My first introduction to sailing was in November 1972. My boss at the time, Bill Clapham, was a keen dinghy racer, and he invited me to crew for him at a race on the River Deben at Waldringfield. I hadn't a clue about sailing, but Bill carefully explained what I should do if we capsize. It was a bitterly cold day, and in my naivety, I turned up in jeans and a T-shirt. Well, the race started, and we hadn't been sailing for too long before we capsized. I followed the instructions I had been given, and just laid alongside the boat so that I could roll in as Bill climbed on the centreboard to right the vessel. This worked to a fashion, but no sooner had he righted the boat when it capsized again. I learned later that this was due to tangled rigging preventing the boom swinging freely, and thus the wind was just catching the main sail and slamming the dinghy over again. As I said, it was a bitterly cold day, the water was freezing, and I wasn't properly attired. After a few failed righting attempts, I became aware that I was losing control of my limbs and becoming very lethargic; basically hyperthermia was setting in. I didn't realise it at the time, and there were no panic feelings. Eventually the rescue boat got us sorted out, but by that time we were spent and thus we aborted our participation in the race. I developed a lot of respect for the water that day.
It was about five more years before I went sailing again. My wife to be was teaching at a school in Ipswich. There she met up with another teacher, Carol Wilson, who by pure chance went to the same primary school as my wife, but they hadn't seen each other since. Their friendship was rekindled. Carol's husband, Alan, was a very keen and experienced sailor, and it was Alan who got me interested in sailing again. Over the years I have been out sailing with Alan venturing out from the north Essex coast, in both a Westerly which he co-owned with his father, and now Kiitaja, a 10 metre Nauticat that is berthed at Tollesbury saltings. There are several like-minded folk who have berths on the saltings, who have united to form the Tollesbury Mud Club and enjoy joint "nautical exercises". They are a grand bunch of easy going, experienced sailors, who ooze bonhomie, and enjoy their sailing and having a good time. I have got to know and have been out sailing with a number of them.
What makes Alan unique is his vast experience, in depth knowledge, and analytical mind when planning each manoeuvre, coupled with the fact that he is adventurous and likes to push the boundaries by going for long voyages. Indeed he appears to be the most adventurous of the Mud Club. I have a lot of respect for Alan and appreciate his quirky sense of humour. He hasn't enjoyed the best of health in latter years, but he grins and bears it and just gets on with the hobby he loves; you can't but admire the man. The first long voyage I had with Alan was many years ago, when we sailed across the North Sea and ended up sailing through the Baltic to Copenhagen. That was an epic voyage, sprinkled with incidents such as food poisoning, close encounters with survey vessels, engine starter failure, air locks in the fuel, running out of fuel, but we managed to avoid the pirates and Vikings.
Subsequent trips included sailing around the UK, a fascinating trip up and around the Baltic to St Petersburg, and a few adventures across to the Netherlands with my good friends Rex and Meryl.
You can get a feel for the adventure, intrepidations and fun of such long trips from the sailing links at the top of this page which cover some of the more recent passages that we did.