Initial impressions of a man of letters
In his latest column, published in the March 2015 issue of PBO, Dave explains the WC arrangements on a Sailfish to a keen novice sailor who speaks almost entirely in acronyms…
My Sailfish 18-based corporate sailing weekends have had the odd hiccup over the years, but I knew Mike was trouble the moment he burst into the Queen’s Head and bellowed ‘What O, skipper’.
Such language has no place in a waterside pub, and it very nearly stunned the locals into speech as they choked on their chunky mead then wiped their beards on the curtains.
Next, as they scanned Mike up and down, their jaws dropped and their eyes popped when they fixed on his footwear. He was wearing… wait for it… deck shoes! Wait for it… without socks!
Such garb has no place around boats.
I should explain here that non-sailor Mike was the latest beneficiary of my Sailfish-based one-on-one luxury corporate team-building survival course.
My do-it-yourself personal development programmes normally start with a shore- based briefing in the Queen’s Head, which generally leads to feelings of well-being and self-esteem – on my part.
Over the years, my five-star barely-a- boat courses – now run under the company name Sort Of Sailing (SOS) since Sailfishes of Distinction (SOD) got closed down by Trading Standards – has changed people’s lives.
Most have either moved further inland, permanently diverted my phone calls to voicemail, taken up golf or moved into sheltered accommodation.
Yet every once in a while I take out a novice who becomes so transfixed by the tang of salt and tinny-tasting tea that they go on courses so they can tell me what I’m doing wrong, then buy a boat of their own and blame me for their penury and the break-up of their relationship.
Actually sometimes they thank me for that.
That was my agenda as I suggested Mike might enjoy replenishing himself amid the tranquil and spiritual serenity of the River Blackwater in the mystic Essex marshes.
Unfortunately Mike lives in the fast lane, holds a private pilot’s licence and earns a living restoring and racing classic cars: not really the sort of guy likely to find his senses tingling from plodding along at the speed of a pensioner’s mobility scooter.
It also means that apart from saying ‘what o,’ he talks almost entirely in acronyms.
For weeks previous Mike had been genning up and quizzing me about ETDs, ETAs, DSC, QNHs and QFEs. When he explained that the last two had something to do with flight altimeter settings at sea level I said that I hoped we’d be at sea level for the entire weekend.
That prompted questions about my IQ, QA, qualifications, and whether I had any initials after my name, to which I replied that the initials of my name stood for Day Skipper, which means I’m virtually an admiral.
When he found out that Day Skipper was a night class he queried whether I was also allowed to sail in daylight!
Other concerns he raised were about charts, radar, VHF, GPS, EPIRBs, AIS, water temperature, drowning, death and burial at sea.
Patiently I ignored all these questions, but even more exasperating were the endless queries about where we were going, how long it would take to get there and what the weather was going to be like.
Naturally I said I didn’t know because each one depended on the other.