STORIES OF SAILING

A friend of mine went on a sailing trip last weekend and that reminded me of a whole part of my youth that I had forgotten about. On further reflection, I wondered if those memories might support a quick trip down memory lane.

My relatively brief dalliance with boats began when my dad decided that he wanted to learn to sail. I was only little when he joined Glossop Sailing Club and took himself off to night school. I don’t remember taking to the water myself at that stage (except perhaps in a double fibreglass canoe that he made in another night school class.) But I do remember spending what seemed like hours at the water’s edge with my brother waiting for dad to come in. I think the dinghy was a Graduate but I may be wrong. It’s about 35 years ago! We moved house and consequently sailing venue. Winsford Flash. Hardly more inspiring than Glossop scenically but we also got a slightly bigger boat – a Snipe and that together with our advancing age and swimming ability meant that we got to go out with dad more regularly.

Mucking about in little boats was one thing but my dad’s best mate had a small cruiser on Lake Coniston and we often went up to spend the day with them. This was more like it. Beds, a galley, a real loo and loads of little cupboards filled with everything one might need for a day on the water. We used to tack up and down the lake, my brother and I feigning knowledge about which rope controlled what. It was great.

Whilst I, as a pre-teen, had a passing interest in most things that I was exposed to, my dad had got the bug so when his friend traded up, we bought his cruiser and secured ourselves a mooring, firstly in the unfashionable end of the lake and then right outside the clubhouse with the people that took the whole sailing thing seriously.

And once we had our boat we spent as much time as we could on it. By then we lived in Lincoln so it was a long way to go but regular weekends and most school holidays were spent on the lake. And most of the time I loved it. As is often the way, most of my memories are of long, hot summer days swimming across the lake from one side to the other or catching minnows from the jetty in jam jars filled with bread. Of course I know that it was the Lake District and so by the law of averages there must have been more wet days than sunny ones. I do remember it snowing on us fairly regularly and I still believe that your upbringing has been sheltered if you haven’t weed in a bucket in the middle of the night and then had to chip the ice off it in the morning in order to throw it away!

Actually sleeping on the boat was great. I think it had six berths but would only sleep six if two of the occupants were midgets. It was just right for my parents, brother and I as long as we didn’t grow much more. At the appointed hour, we all used to wriggle ourselves into our sleeping bags, my brother would make the boat rock violently by throwing himself about his berth, my mum would scream and tell him to stop and we would fall asleep with the gentle lapping of the water all around us. In the morning the water was always calm. There would be wetland birds calling and the sound of the rigging banging against the mast. As I stuck my head out of the hatch, I could usually see the mist rolling off the water and even at that age, when you often fail to appreciate these things, I could see that I was in a very privileged place. You could always smell bacon too as all the other cruiser owners came to life.

As I got older I met more of the sailing club regulars who sailed Scorpions and Fireballs each weekend come hell or highwater. Going to the boat then took on a whole different complexion. I was 15 and they were boys. Pretty soon I had got myself a lovely boyfriend who could sail the rest of them into a cocked hat and I used to sit proudly in the club house waiting for him to cross the finishing line in first place and then greet him as he came back in, blue with cold, with a big kiss. Sleeping on the boat with my parents grew less attractive and we used to camp on the nearby site and buy chips from the van and halves of lager from the bar. I was growing up.

We moved house again and by this time I was 17 and could stay at home when my parents went to the boat. We were also closer geographically and could realistically go for the day. My visits became less and less frequent and other interests and my A levels sort of took over. I didn’t really go again until I took my husband a few times before we had any children. We loved it but it was summer, we didn’t have to do any of the horrid bits and pretty soon we had toddlers and it all seemed a very distant dream. Shortly after that my dad sold the boat and that was sailing gone from my life. Whilst I would never describe myself as a sailor, there is something really special about the part that the lake, the club and the people that I met there played in my adolescence. Being a small part of something like that made me very proud.It taught me a whole host of outdoor skills but also played a huge part in developing my independence and my creative thinking. I look back on those days fondly. Even the day that I ran the boat aground and had get the rescue boat out. But that’s another story.

What do you think? I'd love to know...