JOHN LAING is sailing!!!!
The first voyage of the season was with a group from Stanbridge Earls School, near Romsey. This is a remarkable school with a particular reputation for helping young people with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. They had a highly successful voyage with us last year, and it was good to welcome back three old faces and nine newcomers to OYT South.
We were all set for another great trip but sadly the weather did not want to play. I don’t think Wolf and I have ever seen such a succession of forecasts with wind forces of 8, 9 and 10. We were well inside Southampton’s Ocean Village, in a sheltered spot, and the wind was still screaming through the rigging. A high point was the local weather report from Lee on Solent: sea state Very Rough. That means wave heights of 4-6 metres.
The crew joined on Friday and we were stuck in harbour all weekend. They learned a lot about the boat, played games, tied knots, did Competent Crew training, saw a movie (Kevin Costner in “Open Range” – not bad but not brilliant, said the crew), visited the British Military Powerboat Trust (excellent, said most of the crew). And the wind kept howling.
By Monday morning there was acute frustration at the lack of sailing, but by lunchtime the wind had eased. We got out into the Solent and hoisted some sails. No sooner was the main up than we were hit by a squall which knocked us flat, and the main had to come down again. But we got into Portsmouth that evening, and as far as Poole the following night. We never really had ideal sailing weather – when there wasn’t far too much wind, then there was either far too little, or only wind from the wrong direction. And it was very cold, with frequent rain and hail. However, it takes a lot to dampen the spirits of Stanbridge Earls pupils who, as last year, were constantly active and possessed the ability to fit more questions into a 5-minute slot than some crew members manage in a whole week. Never a dull moment….
We were back in Southampton on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning we spent some time trundling up and down Southampton Water, calibrating the log and swinging the compass (the last bit involves Craig spending a long time up the mast), before the final clean up.
Highlight of the trip for me was the way some of the crew really shone – a couple of them proved themselves more than capable of taking on a lot of responsibility. Among the sea staff, Jamie Seymour, a new volunteer during the refit who was sailing with us for the first time, had a great time as assistant bosun and clearly has all the makings of a good watchleader. And Craig the staff bosun completed the voyage, did one more day’s work and then went on leave looking like a man who has spent four months on a refit without a proper break and has reached the point where his need for sleep is slightly greater than his need for oxygen. The government used to produce advertisements warning against the consequences of various kinds of dissolute, immoral or inadvisable behaviour: Craig could have modelled for the After picture. Here’s hoping he comes back looking more like Before: clean-limbed, clear-eyed and upright. (NB: Does anyone out there know what on earth is meant by the expression “clean-limbed”? I’m sure it can’t really mean “hasn’t got paint all up his arms”.)
This was followed up by a weekend voyage with Steve Lacey’s group from Dorset – again, a repeat visit from a number of old friends. Ed Randall came on the trip as assistant skipper, which was just as well because Wolf too was just beginning to look a little tired (this is an attempt to get the understatement of the season into the very first sailing bulletin).
The team sailed round the Nab Tower and spent a night in Cowes – I assume this means the weather had improved. Two of the crew, Katy Tarrant and Julia Davis, were invited back to sail as bosuns later in the season. And Steve Lacey capped his recent election as an OYT South Trustee by successfully completing his Second Mate’s assessment.
After they had all gone, Wolf decided that he was missing the refit, so we spent the evening painting the deck. The following day he was escorted off the boat by the men in white coats and has gone away to do whatever Wolves do when they’re not working – probably involving a fair amount of hibernation and the ingestion of enormous quantities of Chinese food. He’ll be on relief for a few weeks, and the boat is currently being skippered by the first in a series of able replacements: Brian Eyres.
Meanwhile, I’m aiming to continue with regular email bulletins during the season. Let me know if anyone has messages or information they’d like to spread amongst other OYT South supporters.