Eat. Sleep. Sail. Repeat. A Beginners Guide.

14:05.150N: 47:39.141W

Over the years I have spent working in the marine industry, I have, on occasion, used elaborate ways to describe to potential owners what it would be like to own whatever boat I was trying to sell at the time. This will have included words like “luxury”, and “comfortable”, and phrases like “easy cruising”, “pleasurable time away” and “stress-free holidays for you and youfamily”.

To all those people, I apologise. Let me tell you what it is really like, with these handy tips for your exciting adventure: 

It is 3am. You are in bed, dreaming of mermaids cooing gently at you from somewhere in the middle-distance. Your alarm goes off, loudly. You open one eye in the the hope that your tiny, permanently-moving bed has miraculously turned in to a spacious 5-star hotel room with hot and cold running chambermaids. It hasn’t. You sit upright, and whack your head on the bottom of the bunk above you. You need to get dressed. This involves using some or all of the following skills:

  • Pop both feet through one leg of your trousers, and try to stand up
  • Spin your T-shirt round a few times, trying to find which is the right way round. Put in on backwards anyway
  • Use your head to find all the sharp or heavy objects in your cabin - curtain hooks, door handles, cupboards etc
  • Turn round to locate the door, and use your arse to accidentally switch all the lights on

Now blinded and badly dressed, it is important to present yourself in the cockpit and ask knowlegeable questions about the state of the yacht, sails, sea, radar settings, and likely chance of an early breakfast. Invariably, these requests will be given short shrift, before you end up being left in charge of a yacht that is determined to sail it’s own course. You wrestle with the helm for a couple of hours, in an attempt to keep the whole thing pointing in roughly the right direction, safe in the knowledge that the bloke coming on watch after you can sort the mess out once you’ve gone back to bed. 

On a long journey such as this, you may be out of sight of land for a day or two. Impress your friends with your knowledge of navigation by getting out your sextant. When using the sextant, remember to stand outside where you can see some stars, as positions taken using the lights above the chart table will invariably lead to you plotting the same position every day. If you are cruising with other yachts, simply follow them to your chosen destination by following the trail of mouldy fruit and potato peelings they toss out of their galley window a couple of miles ahead of you.  

You might like to try a spot of fishing. Whilst planning your voyage from the comfort of your sofa, this will look like fun. You order all the gear and equipment you can. Fish are aware of this. As such, they will ignore cheap tatty lures in exchange for the really expensive stuff. These they will bite off, and swim away with in between their teeth. If you listen very carefully, you will be able to hear them laughing... 

By midday, you’ll be hungry. With luck, your yacht will be full of excellent French chefs (like this one), but you may be left grabbing whatever is rolling about in the fridge that looks remotely edible. By the end of your voyage, this may include one-off items of furry veg, bruised fruit, alcohol-free beer, and things in “tupperware”. 

As your day draws to a close, head back to your cabin for a well-deserved nap. Collapse on to your bed, ignoring the chance to shower, brush your teeth, read a book, or tidy up the mess you made while trying to get dressed in the dark many many hours earlier. Remind yourself that this is “fun”, and you signed up for it.

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So, if you are currently at home flicking through the yachting brochures that you collected from a chap like me at the boat show last week, use these handy tips to ensure you know what you are letting yourselves in for. It’s great fun, and thoroughly recommended. Honestly. It is.

Only 750nm to go to St.Lucia...

Alastair