Archive for sailing
Zac waited at the marina for the rest of the crew to arrive. He was tired. Working at ferrying around drunks from 11pm until 5.30 am was not his idea of easy work. The inside of his cab had smelled like a brewery by midnight and something far worse later when the smell of alcohol and tobacco smoke was mixed with the heady aroma of vomit. Zac thought that if people had any idea how they appeared in this state they may think twice about celebrating to this degree. Although Zac had been no better early in his own life ( well in the lst year if the truth be known) he had given up drinking and was now dedicated to a life of abstinence. His portly frame disguised the seriousness of his resolution. Zac suffered from that terrible genetic inheritance of baldness and at thirty‑eight yrs he had long since lost sight of his toes. He had also despaired, when at age thirty, he had noticed the telltale signs of varicosed veins on the back of his legs. It was about at that time that he started the slow decline that resulted in his middle body leaking in all directions until he resembled a bloated Buddha. His wife of ten years, who had born him no children and left him with a legacy of inferiority, finally failed to turn up from one of her weekends away with the boys. He later received a letter from Melbourne, no address, telling Zac that as far as she was concerned the marriage was over. It was somewhat ionic, given his self perception of his health, that he was continually asked to crew on one of the top boats on the harbour. They were all friends, and he enjoyed the repartee on the boat. Despite that he was feeling incredibly tired. Only four hours sleep in the last two days and his head throbbed with a persistent headache. He had seen his local doctor about this last week and after tests at the private hospital he was still awaiting results.
Another glorious day and as the summer faded into early Autumn each day was to be cherished. Sandy was thinking this aloud as he drove down to the marina. A days sail on the top boat on the harbour. He would rather be sailing his own boat but a last minute race had been scheduled for this lovely day and he had been unable to rouse enough interest in his regular band. His companions, who had invited him on ioanthe, were a lovely married couple who had moved into the neighbourhood. They had been distant acquaintances until a mix of geography and similar interests bought them together and they had formed a tentative but hopeful friendship. Sailing was the one bond they all shared and they had sailed on each others boats and on boats that they crewed on occasionally. The chance to crew on ioanthe was not to be missed. The weather forecast was not good but the day had bought a sunny sky and smooth waters.
They met Zac at the marina and the first note of disquiet began when Zac refused to row out to the boat in the tender. He said that he thought that it was unsafe but the truth was that Zac felt unsafe getting in and out with his vast bulk making nimble transfers for dinghy to yacht rather difficult. Jane was forced to bring ioanthe alongside the crowded marina with Zac screaming directions. Tobias, Jane’s husband, looked on ruefully. He was well aware of the friction that arose when they sailed on ioanthe. Although he enjoyed the sailing he was not enthused with the repartee which passed for veiled hostility when certain of the regular crew got together. He was particularly glad that Jonathan was not sailing today.
Nothing is more frustrating than a lack of wind. Sandy thought that there was something more frustrating than a lack of wind and that was when it was combined with a sloppy, left over, sea and a volatile cocktail of a husband and wife team who we at each others throats. Since they had left the marina Jane and Tobias had been at each others throats. Tobias had a lot to learn in the sailing department but his tuition was not helped by Jane’s arrogant attempts to humiliate him. When he was asked to pull a rope the command was followed with a terse ‘Now’ and then an insult directed at his inability to grasp things straight out. Tobias didn’t help by being rather thin skinned himself and meeting these outbursts with hostile reactions of his own. Mixed in with this was Zac’s rather short temper and twice he had erupted with an outburst of colourful language concerning the wrong rope being pulled or a deviation in course which allowed ioanthes rivals to make some headway on her. Sandy was feeling particularly miffed because he was on the helm at the time but Zac just couldn’t let go. He was becopming equally irritated by Zacs annoying habit of using his christian name at least once in every sentence that he used when addressing him.
“Sandy – do you think that you could move please. ?”
