N 50 42.694 W 001 58.980

Sat 30 May 2015 19:17

A friend of mine once gave me a book by Arthur Ransome called “Recundra’s First Cruise”.  Arthur Ransome was a keen sailor and prolific writer probably better know for his children’s books “Swallows and Amazons” and “We didn’t mean to go to sea”.  He wrote the book about his boat Recundra that he had built in the Baltic and about his first cruise in her.  The opening paragraph of the book I think expresses the very essence of sailing.  He wrote:

 “Houses are but badly built boats so firmly aground that you cannot think of moving them.  They are definitely inferior things, belonging to the vegetable not animal world, rooted and stationary, incapable of gay transition.  I admit, doubtfully, as exceptions, snail-shells and caravans.  The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content thenceforward with a single anchorage.  The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting-place.”

 Rather a romantic notion perhaps but it does capture the spirit of adventures yet to come. I knew from the very beginning when I took up sailing that pottering around Poole harbour in a sailing dinghy was not for me.  The biggest attraction was the idea of living on a yacht sailing out of the Haven, the entrance to Poole harbour, and knowing that in theory I could go anywhere in the world.  Not that I ever thought I would have the opportunity until now.  

 So how did I get into sailing?  The answer is quite simple, golf! Yes that’s right golf!  The company I worked for in the City of London offered me a new position that came with a flat.  This allowed my wife Ann and me to buy house much further out of London and we eventually brought one in a village just outside Poole in Dorset.  We went there most weekends and I decided to take up golf again, a sport I had played on and off over the years with mixed results.  As any golfer will tell you the game can become obsessive and indeed it did with me.  As soon as we arrived home on a Friday night I would run into the house drop the bags and pick up the clubs.  If it were summer, I would be straight down to the golf club to get the last few holes in before it was to dark to play and in the winter I was off to the driving range to hit a couple of baskets of balls.  If I could get away with it, I would be on the golf course on Saturday and Sunday as well.  Not that Ann made a fuss about it but she was fast becoming a golf widow.  So I thought I would try and get her interested in playing golf then we could play together and I wouldn’t feel so guilty.  We could even go on golfing holidays together like other couples did.  But there was one problem!  Ann was not at all interested in playing golf.  So either we found something we could do together or we would be spending weekends apart. 

 One afternoon Ann came home and said she had met a retired Vicar who owned his own small yacht, a Swift 18 with a lifting keel.  He had invited us to join him for a sail around Poole Harbour one weekend and Ann seemed keen to have ago.  My only involvement with sailing up to this point had been in the Army and the experience had left me with no desire to sail again.  I left home at sixteen and joined the Army as an apprentice Chef in the Army Catering Corp.  As part of our training we occasionally went off on adventure training, for “character” building.  This usually involved land based activities such as rock climbing, abseiling and marching across the Dartmoor Tors with large heavy packs on our backs.  The wetter activities consisted of canoeing and dinghy sailing.  My recollection of these times were that they generally took place at the end of September beginning of November when the weather was not exactly conducive to enjoying such activities.  When it came to the sailing this usually took place in Plymouth around Drakes Island.  The experience put me off of sailing for years for two reasons.  Firstly, the instructors insisted on making us constantly capsize the dinghy’s to show we could right them properly and a cold dip in the sea at that time of year was not my idea of fun.  The second reason was that I just had no feeling for sailing at all.  As far as I was concerned if I wanted to go from A to B you should just turn on the engine and go in a straight course, simple.  Not so in a sailing dinghy.  You have to go left then right then left again then right again, tacking and gibing are the technical terms as I later learned.  As a result I had never considered taking up sailing but Ann seemed keen so I agreed to go.  Perhaps this was the hobby we could both share?

 I suppose being older, but not necessarily any wiser, I could now appreciate the nuances of sailing much more.  Once we got out in the harbour Humphrey turned the engine off and when we got under sail it suddenly all clicked into place. After this sailing seemed to come naturally to me and from then on I was hooked.   So that was how it all started and now I am on my way to the Caribbean.  When I started sailing fifteen years ago I dreamed of one day taking a long cruise to some exotic place in the world but I never thought I would have the chance to do so.  However, life has a way of creating opportunities and you should grab them with both hands because they don’t come along that often.  So I am off to Trinidad all being well and I will be writing further blogs as I go along.  Cheers for now.


Signing off Ted.