One day all the oil will run out. Electricity will stop working because of a shift in the Earth’s magnetic field. Someone will nuke someone else. A guy who really hates smartphones will invent a portable EMP that runs off a Raspberry Pi and the magnetron from a cheap microwave and sell millions on eBay, then someone writes a virus for it which sets them all off at the same time. The LHC will open a portal to a dimension filled with dinosaurs and a disease which turns humans into Nutella. Some idiot will rub a lamp and wish for peace on earth. The nanobots will turn everything into grey goo. Triffids will appear, probably on the same day Captain Trips gets released into the wild. Stuff will go bad, is what I’m saying.
Because of this I like to collect a basic smattering of what I call PASS – post-apocalyptic survival skills – where the point isn’t to become an expert in something, but to learn enough about it so that should I ever need to do something I know enough not to endanger myself or the ragtag band of fellow survivors who I’ll inevitably join up with.
This is a bit of a roundabout way of saying that I did some sailing lessons back in April. Look, we live on an island. At some point “get off the island” will become a priority and frankly aviation fuel will have decayed far too much by the time that priority rolls around. We’re using boats. Anyway.
The course I did was the Royal Yachting Association Level 1 and Level 2 certification which was – astonishingly – available at a tarn up near the airport. Yeadon Tarn is a lovely little body of water that has enough winds to make it fun to sail on and is safe enough to be able to basically walk out of if you capsize close enough to the edge.
It’s the home of the Leeds Sailing and Activity Centre, a LCC-run sports facility which mostly does activities for schools and youth groups, but has boats for hire and will teach you how to sail them. The cost for doing the L1&2 was considerably more reasonable than any of the private clubs I’d been looking at (who sailed in salt water), so I booked a week off and did something way, way out of my comfort zone.
The first couple of days were fine; three of us in a pretty big boat, balancing, trimming, heaving to, tacking, accidentally gybeing when the wind shifted but mostly coming about and having a lot of fun. Then we got into a bit more intense stuff, like hoiking buoys out of the water, sailing without an instructor, deliberately gybeing and setting courses. This was fine. Then we did capsize drill.
This was not fine.
I have terrible upper body strength and I’m overweight. Even with a drysuit and floatation device I just couldn’t get myself high enough on the boat to start tipping it back over (the fact the boom was dug into the mud didn’t help). Long story short: if there was one thing that has made me think about upper body exercise it was this.
On the final day we went out solo in Toppers and a Topaz for me. This was lots of fun until I hit wind shadow and fell out of the boat. A few times. Battered and bruised (the bruises were hilarious) and having walked back to shore dragging a boat behind me I dangled my drysuit-clad feet in the lake and thought about the days I’d spent remembering everything forgotten from a school trip to France when I was 14.
Sailing is fun. Lots of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed my week learning how to rig and launch and sail. I shall never again underestimate how incredible a well-fitting drysuit actually is. Very glad I was able to get certified, and very grateful for the patience the tutors at the LSAC displayed with the lump I am. I’m probably not going out solo again for a while – certainly not until I can lift myself without seeing bright flashes of light before my eyes – but I know enough to not put people at risk and I really, truly had fun just listening to the wind and the water, ready to pull on a sheet or shift my weight a bit.
Take this as a wholehearted recommendation for the LSAC, too; they’re good people and you could do a lot worse than get your skills from them.