My Beating Heart

The wind seemed a bit up and down, getting up to a brisk force four for a few minutes at a time and then dropping down to a languid 2. And part of the two was from our own speed as we motored directly in to the wind so for the most part the real wind speed was somewhat less.

After all it was just a little jaunt down the harbour on a calm early summer day.

Our vessel is a relatively small sailing boat, bigger than a dinghy, equipped with heads which is the nautical term of a sea toilet. We have bunks and also a table if we ever get the urge to hunker down in the cabin and have a bite to eat.

It’s not very often that we go below decks, it’s just so much more interesting to be on deck, scanning the surroundings, feeling the breeze in your hair and just generally being part of the running of the boat while it’s under way.

It’s pretty boring when there’s no wind if I’m honest and your mind tends to wander off to those places far off, and you think about those other things that you could experience on a day like today. And then you have to bring yourself back to the here and now so that you don’t crash in to the moored boats that are lined up against the channel you’re following. Constant vigilance is one of those things that is sometimes a bit of a trial to maintain on the quiet day, particularly when the motor is droning in the background and the cooling breeze only just manages to reduce your body temperature.

It’s the sort of a day when we would normally go out in to the Solent and round to a safe anchorage and have a swim. We bought a ladder for just that purpose. The girls use it to get in the water as well as out, they blame their contact lenses but they really are girly about the cooler water as they gently ease their legs and then bodies in to the sea. I, of course opt for the “manly dive in and tough it out in an instant” approach, it’s a bit more challenging because you know it’s going to be cold but it’s always exhilarating and makes you feel good to be alive.

Today we can’t though. Today the tide is a bit against us and we’re booked in to a marina near the harbour entrance. We’ve done it before as a way to get more out of the next day’s sailing but today is a little different.

We’re selling our boat.

Life is changing for us and we have decided that there isn’t a boat shaped hole in our future plans. Plans change of course, and plans for life change quite often but we’ve done a fair amount of sailing and had a lot of fun and it’s now time to change the shape of our lives again. So there’s no room for Echoes in there any more. There’s a distinct possibility that in the next couple of days, our source of floating adventure will no longer be ours and the boat shaped hole will gradually get filled in with something else.

I make it sound so sad, and in some ways it is. We’ve watched some people’s boats rot from lack of use and we want more than that for our boat. Boats should be used, they need companionship or they become ambivalent to your presence and although they look after you they don’t feel like a friend, more of a disgruntled servant. And the friendship and closeness is something that you have to work at constantly, making plans, going on jaunts, days out, cleaning days and all those things. Even the scraping of the barnacles is something that makes you feel like you’ve done your bit to help things along.

We haven’t told her of course, that we’re selling.

The wind freshens. Then a little more. We’ve reached the part of the harbour where it widens and the wind is rising to tempt us out to play for a short while. Well you can’t refuse that can you?
Wander forward to the mast foot, take off the sail cover raise the mainsail with the blue halyard pull it hard to the top so that the luff is tight and efficient against the stiffness of the mast.

Now return to the cockpit and let out the genoa and make it a bit like a jib, the foresail needs a bit of trimming to make going up wind work better.

The small waves of the harbour have white caps on now indicating a force four. It might not last long but we can have fun for a while.

Sails tighten as we go to windward on a port tack. Well that’s not strictly true for us. When we are around places where we have to we make the translation we talk about port and starboard and all that nautical talk, but between ourselves we talk about front and back and left and right. It makes it less ambiguous for people who spent most of our life not on the water. So the wind is coming from our left and the sail is pushed to the right of the boat as we go forwards in to the breeze. We’re heeling a bit. That means tipping to one side. It’s not strictly necessary but it gains you an extra half a knot in speed and feels so much more dramatic. Like so many, we thrive and come alive in our mini dramas, we don’t need the lengthy sea voyages to add to our collection, we just savour the mini dramas and feel alive. I like to think that we have contributed our bit to the fun and adventure that is shared among the collective consciousness. Some mini dramas are bigger than others but it’s all good fun in the end.

Tack, the main sail looks after itself, the boat turns nicely, the genoa pulls across once the wind catches and inverts the curve of the sail, trim it, cleat it off and we’re off on the other tack. Wind coming from the right of the boat now. Speed around 4.5 knots. It’s around jogging speed for so many people but it feels like you are flying in our boat, working for all the speed we can safely manage.

Boat heeling the other way now it’s all change on the helm too. Helming is like controlling a pendulum, you have to swing it but start to swing back the other way before it has reached the end of it’s arc of travel so that you don’t lose the momentum that the boat has built. Sailing is often about timing and doing things at the right time.

The wind fades.

We were starting to have too much fun anyway and it had taken a bit more time than we thought.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Time to put away the sails and head for the marina. With smiles on our faces from the brief encounter working with the elements, we move on to meet the future.

And life goes on.

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