Friday, 15 May 2020

Laser: return of the native

I found her in the long grass. I knew she'd be there, right where I left her, but it's been such a long time, I was worried it would be quite a search.

Although the lake at Frampton remains closed whilst the Committee consider the latest Government "advice" that was issued to the media last Sunday (a cack-handed way to govern a country, but here is not the place for that), the club at South Cerney were quicker off the mark, and by Wednesday had reopened their lake for "social" sailing, with the obvious proviso that we maintain appropriate social distance from each other, don't share equipment and change in the carpark, as the clubhouse and changing rooms have to remain closed.

I can work with that.

Fortunately, I'm a member at both Frampton and South Cerney.

Unfortunately, the boat I keep at South Cerney is a double-handed Albacore, whereas my single-handed Laser lives at Frampton. You can't maintain appropriate social distance in a double-hander unless your crew is from the same household, and neither Nikki nor Sam would want to sail in a dinghy with me.

But I have a car and a trailer. So after digging the Laser out of the undergrowth at Frampton, I hooked her up behind my Volvo early yesterday afternoon and dragged her half an hour down the road to her new home at South Cerney.

As a concession, South Cerney's committee has said that anybody that has a double-handed berth at the club but can't use their boat because of the restrictions, can berth a single-handed boat at the Club for free until the restriction is lifted.

It's been a very good week.

Normally, getting any ten minute job done at a sailing club takes sixty minutes because people invariably drift over to talk to you. It's part of the charm. I had thought this time around that getting the Laser ready for the road yesterday might be relatively quick, given the still continuing quazi-lockdown.

I was wrong. As I got out my car at Frampton I was greeted by a "Haven't seen you in a while!" from, of all people, my mate Bean, the band's drummer, dressed up in running gear and looking very red in the face. A half hour chat with him before he jogged on was followed by a couple of other friends turning up in succession to check on their boats. I should've expected it; up until Wednesday we've not even been allowed to visit the club to do that.

In the end, I got to South Cerney for about 1730, to discover I'd forgotten the gate code. Fortunately, another friend was already there, set up by the lakeside in his campervan with his British Moth rigged alongside and ready to sail.

He'd been there all afternoon, and had already been out twice, but once he realised that I was rigging to go out myself, took no persuading at all to come and keep me company. It's not that company was in any way necessary, but the Laser is a faster boat than a British Moth, and it gave me some entertainment to sail rings around him for a while, so it was very welcome.

We're not allowed to start racing yet but, well, you know.

It was a gorgeous evening. Not warm, but bright, with a light, forgiving wind. Enough almost to plane on the reach in the occasional gust, or occasionally hike out hard on the beat, but still generously sympathetic for a couple of very out of practice helms.

The lovely thing about this time of year is that it doesn't get truly dark until around 2100, so we got a good couple of hours out on the water. I had worried the boat would've felt alien at first, as it had been so long. Before the lockdown I'd been sailing the Albacore through the late winter and early spring, so hadn't rigged or sailed the Laser since winning the New Years Day race at Frampton at the beginning of January.

It was a foolish concern.

Rigging her was a little slow, in part because I was being careful to make sure I didn't miss anything or otherwise screw it up, and in part because I was simply out of practice. But the second I pushed her off from the gravel shore and stepped aboard it was like pulling on an old, familiar pair of boots. 

I love the Albacore. But double-handers are more about the teamwork and racing than simply sailing. I love the Westerly, but the yacht is more about the journey, the adventure and exploration, than simply sailing. And Dad; I love going away sailing with Dad, and the Westerly is very much about that.

A single-handed boat is different. Without wishing to wax lyrical or overly embellish things, a single-handed boat feels like an extension of yourself. There's nothing between you, the wind or the water, no distractions, no compromises. Just sailing.

It's delicious, and I love it. 

And although I think I could fall in love with any single-hander, in fact, I know this because I have a nautically fickle heart and fall for every new boat I find, the Laser, or this particular Laser at least, suits me very, very well.

It's so good to be back.

Next job will be to get a bucket of water and a scrubbing brush and scrub her greened decks back to white again. That is, if I can find any time to do so between sailing her.

Meanwhile, the day after, I find despite the light and forgiving conditions of the evening before, I ache all over.

But it's a good ache.

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