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Monday, 14 September 2009

Heads, tacks clews, and dark water.

I'm first up at about 7am on Saturday morning, and I'm sitting on the back of the boat, which from here on in I'm to refer to as aft, and a Swan glides by on a flat calm sea. All around mountainous islands rise up out of these tranquil waters in which ever direction I look, but this doesn't look like a day for sailing, there's not a breath of wind. We breakfast on a full english and we are joined by Stewart who is about 25 and last night was behind the bar at the sailing centre. He is going to accompany us for the weekend as an extra hand on board, he's also learning how to sail, and has jumped at the chance of two days free cruiseing.
As there's little or no wind we have to use the engine for the first hour as we leave our overnight mooring and head towards little Cumbrea. With Jackie at the helm Stewart and I take off the main sail cover and get out a big sail, called a Genoa, which is big, and has to be hauled up to the front end of the boat and attatched to some ropes, that we will now call lines. We learn that the bit of the sail that will be at the top is the head, the bottom corner at the front is the tack, and the corner nearest us is called the clew. All clued up now we connect the head to a line at the sharp end, now called fo'ra'd, with a shackle and two red ropes are run through pulleys either side of the boat and are tied with a knot called a bowline onto the clew of the sail.
Skipper Dave explains that whoever is steering, or at the helm, needs to keep a 360 degree lookout for any other boats that we can see, and try to get a fix on them by lineing them up with something on our boat. If that fix changes we're not on a collision course, if it remains the same we might have to take evasive action. He also tells us to look out for dark water in the distance, as dark water seemingly means that it's windy there, and as it's a sailing course we should head in that direction.