Avast, me hearties!

Arr! Pieces of rum and bottles of eight! Klingons off the starboard bow! I’ll bilge-haul ye, ye naval cur!

And other piratical rantings.

I lucked out a little with the dates for my visit to Ireland. My last weekend here coincided with the Crosshaven Traditional Sail event, an annual gathering of traditional sailing vessels. A couple of races are put on over the weekend, all in fun, and an excuse for people to show off their boats and their skills. Oh, and of course to get drunk and dance a lot.

Joleen suggested it would be “fun” for me to join in the racing, which is a giggle as I don’t think I’ve ever been on a sailing vessel in my life. Also, I was queasy to vomity on almost every boat I boarded in the last two years. But then, I know she’s got a cruel streak. And she was dressed as a pirate. And she had a gun which made *KKKCCCPPPWWW* noises and everything. Not to be argued with. Arr, indeed.

market stall (guarding it from everyone but myself, and the cute children who all wanted samples) she walked me over to the pier where a couple of dozen sailing vessels were moored about 6 deep. Sailors seem to be more polite than car drivers. I can’t imagine someone being particularly happy if you had to climb over their Range Rover or Peugot 205 to drop into the sun roof of your Megane in a crowded car park.

Joleen sorted me out with a crew who were short desparate generous enough to allow me to hop aboard. Me, a complete landlubber, and one with no sea legs or stable stomach. But they had beer. And head-scarves with skulls and crossbones on. And plastic swords. Who was I to argue? I’d been press-ganged. Which has to beat being keel-hauled.

We sat for about an hour waiting for the other boats to get ready, and the race to begin. This involved chatting to my skipper/captain/boat owner, his mate/friend/skurvy dog and two cabin-boys. I hate to admit that I can’t recall their names, but perhaps Joleen can enlighten me when she reads this post! I should be made to walk the plank.

Eventually, we set off under diesel power to get away from the dock and made our way up to the start buoy. Quite a crowd of boats gathered and it was some sight to see. Some vessels were more “traditional” than others, looking like they’d been carved from fallen trees only a few days before the race. One in particular, owned by a chap called Pat who I believe helps organise the race, was a beauty. The mast could have been felled that very morning, before having its branches ripped off, being varnished and screwed into the hull. Absolutely gorgeous.

Around 15 minutes later, the foghorn (referred to the in the rules as a “gun”) went off and… we kind of started to crawl forwards a bit. Now, here’s the problem. Sailing involves wind. And it wasn’t windy. This is problematical when you’re in a race but at least everyone’s in the same boat (so to speak).

Well, they are until a local photographer comes by in a RIB piloted by one of her neighbours and starts pushing random boats forward! That’d Be Joleen and Hugh (who I had dinner with on my first night in Crosshaven) trying to liven the party up. We got a shove a good few metres/yards/fathoms/whatever up the course before our ride veered off and the wind began to pick up a little.

This is where I realised that, like IT, sailing has a language of its own. I was utterly baffled by the words being slung back and forth between the skipper and the first mate. I mean, I know my port from my starboard and I now know the difference between up/down and above/below (it’s to do with the side of another object you’re guiding your boat – I think), but the rest of it… blimey. I know how people feel when I start talking about work now. All of a sudden I can sympathise with the glazed expression and the change of subject.

“Splice the gib and turn us tak-wards!”

“Hard fast the gunwal around the binnacle!”

And so on. Nautical talk is fun but pretty much incomprehensible to folk like me.

I also discovered that sailors hate motorboats. We’d just got some speed up when a motorboat went by quite a distance in front of us. However, the wash from its passing eventually reached us as a series of waves. These completely kill your speed and by the time the fourth or fifth had passed us by, we were stationary again as the wind had dropped.

Then another thing – tides. We began to drift entirely the wrong way, almost backwards, as our competitors further behind caught up due to the wind reaching them and not us. And we had to negotiate the end-point buoy by judging the difference between what forward momentum we were now getting with the cross speed we’d get if we “changed tak” and the drift of the tide.

This is why I stick to cars and computers.

We did make it, eventually, and in good time. As we really caught the wind heading back towards the start line, around 10 boats were all clamouring to get round the buoy. Some made it easily, four came round side by side like a synchronised team. And one hit the thing. Good aim.

Then… the wind… died. And this time it wasn’t in a mood to start blowing again. We sat for around 20 minutes, ate sandwiches, drank beer and finally decided to make our way in using the engine. We were one of the last to hold out in hope of some breezes but time was getting on and the pubs would be getting full.

I sat with my crewmates (remarkably with my stomach contents still right where they should be) and nattered for a while before heading back up to the house. I’m working on some web stuff for Joleen and it’s taking more time than I expected.

The evening, of course, involved beer and this time a trip down to the Anchor Inn where a barn dance was taking place. Without a barn. But with hay-bales. In the street. Which they’d just blocked off. As you do. The bar was heaving, so getting orders in wasn’t easy but the atmosphere was fantastic. There were a couple of hundred people stood in the street jigging away, tripping over hay-bales and having a right old laugh.

I sank a couple of Murphy’s and then Olga (and I’m sure I’m spelling that the wrong way) gave us a lift home. We then did the civilised thing and drank tea. And wolfed Doritos with hot chilli dip. Mmm.

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