Have a Go - With Devon Sailing of Dartmouth

PUBLISHED: 21:22 21 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:11 20 February 2013

Have a Go - With Devon Sailing of Dartmouth

Have a Go - With Devon Sailing of Dartmouth

Anita Newcombe mutinies from her post as First Mate on the family sailboat and makes a bid for power with Devon Sailing of Dartmouth.

Anita Newcombe mutinies from her post as First Mate on the family sailboat and makes a bid for power with Devon Sailing of Dartmouth.

Picture the scene if you will. Its a lovely sunny day in Dartmouth. The sky is impossibly blue with scarcely a fluffy cloud in the sky, the castle at the mouth of the river is in soft silhouette, the lower ferry is plying its trade gently back and forth and the pretty painted cottages on the Kingswear side glow warmly in the setting sun. The Dart is a mass of water-borne craft: water taxis, dinghies, rowing boats, canoes, sailing yachts and motor boats. Its nearly Pimms oclock and life is just perfect.

Suddenly the air is rent with a jarring yell.

No, no Jemima, fenders on the port side. Oh, hang on quick - move them over to starboard! Watch out, we nearly hit that dinghy. Well youre supposed to be look-out. What do you mean you cant find the stern line? You should have done it by now. How many times do I have to tell you this?

By now, an amused crowd has gathered on the town pontoon where the sailing yacht is trying to moor up. Jemimah has had enough and stormed off below in high dudgeon, leaving Jeremy spluttering with rage and unable to come alongside. The crowd is now openly sniggering as Jeremy goes round again whilst trying to cajole Jemimah back into the cockpit. Meanwhile the last space on the pontoon has been filled by a yacht with a much more organised crew. Humiliation complete.

This is a scene played out over and over again along the coast of Devon and Cornwall and quite probably lots of other places too. I have thought about this a lot and concluded that its obviously all about men being from Mars and women from Venus. On most privately owned yachts, the man is the skipper, guarding his role jealously against prospective usurpers such as his wife. Personally, after seven years of owning a Westerly Centaur sailing yacht with my husband, I could manage the following: pull up the sails, drop the sails, drop the anchor, pull up the anchor, secure the fenders to port, secure the fenders to starboard, make tea. Manoeuvring and mooring was not my strong point due to a complete lack of opportunity to practice (did I mention that my husband is skipper?)

Anyway, I had been to evening classes to study for my RYA Day Skipper theory and managed to pass that without too much trouble. This didnt make any difference however and my list of practical sailing skills didnt grow any longer. Competent mooring and manoeuvring was still well outside my compass.

But what if you fall overboard and I have to come and rescue you? I asked. It would be jolly useful then if I know how to manoeuvre the boat properly.

I am not going to fall overboard! said the man rather indignantly.

That was when I finally got the idea to sign up for the Day Skipper practical. I knew that it would be a good idea to improve my sailing skills and hey, it might just be fun.

I phoned up Devon Sailing in Dartmouth and they booked me on a five day live-a-board course starting on Sunday evening at 5pm and running until the following Friday lunchtime. Now naturally, this gave me a great opportunity to buy a new Musto kit bag as well as a pair of new dark blue Henri Lloyd sailing trousers (half price in the sale though so perfectly justifiable). Although I had only ever worn my Reef flip flops on the boat before, I decided that I really needed a splendid new pair of Musto deck shoes. I hate deck shoes normally but these ones are very groovy indeed (although they dont have a bottle opener under the sole like my trusty Reefs).

Well, I turned up on the Sunday at Devon Sailings office in Dartmouth with my kit bag and met the instructor and the other students. Our instructor, who looked like a suitably nautical cove with bleached blond hair and a great suntan, announced that he was called Tank. Turns out that his real name is Simon and that he comes from Salcombe where his family run the legendary Cranchs sweet shop. Theres another branch in Totnes and its filled with those wonderful jars of heavenly bonbons that some of us remember from our youth. My favourites were those fantastically bittersweet lemon sherbets. But I digress.

Back in the sailing office then, I met the other three students for the week. Kate and I were doing Day Skipper and the two chaps, David and Max were doing the Competent Crew course, suitable for any level of sailing experience. We were soon kitted up with our foul weather gear and boarded Bonaire of Whitby, a 34ft Victoria yacht. The first evening was to be settling in and a little bonding with supper on board, ably cooked by Kate on the gimbled stove. We set sail the next morning.

The weather was quite poor all week with a fair bit of rain and plenty of wind. We sailed down to Salcombe and spent most of the week in the area practising a wide range of sailing skills including tacking, gybing, man overboard, mooring, anchoring, passage planning and the famous ferry glide, useful for parking a yacht in a tight spot. Tank was a supremely diplomatic and talented instructor, unfailingly cheerful and unflappable. He managed to get us to take responsibility for skippering the yacht and to think for ourselves. By the end of the week, I was amazed by the progress I had been able to make. We sailed back into Dartmouth just in time for Regatta fireworks and rafted up alongside Bold Explorer, another school boat. The Devon Sailing team were barbequeing on the pontoon and we joined them for a glass of wine.

Next day after some final manoeuvring practice, we went back to the Devon Sailing offices for our debrief and to see if we had passed. And the good news is that I did! So not only did I have a great holiday, meet fun and fascinating people and learn new skills, I feel confident I can actually rescue my husband if he goes overboard. Hmmm its a thought that!

Fact Box:

Devon Sailing, RYA Sea School and Adventure Sailing Specialists have a year-round programme of sailing weekends, RYA courses, tailor-made sailing breaks and adventure sailing trips www.devonsailing.co.uk Tel: 01803-833399

Words and photos by Anita Newcombe Media & Public Relations

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