Sometimes I’m unsure why I actually live by the sea. I hardly ever go swimming, I don’t really enjoy fishing, I get seasick on the boat to Lokrum and I’d rather have root canal surgery than go scuba diving.
I really only use the Adriatic for two reasons – to gaze blankly at to get inspiration whilst I’m writing and as a form of navigation. If the sea is to my left then I’m going north, to my right south, and if it’s in my rear view mirror I’m probably going the wrong way. The Adriatic is like my basic GPS, my internal compass.
So when the opportunity came to spend some time on a sailing yacht bobbing around, or should I say skimming over, the sea I had my reservations. The first one being – if this thing starts swinging around and I turn green I hope I won’t be sick.
I know as much about sailing as I know about nuclear physics. There always seem to be lots of ropes, winches being jerked around and people shouting “mind the beam.” Luckily for everyone involved I wasn’t going to be in control of anything, in fact I tried to make sure that I was as out of the way as possible.
As is so often the case I found myself in the middle of the Adriatic on a huge catamaran due to work. Just one of the perks of the job I guess. “So first you need to release this catch before tying the rope around this and then you can winch the rope in,” instructed my friendly skipper. I looked at him as if he’d just told me how to perform brain surgery in French. I wasn’t wrong about the number of ropes everywhere. To me it looked like spaghetti Bolognese, but clearly everything was just how it should be.
Now coming from an island I should have saltwater running through my veins as our former empire was basically built on the strength of our navy. However, clearly this nautical DNA skipped my generation. As I boarded the catamaran, my first ever steps on a double hulled yacht, I was struck by the actual size. “This is like a camper van with sails,” I joked to the crew.
With another yacht in our mini-flotilla we headed out of the shallow waters of the bay and into the deep blue seas. “Bloody hell these things really move,” I shouted as we raised the sails and flashed over the waves. “Where are the brakes?” I joked. With the engines off and the sails raised it was almost a spiritual experience as nature powered our journey. The sails caught the full throttle of the wind and it was almost silent, the whole yacht was caught in a zen moment.
I’m not saying that I’m a converted yacht lover but I can now certainly see the attraction, especially when under sail. “Unfortunately, very, very few people actually sail with the sails up, most of the time they just fire up the engines and chug around,” commented another crew member.
“OK, let me try and put up one of the sails,” I half joked. They looked at me with expressions of WTF. However, not only were they experienced sailors but also pretty good teachers. Ropes flew around, handles moved in a clockwise direction and sails slowly unfurled. It’s no wonder that Popeye was based on a sailor.
Cranking this handle round and round was workout. “OK, that one’s nearly done, now you have these other two as well,” said the captain. I thought he was joking as the sweat poured out my forehead, unfortunately he wasn’t. It wasn’t until I’d pulled up the third rope that he said, with a broad smile on his face, “Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention, if you press that button with your foot the winch turns automatically, so there’s no need for muscle power.”
Muscle power has never been my strong attribute. We made a few more tours, the pale blue of the horizon and the turquoise blue of the sea fading into one on the horizon. Would I like to go on a yachting holiday around the thousand islands dotted along the coastline, no, not really, but would I go out for a day’s sailing again, absolutely yes.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever,” once said the legendary French diver Jacques Yves Cousteau. Maybe I have found another use for the Adriatic after all.
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