As the Summer draws to a close, and the temperature starts to dip, I’m trying to get on the water as much as possible. That, and I have some exams coming up, and need to make sure that I’m on my A-game.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a blissful weekend on the water with some (non sailing related) friends. I chartered a Sun Odyssey 35′ from Elite Sailing, via their Sailing Club – a great, low cost way to get on the water and build experience.
I pre-set expectations that this would be a chilled weekend, not hard sailing, and chilled it was. After a beautiful sunrise and breakfast of bacon and eggs, we tacked down the Medway, and out to the wreck of the Montgommery. As skipper, but also friend, and keeping in mind the skill level and desires of the crew, I had to find a careful balance of ensuring we were safe and doing things properly, without annoying the crew or pushing them too hard. As we tacked our way down the Medway and out to the Montgomery, I could see the confidence of the crew grow nicely. They all took turns at different jobs, including long, enjoyable stints on the helm.
I made the decision to drop the main after we rounded the Montgomery, as it was fluky downwind sailing, and I was concerned that with a novice helm we would be at risk of an accidental gybe. I could have rigged a preventer, but I knew we’d need to gybe frequently, and this was additional hassle for all. We weren’t in a hurry, and it meant we didn’t need a helm change, and everyone could carry on enjoying the day as they were – so under head sail, we peacefully made our way to Queenborough.
Overnighting in Queenborough, we witnessed the most beautiful of sunsets. The sky was filled with golden hues, edged with pinks and purples. Where the sky met the sea, the colours became even more dramatic, as pinks and golds delicately covered the surface of the calm waters, leaving the boats and everything else in silhouette. Simply stunning.
We spent the night on the ATL, before gently ambling our way back to Chatham Marina on Sunday.
The return ‘lock in’ was an experience. Arriving at Chatham at 1500, the tide was too high to open the gates, so along with approx. 15 other vessels we had to entertain ourselves on the river. I took us past the historic dockyards, and then dropped us on to a buoy where we awaited our call over the VHF radio. It seems, like us, everyone was eager to enjoy the end of season sunshine. We finally got the call at 1630 and made our way into a full lock, rafting next to a motor cruiser – said motor cruiser, we were informed is a gas guzzler, and it costs a whopping £1 per mile in fuel to run. I know what I would rather have, I’ll take wind and sails (and peace and quiet) any day.
I think a crucial part of being a skipper, is making the right decisions for the occasion, for the crew level, and to ensure that everyone is happy. Hopefully I got that right last weekend, but I will let the crew be the judge of that!