A small number of U3A members recently came together to explore the possibilities of setting up a Sailing interest group, and an experimental voyage was agreed.
We were all strangers to each other, but were able to meet up in the pub a couple of weeks before the planned voyage to discuss details. Unfortunately, David Pashley, who was one of the prime drivers of the plan, was not available for the weekend chosen. Dave Robson, our skipper, has years of experience, but the other members of the crew could not offer the same: but we had all spent time near, on or under water, and hoped that enthusiasm would compensate. Being five of us for the voyage, but of an age where some creature comforts are a necessity, Dave wisely chartered a boat with nominal capacity of eight (the eight would have to be very close friends indeed).
Chartering a boat through an agency is the usual course: even those who can afford a £250k vessel like to defray their costs when not using it, and a wide range of boats are available all over the country. Our boat was a Beneteau Oceanis, a 36 foot sloop named ‘Blue’. Well fitted out, with full safety and navigation equipment, the boat provided three of us with the luxury of our own private sleeping quarters (calling them ‘cabins’ is perhaps over-generous), while the other two shared the large saloon. Cooking is perfectly possible in the well-equipped galley area, but why cook when there are pubs to be sailed to? Breakfast and lunch were taken on board, with all our individual food preferences amply satisfied.
We all joined the boat on a Friday afternoon at Hamble Point Marina, and after the skipper’s safety briefing and the check of all equipment, the inventory and any pre-existing damage (vital for insurance!), we motored up the river to a pub for supper, returning to our berth in the dark, very carefully. The following morning gave us ideal conditions for such a raw crew, sailing across the Solent to Yarmouth, IoW, and then after lunch onwards to Cowes. After motoring up the river Medina, we moored for the night opposite the Folly pub, most welcome and most welcoming. The following morning again gave us excellent sailing, back to Southampton Water, and then returning to the marina in the afternoon, where we all pitched in to clean up and hand the boat back in as good a condition as we got it.
Although strangers, and thus initially a little cautious, we all got on famously. Everyone had their own contribution to make, but overseeing everything was the skipper, who was most generous in his teaching and forgiving for our mistakes. For some, it was pretty much their first time sailing, for others a revival of something from the distant past. Several of us are now actively signing up for formal training courses: without the certificates chartering is pretty much impossible. But however fast people can pass assessments, nothing can replace skippering experience, and our skipper has his own boat to attend to, kept in France, so can’t commit to any more similar voyages. Are there any skippers out there who needs an enthusiastic crew? We’re here, ready and waiting!
For more information contact David Pashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.