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Monday, 14 September 2009

Cumbrae, west coast of Scotland, 11th Sept.

We've packed all our warm clothes long johns and thermal tops, plus our full length deck boots as instructed and met our skipper at pontoon E8/9 at Largs Marina at 7.15pm on Friday night. We are half of a party of four, but the other couple haven't arrived yet. Our yacht for the weekend is a Jeanaeu 36 footer and as we're first there we take the opportunity to bagsi the forward bunk. We meet our instructor, Dave, who tells us to make ourselves at home whilst we wait for the other two. After numerous phone calls it's got round to 8.30 and Dave decides that we're going to leave without them. Looks like we've got ourselves an exclusive charter for the whole weekend as Dave fires up the engine to leave the Marina for the 20 minute sail to the Ilse of Cumbrea where we will pick up provisions from the Sport Scotland centre, have a drink and meet the crew of the other yacht that's going out this weekend.
The day has been beautiful and we've just witnessed an amazing sunset over the harbour but by the time we're underway it's almost dark.Ok Jackie, says Dave, come and take the helm, and as we're there to learn how to sail, Jackie dutifully takes her place behind this giant steering wheel at the back of a 36ft yacht and Dave engages 1st gear and the boat slowly pulls away fro the pontoon with Jackie steering! All around us are millions of pounds worth of moored yachts as we slowly make our way down this watery avenue heading towards a massive sea wall. Although Jackie doesn't let on she's not too good seeing in the dark as her contact lenses can play havoc with judgeing distance at night. Never the less here she is steering our boat closer and closer towards the wall. So far we haven't hit anything and I'm impressed, not only with her steering but with Daves' confidence in our abilities. About 20 ft from the wall Dave tells Jackie to gently turn to the right and the boat, Somerlea, swings round gracefully and we're in the exit channel from the Marina, and a few moments later we're clear of the breakwaters, passed the flashing beacon and heading into open water bound for Cumbrae which we can see in the distance across about a mile and a half of sea. The stars are out, the sea is calm and Dave puts Somerlea into top gear and we're cruiseing at 5 knots towards a red flashing light in the distance. About 20 minutes later Jackie is manouvering our yacht, under instruction, slowly into the gloom of the pier on Cumbrae. She wears a relieved grin of accomplishment, and I'm impressed as Dave and I hop onto the pontoon and tie up our yacht to the key. Dave has explained the way we tie her up with a sort of knot called OXO that we secure to the cleat on the keyside.Its completely dark by now, and once the boat is secure we head off along the long pier to collect our provisions for the weekend. It would have been wise to bring a torch with us for this excursion, but of course we didn't, so we pick our way slowly towards the buildings on the shore wher our stuff will be.
We pile it all in a trolley, take the perilous route back to Somerlea before returning to the centre to join the others in the bar to socialise before bedding down for the night aboard our home for the next two days.