Sunday 26 January 2014

The secret of eternal youth

How to feel 18 again
January 2014

I have to admit that at times I start to feel that I have sailed a bit north of "youth" and I am probably charting a course deep in the middle fifties, but at times inside I am still 18.

With so many maritime metaphors you may guess that I am talking about sailing.

I have sailed pretty much all my life starting with a Laser type boat I built myself when I was 18, and in which I figured out how to go about this sailing malarkey. In fact, Helen with her two evening sessions at the local sailing club has more formal sail training than I have to my name. Like most things in my life, I picked it up as I went along and I thoroughly enjoy getting out on the water with a tiller in one hand and a main sheet in the other, the boat heeling over in a stiff breeze and spray blasting me from the bows dug deep in a wave.

But the flip site is that I am not a fan of getting cold and wet so, for much of the year, sailing in the UK holds little appeal and I am much happier bashing along on a nice warm narrowboat.

But get me abroad, especially in the Caribbean and its another matter altogether. The trade winds offer strong but predictable sailing conditions and the water is so warm is almost a pleasure to get soaked. Its therefore my practice to get my watery and physical fix by sailing for a couple of hours each morning.You can stick your daily aquarobics lessons!

At Windjammer the watersports are complimentary (I mean $ free rather than the staff extolling the quality of my seamanship!) and their boats are Hobie Cats - small twin hulled cats from Florida which are both fast and inherently stable. All in all they are a whole lot of fun as I race to and fro across the bay, but absolute swines to come about into the wind unless you have one with a gib.

As the days have gone bye the guys at the Watersports Centre have become very relaxed about my daily sails, merely asking me to stay in sight but with no restriction to distance out I go. I tend to favour a zone about a mile offshore where the trade winds blow unchecked around the headland and out there the little boat hums and vibrates as it launches itself from one crest to another. At these speeds its upper hull rears clear of the water and keeping it all in balance calls for much juggling of weight, position, sail tension and angle of attack.

All in all its fair to say that from the moment I push off from the beach the rest of the world almost ceases to exist and there I am 18 again, sailing my home made dingy on the Norfolk Broads, or 30 and sailing monohulls in Tobago. Its like riding a bike and as natural a part of my being as breathing.

Of course, pride can come before a fall and today I have a near brush with disaster as a tropical downpour rolled off the hills and I suddenly found myself well offshore tacking back in the teeth of heavy squalls, soaked to the skin with a mix of spray from the speeding hulls and the rain which was as much lateral as it was vertical. Through all this my faithful little Praktica survived repeated immersions wrapped in a laundry bag and secured with a clippit.

Against this backdrop of a youth regained on the waters of St Lucia I am very aware of a watery tragedy with took place just a few miles down the coast to an East Anglian couple on a sailing trip of a lifetime, but who fell foul of thieves and the husband paid with his life. It may be lovely here but its not quite paradise!

No comments: