Tuesday 8 April 2014

Messing About In Boats

Table mountain and Cape Town at dusk.

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the mole, shyly...

"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat Solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
A shameless beggar in the V&A Waterfront
"Simply messing...about in boats -- or with boats... In or out of 'em it doesn't matter. Nothing seems to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not."

"Look here! If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together and have a long day of it.?"

Some people mess around
 in bigger boats...
As far as I am concerned, Kenneth Grahame hit the nail on the head with this passage in his very famous book “The Wind in the Willows.” I have now introduced a number of people to the world of sailing. I have instructed these people in conditions that varied from hardly any wind, a warm sun  and flat water in Table Bay, to something resembling the storm from the film Forrest Gump, sailing at night.

We have made passages to Hout Bay, a little fishing village on the Cape Peninsula. Some times it was dark when we got to Cape Town, entering port in the dark. Other times we had fog and cold weather, even though it was summer here in the Cape.

I remember the time I had five young men on board sailing to Hout Bay. The wind was from the north west, so we were sailing on a broad reach going south. Which means we were sailing diagonally down wind, for my non-sailing readers. Surfing the boat every so often down the swells. I shall forever remember the look of ecstasy on their faces when the boat surfed while they were holding the tiller. On that day I had to force these people into changing places so that everyone could have a go at surfing the boat.

There would be fighting, perhaps. With a large amount of testosterone, an adrenalin overload and bragging rights. How many people can rightly claim that they surfed a boat of around four and a half tons down the swells?

Gordon's Bay Yacht Club marina
We sailed around Robben Island on other occasions, leaving the port of Cape Town late in the afternoon, sailing into dusk. Then, just north of the island we would heave-to and cook dinner as the night settled in. A proper cooked dinner, hot food. And then sail back in the night with a totally different view of Cape Town than when we left.

As the water rat said, there is always something to do. On the last day of all of my courses we do a closing cruise. Then the students can do anything they want, as long as I consider it safe. On some of these days we have done MOB (man overboard) drills until every hand had blisters on them, sailing in winds gusting over thirty knots. But the fun never stops. The crew would then see just how far they can make the boat heel and who can make it go the fastest. We had a GPS switched on just to get a proper speed reading. Of course, there is the limit where I say no and they have to ease somewhat on the sheets. Safety comes first. The boat has to stay afloat and come back to the mooring in one piece. Ditto for the crew.

Strand sunset, seen from False Bay. This is where I live.
But it is tremendous fun. A rich life, even. And it is a life built on experiences, not the possession of goods and things. It is only lately that I have come to the full realisation of the lesson that the Bible, Buddha and various other religious groups try to teach us.

We are but the temporary custodians of the goods that we ostensibly own. I always wanted my own boat. But now, having sailed other people's boats, I have a changed perspective. I treat the school's boat like my own. In fact, it is virtually my own for the week. I have full autonomy of use within the syllabus that I teach. And when it breaks, I fix it myself. Sometimes with the help of the students.

I treat the boat as my own property.

Sunset over False Bay

Somehow, this Karma, if you will, comes back to me in the form of great joy and pleasure in sailing the boat. An angel looking after me. Psalm 23 says I shall not want. Perhaps this is it.

I still would like my own boat to go cruising to wherever into the wild blue yonder. I still have plans and dreams. However, life is what happens to us while we are making other plans, in the words of the late John Lennon.

So, for now, for me, contentment is in sailing and sharing these experiences with other people who also have dreams in their hearts and a glint in the eyes.

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2014-04-08

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