“Would you like a biscuit Sandy. I think tyou would like the cheese ones Sandy. Sandy – what do you think?”
It began to sound more and more fawning every time that Zac spoke.
They had managed to hold off bruxus & time and time again since they passed the windward mark but the combination of lack of wind and a strongly ebbing tide had meant that they had stopped dead at the entrance to the harbour. Both those boats had managed to sneak into a back eddy along the long breakwater and, risking hitting the rocks and wrecks and kelp along that treacherous path, had managed to sneak several boat lengths ahead. Sandy had finally coaxed the boat through the ebbing tide and got into the eddy at a safe point and gradually drew those boats back. After some enjoyable luffing and covering he had managed to get in front of the fleet again.
If the truth be known, they were all caught up in the psychopathology of the boat. The normal repartee was a thin cover for the feelings of discontent and hostility that each of them had concerning their own particular place in the crew. Zac had problems of his own. Fear of what his headaches meant, his lack of fitness at age thirty‑eight, no one to go home to after a race and the daily grind to hold down two jobs all conspired to make him rather short tempered and angry beneath his jovial exterior. Jane continually fought against having to prove herself to the male members of the crew and her anger at the owner of the boat who whimsical attitude to sailing both angered and frustrated her. He had the money and the resources to own such a vessel but his interests often centred on other things so that he could just as easily be motor car racing, buying antiques, flying his new plane, or playing jazz with his other rich pals. Tobias resented the way that jane treated him but equally the way that the sometimes skipper, Jonathan, managed to curry favours with the owner and command the boat, despite being, in Tobias’s’ opinion, a terrible skipper. Time and time again Jonathan would sail dreadful races, insult the crew, deliberately make mistakes to reck his revenge on those who denigrated his abilities. Sandy could see this but was loathe to point it out. He had sailed on other boats where the husband and wife argued continually. Sharing one watch with the husband he had been alarmed and amused when the wife came on watch and ordered a complete sail change and a change of course only to have all her settings reversed when the husband resurfaced after his sleep. Other boats operated under a thin veneer of male bonding which rapidly fell apart when the weather or the boat’s performance deteriorated. On one long offshore race the skipper of one boat had retreated below and slept the remainder of the race because he thought the bloody foredeck crew had stuffed up a sail change and lost the race. Sandy’s own boat was plagued by the same sickness. Sibling rivalry often meant that a brother or sister spent the large part of a race below in a bunk. Friction with his wife often spilled over in the midst of a race which silenced the crew as the air turned blue.
Zac was feeling an incredible tiredness. He couldn’t manage to concentrate or even care about how they were doing. They were in front again but he would rather they just turned the motor on and got home as fast as possible. He raised his eyes and concentrated on the hills overlooking the Bay. There was something different, something important.
Jane had been watching Zac for the last few minutes. He didn’t seem right. Zac was paying little attention to where they were going and even less to the trim of the spinnaker.
Tobias was standing by Zac when he fell. One minute he was standing, looking off into the distance, and the next he was gently sliding down onto the deck. Tobias rushed over to where Zac was lying. He looked terrible. His forehead was covered with prickly sweat and he seemed to be having some kind of fit. His limbs jerked and his head followed suit.
In the distance, at the rear of the boat, Tobias could hear Jane shouting to hold onto Zac least he fall overboard. Tobias gently turned Zac onto his side with thoughts of swallowed tongues and epelipltic fits. As far as he knew Zac was not an epileptic. Jane appeared at his side. She had worked as a hospital aide and immediately announced that Zac was having a stroke. The jerking stopped as quickly as it had started. Zacs eyes opened and he blinked momentarily before working out where he was and wondering why they were all on the foredeck. He still felt dizzy but otherwise he couldn’t work out why they were all fussing over him. Then he remembered. Well he didn’t actually remember what had happened only that one minute he had been staring at the smoke on the hill above the Bay and had noticed that it was now coming from the South which indicated that the wind was changing. From there it was all a bit of a blank until he woke up, lying on his side on the foredeck with Tobias about to thrust his fingers into his mouth to grab his tongue. He tried to tell them but the words just wouldn’t come out.
