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…
‘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…