief moment I thought that PIL was sharing my bed again and had stolen all the duvet like she used to. Wishful thinking on my part. I rolled over and saw the figure sitting on the sofa by the window. The figure appeared to be tall and slim and was wearing some kind of hooded shroud. I couldn’t see its face. There was a scythe lying across its lap.

“Are you Death?” I asked.

“I am” the figure replied

“Have you come for me?”

“I have”. Came the reply.

“Don’t say much do you mate?”

“Not much to say.” he replied. The voice was definitely male.

I sat up, as I had decided long ago that I would not face death lying down.

“Well, I’d sooner not go just yet if that’s ok with you.”

“Many people say that to me y’know. Not all, but a fair number. It rarely changes anything.”

“It’s just that I still have a great many things to do and see and achieve and being dead won’t help.”

“So what is it that is so important that I cannot take you now?” asked Death.

“There are quite a few things actually. I would really like to see my children grow up, graduate from University, marry and have kids themselves. It would be nice to see my grandchildren.”

“Is that it?”

“I also want to learn to sail and speak French.” I replied

“You mean you don’t want to cure cancer, stop pollution and save the environment?” came the slightly sarcastic reply.

“All fine ambitions” I answered, ” and stopping Mankind’s┬áinhumanity towards Mankind would also be pretty good but I know my limitations. I am a simple man with simple ambitions.”

Death picked up his scythe and put it to one side. I started breathing again. I hadn’t realise I was holding my breathe.

“I have to take a soul. If not yours, then whose?” he said.

“Mate, if you’re saying that if you don’t take me you will take one of my kids or PIL, then take me now. There is no way you are taking any of them. I will fight you with everything I have to stop that happening.”

Death laughed for a second or two then stopped and appeared to be thinking.

“What about the dog? Dogs have souls.” he said after a few seconds.

“That’s not really fair on the dog is it?” I answered. “He’s done nothing wrong, he had an awful start to his life and he’s happy here. He may be as daft as a brush but no, take me if you have to take anyone.”

Death was quiet for a few minutes. I guess he was thinking again. Finally, he spoke again.

“We’ve met before.” he said. That was a bit unexpected.

“Er. I don’t think so bud. I’d remember something like meeting you.”

“No, no, no.” Death exclaimed. “What I mean is that I was taking someone and you were there. You wouldn’t have seen me but I saw you. Three times in fact.”

“Were you there when my parents died?” I asked.

“No.” he said. “That would have been one of my brothers. I have a great many brothers. I was there when your work colleague, Robbie died. The heart attack killed him before he hit the floor so your attempts at CPR were fruitless.”

“Thanks pal. That makes me feel so much better.”

“My pleasure. You really didn’t need to beat yourself up about that but I suppose you weren’t to know. I was also there for the man who got flung out of the car and lost the top of his head. You comforted him while he died.”

“I remember. It seemed to take ages for him to die but he didn’t appear to be in any pain. I was covered in blood and his brains when I finally got up.”

“You’re right. He wasn’t in pain but sometimes these things need to take their course. Did you go and see his wife?”

“I did.” I replied. “I left it a couple of days and then went to see her.”

“Why did you go?”

“He asked me to tell his wife that he loved her and that he was sorry. Seemed to me to be the least I could do. It wasn’t the best time of my life that’s for sure but if you can’t grant a dying mans wish, then what does that make you?”

“I see.” said Death.

“When was the third time?”

“I was there to take your friend when he got trapped in his canoe and drowned.”

“Jean-Claude?”

“Yes. You and your friend tried to pull him out. You did a very dangerous thing. I nearly came away with three that time. So why did you and Omar place yourself in so much danger? Was it because he was a friend?”

“Jean-Claude was a very good friend. We only really saw him at races, but no, we would have done the same thing irrespective of who it was. It’s a dangerous sport and if someone is in the shit, you help. Omar and I always took that attitude and we hoped that if we were ever in trouble, someone would help us.”

Death stood up and picked up his scythe.

“Oh shit.”┬áI thought. “Play for time.”

“Tell me something Death. Why do you wear that shroudy hoodie thing? Doesn’t it freak out the people you’ve come for? It’s freaking me out!”

“You’re right. It does and we recently tried wearing suits. Some of my brothers wore Armani. Others wore Boss. I went the Tom Ford route. I preferred the cut. Unfortunately, it confused the dying. They see a smiling face in an expensive suit and they think the Worlds greatest medic has arrived to save them.”

“Surely the scythe gives it away?” I asked.

“People see what they want to see. Besides, it was costing the Boss a fortune in dry cleaning bills. So we wear these. Easy to keep clean. Chuck ’em in the machine on a cool wash and ‘Hey Presto’. I’m going now. You have persuaded me to leave you until another time. Next time we meet, and it will be me, you will be coming with me.”

“Thank you. I hope I don’t see you anytime soon.” I said.

“I don’t know when it will be but I really do hope you learn to sail and speak French.”

I woke up at 7am as usual and staggered downstairs as usual. CJ was in the living room.

“Good morning sweetness”, I said. “Boy, did I have a weird dream last night.”

“Ewwww Dad. I really don’t want to know.”

“What?”

“I’ve heard about THOSE dreams boys have.”

“What?” I said again.

” Yes. You dream about naked women and make a mess on the bed sheets.”

“What? What? It wasn’t that kind of dream. Where did you find out about this stuff anyway?”

“School. Sex education. Boys are disgusting.”

“Jesus girl. I really don’t want to be having this conversation. I haven’t had a cup of tea yet.”

“Well, you started it.”

“What? Ok, whatever. Where’s Mum?”

“She went to see Richard. Y’know, he lives round the corner.”

“I know where he lives sweetness. I take it she’s gone to wish him ‘Good luck’ in the marathon he and his wife are running in today?”

“No, Richards wife..”

“Elizabeth.”

“Yes. Elizabeth. She died suddenly in her sleep last night.”

 

More Dick soon.

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