“Argghst thgrd whhnnd abgtre to cbghhge”.
Two pairs of eyes looked in horror back into his face and Zac thought that he must have cut himself when he fell..
“Zac what the hell are you saying?”
Zac just wanted to go back to sleep again
SUNDAY SAIL AT PORTOBELLO 6 September 1992
As I write this with my bloodied and blistered hands – a sure sign of a brilliant and punishing sail, I am both physically and mentally fatigued. What a pity it started so early in the morning. Unfortunately I didn’t sleep well last night because I forgot to open my windows and so I was awoken, at what seemed an inhuman hour, with my cup of tea in the infamous Stewart Island mug. My only reply to this generous and loving gesture from Graeme was ‘It’s too bloody calm to sail, what are you waking me up for!’ without even looking out the window. He smiled his all knowing smile that adults seem to have perfected and said,’ Fifteen minutes! Get up, come on, it will be great.’ For once it was me who needed the convincing and after I had my cuppa and listened to some music I was rearing to go – only I acted is if it was an inconvenience so as not to let Graeme know that he was right and I was wrong! I complained about the empty teapot, the last person who folded the genoa, how close the Alfa was parked to the Triumph, the state of the weed on the boat , how short crewed we were (me, Graeme, and Val) how much work I had to do, how slow Graeme was in winching in the Foresail, the halyard tension on both the main and the foresail, the new sail and how it just didn’t look right and generally anything else I could think of! Despite this we managed to motor over to the start in Lower Portobello Bay underneath an oppressive grey morning sky with little sign of the long awaited spring. Amid the largish fleet of yachts there is a friendly camaraderie that only the factors of Dunedin and people mad enough to sail in winter can produce. Luckily the wind was almost perfect for Faith’s new sail, about fifteen to twenty knots, the lee rail was just occasionally dipping under water, the woollies were all flying straight as arrows and the helm was as light as a feather. The log was steadily whirling and showing an average five knots of boatspeed. The start is usually a great strain on the friendly camaraderie that precedes a race. Suddenly boats are crammed together as the top skippers and the people who think they are the best skippers vie for the best position on the start line, unfortunately twenty boats won’t fit into ten metres of water and with monotonous regularity boats exchange french kisses and skippers exchange something far removed from kisses! We tend to try and start apart from everyone else but today we were on the outskirts of a scuffle between a twenty foot trailer sailor, a forty foot ketch and a Laser sailing dinghy – guess who won? We watched astonished as the trailer sailor tried to pass in front of the ketch without actually being ahead. It was quite comical to watch the crew of the trailer sailor try to push(!!) a rather large and solid bowsprit out of their cockpit. We have an uneventful first beat and get to the first mark and it’s time to launch the spinnaker – a hard enough job sometimes with a full crew. We weren’t to have an easy time with this sail all day, a lion tamer and Edward Scissorhands would have helped in some of our moments of woe. We launched it with a wine glass that would not come out, (instead of looking like a balloon it looks like a figure of eight) and so while it was fighting like a caged animal we were losing ground to corinna . A complete and utter waste of time launching the spinnaker because we only have it up for about five minutes before we have to drop it again to go around the bottom mark and reach off towards the start again, the reach was really good for us though, by continually dallying with the sails all the way down this leg we managed to overhaul earenya who just set their sails and pointed for the mark – lazy buggers! The second beat into the wind was magnificent, the wind was very kind to us and as we approached the buoy it continually lifted us higher and higher, much to the dismay of our fellow competitors! At this stage in the race when everything was just beginning to come together in perfect harmony the sun knifed through the evil sky to fry the hapless sailors who dared defy the sun’s tyrannical rule over the temperature. It is a hard life sailing every weekend! So another successful beat and then a shocking