With a warm day and fair winds forecast for Sunday we took the opportunity to invite some of the family out for a sail. Derek is one of seven, most of whom live locally and have families, so we can’t invite them all at once – for this trip we were nine: Derek’s mum Linda, partner David, Derek’s two sisters Susan and Sarah, Sarah’s partner Roy and his two boys Ryan and Jake, and Derek and I.
We headed off late morning under a northerly wind, so we began with a gentle down-wind sail. Linda had been on board a few times, but not under sail, and was enchanted by the smooth quiet progress we made down-river. Years ago she and Derek’s dad Roy (not to be confused with Sarah’s Roy on board today – we have to excuse Sarah’s penchant for a partner with a confusing name) owned a motor-launch and spent weekends away in the Channel, and she noticed the difference between sailing and motoring today. Aside from the quietness of your progress, where you are lulled by the susurration of hull through the water, a bit of sail up also puts the boat on a bit of an angle and gives it mores stability. Plus there’s something magical about harnessing the wind to take you places. Not that it’s ever a tame beast – it’s fickle, wont to change in a moment, and never to be taken for granted – at least not here in the roaring forties!
With the wind behind us it is fairly easy sailing and we were able to keep the boat flat and steady. But soon we could see a line of dark water to the south: it was the sea-breeze making it’s way up the river to meet us. Then it was time to pull in the sails and begin tacking into the wind. We made several long, wide tacks, trying not to bring the boat onto too steep an angle – didn’t want to unseat the in-laws and lose them overboard! We put the novice crew into action on the jib sheets and soon we were slipping into Mary-Anne Bay, where I dropped the anchor on its shiny new chain and ran it out until it passed our brilliant new splice onto the rope.
Then it was time to switch to catering mode. Well actually, in true Stoneman fashion everyone had brought a contribution and soon we had a sumptuous spread laid out on the cockpit table and with the nine of us squeezed around it we had a good feast. The youngest on board, Ryan, was keen to try his hand at fishing, so we gave him a hand-line and a bucket and set him to it. He got a few bites, but only one flathead big enough to keep. David supervised the keeper in the bucket, making sure his vital signs indicated health, while Ryan tried to catch enough of his fellows to make a meal. Sadly Ryan had no further success, so we released the lone captive to live another day.
The sea-breeze was still blowing at about 15 knots when we left for home. We pulled up the anchor and hoisted the sail – I entertained everyone by performing a monkey-trick at the mast to sweat the main halyard. Our new mainsail is hard to hoist, and we’ve put it onto our list to lubricate the lugs before the next race, hoping that may make it easier.We made good progress back up the river zig-zagging on a broad reach, and gave David, then Roy, a turn at the helm. The wind was still strong as we turned into Kangaroo Bay, dropped the sails and parked in the marina, but with lots of hands on deck all was achieved smoothly. All in all a lovely day, and a good sailing experience for our first-time guests. Even if it wasn’t warm enough to swim.