Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sailing 101 - Prepare to get wet

Getting in

I attend C3 Amsterdam, a well-attended international and multicultural church that places quite a lot of emphasis on interaction, engagement, relationships and leadership development.

Whilst, I was one of the earlier attendees when it is a much smaller congregation, I seemed to be quite involved in a lot of activities but over time, I have withdrawn, disengaged and become more of an attendee rather than a member.

Lately, I have endeavoured to relate more and find some purpose within that community with great difficulty much of which somewhat derives from a sometimes reserved and aloof Englishness that I cannot say serves me well at all.

Perceptions of a different reality

A few weeks ago, an announcement was made inviting the men for a sailing day out, to which after much hesitation I decided to attend with somewhat interesting impressions of what to expect which was far from reality.

Now, having watched the MainSail programme on CNN, I had a good few ideas, a large boat with many sails unfurled to take about 30 men out, maybe a catamaran – in fact, what I was thinking of was probably a motored yacht with everyone having a time of fun, conversation and letting our hair down.

This outing was planned for Saturday, the 23rd of July and on Friday we were intimated of the possibility that the event might be cancelled if the weather forecast was bad, I had been thinking of pulling out too but felt I had to see it through and it offered me the opportunity to suggest to our pastor that he might have to calm the stormy waters like Jesus did if the weather did take a turn for the worse.

Arrangements dawning on us

We had a rendezvous where the planner checked off the names and all the other essentials before drove in a convoy to Loosdrecht. Now, Loosdrecht Lakes or Loosedrechtse Plassen in the vernacular used to be a peat bog centuries ago, it was mined for peat and then dredged; the sand used for construction and in the process with Dutch ingenuity of land and water management, we have a number of large lakes which are mainly used for water sports much as it is a nature reserve too.

We were to be prepared for the weather, that was cold and rain alike, but it suddenly dawned on many of us that preparing to sail was a bit less leisurely than we had imagined.

Amongst us were sailors who were to skipper boats of 6 crew, we were out sailing alright but crewing our boats, the boats were just about 4 metres long and just about 2 metres at the widest point with a mainsail and a headsail/foresail called a jib. The type of boat we were in will be called a sloop which has its etymology from Dutch sloep and by extension the French chaloupe.

The organisation is quite impressive, snacks and drinks provided beyond the lunch packs we are asked to bring along and we were all provided with life-jackets which eventually helped in keeping us quite warm.

Wet, Wet, Wet

We boarded our boats and motored out of the harbour then hoisted up our sails, our skipper quite confident and able simply instructed us on what to do and then we began to realise that the ropes meant a lot in terms of the sails, where we going and there was much to the steer of the rudder and how we catch the wind.

We were told we should expect to get wet did become especially for those who sat in the front. We had a good few precarious tilts off the wind but we are assured we will not be dumped in the water and it was comforting to know that the water was barely 2 metres deep and in the event of being caught up a creek without a paddle, besides the outboard motor there was a pole to use for punting.

The ropes controlling the jib are called sheets and the sheets can be pulled right or left of the mast of the main sail aiding steer but it was the rudder that seemed to have the greatest effect on how the boat took the water and the white-knuckle ride kind of experiences we had.

In the end, it was great fun, we all had a go at the rudder as each of us successively got more water spray and splashes on ourselves and the boat sometimes filled with water that we were soiled worse than having been bed-wetters.

Thanks for the day

We had a couple of meeting points even some got in the water for a swim and along the way we encountered strong winds, stillness that the ducks seemed to be on turbo-jets, rain and bluster but the whole setting did make for a sense of male bonding which was fun.

I might consider going out sailing again and this time for all the lessons I have learnt including one that appreciated the wonders of being of on terra-firma, rain gear for sailing is a whole lot different from regular rain gear, ropes would probably be best handled with gloves on, taking sailing lessons can be useful, even crocs for all their ugliness might well be recommended footwear but I’ll try anything but those things.

It was great fun and thanks to Timon the skipper and my crewmates, Buddy, Chris, Raymond and Levy, for all that experience, there are still some things best watched on National Geographic though I have been once tempted out of the cosy setting of my armchair, furry slippers, cup of cocoa and remote controller.

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