Once the Sea is in your Blood... 1/5/2020
I’m Kevin Andrews, the oldest member of the team, and I started sailing in 1964. I was a
sea scout in London back then and I joined the 'London Sailing Project' which was financed by an ex MP called Lord Amory of Tiverton. The idea was to take boys from London and teach them team building with an adventure thrown in. Imagine, I was just fifteen as we traveled to Gosport Harbour, arriving about 10 pm on a Friday night. In the background were several submarines at HMS Dolphin and in the foreground, four sailing boats of various sizes. The one I was to sail on was 'Rona', built in 1895, 77 feet long with two really tall masts. One very excited teenager was told to “get changed, we are waiting for a weather forecast, meanwhile we will have fish and chips prior to sailing.”
So, off we went, around the Isle of Wight, into the channel, and... I was hooked. That old ketch was very different to a modern yacht! First of all the hull was very heavy wood, the sails were very thick terylene. Some of the rigging was thick wire ropes, called running rigging which we had to be change while tacking! The fore sails had to “hanked on and off” to reduce or increase the size (unlike much easier roller furling that we have nowadays). The main boom of wood was 300 mm deep, 150 mm wide, 7 mts long, and incredibly heavy. To hoist the mainsail (all 28 metres of it) took two of us using a large winch and a huge effort! Of course, there was no satellite navigation then. It all to be done manually. A log line was towed for knowing our distance through the water, and the only nod to electronics was a direction finder, which was a radio signal in morse code. It was pretty tough and heavy work, but I enjoyed every second. The officers were serving military officers who gave up some of their leave to skipper the boats for a week at a time. I managed to go for four years, a week here and there with occasional weekends. All along the south coast, the Channel Islands, and French channel ports. All in all a very good apprenticeship into sailing!!
To sail properly, you need to maintain the vessel, learn navigation and study the weather, and that is before you even leave the quayside. There is always something to do from the obvious (I’ve already mentioned that you have to eat) to the things you hope you don't have to do but you need to be prepared for, such as first aid. It is a discipline in itself. And once you start on a voyage, you have to finish; there are no half measures. But then you’re away and the buzz tells you that are very much alive. It took another ten years before I became a skipper myself, and for all of my life sailing and the sea were never far away. To this day I enjoy every aspect, as sailing offers so much... if you’re up for it!
“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” Anonymous