This time last year my only idea of sailing came from Lonely Island’s ‘I’m On A Boat’ and the Wind in the Willows (this reference had particular significance for me as apparently I bear more than a passing resemblance to Mole). Sailing to me involved woodland animals having the time of their lives, possibly wearing nautical themed pashmina afhgans. I live in the heart of England, as far away from the ocean as you can get on our small island, so these very reliable sources were all I had to convince me that being on a boat would be the best thing ever.
I’ve since found that my ideas of sailing and sailors were rather different to most. Whilst I saw Lonely Island or Ratty and Mole in my mind’s eye, others saw yachties. You know, posh t**ts, wearing deck shoes, Ralph Lauren shirts, argyle jumpers and Ray-Bans. Actually, sailors have confirmed my faith in the decency of human nature. And for the record, in Scotland drysuits are the fashion of choice, or if not choice, necessity.
My very limited experience of sailing so far has been three events over the course of last year. The first of these took place over Reading Week last year, a beginners weekend organised by the University Sailing Club to the beautiful, albeit frosty Loch Tay. Next up in April were the Scottish University Sailing Association (SUSA) Championships, where after never having been dinghy sailing before I was immediately crewing for the St Andrews first team in a series of races. My latest experience of sailing has been yachting around the Western Isles in July. Though all these events obviously involved sailing, drinking, ceilidhing and fancy dress seem almost equally important in the university sailing world. Then again so did human decency.
Sailing can be dangerous if things go wrong, and just to be clear a lot can go wrong. Because of this always imminent danger sailors are considerate of each other, and always ready to spring into action if needed by their fellow seamen. When yachting this summer with some fellow University of St Andrews Sailing Club members, I experienced this first hand. Our main problem was with the dinghy that we had been using to get to shore from the moored yacht. The outboard propeller was broken, which meant we had to row to shore which up until that point hadn’t been a problem. One day, however, the tide and wind were so powerful that Eddie (one of our crew members) was rowing back to the boat and literally not moving. He was only just managing not to go backwards! Luckily, a kind man saw what was happening and towed us back to the boat, then went back to shore and rescued our friends as well. I can only imagine if he hadn’t saved us we would have been sleeping onshore in a cardboard box overnight. Another time, the dinghy got punctured, leaving Claire and I on board the yacht terrified we’d been left on our own! But again, a lovely man gave them a ride to get the puncture repair kit. Some sailors may be posh t**ts, but even they are willing to give you a jewel-encrusted helping hand if you really need it.
So, a year on, I can confirm that ‘I’ve been on a boat motherf*cker’ and it’s been awesome. Ratty had a point when he said to Mole “There is nothing- absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
Image 1 – Alex E. Proimos
Image 2 – University of St Andrews Sailing Club