Sailing, Supper and Barn Dance - 12th August

By Ian Cartwright

Is that the Rescue Boat?
Having missed the previous two sailing / eating / barn dancing events, I was determined not to miss this one. I had a busy schedule on Saturday, so I had an excuse not to race round the M60 and up the M66 to Bury for the start of the sailing.

There had been an all too brief glimpse of sunshine in the early afternoon but by the time I was on the road, the sky was decidedly grey. As I pulled into the Sailing Club car park I was reminded of one of those memorable days in Cairngorm when the wind is howling and the rain is persisting down. You have a nice warm car and you linger in your comfortable seat, wondering why you were there at all. I know what I'll do. I'll call Christine (my wife) and describe the scene.

"I have just arrived, and I can just see the water. It's all rather grey. I can see that there are a few people daft enough to be out in boats."
"I expect you are daft enough to join them."
"I might".
"The ducks are paddling hard against the wind. They've given up now and are on the shore at the corner of the reservoir. Speak to you later, Darling".
That was the last call ever to be made on that phone.

The advice was to wear shorts and not jeans, and a water / wind proof jacket, if you didn't own a wetsuit:-which I didn't. The last sailing outing I could remember was when I sailed with some friends on the Norfolk Broads in 1970. The boat was quite large; you could sleep four. Before I could properly assess the situation, about sixty seconds after greeting the first familiar faces, I was asked did I want to go out? I was given a life jacket by a previous crew member, who warned against choosing the boat on the left with the faulty (whatever it was called) board. When I asked, "What about the faulty .....board?", the reply was that they were all faulty.

I tried to avoid getting my feet wet by sticking my leg over the stern of the designated dingy in order to climb aboard. Before I could transfer my weight, I was frightened back by a scream, not unlike that of a dog whose tail has just been trodden on. I obeyed. Next, I was actually invited to do what I had just told not to do, in order that my brute strength could be deployed.

After a struggle with jammed bits and bits that would only just reach the bits they were meant to fasten to, we were ready to go. But only after I had to get out into the water so that the boat could be freed from its trailer. So much for keeping my feet dry. I had managed to wind surf at Debdale Park without ever falling in. I felt quite proud of that. Actually, I don't much like water and I held on as if my life depended on it.

As I was a novice, my teacher, Ray West suggested I crewed for a while. I was happy to let Ray take the helm all the time, as I could see how tricky it was in the squally wind. My job was to stay low, watch out for the boom, and to put down that board as soon as the water was deep enough. Ray had always proved a trustworthy pathfinder on snow, so I felt relaxed in his hands.

We were really shifting, sailing across the wind. I asked Ray whether these boats ever capsized. "Oh yes. In fact, I capsized this boat on the last trip out." At this point, I realised what it means to be adult. My Mum would have told me to empty my pockets. My wife would have told me to empty my pockets. Not only was I daft enough to go out in such grim conditions, but I was daft enough to have in my (waterproof!) jacket pocket, my wallet, my mobile phone, and my camera.
For some reason I was only mildly concerned about the risk of capsizing.

I noticed a white motor boat crossing our path, steered by a serious-looking man smoking a pipe. I asked was that the rescue boat? The answer was yes. Ray was giving me tips on steering the boat, how we should release the sheets should there be a sudden gust of wind. We did a few changes of direction, quite adeptly, I thought. That board did seem to find its way to the upright position by itself a couple of times, which I was told would have a disastrous effect on the boat's stability. I asked what would happen if the water came over the side. I don't remember Ray's answer, but I soon had the answer. Over we went.

I hung on to the side of the capsized boat. Ray didn't say much, but I realised that he was out of sight around to other side. "Should I let go?", I asked. "Yes", said Ray calling me to add my weight to his onto that board. It was at this moment, I recognised the value of a life jacket. The water wasn't too cold, and floating without effort was really quite pleasant. The rescue boat would be here soon... wouldn't it, Ray?".

Ray told me he had righted it himself once already, as he climbed aboard the hull, kneeling on the board. I hung underneath leaning back to add to the leverage. The board kept shifting sideways, determined to tuck itself away, and I became concerned that it might break under the strain. We didn't budge, and Ray concluded that the mast was probably impaled in the mud at the bottom of the reservoir.

Where was that rescue boat? Ray thought they were seeing if we could right it ourselves. After a bit more rocking Ray reckoned the boat was shifting round. It did, and up she came, only to blow over again on top of me. To get back to the board, I had to duck under a rope, completing the dousing. A few moments later we were greeted by the rescue boat complete with stern-faced lady (cheerful when on skis) in grumpy sailor mode who proceeded to give Ray a ticking-off for sailing when the rescue boat was in. (Think back to my earlier observation about the rescue boat).

We climbed aboard and I suddenly realised the benefits of a wet suit. My wet clothes increased my weight by a tremendous amount. The boat was pulled behind us on its side and righted closer to shore. Ray and I were able to have a nice warm shower and put on dry clothes before the supper and barn dancing to follow.

Supper presented us with a vast range of pies, both sweet and savoury, with traditional British accompaniments such as pickled red cabbage and custard. I chose not to mix these. Going back for seconds proved to have been a mistake for me as the first barn dance left me with a stitch. You certainly need to be fit to keep up the pace. Brian Taylor made it easy to follow the moves for those of us who were novices at this traditional pastime.

Those horrible Mr. Hydes in sailing mode were back to being nice Dr Jeckyls in barn dancing mode. I put it down to the water. Everyone joined in and had a great time. Simple pleasures can be such fun.

Three days after my ducking, I have a new mobile phone which is better than my old, ruined one. It was free of charge (in terms of cost as well as electrically). My wallet and contents are now dry, though my driving licence is a bit crumpled, and my camera seems to be working, though I have yet to put a film through it.

I am looking forward to the treasure hunt which couldn't possibly catch me out ..... could it?