I have ‘sailed’ a yacht three times, each time as crew to experienced yachtsmen.
The first time was a nice serene affair around Plymouth Sound. The second and third occasions were however described by each skipper as the “worst conditions that I have ever sailed in!”
The first of these two gale-force episodes took place in Hong Kong in ’91. There was no sign of the troubles ahead as we floated out of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club headed for a small island that was only accessible by boat, where we stopped for a sumptuous fresh fish lunch.
As we ate, the glorious sunshine turned to light rain, forcing us inside. The wind was also starting to gust, leading us to quip that we would get back quickly with wind assistance.
Carl our sailor decided it definitely was time to leave, so we clambered on board with the rain noticeably getting much heavier. The journey back was tortuous as we rocked all over the place and in stark contrast to the relaxed journey out, Carl was stressfully barking out orders to pull ropes and wind the sail back and forth.
We eventually got back soaked to the skin, but exhilarated. Carl did say that on a few occasions he was ready to call for help, but thankfully the flares and radio remained unused.
In a déja vu moment, fast forward eight years and we decided at work that a sailing trip from Southsea to the Isle of Wight would be a good team bonding exercise.
The outward journey was on a millpond and a nice, stress-free affair as Andy our experienced skipper showed us the ropes.
A nice lunch on the island accompanied by a couple of beers was just the ticket. Then it happened. The sky turned grey and the heavens opened, whilst the wind whipped up alarmingly.
Time to go. If anything the return journey was worse than Hong Kong. Andy made us fix ourselves to the boat as it tilted alarmingly towards the seething waters. The rain lashed and it literally was all hands on deck.
At one point the sail got stuck around the mast. No end of rope pulling or winching would unfurl it again. Remarkably, our boss Iain (Ruby) Currie ended up fearlessly clambering to the front of the boat, shimmying up the mast pole and freeing the trapped sail, to loud cheers from us below. All this whilst the Solent was more like the Bermuda Triangle!
We got back eventually and all admitted to being pretty scared at what we had just experienced. Andy just breathed a huge sigh of relief and led us into a bar for large brandies all round.
Some team bonding event that was!