DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST LOVE…?
Good Friday 5:30am and the whole idea felt somewhat less attractive than when I’d scribbled my name on the Offshore Notice Board, a few weeks earlier. An Easter jaunt on the South Coast, or maybe even France; that’s what I’d been promised.
Picking up my friend, Rob (‘will there be beers involved?’), in Fleet, we headed off to West Cowes. Arriving well ahead of schedule, at 8.30am, we were soon spotted by the rest of our ‘crack squadron’ of sailors as we strolled down the High Street. Breakfast ensued, with ‘Tom at Y-Knots’ providing a slow but sure service. It provided the chance for us to get to know each other and our novice skipper, Dawn Saunders, introduced everyone before leading us off to ‘First Love’.
Briefings completed, we slipped lines mid-morning, on the 11am high tide. Reversing off the pontoon was to prove our first surprise, as backwash from our powerful engine pulled the tiller hard over. Crew to the rescue! There followed a ‘carry-on’ type scene, as the skipper was ‘mounted’ in a joint struggle for control of the helm! Composure was quickly restored, however, accompanied by assurances that such ‘hand-brake’ turn procedures were absolutely de-rigeur.
Caution (closely followed by ‘alcohol’) was to be the watchword of the weekend. With winds gusting up to F5, and low cloud scampering in from the SW, the instruction came for a number 3 reef in the main. Our two first-timers looked on quietly, their complexions lightening in perfect contrast to that of the black clouds above.
After a bracing few hours we sailed safe and sound into Lymington. We were joined later by our companion boat, Sigmagician, skippered by Chris W-I. Showers, a little rest and relaxation prepared us for cocktails at 7 on board Sigmagician. Never let it be said that Chris W-I mixes a lightweight Singapore Sling! An impressive selection of Easter Eggs quickly appeared; S-Club 7, Barbie, Action Man and Barney the Dinosaur all featured heavily. Amazingly, space was left for dinner and we made for the hotel in Lymington High Street. Certain crew ordering in ‘Allo, Allo’ type accents did nothing to pacify the confused French waiter, but by the end of the meal we were all feeling quite replete. (I am still not convinced we needed that last bottle of Port.)
We woke next morning to (thankfully) improved weather. It was decided that tonight we would really show Sigmagician what a cocktail party was about. Accordingly, two of our crew were despatched for provisions. Events, however, were to conspire against us. Before they returned, Sigmagician had slipped lines for Weymouth, leaving First Love to follow on some time later.
Sailing out of Lymington into a variable F3 South Westerly, we set course for the Needles Channel. After a bit of a set-to with another yacht (boat under sail - us - overtaking boat under power - him - who gives way?) we decided to motor through the Channel, before resetting our sails to cross Christchurch Bay. A few hours of lolling around on a particularly lethargic swell caused several members of our hardy crew to look a little peaky. Wind direction was forcing us to tack around our intended course. Regular half-hour plots showed we were making painfully slow progress, with the tide not having turned far enough in our favour to lend a helping hand. Despite rumblings of (mutinous) discontent, the skipper took the sensible decision to abandon Weymouth and head for the safety of Poole Town Quay.
Expert pilotage saw us safely up the twisty channel of Poole Harbour and rafted up in time to catch the football results at a quayside hostelry! After an excellent dinner at Tony’s Italian, further bad behaviour ensued at the ‘charming’ Aquarium nightclub, on the quayside. The girls made quite an impact!
Early next morning drew the usual flurry of raft activity. It was all hands on deck on First Love - some of the crew appearing at short notice in boxer shorts to ‘help out’! A glorious sail back to Yarmouth ensued. Sigmagician, having reached Weymouth the previous evening, had set out at 7am on the return leg, bound for Yarmouth. They had passed Poole well before the alcohol levels on board First Love had subsided to RYA compliant levels!
Arriving late afternoon, Yarmouth bustled with activity. Our skipper, in control at the helm, wove in and out of various obstacles and turned the boat ‘on a postage stamp’ (you stopped shaking yet Dawn?). How could she have realised the boat we finally moored up against would be full of burly firemen? The overdue First Love cocktail party was underway within hours, Salties fish restaurant was an appropriate venue for our Last Supper of the weekend and our final day saw a gentle cruise to Osborne Bay, before doubling back for lunch at The Folly Inn.
A big thank-you to everyone involved in making it such a highly memorable weekend. Special thanks to our two skippers, Dawn Saunders and Chris W-I, especially Dawn on her first time ‘in charge’.
Copyright © London Corinthian
Sailing Club, 18 May 2000