All At Sea

Fall­ing in love with a sailor was one thing – but board­ing his boat as crew was al­ready giv­ing me a sink­ing feel­ing…

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Short Story By Jan Wright - © Jan Wright, 2018

‘This boat isn’t de­signed for ro­mance,’ he laughed, try­ing to

kiss me good­night…

Itook one look at Dark Cloud and knew I’d made a huge mis­take. From the way Brett had de­scribed his boat, I’d imag­ined it was a lux­ury yacht. How wrong could you be?

‘I’ve found you some gear to wear,’ he said, show­ing me where I’d be sleep­ing.

This was a cabin? I’d seen big­ger cup­boards! And surely he didn’t ex­pect me to wear those aw­ful red wa­ter­proofs, and that bulky life jacket and wellies, did he?

Seemed he did.

I guess I could stop wor­ry­ing about those ex­tra pounds I’d put on re­cently – this lot would turn any woman into the In­cred­i­ble Hulk.

‘Be­lieve me, Kirsty, you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the clothes when we leave the shel­ter of Poole Har­bour,’ he said.

That sounded omi­nous. What did he know that I didn’t? Well, when it came to sail­ing, pretty much ev­ery­thing. I was only here be­cause Brett was a crew mem­ber short for the an­nual Round the Is­land Yacht Race this week­end.

He’d been let down at the last minute and must’ve been des­per­ate, be­cause I’d never sailed be­fore. My ex­pe­ri­ence of boats didn’t ex­tend be­yond the Isle of Wight ferry.

I’d only been see­ing Brett since Christ­mas, and those win­ter months to­gether had been so much fun. He’d told me he had a boat, but it wasn’t un­til spring that I re­alised just what a pas­sion it was. He seemed to spend ev­ery spare mo­ment out on the wa­ter, which left him so lit­tle time for me that I was start­ing to won­der if he re­ally cared. But I just wasn’t a sporty, boat­ing sort of per­son. Plus, I like my crea­ture com­forts – and I cer­tainly wasn’t go­ing to find those on board Dark Cloud.

I was al­ready re­gret­ting join­ing his crew, but Brett had seemed so happy when I’d said yes – and it was only a race around the Isle of Wight. How hard could it be? Be­sides, I could do with the ex­er­cise. Last week, at my slim­ming club, I’d been dis­mayed to find I was the only per­son to have put on pounds in­stead of los­ing them. So a week­end of pulling ropes and haul­ing sails had to be good for me. At least, that’s what I told my­self as we left the land be­hind us…

There were four of us on board, and the other two guys were cheer­ful and friendly. My first job was to make cof­fee, then Brett asked me to sit on the side of the boat –seem­ingly, it helped bal­ance things. I did as I was told, and started to re­lax as I felt the warm evening breeze on my face. This felt good af­ter a long week at work – at least for the first hour…

Sud­denly, the wind rose, the boat started bounc­ing and I felt queasy. I’d never had this prob­lem on the ferry, but then that only took 40 min­utes.

‘How long be­fore we reach Cowes..?’ I asked ten­ta­tively. ‘An­other three hours.’


‘If you’re un­com­fort­able, maybe you could fix some­thing to eat?’ Brett sug­gested.

I went be­low, only to find I felt even worse down there. I made the guys sand­wiches, but I could only man­age a few sips of wa­ter.

By the time we reached Cowes, I had a pound­ing headache. I’d as­sumed I’d be fine once I was back on dry land, but it still felt as if I was sway­ing, even stand­ing in a crowded pub. I took Brett to one side and ad­mit­ted I wasn’t feel­ing too good.

‘I thought you looked a bit green,’ he said, cud­dling me. ‘But don’t worry – you’ll be fine once you find your sea legs.’

I hoped so. ‘I saw a chemist’s up the road,’ I told him. ‘I’ll buy some sea-sick­ness pills when they open in the morn­ing.’

‘Sorry, Kirsty, but we’ve got be on the start line be­fore 7am,’ he replied.

Seven! ‘Just how long is this race go­ing to take?’

‘De­pends on the wind, but hope­fully we’ll make it round in about nine hours.’

Nine hours? It was only the Isle of Wight, for heaven’s sake.

Back on board, I squeezed into my bunk. I’d never slept on wa­ter be­fore, and, far from the gen­tle rock­ing I’d imag­ined, ev­ery­thing creaked, squeaked and clat­tered. I’d hoped Brett would be with me but, as the bunk was about 18 inches wide, there was no room for a cud­dle.

‘This boat isn’t de­signed for ro­mance,’ he laughed, try­ing to kiss me good­night. ‘Maybe next week­end we’ll go some­where a bit more com­fort­able.’

Now, that sounded more promis­ing – and, with that thought, I man­aged to drift off to sleep.

‘Come up and see the sun­rise – it’s beau­ti­ful,’ Brett whis­pered at some un­earthly hour the next morn­ing.

I’d al­ready found the wash­ing fa­cil­i­ties had nei­ther hot wa­ter nor room to move, so I threw on my wa­ter­proofs and went straight up to join him.

To­gether we sipped cof­fee and watched as the red­den­ing sky lit up all the boats ready­ing for the race. It was spec­tac­u­lar, and I could hap­pily have stayed like that all day, lean­ing against Brett, rel­ish­ing the view. But, all too soon, we had to make our own prepa­ra­tions to set off.

By the time we were ready to leave the Yacht Haven to join the hun­dreds of boats head­ing for the start line, there was a pal­pa­ble ten­sion in the air. Brett had me pulling on ropes and wind­ing winches, and any delu­sions I had about this be­ing sim­ply a fun sail­ing trip melted away. Ev­ery­one was now tak­ing this race very se­ri­ously in­deed.

Fi­nally, we were un­der­way and the fleet spaced out. I sat on the side again, which was where I stayed, bob­bing up and down for what felt like for­ever. It wasn’t com­fort­able, but at least it was in­ter­est­ing watch­ing the other boats. Then I made ba­con sand­wiches for Brett and the boys, but de­cided I’d stick to toast. Not that the sea was rough, but we had a long way to go. Apart from keep­ing them topped up with cof­fee, I didn’t have a spe­cific job – un­less you counted be­ing used as bal­last…

Sail­ing past the Nee­dles was some­thing I’d been look­ing for­ward to. I’d al­ways fan­cied see­ing the im­pres­sive rocks close up. I just hadn’t banked on the huge waves around them.

The buck­et­ing boat was too much for me – I had to make a queasy dash for the loo.

‘You OK?’ Brett called over when I tot­tered back on deck.

‘Fine,’ I lied, re­turn­ing to bal­last duty.

Thank­fully, the sea calmed down for the next two hours, and I was feel­ing quite re­laxed when we hit an­other rough spot. Stupidly, I’d un­zipped my wa­ter­proof top to en­joy the sun, so as I was doused afresh, ev­ery­thing got soaked.

‘It’ll be a lot calmer af­ter we pass this head­land,’ Brett told me in his best re­as­sur­ing voice. ‘We’re mak­ing good time,’ he con­tin­ued. ‘Prob­a­bly only about four hours and we’ll see the fin­ish line.’

Trou­ble is, some hours last longer than oth­ers! But there was noth­ing I could do, so

I got the guys their next batch of snacks, while I swal­lowed a cou­ple of painkillers.

As we fi­nally ap­proached the fin­ish, even I got caught up in the in­creas­ingly fran­tic ex­cite­ment on board.

We were ap­par­ently third in our class, and Brett was de­ter­mined to pass the boat ahead of us. We tacked to find more wind, and I was quite light-headed as we crossed the line in sec­ond place…

Brett was elated, and hugged me tight.

‘Thank you, beau­ti­ful sailor,’ he whis­pered into my hair.

The lads also thanked me for all my help. Re­ally? Apart from keep­ing them pro­vided with re­fresh­ments, I was sure a sack of po­ta­toes could have done my job just as well – but it was nice to be praised any­way…

Brett was all for cel­e­brat­ing on shore, but I de­cided this was a vic­tory he needed to share and talk over with the real sailors. So I sent him off with the boys – and, in truth,

‘All thoughts of end­ing our re­la­tion­ship went over­board’

I was fit for noth­ing but curl­ing up ready for an­other night on my over­sized plank.

