May 27, 2014

Is your skipper trustworthy?

IT WOULD BE RATHER STUPID to go to sea with someone you didn’t trust. But how do you know whether a potential skipper is trustworthy or not? Even if someone has a good reputation as a seaman, how do you find out how he would behave in an emergency?

I think the answer is that you have to go by instinct. If the hair on the back of your neck stands on end when you first meet him, you probably shouldn’t go to sea with him. But if he seems a decent enough sort of bloke, and especially if he laughs at your jokes, it might be worth taking a chance on him.

I had a friend once who trusted me, rightly or wrongly, to sail him across the English Channel in a 17-foot centerboarder. I don’t know what decided Bob to take that chance, except that he had worked out a plan, and I was part of it.

It was he who bought the boat in England, because he wanted to visit the rivers and canals of the Continent. His problem was that he didn’t know how to sail or navigate. So when I offered to skipper the boat for him, I was able to negotiate another part of the plan, and that was to continue to Sweden, where, we had heard, ladies ran naked through the birch woods, chased by enthusiastic young men.  I thought we should see for ourselves whether or not this was true.

It can be quite tricky to take a small boat across the English Channel to France, and because Bob was a landlubber I didn’t want to take any chances, so when it started blowing I found the end of the main halyard and tied it around his ample midsection, which effectively tethered him to the mast. Luckily, it didn’t blow hard enough for a reef, which would have required unfastening Bob, feeding some halyard up the mast, cleating the halyard and fastening it around Bob again.

In any case, we made it safely to Calais, where Bob was released.  We lowered the mast, entered the French canal system, and set off northeastward toward the Scandiwegian blondes as fast as the Seagull outboard would take us, which wasn’t very fast actually, certainly not as fast as a healthy young blonde can run.

We never made it to Sweden, unfortunately, for reasons connected with people’s kindness. We met such charming and helpful people along the way, and accepted so many social invitations, that we ran out of time. After three months, we had got no farther than Amsterdam, so we had to turn around and go back home.

Crossing the Channel again got us caught up in a new adventure that I don’t have to space to tell about now; suffice it to say that we got back home in one piece eventually, and when we were having our first celebratory beer ashore I said to Bob: “Thanks for trusting me.”

And he said: “I knew you’d be OK. You laughed at my jokes.”

Today’s Thought
A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.
— Harold Macmillan

“Hello gorgeous, can you suggest something in the way of a good time?”
“Yeah, my boy friend. He’s standing behind you.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Edward said...

I think your post was tongue in cheek. I did sign on with an skipper on a boat delivery, Jax Fl to CT, without having sailed with him before. NEVER AGAIN. He nearly put us on the rocks at the Charleston SC Harbor entrance. Long story, suffice to say others have died in the same location. NEVER AGAIN. A day sail is one thing, but when you sleep your completely helpless.