Gary and I started our sailing course this weekend. With two days up at Kielder, we really couldn't have asked for better weather. We had blue skies and bright sunshine throughout.
It was a pretty packed two days, with lots to learn as we spent time on the water and back in the classroom. Day one started off with rigging our boats, seeing how all the sails are fixed on and what you need to do before putting your boat in the water.
Next we stuggled into our kit, having borrowed a couple of dry suits we did the reverse of escapology to get into them. Our instructor for the day was Dave, who took us out on the water in a Wayfarer and we took it in turns to be the helm and the crew, learning to control the sails.
The helm sits at the rear or bow of the boat and controls the mainsail and the tiller (or steering). The crew sits further forward and controls the smaller sail called the jib. See, I'm already getting into the terminology.
During the first sailing session we tried our hand at tacking, or changing direction to catch the wind. Basically it involves moving the mainsail from one side to the other, remembering to duck when the boom (a long bit of metal which holds the mainsail in place) swings across. It's pretty painful when it whacks you on the head – as I found out a couple of times. Thankfully Dave managed to keep us afloat!
It was great fun to be out sailing, and we were soon spotting approaching gusts of wind by watching for patches of darkness on the water. Gary certainly seemed to be getting the hang of it.
After a break for lunch and some time in the clubhouse learning about the points of sail, we were soon back on the water for the afternoon session. By now, the wind had picked up quite a bit and was too strong for us novice sailors. So we learned another new trick as we prepared the boats – reefing the sails to make them smaller.
Once again we took turns at the helm, putting the classroom theory into practice. This time we did a lot more sailing close hauled, or close to the wind. The trick is to sail into the wind until the jib starts to flutter and then ease back so it's full again. It really helped me get a better feel for the tiller and the small amount of movement it needs to make changes in direction. Needless to say there was plenty of over and under-steer too!
Whilst sailing there was too much to think about and do to notice the bump on my head from that earlier close encounter with the boom. But once we wer back onshore, and had packed the boats away, it came back to remind me with a vengeance. But even a throbbing headache couldn't spoil a great day.