A rather watery weekend


Something fairly unusual happened to me last weekend. I had a phone call out of the blue last week from someone I’ve never met asking if I’d like to go sailing with him on the Broads. Apparently someone I used to work with had passed my number on to him. Being at a bit of a loose end I naturally said yes and pottered down to the marina to get out on the river.

A number of things should have rung alarm bells as soon as I arrive. Firstly it’s blowing an absolute hooley, as we in Norfolk refer to gale force gusting winds, hardly ideal sailing conditions. Secondly this bloke’s boat is in fact a tiny rowing boat with a single mainsheet precariously attached. Thirdly the guy is partially sighted. By that I mean he really can’t see very much at all. So whilst, he has spent years on and around boats and can find his way about with natural ease, he can’t help with any of the general navigation, dodging other boats, swans, the bank etc.

It is at this point that it strikes me that I haven’t been sailing in years, hadn’t stepped foot on a vessel for quite some time. Not a great time to recall my own failings, but by this point the ‘boat’ is already in the water and I’m pretty committed.

At first it’s all going well, Tom, as he actually knew what he was doing, is taking care of the sail, and I, with virtually zero sailing experience, am in charge of the tiller. With a fierce wind behind us we very nearly take off upriver. After a few false starts, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this boating lark, and the (very) strong winds are keeping all other would-be sailors off the water for the time being, giving me plenty of river to weave across, as I struggle to get control of our tiny vessel. Another disadvantage of Tom’s disability is that he can’t see when I’m about to make a turn and if you’ve ever been in a boat before you’ll know that turning with a sail invariably sends the boom sweeping across the deck, meaning I have to shout a warning each time, which of course I frequently forget to do.

But it wasn’t until we turn back that the trouble really starts. As we’re now heading into the wind we’re hardly making any headway at all. Worse yet, any distance we do make across the river is lost turning through the wind to tac back across the river as the current is also flowing against us. All in all it’s probably just as well that Tom can’t see how far we haven’t got. An hour and half and maybe one hundred yards later we decide it’s probably time to admit defeat and flag down a passing yacht cruising under engines for a tow.

My watery escapades didn’t end there, however. A couple of days later I find myself in Cornwall for my dad’s 60th birthday and we’ve agreed to go out with some friends on a boat off the coast of St. Ives. Someone suggests that we might like to have a go at “ribbing” which sounds quite rude, but is apparently like water skiing, but instead of skis, you hang into an inflatable rubber disk.


Yep, cold, wet, really good fun.


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