spinnaker hoist again, no excuses – I didn’t do it! Despite the bitching and carrying on by our usually (when fully crewed) well behaved spinnaker (blood frenzied demon from hell) we manage to get it under control for half the leg but the Demon had another chapter to write in it’s book of spinnaker mishaps. As we rapidly approach the mark it becomes time to drop the caged terror (we were hoping it would get itself down and into it’s bag!) and even though the genoa is up inside the spinnaker, blanketing it, it is a monster on steroids. After the pole was taken off it was time to lower the spinnaker to deck – this may sound easy but this is only thought by the truly naive! Spinnakers have minds of their own and when they decide to cause mischief they can bring obscene language to even the most gentile crew member who has the misfortune of trying to tame the beast. (Usually the youngest or unluckiest!) As I held on to the foot of the sail for grim life, almost going overboard, I was heard to exclaim ‘ You @*!!@*! !@#^ *& a @*!!@*! %$#&@ of a sail!!!!!!’ Before my poor shoulders were about to finally break the halyard was released and instead of being wrestled over the leeward side of the yacht I was on my back on the windward side under a mountain of now tamed sail and all the thanks I get for it is ‘Quit playing around Demian and get back and bring in the genoa!’ and an extremely large bruise on my shoulder. Unfortunately even the sheeting in of the genoa turns out to be a major chore. The cockpit was a mass of slithering snakes of sheets which made it impossible to do anything major like tacking so while I was taming the serpents the skipper was muttering about ‘wrong way’ and ‘nobody else is going this way’ and ‘running out of bloody water’ and ‘have to tack soon.’ Finally we tacked and although nobody else was anywhere near us it soon became apparent to the delight of us and the utter disbelief of our rivals, that we had miraculously passed our nearest competitors and rounded the mark well up on our proper place in the fleet! Ha! Suck! ‘We did that on purpose’, ‘Why did all you guys go the wrong way?’ The grins on our faces did nothing for the now exasperated skippers of faster boats behind us, nothing however could remove the evil and despised U’s that marred our faces that were usually pictures of pretended concentration.
The buoy now rounded we were again in the wild beasts territory, only an executive decision saved us (thank goodness) so we run under main and genoa alone. I don’t know if my hands and shoulders could have taken another beating! Two places back and two legs later we roared over the finishing line quite spectacularly as the wind increased so we finish with masks of concentration on our faces (so as to look good for the committe boat) and the log hits eight knots! After a splendiferous sail back home with me on the helm (only to stop me from complaining I think!) I even managed to do a perfect piece of marine manouvering and have the boat drift on to the mooring and stop practically dead on the buoy as the wind opposed our forward motion. Ha! What a great day, although I’m not admitting it to anyone (‘just normal mundane average sail’ I’ll say to anyone that asks!). Demian. (the son)
A word from the skipper (the father)
Despite the lads protestations he was successfully roused from his slumber in plenty of time for the race. His sister, however, was a different matter. Lying in bed has become something of a habit for Naomi and this disgusting habit is not helped by staying awake until after midnight watching sweating, overmuscled men throw a piece of leather and each other around a paddock. Naomi had been up the night before to watch the league semi-finals on the box and there e was no way she was going to rise to the occasion.
Sailing shorthanded on a day like this does not allow one to either make mistakes or to relax. The spinnaker has been described as something on steroids , but I can assure you that the genoa is also virtually uncontrollable when the wind gets into the 10-15 knot region. Trying to put the spinnaker up alone is also rather difficult and in the switching wind ( from the North mostly but occasionally going into the Northwest) it is difficult to predict which side of the boat the pole will go, out and I was more often than not, launching the spinnaker inside the genoa . This resulted in more than a fair share of snarl ups , crossed lines, tangles in the jib hanks and other assorted nightmares.