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We were lucky enough to stay at the Blue Waters hotel on the north coast of Antigua and they had their own catamaran yachts. I had previously acquired my competent crew award but as this was about 15 years ago I wasn’t sure how to answer their question “Do you need some training?”.
I thought I would go for the safe option and say “yes” but it turned out to be quite an eventful decision!
Myself, my partner and the instructor all boarded the boat and we sailed out into the bay with the instructor at the helm. He spent around 30 minutes explaining the action of the wind on the sails and how to steer upwind and downwind.
He then handed the rudder to me and then I started to sail it. For the first 15 minutes I was fine, mainly because I was in the beautiful sheltered bay that the Blue Waters hotel is lucky enough to have. We then took it out to the open sea where the wind was a long stronger.
Unfortunately when we hit the strong winds the boat was exactly 90 degrees to the wind with the sail hauled in as tightly as possible. To the experienced sailor you would know that this is a recipie for disaster as its the angle that gives maximum power on the sails. For the inexperienced like me it just seemed natural to go as quickly as possible!
Before the instructor had the chance to explain what I was doing wrong the boat lurched forwards in a sort of nose dive and then we tipped over with the sail slapping against the water. As a catamaran the boat has two hulls and when it tipped over I was sitting on the upper hull that flew about 10 feet up the air. I then got catapulted through the air and landed with my foot going through the sail which was lying on the water. The instructor was thrown out as well and looked slightly shocked. “I take it this isn’t supposed to happen on our first outgoing??” I said. “Not really!” was the reply.
The instructor managed to get the boat back up and running and surprisingly let me take the controls again. After what I presume was an extended lesson I eventually got the hang of it. I steered us back to shore, dropped off the instructor and spent the next hour sailing around the bay and open sea.
The sea was so blue, clear and warm I was tempted at times to do my kamikaze sailing manoeuvre to throw myself back into the water!
Despite the drama it was a fantastic experience and I can highly recommend a sailing lesson at Blue Waters hotel.
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