Next morn­ing, the crew was go­ing ashore for break­fast. ‘There’s a cafe that does bril­liant fry-ups,’ Brett said.

Oddly enough, I was feel­ing hun­gry. But then I re­mem­bered we still had to sail back to Poole, so I de­cided to stick to toast.

We left Cowes at 10am. The guys were in high spir­its af­ter their suc­cess­ful week­end, while I was just relieved to see flat, rel­a­tively still wa­ter.

The trip back was un­event­ful, and I only got drenched once.

Back in Poole, I re­turned the sail­ing clothes to Brett. I hadn’t show­ered for over 48 hours, my hair was drip­ping sea wa­ter, and I had sev­eral very large and painful bruises. But I was on land, so I felt fan­tas­tic!

Brett said a few things on the boat needed sort­ing, and asked if I wanted to stay on and help.

‘I think I’d like to nip home and have a bath,’ I told him.

‘I’ll see you to­mor­row evening then,’ he said, giv­ing me a long, lin­ger­ing kiss.

I no­ticed he hadn’t show­ered for a while, ei­ther, but I didn’t like to com­plain…

Af­ter a rest­ful night in a soft bed, I was happy to go to work. Com­fort­able seats, de­cent loos – what more could a girl want?

Straight af­ter work I had the weekly rit­ual of my slim­ming club. As I walked there with my friend Rosanna, I ad­mit­ted I didn’t think sail­ing was for me. ‘Brett thinks the world of Dark Cloud, but I just can’t see where I fit in. I’m no sailor.’

But later, as I stood on the weigh­ing scales…

‘Well done, Kirsty! You’ve lost three pounds,’ the group leader told me.

The class clapped and asked my se­cret. I told them about the week­end sail­ing, but ‘for­got’ to men­tion the part about liv­ing on just toast and wa­ter.

Rosanna laughed as we left. ‘Guess it’s true – dark clouds re­ally do have sil­ver lin­ings.’

‘Very funny,’ I said, but I was pretty chuffed to be Slim­mer of the Week nonethe­less.

Back home, as I waited for Brett, I stud­ied my­self in the mir­ror. Was it my imag­i­na­tion or was my stom­ach just a tiny bit flat­ter?

Which was why, when Brett ar­rived and asked if I fan­cied an­other trip out on the boat, I strug­gled to find the right an­swer. Yes, sail­ing would bring me closer to Brett, and help me lose weight – two dreams com­ing true at once. But if sail­ing was the only way to keep him, it would mean en­dur­ing end­less sea­sick­ness, cramped con­di­tions, that tiny, ro­mance-free bunk… Could I re­ally com­mit to that? And surely it wouldn’t be fair to him ei­ther, to be with some­one who couldn’t share his en­thu­si­asm?

Over a cof­fee, I tried to ex­plain to him why sail­ing wasn’t for me – and why, for his sake, I had to step aside.

‘But I’m sure there are plenty of girls out there who will love your boat,’ I said, try­ing not to hate ev­ery one of them. ‘Hope­fully we can still be friends,’ I added, my voice start­ing to quiver with emo­tion.

I wanted to be so much more than just friends…

And it was then that the mir­a­cle hap­pened.

‘But I’m fall­ing in love with you, Kirsty,’ Brett said softly, tak­ing my hands in his. ‘I don’t care if you never go on the boat again… Al­though you might like it more if it’s just the two of us, we stay close to the shore and we aren’t rac­ing,’ he added, his voice hope­ful.

He loved me? Oh, wow!

As I threw my­self into his arms, all thoughts of end­ing our re­la­tion­ship went over­board in an in­stant.

Snug­gling close, I whis­pered, ‘I wouldn’t mind try­ing that sort of sail­ing – but I can’t prom­ise I’ll change my mind about go­ing right out to sea.’

‘You don’t have to. I’m not ask­ing you to change any­thing,’ he as­sured me.

‘I do want to change some­thing, though – how much I weigh,’ I ad­mit­ted.

Which was when he held me even closer and told me he loved ev­ery sin­gle inch of me.

OK, I’d have to learn to live with Dark Cloud, too, but Brett was my very own, won­der­ful sil­ver lin­ing…


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