Saturday 11 January 2014


The last year ended for me with much change in the offing. Several business opportunities came along, but none really gelled until early December. I had an opportunity to coach some sailing novices at my local sailing academy.So, it came to pass that I was on the water for the last week introducing these wonderful people to the fun filled sailing lifestyle.

Of course the students were apprehensive, as none of them had been on a small sailing vessel before. It was my task to set their minds at ease and to literally show them the ropes. The boat is large enough to hurt you seriously if you do things in the wrong way, so safety is of the utmost importance.

Then there are the ropes. Except there aren't any ropes on the boat. When a rope gets used on a boat it becomes a line. Which is the collective name for ropes. As soon as the line gets a job, it becomes either a halyard or a sheet. It took a while to get these relative landlubbers into talking the talk. However, we had lots of merry moments.

The boat is also small enough to make for some interesting living conditions. It is not possible for six people to stand in a group in the saloon. You have to make a human jigsaw puzzle arrangement to get everybody inside. And the boat does a metamorphosis twice a day, perhaps more, morphing from living space to a sailing vessel where everything is packed away and secured against the heeling when sailing.

Another one of life's lessons in there.

We sailed in relatively inclement weather from the picturesque harbour of Hout Bay on the Cape peninsula to Cape Town. I was hoping to get in some night sailing as well, as the syllabus requires this. And my hopes were more than fulfilled. After tacking long miles out to sea and back to the coast, we arrived after 22h00 in Cape Town's New Basin at the Waterfront.
Not having practised docking at all, I was a bit apprehensive about docking at night. But again Nature was kind to us and there was no wind and flat water, which made the docking a cinch. Being in the Cape Town waterfront means lots of places to visit. By this time, however, everyone was tired and hungry, so we had a meal and some beers before turning in.

The next day we met up with fellow students on the academy's other boat and there was some chance of comparing notes before we set off back to Hout Bay. This time around we had a wonderful sail on a broad reach, with some twenty odd knots of wind on our port quarter as we rounded Hangberg at the entrance of Hout Bay. Exhilarating sailing, the students took turns to experience steering and surfing a boat of four and a half tons at around fourteen knots.

We had practiced a lot of the hard work part of hoisting, reefing and dropping the sail, so this was an apt way to close off our little cruise.

The last day was spent in ship's husbandry. This means cleaning up, mopping the bilges, fixing small things and generally making the boat habitable for the next crew.

After a week, I saw a relatively loose bunch of people turn into real sailors with enough experience to venture out on the water with no fear of the boat, safe in the knowledge gained through some hard work and then lots of fun on the water. In fact, I am happy to go on a cruise with these people.

Did I succeed in introducing them to sailing? The smiling faces at the end of the course said it all.

Did we have good food? How else, having the Hungry Sailor himself on board. Chili con carne, boerewors and mash, a pasta salad and a good sensual spaghetti Bolognese alla the Hungry Sailor. The students went away with at least three decent boating meals in their recipe books. Certainly they will not have a gripe about the food on board. Another small lesson in provisioning, I guess.

A metamorphosis for the students.

As for me, I stepped into the instructor mode with some trepidation, as this was my first class of students. So I studied all my old notes from my skipper courses as revision prior to the course. Then, when the time came to stand up, speak up and doing things, something changed in my head and soon I was into the mindset required. Shakespeare remarked that present fear are less than horrible imaginings and so it was with me.

I also went through a lot of firsts during this week, both physically and mentally. And I am sure that there will be more of this to come.

A metamorphosis for me too. For the better, I think.

Life is a challenge meant to be lived to the full.

And I am getting there.

Authored by Johan Zietsman.

Last updated on 2014-01-11

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