Monday, September 10, 2007

Drifting home to Lymington

It was indeed a pleasant weekend on the waves, despite it being utterly devoid of wind.

The boat the Scot had arranged was capacious, excessively comfortable and it basically sailed itself.

There were features aboard to which I have a religious objection in British waters - chiefly the presence of bow thrusters and a fully automated windlass operated from the binnacle.
I am sorry to report that our natural revulsion to such toys was rapidly overcome - and there was joy to be had - chiefly in seeing if we could combine an astern prop walk with a countered rudder and a bow thruster to see if we could actually make the whole boat go sideways.

We had absolute newbies aboard too - and I fear their sailing has been spoiled for such opulent luxury means that when they come to do some proper sailing they will be sorely disappointed.
The sun shone and the wine flowed freely - and as such when august company like this gathers - matters soon turn to discussions of unusual natures - particularly as the sailing was very gentle - we had time to dissemble.

One of these conversations stuck in my mind in particular - and I reflected on it on the way home.

One chap aboard was a keen windsurfer and decried the slow pace of yachting about (That's kind of the point in my mind). In particular the discussion hung around whether or not a race carried out at speeds of under 3 knots (walking pace) could actually be in anyway exciting? In some ways - he had a point. Spending a day carefully trimming a sail by an inch in either direction compared to launching skyward at 25 knots are worlds apart.

The hypothesis offered by myself was that as in life as with racing - sometimes it is that slow-burn - the long careful anticipation and chess master tactics required for a challenge like this which deliver the most satisfying excitement.

A wet and wild day where we are physically challenged is one thing - but a day where we need to maintain patient yet total focus over 6 hours when little appears to be going on is often more exhausting and more satisfying a challenge.

I believe it is in effect two different types of problem. Each problem obviously has it's own solution set: A long problem - to move slowly yet determinedly in the belief that your goal will be achieved through patient careful work and sticking with your tactics - compared the raw physical short problem of clinging to the rail in a force 9.

One is fast and furious - makes for great television and is exciting. The other - can be described as watching paint dry - yet it is still race and it is still winnable. It just takes a lot of patience.
I feel there is a parallel in the difficult problems our society face today.
We have become obsessed with the former type of 'race'. Fast, furious, quick results, glory and celebration of those involved.

Unfortunately I think that many of the problems we face as a country can't be fixed like that. We set hares to fix tortoise races - and become disappointed to the point of cynicism when the races are lost. Our culture now demands instant fixes and instant refreshment from problems. But I wonder - if it has taken 30 years for our polite society to decline - can a few quick extra laws, celebrity politicians and press conference solve it?

Long, slow problems may need long slow answers - for quick ones never quite work.
But long slow answers don't make good sound bites.

But I digress.

The sailing was pleasant - if a little crowded at the western end of the Solent - and the Needles were splendid in the early evening light.
Decided to pop in to Lymington to give our new crew a taste of venturing forth there and experience the joys of the river. Which were made ever more joyful by the presence of hot showers and cold champagne.

Ultimately well refreshed, we repaired to a rather good restaurant where we dined upon crab thermidor and fresh sardines amongst other things.

Unfortunately the rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, for once my captainly duties were discharged on return, I collapsed into my bunk only to awake fully clothed the following morning with a hangover from Hades.

The crew (bless 'em) had seen fit to remove my shoes and cover me in a sleeping bag. Mind you, they probably though I kept my banknotes in my shoes and were snaffling them for another run ashore.

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