First Day Sailing: A Day packed with anticipation, salopettes, and surprise lessons in the art of going downstream without meaning to.
The morning was as still as a monk in meditation. Great for sunbathing, not so much for sailing. The skies were clear but hardly a breeze. Not necessarily the best day to learn to sail. My sons and I packed the car with salopettes and waterproof shoes and then after my wife had returned from church, her church warden activities done, we set off for the Sailing Club.
Petrol was needed and this very much set the tone for the day. We visited Sainsburys along our route and discovered that the last pump would only do cards (no problem). Except that it was because it rejected all by cards and my wife’s. Unable to go back we had to leave thee petrol station and rejoin the queue to enter again aiming for another pump. This too, refused my cards but would allow the kiosk. Having filled up my son went in to pay (with my money) and discovered that these two pumps were known not to accept cards.
So, we travelled around the M25 and M40 to the Sailing club without any more ado. Arriving at the Sailing Club felt like entering a sanctuary for boat lovers. We commenced getting the boat out of its tight parking space and taking the mast down to sort out the jib wire which had been pulled to the top of the mast along with the Genaker rope. We unpacked, and with a blend of manual reading and intuitive guesswork, prepared our boat ready for our first day sailing.
Whilst Mark and I fitted the toe straps, Paul read up on how to fix and furl the jib. All was going well. The main sail went up for a test and so we were ready. I easily slipped on my diving boots with the aid of my wife pulling and tugging and put on some salopettes ready to push the boat around to the riverbank. With ease we crossed the railway line, at a very small manual level crossing. My wife and sons changed, Paul just putting on some salopettes but Mark going for full on wet weather gear.
Getting the boat on the water
The sun was shining brightly, and the air was warm in the October sunshine. I was ready for your first day sailing.
The boat is quite big and heavy, so we were advised to use the winch which took out all the effort of lowering the boat into the water. Once in the water Paul decided that that three was company, and four was a crowd in the very light winds and trying to balance the boat, so I remained ashore and took some photos as the designated landlubber, whilst the team were pushed out into the river. The river’s current, sensing our inexperience in the boat, decided to have some fun, with no wind taking my family on an unplanned downstream tour. They passed expensive yachts before passing a Thames A-Rater, Spindrift racing around a course. My son politely asked the crew on Spindrift to notify the members of the club that some assistance was required downstream, and to dispatch the Safety Boat forthwith.
Safety Boat Rescue
They passed all the expensive boats still facing upstream but evermore moving downstream carried by the rain surged current towards a low bridge. The impending bridge loomed like an unwanted deadline, but despite their best efforts, our boat seemed determined to reach it. Enter the Safety Boat, the marine equivalent of cavalry riding to the rescue.
By the time the Safety boat arrived the team were well on their way to the bridge. The team then discovered that their painter (the rope at the front) was way too short. Ideal to tie the boat to the launching trolly but not anywhere near long enough for a tow. They did have a longer rope its just that it was still coiled up in knots from the shop. The safety boat tried to position the Toura alongside the safety boat to pull it back. But due to the size and weight of the Toura they had to give a trailer tow. So the tow back to the Club started and Paul noticed how when the boat was going forward how the boat drained automatically. We needed a rope to throw.
The second rescue
Thus, the maiden voyage, our first day sailing, filled with drifting daydreams and minor misadventures, with my son Paul (RYA sailing level 1 & 2), Mark firmly on the Jib and wife on the other end of the jib rope concluded. And while it might not have been the triumphant sail we had imagined, it was a sail rich in memories, laughter, and lessons.
Paul was convinced by the flags fluttering and some lasers and A -raters passing by that there was wind out there, so Mark went out with Paul for their second rescue. They didn’t get so far this time but Paul could not seem to get any wind in his sails despite his direction, so the safety boat did the length of the racing course and pulled the boys back to safety.
