Sailing the Great Southern Ocean

When was the last time you did something for the first time? I ask myself that question periodically and it leads to all sorts of adventures. A few weeks ago it took me sailing for the first time and I loved it.

A friend’s chatter had meant I had been looking forward to the prospect of getting into sailing. Having worked as a dive instructor for years, and also on yachts, I knew my way around boats but knew very little about actually sailing so this was a new experience for me. Of course, on the day the sailing season opened it pissed with rain all morning. I gazed out at where the ocean used to be and wondered if I was really going to enjoy the afternoon on the (alarmingly) high seas.

The weather eased up a bit and, after some Official Opening pomp and ceremony at the Yacht Club, we headed out to the marina. It felt great to be on a dock again. I realised how much I have missed the quiet of marinas. They are wonderful places where you notice the sound of waves lapping gently against fixtures and birds overhead.

Onboard the 40ft sailboat that I had kindly been invited to join for the afternoon I stowed my bag in a cabin and was offered some waterproof clothing. In order to put the waterproof trousers on I sat on a wooden seat inside the boat and realised I had sat in a puddle, not the best start. I abandoned the trousers but was grateful for the jacket as the wind was biting.



After some time cruising around the bay getting sails up and lines sorted we headed to the start point of the race with the three other boats taking part. A siren sounded and we were off. In 28-knot winds we dashed across the bay. As we tacked the boat lurched at about a 70-degree angle to the sea. I took my soggy arse from one side of the boat to the other each time and clung on tight as the water hurtled past. Watching two other vessels put up kites and get hurled to a 90 degree angle for their troubles made me glad we hadn’t tried that.

My first sailing experience was a brilliant one. Not only was it super exciting because of the somewhat intense weather, the boat I was on won the race! I hadn’t contributed much to the glorious win obviously, but I was happy to be trying and learning something new. I enjoyed being on the water again, noticing the marine wildlife that you don’t see so frequently from shore and seeing town from the bay.

Subsequent trips have been in warmer and gentler weather conditions. It is never unexciting though. There have been a lot of reports of Great White Sharks in the local waters recently and last week we squeezed a minor collision into the race too. Fortunately there was no significant damage to either craft.

So, when was the last time you did something for the first time, and what did you do?

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