Friday, 6 May 2011

...And then I was a seafearing wench.

And so it was on this balmy evening, that I immerged from the sailing club dressed in my finery.
Borrowed from my youngest Dodd sibling, I looked like a seal.
Wetsuits were never meant to be the most flattering of outfits, though I had hoped that it may be possible to look less like a vacuum packed sausage. Apparently not.

Papa Dodd had been busy prepping 'Cloud Nine' (for the record we didn't choose this name, the boat came with it, and it's bad luck to change it - according to maritime folklore). Our sails were ready, the ropes and pulleys and stuff were all ready too.
These ropes and pulleys and stuff all have proper names, however I still haven't learnt them. I spend most weekends with Frank, so therefore I am exempt from joining the crew aboard our 16" Wayfarer. Except not this weekend.

One (of many) of my jobs as crew was to return our boat trailer back to its resting place while we were racing. Boat trailers are harder to manouvre than they look, and what with my apparent lack of skills for reversing Brian, the combination of this two wheeled contraption and myself was never going to produce perfect parking skills. I managed to hit one poor fellow sailor as I left the pontoon (for this, kind Sir, I apologise) I also nearly managed to run it off the edge and into the gloomy depths, and when parking it in our bay ... I could have been very close to gently nudging neighbouring boats and dinghies. However, they remained unscathed.

My secondary job, and the one I love the most because I feel like a seasoned sailor/yachtie... launching the boat. With Papa Dodd inside and ready to race, I have to take hold of the all important rope, push the boat away from the pontoon and 'jump' aboard. I nearly always panic that I will push it too far off and then misjudge the gap and fall in. Tonight this did not happen, but I am sure at some point, when I think I have perfected this 'move' ... I will immerge shamefaced from the depths of the Hamble river with seaweed and barnacles in my hair.

The essence to the term 'race', is beginning simultaneously from a start position, completing a course and the first person/team/boat/animal/insert other choice, to cross the predetermined finish line in the shortest amount of time is pronounced the winner. When on the water in boats, it is impossible to line up at the start as you would for a 100m sprint, so you all pootle about in the water. Practising pulling ropes and sliding all round the boat is great for 5 minutes, but then I got fidgety and was keen for the race to begin so that Papa Dodd and I could showcase our incredible skills and seamanship.

I believe 'Cloud Nine' is cursed. Obviously we shall blame the boat and not ourselves, but somehow we always manage to be one of the last boats to cross the start line. Always. So we begin the race at the back of the pack.
Our boat is one of the largest in this racing pool, and when in some cases that would be something to impress someone with, when racing little dinghies - you need something small and nippy. We are to racing as an elephant would be to ballet.

But, ever since it was drilled into me at school ( I shall never forget it) - it's not the winning, but the taking part that counts.
This may be true to the egg and spoon losers at the school sports day, but every once in a while it would be nice to come first.And I am sure this phrase was concocted by a smug winner just to comfort his/her upset second best competitor. Pah.

So after a 'hairy' hour and a half sailing around the mouth of the Hamble river in Southampton water, we finally crossed the finish line. Last.
A mere 15 minutes later than the previous boat.

We shall blame a tatical choice that perhaps Papa Dodd shouldn't have made. One may also blame my inability to pull ropes and slide round the boat quickley. I would like to blame my panic at nearly falling into the water head first... three times. (Apparently I don't learn).
The murky depths of these waters are not as inviting as the Mediterranean or Caribbean Seas, and a lot colder. I know this because my feet got wet.

My other favourite bit of acting as second mate to Captain Dodd, is sailing back into 'port' - aka the pontoon and docking. Or whatever sailor-y term I'm meant to use. I have to stand on the 'hull' (oooh, get me!) and jump on to the floating deck, with a special rope in my hand and tie us up.
The first time I did this, I had shorts on (they were slightly too big). Sometimes shorts expand when wet, I hadn't realised this - stood up to jump ashore and found myself with my shorts round my ankles.
Now that I wear a wetsuit I don't have to worry, and Papa Dodd doesn't have to apologise to members of the sailing club on behalf on his daughter for 'mooning' the entire River.

When your Father is from a naval background, you are taught that there are many knots and ties to fasten rope. I have listened and humoured him, but never actually learnt. So I tie 'Dodd knots'. It is very difficult to undo these, and involves a lot of huffing and puffing.
Last time I was aboard the Dodd boat, I was instructed not to tie knots any more. So I jumped onto the pontoon and held the rope while Dad fetched the trailor. I looked like a windswept simpleton.

Within five minutes of us leaving the water, the sky turned black, the clouds rolled in, and the wind speeds were up at 50mph ( as I found out from the club weather station).
This is called a 'squaw'. And its pretty much like the Pirates of the Caribbean scene where the medallion around Keira Knightley's neck emits a pulse... remember? Well, there you go! Warsash was like that for all of 15 minutes.
The River was a raging torrent and the clouds curled over. And then, boom!

Flat as a millpond.
Like it never bloomin' happened.
Tell yer what, this weather stuff - bloody spooky.

I'm now sat in bed and we've got thunder, lightning and torrential rain. Love it. I don't have to clean Brian tomorrow.

I am nursing my bumps, bruises and very sore abs. My eyes are red from the salt water and my lips are tingling from the wind. I'm aching and very tired. I'm trying to decide whether or not I'm suited to a life on the high seas.

Perhaps I could dress like a yachtie without needing the skills to sail? And worse case scenario, if I wanted to purchase a boat to enjoy on delightful summer evenings I could buy one with an engine and no sails.

Then I wouldn't even need a seal suit.