My first day sailing
With the boat tethered, we meticulously examined the rigging, making sure that every piece was in its rightful place. The scent of adventure mingled with a faint whisper of wind as we set sail, with Paul at the helm, and me in the front, we set off upstream. This was my first day sailing. There was a slight whiff of a breeze and the boat glided off in the downstream direction. I showed everyone how to do it by skilfully pulling on the jib when told to so and by how much. We were now in the middle of the river and setting off down the course. We streaked past a moored boat like it was standing still.
The initial drift downstream was leisurely, almost teasing us with its gentleness. Every pull of the jib, every manoeuvre, seemed in tune with the water’s rhythm. For a fleeting moment, we felt like seasoned sailors, expertly zipping past moored boats.
But then, as if to remind us of the river’s unpredictable nature, we hit a lull. That heart-stopping moment when you realize the wind’s left your sails and you’re at the mercy of the currents. But Paul, always the quick thinker, performed a graceful gybe, tilting the boat, awaiting the next gust.
Off we go
After a moment we caught the wind and slowly we edged forward on the upwind part of the course we were now sailing, not fast, but we were sailing under our own sail power. The wind increased and then dropped.
And when it came, oh, what a feeling! The thrill of being propelled forward, the sails billowing, the wind in our faces. We had found our groove. The safety boat’s thumbs-up was more than just an acknowledgment; it was a nod to our perseverance.
The wind’s capricious dance continued, sometimes propelling us with gusto, other times teasingly retreating.
It took us a few minutes to get there but we had managed to get to the marker, so we turned around on the downstream stretch with the wind a little bit more behind us. Hello we were really moving. We managed to tack a couple of times, but we also made it to the other marker. We had one leg of a race completed, managing to round both markers, making the most of our practice session. It felt like a mini victory, a testament to our growing bond with the boat and the water.
That was the end of the practise session the safety boat was coming in and so we headed back to the bank where we had started off ready to try and haul the boat back up the slipway with the winch and put the boat away. We took a moment to snap a few photos, capturing the essence of our day.
Putting away took an hour and as we did, we tried out the Jib sock and found it to be a Quest variety and too short. I suppose this was to be expected. We took a couple of photos and sent off yet another e-mail to RSsailing to get another replacement.
Some helpful onlookers suggested that we bought a jockey wheel for the front of the boat launcher and after pulling the boat for a few yards I agreed with them. That was going to be another item I would have to put on my list and learn how to fix onto the boat launcher. Thus ended my first day sailing.
Emails after sailing
Later I sent and email and photos of our first debacle to RS.
Email from me to RS
Beth delivered this boat to us on Friday 6th Oct. Then she noticed we had ordered a Toura but got parts for a Quest. She took these back with her and arranged for replacements to be sent. This is all fine and everything has now been fitted except for the Genaker. I have yet to have time to do this.
We took the boat out yesterday using the main and jib only having managed to follow the instructions in setting everything up.
When we had finished we decided to use the jib shroud for the first time so took it out of the plastic bag and fitted it.
Now this appears to be way too short and the openings do not correspond with the jib, so I believe that this may be a Quest part rather than a Toura part. Could you please advise?
Email from RS to Me.
Good afternoon Philip
Thank you for your email. And sending the photos, I’m sorry that you’ve had another mistake, it does look to be too short.
I’ve ordered a replacement cover (#169182) which my colleagues in Dispatch will check before sending out, this should be with you in the next few days. I’ve asked they include a free returns note – if you could be so kind as to package up and return the incorrect cover to us.
Do hope you enjoyed sailing your new boat yesterday!
RS Customer Support
Rs customer support have been very helpful. They accepted their mistakes and went out of their way to ensure that everything was fixed and we were up and running as quickly as possible.
So, for all the future sailors out there, here’s my pearl of wisdom: it’s not about the destination, but the hilarious, sometimes frustrating, journey. And always, always keep an eye on those sneaky split pins.