Having finished Kingsclere’s website in the lovely Gurnard, and with a little above a week to fill before I was due back on the Isle of Wight for the beginning of Cowes Week, an event that felt extraordinarily providential took place. Somebody got hold of me on Crewbay. For a few years I have been a member of Crewbay, a website aimed at bringing boat owners seeking crew members together with willing, able bodied parties who are searching for a boat to sail upon. I never fleshed out my profile, only answering a couple of basic multiple choice questions such as seemed necessary (read: have you any experience, the answer being a resounding no.)
For years I have known that I fancied getting involved in the sport, and I’ve always been told by my mother that I could sign my name on crew lists etc. but I didn’t want to encumber anyone with my idiocy. You can’t gain experience without trying, but without the initial experience I was unwilling to impose myself on anybody, not least of all a stranger. Back in the days when my grandfather was buying, racing and selling yachts he and his friends would often take on youngsters such as myself with little knowledge and experience and no means of paying to get involved and this was of some consolation, but for one reason or another I never took the plunge.
Somebody got hold of me on the site however and we got talking, and lo and behold he was looking for people to sail with him that upcoming weekend. I feel incredibly uneasy detailing the experience further without the express permission of the boat owner, Mike- but the four days that I spent with him and Natalie who joined us for the final two days onboard was nothing short of fantastic. I got very sunburnt, there was a lot of rum involved and thanks to Mike I have a thorough grounding in a great many principles that would not have been touched upon by instructors on a paid course. He was incredibly knowledgeable (and very generous with his knowledge) of sailing in general, as well as the area around which we sailed and the naval/military history in which the area surrounding the Solent is steeped.
In saying that I considered what he was doing to help me and others like myself a charitable work, I suspect I may have caused some offence but the sentiment holds in spite of the clumsy manner in which I conveyed the notion to him. What he gave for free would have cost me thousands elsewhere, and by learning first hand, one to one, I gained an astonishing amount- the only thing he asked for in return being the ability to sail on a weekend when otherwise he would have been landlocked due to lack of crew.
Four days after embarking from Haslar Marina, I returned with the knowledge that I had just about enough sense and almost enough know-how to tackle the week of racing ahead. I also gained, I hope, a long-standing friendship and sailing connection in Mike as well as unearthing a love of the coast on this side of the Solent first-hand. Over the course of the last fortnight I’ve fallen hard for the Isle of Wight. I’ve known from afar, across all of the years of my short life that I would love the coast along the mainland due to the happy memories my family hold of the area and the stories that they have all told me respectively, but I’ve never wanted to move away from the North West as fervently as I do right now. It felt a lot more like home than anywhere else ever has.