Confessions of a Sailing Instructor

OK… some interesting stories from my past boats will be what we get on with first in this blog and I suppose I should probably start from the beginning of my professional… well to begin with semi professional yachting career.

As a sailing instructor I got to meet many interesting people. They came from all sorts of backgrounds all over the UK and sometimes from abroad too. One of the most exciting parts, of the weekend trips in particular, was waiting for my clients to turn up on a Friday evening. We usually began by having dinner in a local Gosport Pub. The Castle Tavern was probably my favorite as it served massive portions of hugely calorific food – perfect for the beginning of a weekend at sea.

Then, following a slap up dinner, it was either a few beers and bed, ready for an early start with boat handling tuition around the Marina, or, back to the boat straight away and catching a suitable tide to head for France or west towards Weymouth.

The latter ‘Mile Building’ trips were interesting as, if I wanted to sleep at all, I had to trust often a boat full of unknown people to stand watch while I “slept” with one eye open… it was a constant source of frustration to my students that without looking outside, I could stick my head out of the forward hatch and yell… “you’re off course!” to them… just from the feel of the boat. That skill comes with experience!

Letting the students make mistakes was also very much part of the learning… so those that didn’t think the tides mattered all that much would get a nasty shock in the Alderney Race and we were often overtaken by fishing buoys or even a lighthouse when they got it wrong! I just brewed up some more tea whilst watching the valuable lesson sink in.

Boat-handling weekends were something of a speciality with our school… we used to watch other yachts play pinball down a marina aisle with much glee, and then go in and let our students show off their new parking skills with impunity… got quite a lot of business for own boat tuition that way! After a morning of ‘bumps and scrapes’ we would then usually head of for Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and I guess 6 times out of 10 end up at the Folly Inn on the Medina River.

This is an interesting place on a Saturday night with a regular music act by a certain Danny Bianco… he’s done the same show for years, but it always works… everybody is dancing on the tables by the end of the evening. The tender run back to the yacht at the end was often exciting, given the drunken state of all involved and the temperamental characteristics of my Seagull Featherlight outboard.

One week and ten day trips took us further afield, usually to Brittany and the Channel Islands. This is a coastal zone that I love, indeed I hope to retire to Brittany one day when I decide that I’ve spent long enough on the water. Probably the most memorable one of these involved some real character clients, who had become good friends by this time.. and then the one unknown gent… the trip was fraught with incident and adventure… of entirely the wrong kind!

One night in particular we had sailed up from Jersey to Guernsey. St Peter Port is the principle town of this island and has a very nice marina, with an extremely tidal entrance. It’s also expensive, so rather than waste time trying to get in, we decided to anchor in the neighboring bay, blow up the tender and motor ashore. So off we went for dinner, with Cartman safe at anchor.

So, now with bellies full of food and a fair amount of beer, we returned to the harbor wall where we had left the tender. The wind had un-expectedly turned so the waves were slapping at the steps alongside the wall, that we had to negotiate with the small boat, in order to return to Cartman. Realising that this required some organisation in order to avoid a surprise swim I briefed my crew. Sure enough a beautiful job was done in launching and boarding the tender, and… the trusty Seagull fired on the third pull of the ‘magic string’ as it always did. Slowly we chugged away from the wall and the peaking waves and all was well.. until… a plastic bag became attached to the propellor. The only solution was to stop the engine, remove the bag and re-start it. This would take an eternity (about 20-30 seconds) during which time we were pushed back towards the wall by the wind. Result… one surprise swim for all of us, in out best going out togs! Re-boarding the tender was completed, the engine re-started and back to the boat we went.

Now, as the wind had turned, the anchorage was no longer the place to be, and as it was also high tide, the Marina was available to us, so we decided to move… So Deborah went forward to haul the anchor up… she was he head of corporate sales for Vodafone UK, and is an extraordinary woman. Pulling the hook was tough with the boat pitching, but she, with the help of Nikki sitting on top of her managed to get the anchor up. We motored round to the Marina… the final member of the crew was an gentleman named Frank… to say that he was accident prone was definitely an understatement… so on entering the Marina and coming alongside the dock, he stepped from the boat, just like he’d been shown with the lines in his hands.. unfortunately he had forgotten to unclip his harness…. so fell flat on his face on the pontoon and was then picked up and dropped again by the rolling motion of the boat until we could get him unclipped! No injuries fortunately apart from hurt pride.

So there we were in the Marina… soaked to the skin in our dinner clothes, smashing this poor guy on the dock repeatedly in full view of maybe a dozen other yachts (all wearing full foul weather gear etc and dry) with sea school badges all over the boat… don’t think I got much passing trade from that bit of advertising… but oh boy did we laugh about it once we had dried out… oh and I’d re-attached the head door that Frank presented to me later when it came off in his hand….

About Cartman-Sailing

Sailing Yacht Captain & Outdoors Addict, MCA Master(Y) 500gt Diver, Hiker, Mountain Biker, and Tea Drinker!
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1 Response to Confessions of a Sailing Instructor

  1. helen says:

    i think the yantlet channel chart deserves an explanation…..

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