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 300mm deep, 150mm wide, 7mts 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.”