We arrived at Port Solent last night. We have a female skipper, which pleases me. This makes a majority female crew with only two out of six males. I’m not surprised to hear that this is unusual. The males on board are my vegan buddy Jamie and Dave, here learning to sail with his girlfriend Sarah. They are a very Dave and Sarah kind of a couple, clearly a little alarmed at the prospect of sharing a small boat for five days with three freaks from Brighton with peculiar dietary habits. For once mine is not the weirdest or most awkward, having been outdone on this occasion by ‘100 Mile Beth’ and her local food experiment. She is frying pancakes behind me as I write in my journal. Jamie, Beth and I have brought all of the food we need with us for our five days of sailing. Beth has a whole bag with just salad in it as well as a trolley-bag full of other stuff after panicking that she wouldn’t have enough to eat.
The weather is bad and currently looks to be bad all day. When we start moving in about 45 minutes I shall find out whether I get seasick or not. I have lots of ginger with me just in case – apparently ginger is good for seasickness.
I am pleased to report no seasickness from any of our crew. The sea got a bit rough yesterday too, so I’m sure we would know about it. Today the weather is clear and hot, yet still with a fierce wind once you get out to sea.
My mind is awash with seafaring jargon. It’s all reefs and bowlines, fenders and cleats, jib, boom and halyard. I am reminded of my first ever school French class by the way we are thrown right in at the deep end, left to decipher the commands we are given by deduction… “Jo, could you put the main halyard on the winch please? We’re going to put a tack on.” Umm…
Gybing sounds to me like some kind of strange dance. In a way it sort of is. The way we wiggle the boat slowly along our course while sailing with the wind. It can be a dangerous dance though. A sign on the deck clearly states:
GYBING can cause injury
This morning I managed a spot of yoga on the pontoon at Hamble where we moored up last night. Hamble is the most expensive marina on the Solent, but according to our skipper Karen, they also have the best showers.
Last night we did some night sailing. I loved it. All of the big ugly depressing industrial buildings and oil liners and container ships vanished under a velvety black cloak. Only a man-made constellation of lights could be seen on a sea of inky ripples. We learned how to navigate by the lights: occulting, slow and quick flashing red and green buoys; north, south, east and west cardinals; how to tell which was a vessel is traveling: green light for starboard, red for port.
Today the sea is a shimmering aquamarine dress with glittering sequins. The sun is out but the wind still bites through my five layers of clothing, woolly hat and scarf. I am getting nicely tanned through my factor thirty sun cream nonetheless.
Last night was spent at Lymington, definitely my favourite marina so far and the only one not to have been privatized. Portsmouth seems an exact clone of Brighton Marina and Cowes and Hamble aren’t much better – hardly worth going anywhere if that’s all you’re going to see! Lymington is just a small pontoon out the front of the village. A bloke comes chugging along on his little boat to collect the mooring fee with a bus ticket machine.
I had a little walk up to the local graveyard in the morning and was surprised to discover how much I had missed trees and grass and the colour green. Not sure how I would do seeing only blue and black for days and days on end. I did have one exciting encounter with nature though; yesterday while getting laughed at rowing the dinghy around I came across a fascinating creature that I have been assured must have been a cuttlefish. He swam under my dingy while keeping his big old beady eye on me. I felt we bonded.
I have been having some potent dreams sleeping on the water. Perhaps something lurking deep below is whispering secrets to me while I sleep. During a dream one night I had a clear realisation of how polluted humans have made the sea. It was saddening, sickening and made me think again that we have already pushed things too far. Is there any way out of this? Increasingly it seems not. I mentioned to our skipper that it may not be such a great thing to be flushing toilet cleaner and non-eco (well, any really) washing-up liquid and other cleaners out to sea. Apparently there is an organisation called The Green Blue working with the sailing industry to help it green up it’s activities. They have persuaded TUI Travel, the mega-company that owns Sunsail our sailing school that they need to switch to Ecover. However, it’s going to take a whole year before the change is actually implemented due to the massive beaurocratic feedback loops in a company this size. Sigh.
On arriving back at Portsmouth it took me a while to get my land-legs back, despite having been off the boat for at least an hour or two most evenings. We were presented with our Competent Crew certificates and got a ride to the station from our skipper. My main reason for taking this course was to learn enough to be useful on a boat and increase my chances of hitching one for part of the world travel escapade I’m hoping to embark on later this year. Also, to check I won’t get too seasick and that I actually enjoy sailing. I can definitely tick all of those boxes now, apart from missing the trees.