Hello sailor and goodbye landlubber

AS Iris Murdoch once said “The sea, the sea.”I'm not sure exactly what she meant by that, but I know plenty about the expansive waters of the North Sea now, and that's because I've been sailing.

AS Iris Murdoch once said “The sea, the sea.”

I'm not sure exactly what she meant by that, but I know plenty about the expansive waters of the North Sea now, and that's because I've been sailing.

Never one to undertake too much physical exercise - I was built for comfort not speed - I found myself invited aboard the good ship Brave at the weekend.

I was unable to contain my excitement. Finally I had reached the pinnacle of celebrity by spending a day yachting with friends, so I was up early packing up plimsolls and hunting round for a suitably nautical jumper, powder blue in fact.

My journalist chum Tracey - the lady in the dark glasses - knocked on the door of my little Ipswich sitting room shortly after 9am. We then motored over to Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington.

Once aboard there wasn't much time for the sunbathing on the poop deck I had envisaged - indeed there wasn't even a poop deck.

Most Read

As soon as we got out in to the shipping channel near Felixstowe docks I took over from boat owner and salty-sea-dog Richard. Was this wise?

“Right James,” he said. “Time to hoist the mainsail.”

Despite having no clue to what he was referring, I was keen to at least appear like I had some idea. So I clambered towards the front, I mean the 'bow.'

“Which rope do I pull?” I enquired, as I stood opposite a massive big pole called the mast which was covered in ropes.

“The one right in front of you,” came the reply.

I made the right guess and on his word I heaved-ho. Within moments we were under sail.

As we headed out to open water, the wind picked up and we tuned into the shipping forecast. This was the first time that those words really meant something to me. I cracked open a light beer. All was going swimmingly.

Under the watchful eye of Richard - who has an all year round sailor's tan and knows all sorts about ropes - I took to the helm for a while after we rounded Sealand, which seemed to be deserted.

We were several miles off the seaside resort of Felixstowe.

“You're doing well,” praised Cathy, Richard's lady wife and the boat's other captain, “Quite impressive for a beginner.”

My promising seamanship was unfortunately short-lived.

“Right we'll change tack” announced Captain Richard as the 'apparent wind' - another nautical term-gained strength.

“We're a quarter of a mile off course. We might need to jibe.”

“Oh do we?” I replied, mishearing the term as 'jive' and wondering if a Buddy Holly track was about to be piped across North Sea.

All of a sudden I turned the boat to the left, when it should have been to the right, overcompensated at the big wheel - I mean helm - and the boat took a terrific lurch towards the horizon.

A crewmate - who doesn't not wish to be named - happened to be in the ship's toilet at the time, and yelled out in surprise.

“Oops,” I said.

“I think the wind changed direction then,” I explained to cover my tracks.

Soon afterwards I was sent below to study the charts alongside Cathy.

I found sitting down much easier.

Sailing terms I know that I didn't know before.

Luffing-not done when cruising-a racing term.

Avast behind-self explanatory.

Apparent and true wind - two types of wind aboard ship.

Spinnaker - a massive sail at the front-mostly coloured.

Genoa-another big sail at the front but not so brightly coloured.

Under canvassed-not going fast enough.

Jibing-not to be confused with jiving. A jibe or gybe is when a sailing boat turns its stern through the wind, such that the direction of the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other.

Tack ing-the opposite of jibing-turning the bow of the boat through the wind.

Normally on a Sunday it's nice to relax with an afternoon on the sofa.

Well this Sunday I invited over my parents and sister Claire - who enjoys a murder mystery and a jigsaw puzzle - for a spot of poultry-based Sunday luncheon.

By the time I'd finished peeling and chopping vegetables, tidying up my little Ipswich sitting room, putting a cloth over the windows and hiding a selection of already-bought Christmas presents (aren't I organised?) I'd already done a day's work.

So instead of an afternoon listening to the radio - The Archers is quite exciting at the moment and for those that tune in regularly Ruth and David are having a spot of bother - I was lingering with a cheese board enjoying a glass of something chilled.

It wasn't until the evening that I finally got to sprawl out on my sofa with a newspaper and three Silk Cut for company.

Anyway, after looking at adverts for some amazing houses I'm never likely to live in, and reading about a lifestyle that bears no resemblance to my own, I decided I needed to escape reality so I turned on the television only to see Helen Mirren drinking a little too much.

I can't wait to see next week's installment, but I'm worried about her liver now.

HAVE you noticed how everyone is 'engaged' nowadays?

Engaged in conversation, engaged in debate, engaged in the community, engaged in learning, engaged in local government, engage the public, engage the media, engage engage engage. I'm sick of it.

Engaged is a word that appears on toilet doors.

Is it only this government that uses these ridiculous buzz words and the ridiculous ideas that go with them?

Can you imagine Winston Churchill saying “If our empire lasts a thousand years going forward they shall still say this was our finest hour of excellence?”

Or “We shall meet them with a road map in the hills? We shall develop a close multi-agency working partnership in the fields. We shall engage them on the beaches” I think not.

And as for that awful Cherie Blair, can you imagine Clarissa Eden with a lifestyle guru? It beggars belief.

I've had enough of them all.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter