Saturday, 22 August 2015

A Sailor's Log: Malahide to Dún Laoghaire

The sun shines as we stand on the pontoon, but a look at the gathering clouds tells me it won't last all day. We pull out the sails from below, clip the jib onto the front stay and check the ropes and halliards. A roaring burst from the motor, interrupting the quiet stillness at Malahide Marina, and we begin to navigate the shallow waters to sail onto the open sea. 

As we make our way out, we pass by rowers in boats, young-in's on lasers and families on the beach, enjoying what may very well be the last sunny Sunday of the year. As the crew chat and make jovial jibes among themselves, I occasionally join in. But mainly, I allow the sea air to fill my lungs and the sense of peace that bathes my body take over once I'm out from land. 

With sailing, while things might not always be simple, they are straightforward. There are direct instructions with specific results. You know that if you don't duck when the boom swings, you're going to get hit. There are no games with sailing, or with the sea. Instead, there's a mutual respect for the agreed rules and nuances which one always remembers. 

I take the helm for the first time and it takes some getting used to. With introverted direction, my initial efforts have us essentially zig-zagging across the water. A fellow crew member corrects me every time I go wrong, instructing me what to do in a no nonsense tone. I like the directness of commands that come with sailing. There is no room for pride or ego; you follow and give instructions as needed and that is that. Everybody understands. Finally, I begin to steady the helm and receive an equal amount of encouragement from the crew member as I did correction. 

With a few tacks and a call ahead to the club, we round into Howth for a spot of lunch. The sky has darkened a bit since the morning and about ten minutes before we tie up, I begin to feel a chill in my bones. The other half makes sure I get hot soup and tea into me and adds an additional two layers to the three I already have on as we set off again. Within minutes I feel the difference as the adventure resumes.

The second leg of our journey has the potential to be less smooth than the first as we would be rounding The Baily which is a known spot for changing winds and unpredictable conditions. "Jib up", "Steady the helm", "Get ready to tack - tacking now!" these commands are the symphony of the voyage, a melody I love.

                                                                        The Baily 

The wind began to pick up even before we tacked around The Baily, then ended up averaging about 7 knots for our journey back to Dún Laoghaire. I take to the foredeck, legs swinging over the side, in a state of simple happiness one is hard pressed to find on land. 

In content solitude, I absorb the journey. The sea ripples like great swaths of dark grey silk; looking like material fluttering in the wind as it rises into a wave - it's true form finally given away by the white burst of crest atop, and the subsequent rise our boat receives from the swell. 

I take gulps of sea water and my face is moistened with spray and I think to myself that I could happily stay here for a year. 

Unfortunately, the wind and I are out of co-ordination on this occasion and we're motoring into Dún Laoghaire harbour at least 45 minutes earlier than expected. Had we been racing, we would've made great time. 

Sea-soaked and smiling, himself takes this picture of me outside the marina changing rooms. 

That night, in the arms of a sailor and with sea air still in my lungs, I sleep peacefully. 

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