Back to school 1

Since our much anticipated sailing adventure involves carrying the most precious cargo a mother can, it was decided that I would go on a sailing course. My previous experience of sailing is limited to the 4 minutes on an Optimist as a kid, before I could ask what a boom was. Luckily it was summer. Then hubby took us out once on Malgas, but I had my hands full with getting in the way, so didn't have the opportunity to learn the ropes.

We decided on Atlantic Yachting in the Western Cape of our home country, as that is where Mike went for his skipper's course last year. With much trepidation I prepared for my adventure. As a comfortably middle classed housewife, on the wrong side of forty with previous life experiences in Fine Art, Reiki and specialist baking, the thought of learning to sail is a daunting one. Ironing done, freezer stocked and boatparts pre- memorized, I set off for the 900 km drive. Two sets of clean clothing for each day in the boot, just in case I get wet. I arrived in Langebaan, found Club Mykanos and the yacht assigned to my group (Passo Passo, a Lavranos 34) and settled in the Vee berth which I claimed on account of my age and a slightly dodgy hip.

Monday morning found all of us new students in the classroom just before 8. Ready to learn. Expecting to be stuck in the classroom learning theory for the first few days, I was slightly taken aback when our instructor, Christie, led our group of 4 students back to the boat. But I wasn't too worried. It was a windy, grey and rainy day with gusty winds, so we were obviously going to stay in the marina. Wrong! Christie assigned each of us a station, told us what to do and off we went. Shaking with terror, I did what I was told and prayed . It was the scariest experience ever. Then we excited the marina. Good Lord. Imagine if you will, this tannie alternating between praying, screaming, swearing and clenching. What a pity there are no photos of the first two days. It's just that I am not technologically savvy enough to take selfies in near death situations. Ok, maybe we were never really in danger, but I was quite convinced that I would never see my beautiful children again. As we heeled over at ridiculous angles, Christie tried to calm me down by explaining that only at around 110 degrees would we roll. He wasn't frightfully convincing. As soon as I cottoned on that letting out the boom righted the boat, I was glued to the mainsheet. When no one watched, I would let out little half inches at a time.

We did learn rather a lot in those first two days, but I much preferred the gentle pace of the next few days when the weather cleared. By Wednesday, I was relaxed enough to have a conversation with the lovely Yolanda, my fellow lady student. I shyly asked her to take a pic or two of me for the blog and luckily she also wanted some for herself. The living arrangements took some getting used to. Three men and two women, strangers to each other, cooking, eating, sleeping, working and most definitely not using the head( me anyway) in a confined, moving space. This for a woman who doesn't even like her own family using her pillow, or cup. Or blankie. Spatial boundaries aside, what an experience. Our instructor was patient, even while I was swearing at him. Ya, not a proud moment. My fellow students were lovely and pretty soon we were functioning as a team.

The Vee berth with my luggage. Of which I used maybe a third. Now I know.

Yolanda and Christie chewing their way through my boat stew. It could have done with another few hours of cooking, but after a day of physical labor, it went down well. We even had fresh coriander as garnish.

Passo Passo moored Mediterranean style in Saldana. No, I didn't try to hook the buoy. But I did the stepping off thing. Go, me.

Good weather makes sailing so much more fun. It even started making sense after a while.

Sunrise in Saldana.

That elusive Bowline knot. We learnt 6 knots in total. The Reefknot, Bowline, Sheet bend, Figure eight, Rolling Hitch and the other one. Something about turns and stuff.

Sunset going from Mykanos towards Saldana on our first night sail. Surprisingly, sailing in the dark was not as scary as one would of thought.

Our crew. From left to right Ettiene, Yolanda, Andrew and Christie.

On our 5 th and last day, it was very foggy. I had to ask Christie how he had managed to organise so many different weather conditions for his students in such a short space.

A very rare pic. The helm is most definitely not my favorite spot and I would go to great lengths to avoid it.

I did it! And have the ticket to prove it. Had I known before the time just how scary, uncomfortable and fast paced it would be, to be honest I would have thought twice. But I am eternally grateful for this experience. I really learnt a lot. Not just about the practicalities of sailing, either. I learnt that I can survive and overcome fear. I was also reminded that I love my husband very much, since I missed him like crazy.

With thanks to Atlantic Yachting, the bubbly Juanita in the office, our instructor Christie and the rest of our crew.



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