Life on the ocean waves: Sailing in Scotland
Sailing – it’ll be a great new adventure. That’s what Stuart told me. I didn’t really believe him but agreed to go anyway. That’s what I do. We booked a five day course to teach us skippering and crewing skills. Sailing in Scotland. At Easter. Well, the weather’s great for sailing then, isn’t it?
Rocking like babes
We rock in our berths like newborn babies. While the sheltered marina keeps the full gale force of the wind from battering our boat, it whistles into the mast, lashes against the ropes and whips around idle winches. All around us, millions of pounds worth of yacht flap about in the wind and strain at their mooring lines.
Drip, drip, drop
Overnight, beads of condensation form on the walls of my tiny enclosed cabin (bigger than a coffin, smaller than a cave.) They drip, drop onto my nose. The door pushes open and two little faces peer in, complaining of hunger. At least I don’t have to make breakfast. That falls to our instructor, Simon who owns the boat and is also our chef for the week.
After toast and marmalade I am handed thick red dungarees and jacket. They are heavy and unwieldy; I feel like Fireman Sam on an Apollo voyage. I make my way to the deck with my family, fearing we’ll be pushing off from the safety of the pontoon into the hostile expanses of the Clyde before our breakfast has settled.
On deck, we meet our second instructor, Phil, and there’s information concerning prop wash, tides, and rudders. The wind blows. We struggle to remain upright on a slippy deck. We have a cup of tea and a biscuit. I fiddle nervously at a rope I later learn will hoist up the sail, enabling the transformation from close haul to broad reach. Our instructors take the helm. Hannah tentatively climbs across the cockpit onto my knee. Her wellington boot is ripped. Stuart winds gaffer tape tightly around it. She worries she’ll never be able to take it off again. I convince myself we won’t be going anywhere today. Hannah won’t need her wellies.
“Right, what do we need to think about then before setting off?” asks Simon. Unbelievably the answer isn’t wind.
Welcome to Rothesay
We head for Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Our first day is short as storms allow no opportunity for training and drills. It’s a straightforward sail and at 4pm we reach land again. Still swaying, even though we have left the boat, we seek out a chip shop on the sea front; Zavaroni’s, which we later learn is run by the sister of the more famous Lena.
My mum used to love Lena Zavaroni. Mind you, she’d probably love her sister’s chips too. “Rothesay is a bit like Morecambe,” Simon briefs us before we get off the boat. “They’ve tried to regenerate it, but unfortunately too little, too late.” The settlement is dominated by Lena’s family who have café’s all along the sea front. But most tourists are in the pound shop.
Piglets from the pound shop
We buy pound shop scarves and pens with pink Piglets on. We wrap the scarves tight around our necks as we brave the rain and wind, past the deserted crazy golf course. We take another opportunity for shelter in the public toilets. The man who has looked after these restored Victorian conveniences on a full time basis for the past 14 years is very keen that I see them in all their glory. This apparently involves a brief visit to men’s. I stand uncomfortably, studying the blue tiled urinals, worrying that someone might need to spend a penny.