I’d never really fancied sailing. For one thing, I don’t travel well. The back seat of a car is a no-no for me and I’m incapable of reading a map in the front. Put me in a boat and I secretly pray there will be no wind so we can travel by motor. But then, five years ago, my friend Glenda invited me to join her and five other (mostly novice) sailors on her yacht, Jabiru, round the British Virgin Islands. Well, who in their right mind could say no to such a challenge? So I went and do you know, I loved it. Really loved it. The wind in my hair, spending entire days outside and jumping in off the back of the boat to swim. We dropped anchor most nights a little way offshore and enjoyed the solitude of being absolutely alone and at one with nature night after night.
Ian was delighted. He’d sailed dinghies as a child and would always prefer an action holiday over one that includes idling on a sunlounger. So, a few years ago we spent a week in Cephalonia taking a Competent Crew course that would allow us to be useful on a yacht and even rent one. I was rubbish. It was hot below decks, tiring mentally and physically by day and let’s face it, I’m not much good at learning things I consider to be ‘boys’ things’ (shoot me now feminists but I love being in a kitchen). Knots, sheets, halyards, apparent wind, pilotage, winches and remembering bow from stern and port from starboard contort my brain. I couldn’t be bothered to revise for the test on the final day so let Ian stay up all night and test me in the morning. The next day, like magic, they let me pass the exam.
“I’m passing you, but.” The instructor looked at me then he looked at Ian before turning his eyes back in my direction. “You’ll always be sailing with him, right?”
I nodded meekly. I’d been ‘owned’.
A couple of years later we joined Richard and Belinda on their yacht around the Morbihan in France and made myself clear from the off that the galley was the only safe place for me. Belinda loves to call that work ‘wenching’. I’d rather wench than winch any day. But I did turn a windy-uppy thing a few times and chuck a mooring rope to shore when forced. We had a splendid time and I was never happier than spending the mornings shopping in a French market and feeding the crew in the evenings.
Which brings me to my point. I’m a fair weather sailor. Not for me the watery speedbumps of the wind-buffeted ocean. Not for me the 20 knot gales and having to brace myself, legs outstretched as the boat heels to one side. And not for me, under any circumstances, do I yearn to be at sea in a boat that smells of petrol. So when our bestest friends from our days in Oman two decades ago said they wanted to visit us in Malaysia and have us join them on a sailing trip to Langkawi our answer was a resounding ‘yes’. When we learned that our other bestest Oman friends wanted to join the fun we could hardly contain our excitement. As long as I didn’t have to actually ‘do’ anything and they promised not to do any serious sailing I was fully in favour.
And so, last week, we met them at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club. For us the trip, including taxi, train, flight and transfers was a little over three hours. By 5pm we were safely settled with beers in hand looking across the harbour to our yacht, Beaujolais, from the bar. It would be too late to set sail that evening so we ate in the bar too and went to bed just as the rain started. It was surprisingly hot below decks in our bijou cabin (a straw poll had allocated us the biggest cabin) with Ian and I in the pointy end with the weeny fan on full blast. In fact it seemed to be getting hotter. There was a fair bit of rocking and rolling going on outside too and that darned pointy end began to boogie a little more than was to my liking. I couldn’t sleep. None of us could get to sleep. Midnight passed. One am passed. Not one of us had found the way to the Land of Nod. Poor old Gill and Pete and Sue and Pete in the back had bedrooms that had such low ceilings for the majority of the length of the bed that it would have been a bit like sleeping in a very hot funeral parlour. Then BANG!
Suddenly, everywhere was flooded with a bright white light, like looking into the centre of a diamond. The boat shook like Shakin’ Stevens. Three men in underpants zoomed into the galley and leapt up the ladder to the deck. Nothing. No flames. No burning smell. But we had been struck by lightning. Luckily the fans still worked and at last we slept.
Maybe the sailing god had been reading my mind and was working in my favour to avoid us leaving port?
To cut a long story short, the lightning strike was an Act of God and we lost our deposit and were told to count our lucky stars we’d paid the Collision Damage Waiver. Or we’d have been liable for thousands. You see, we’d signed the papers the previous evening and this had happened on our watch.
The next day was spent in the bar with all the floors up on the boat so they could try and fix the depth sounder that had gone west in the explosion. They failed but things began to look up when they allocated us the rather sleek and spacious looking catamaran called Beaune in the neighbouring berth. She was bigger and better and much more stable. Mind you our wallets did get stung not only by another deposit and CDW but by another extortionate fee, this time to have the first boat cleaned. I mean, £200 is a bit steep when we never even boiled the kettle and the muck all came in because of the engineers.
Yet again, we ate in the yacht club bar. But after another night being microwaved in a slightly larger cabin we finally set sail. Sorry, let me be accurate, we started the engine (no wind) and set off. It was brilliant! Three nights later we’d had the time of our lives on beautiful Beaune. We’d seen spectacular sunsets and swum in jade-coloured seas, surrounded by lush mountains, delighting at the phosphorescent sparkles that gave our bodies opalescent auras. We’d even put the sails up a couple of times and yep, that boat was the ‘cat’s pyjamas’. She did us proud. She’d stayed lovely and stable. I even managed to cook nasi lemak on our last night. Best of all, when anchored at sea rather in a marina the bedrooms were much cooler. Rumour has it that someone even wanted to turn the fan off completely one night.
So, would I do it all over again? You betcha!