Tony Tibbenham's

Adventures Afloat

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I was a dinghy sailor from 12 to 16 which consisted mainly of crewing Enterprise and GP14's round an aquadrome in Rickmansworth, Herts. I was always quite heavy so I made good ballast but tired of dinghy sailing after capsizing an Enterprise and pulling loads of foul lake-bottom sludge up with the top of the mast and main-sail. Once the boat righted the sludge fell down onto us leaving skipper, boat and I filthy.


My dinghy experience languished on the bottom of my CV where it was spotted by a recruitment consultant who also worked with a group of Sea Rangers (the female version of Sea Scouts). Anne, the consultant, was trying to get a crew together for the 1992 Tall Ships Race and my dinghy experience, age and lack of off-shore sailing experience combined with a healthy bank balance, despite my 'between employers' status meant I could join the crew for a modest fee.

Image cruising up the Baltic in 30+ degree's celcius of sunshine with a modest tail-wind on a yacht filled with young ladies, the skipper, first mate and I and you can perhaps understand how the sailing bug bit! It was my first off-shore cruising experience. Even the race leg was leisurely as Storyline was the smallest yacht in the race, qualifying as a 'tall ship' by 4 inches of waterline length: This meant Storyline was slow. One of the most memorable sights was during the race when we could look back, having started earlier under handicap, and see the horizon filled with spinnakers from the faster yachts. A few hours later we had the same view on the horizon in front of us!

As Storyline was a 'proper' yacht, not a race-bred ultralight we had, relatively speaking, plenty of home comforts including bunks instead of hammocks. We also had a great atmosphere, out to enjoy the experience and do the best we could within the rules. We finished 14th from, if I recall correctly, 76 under the handicapping rules. We also acquired some extra crew who variously transferred from other yachts or were adopted from the shore-crews in the host countries. We got to Kotka, in Finland, at the end of our race leg with two extra: A young lady from a very serious yacht where you had to dress for a formal dinner every day (our usual costume was shorts and tee-shirts, and only that much to offer some protection from the sun)and a chap who'd been part of the shore-crew dedicated to looking after the British boats. He'd got the 'short straw' of the 'little boats' while his colleagues looked after our majestic student-filled training square riggers including The Winston Churchill.

Scottish Fury

I took Suzy, my girlfriend now wife, sailing off the West coast of Scotland, in April, where the wind-speed varied from force 0 to 10 across the deck and the sea from mirror-calm to 10 foot troughs. It was so rough on occasion during our 5 day cruise that it was unsafe to take a dinghy from our mooring to the pub.

I found the weather invigorating and despite being sick once and being submerged as I lay along the lea rail recovering I had a wonderful time. I even saw a nuclear submarine returning to it's base: The Navy employ an effective exclusion zone round their bases and the subs but it was still a majestic, if menacing, sight.

We were part of a group of novice sailors who attended to gain our Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Competent Crew qualification. One novice was attempting to get his RYA Day Skipper so he could take school children out safely.

The weather improved enough for us to get back to Largs where the Day Skipper candidate was to be examined under sail by using us novices as his crew. The examiner got on and our instructor and skipper for the previous 5 days got off! After a stressful sail round the islands as us novices tried our best to do everything the candidate needed we had the examiner announce that he'd passed provided he didn't bend the yacht on the way back into the Marina: With a combination of luck and good judgement the mooring was the sweetest manouveur we'd accomplished with the yacht just fitting in the available gap as it came along-side.

Once Suzy got back to the Marina at Largs, our sailing base, she swore she'd never get on a yacht again and proceeded to refuse the final exercise to get her RYA Competent Crew: We had to row an inflatable dinghy around the marina. I discovered that inflatables are surprizingly stable and good fun. With this test completed to the examiners satisfaction I achieved Competent Crew.

To compensate for Suzy's misery we spent the next few days doing the tourist thing round the Scottish coast. The weather blessed us with sun though it was still cold and I felt cold for the first time since i'd got on Scottish Fury a week before!