Instructors’ Tales: Freckles at Sea

2019-04-03T15:57:47+00:00 April 3rd, 2019|Yarns|0 Comments

In which Richard Howell discovers that students don’t always understand why you should jettison cargo to leeward…

For many years I used to provide an annual weekend corporate sailing event in the Solent for a large, Yorkshire-based, construction company. We usually took out three Bavaria 38 yachts, and, with me as lead skipper, the crew consisted of the directors, senior site managers, and directors of several sub-contracting firms; all successful, hard-working people.

Sailing experience was generally restricted to this weekend once a year, but I was assured that businesswise the event was a great success.

With a Friday evening dinner in Portsmouth, a large early Saturday morning fry up – a real builder’s breakfast – and supplies of packaged sand- wiches, crisps, pies and other goodies on board for lunch, the scene was set for a day out in the Solent, with a Saturday evening meal booked in a nice restaurant in Cowes.

Once out of Portsmouth Harbour we headed west on starboard tack, in a pleasant north-north westerly breeze.

It was around lunchtime. I was on the helm, with some of the crew on deck enjoying the air, others below deck discuss- ing business.

Suddenly one of them emerged up the companion- way looking a little pale. “I need to be sick,” he explained to me. Seasickness, or over

indulgence? I’m not sure – probably a combination of both. He did have a reputation among his peers though for ‘eating all the pies’.

I directed him to the port quarter. “Over the side, there,” I said. With another crew member tasked to hang on to the back of his lifejacket, the contents of his stomach were promptly discharged overboard and without further ado disap- peared downwind. He grimly wiped his chin, then hurriedly returned below decks to carry on where he had left off.

Phew! I thought, at least he has the common sense to come up on deck in time and tell me.

The usual Saturday evening meal was had in Cowes, and a local café was sought to provide 15 Sunday morning fry ups, before a sail back to Portsmouth and the long journey home.

A little more subdued this morning, the crew however demolished the breakfasts and prepared the boat for sailing.

We had been blessed with the weather this weekend. The wind had veered a little to a stiff Northerly and the sun was shining. Once out of the Medina River we bore away East on port tack.

After an hour or so we were about to round Gillkicker Point and head down the swashway towards Portsmouth. I was full of the joys of spring. Another successful weekend and all was well.

Suddenly our friend emerged from the companion way again. This time there were no words spoken. For that split second I wondered what was happening. But in that moment he clambered ‘uphill’ to the port quarter and was promptly sick again.

This time he, and all the rest of us on deck, were spattered with the remains of his ‘great British fry up’, and quite a bit more besides; some people suddenly acquired a face full of freckles.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I exclaimed. A stupid question really, as it was blatantly obvious and the evidence was all over the cockpit and its occupants.

“Well, you told me that was the sick corner,” he said, looking green and miserable.

“But that was yesterday,” I cried, trying to wipe down my Musto jacket and not appear too frustrated. “We are on a different tack now!”

He was not feeling too good and looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. I got the feeling his trust and faith in me were faltering.

There was not much more to be said. We all grimly tried to clean up the mess and were fortunately soon back in the marina with a good supply of fresh water.

Upon reflection I can see it was my fault. I had advised him the day before, but never thought to explain the reason- ing behind my advice, the fact that he needed to be facing downwind! He had taken the advice literally and on trust. Used to making decisions and taking responsibility, he thought he was being helpful by using his initiative the next day.

I find my instructions in such situations are now a little more detailed, even if it is after the event. I’m a great believer that ‘one never stops learning’.

Richard Howell is a Yacht- master Examiner and Instructor,
as well as a Professional Yacht Delivery Skipper.
He is the Principal of ‘Howellsail’,
an RYA Shore- based Training School.

See his site here:

Illustration: Suddenly our friend emerged from the companion again and this time clambered ‘uphill’… by Guy Venables