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Competent Crew…Learning to Sail!

By Thebangtoddowenwaldorf @BangLiving

Competent Crew…Learning to Sail!

Two years ago I was having a conversation with someone and I admitted my desire to sail.  I hadn’t thought about it much, I just had rampant thoughts filling my head on occasion involving words like sailing, across, and sea.  I didn’t know how I would go about it.  These thoughts were often accompanied with thoughts to just up and quit my current situation and hop on a boat and go.  I guess those thoughts weren’t far off after all.  It never happened though, but those thoughts never ceased, and my desire never waned.  I knew that it was a door that would remain open and that one day, any day when the time was right, I could revisit those desires and walk through that door.

In Darwin I crossed paths with someone who would rekindled those sailing sparks.  I was working in Fisherman’s Wharf at the time.  In the midst of grind-ed rust filled air and paint thinner I daily found myself taking in the massive fishing boats and the sloshing water of the rhythmic wharf.  I liked working on the water even if it was with chemicals.  I had conversations at great length about sailing during this time.  It was working on the water and these discussions that brought the sailing thoughts back.  I talked of learning to sail and I knew I would learn in the future, but I hadn’t given it any serious contemplation.  Soon I left Darwin bound for the east coast.

I didn’t know much about Airlie Beach.  I had been told by a minimum of five people in my travels that I must visit the Whitsunday islands.  Airlie Beach I would later find out is the gateway to the Whitsundays.  This was the place that it seemed I was destined to dive the Great Barrier Reef and so I replied to an ad on the internet, met a mate named Drew, and the road trip to Airlie was under way.  Before leaving I went online to look at diving charters.  I didn’t get very far in my diving research, because in the place of diving charters I learned that Airlie has a massive sailing culture.  It hit me, much like you can feel when someone is looking at you from across the room.  It became crystal clear.  I was going to learn to sail, and I was going to do it around the Whitsunday islands off of Airlie Beach.

I took it easy.  I had made up my mind to sail in Airlie but I did little in the way to plan for it.  I had looked online at very certification classes and organisations and reviewed the pricing structures also and that was it as far as preparation.  Armed with this knowledge I set out on the road-trip with Drew.  When I arrived in Airlie I stayed with The Robinsons.  They would welcome me into their home and it was just what I was looking for in the way of relaxing and comfort, with just a little occasional concrete breaking thrown in.  Although I hadn’t constructed any plans I had in mind the dates I wanted to sail.  I only have a few weeks before I fly to visit the family in Florida and I wanted a little time to spend around Melbourne in the south-eastern state of Victoria. 

I missed my window.  The training that I had found online was the last in Airlie to offer training on the dates I desired.  I wouldn’t be detered by this though and I simply would fall back on the next available training which was several weeks out.  I would just find a new place to work or perhaps stay at a hostel.  I hadn’t gotten that far into it when Jeremy, the son of the family I was staying with, made a few calls.  Jeremy works for the provisions company that provides the food for the commercial touring boats in the area.  His contact asked me to wait several days for one of their skippers to return. 

It worked out.  Jeremy spoke with Ashley who spoke with the skipper Mel who made an exception to bring me aboard, not onto a training vessel, but a commercial vessel with two tours scheduled where I would receive one-on-one personal training to sail.  As a bonus I would receive the sailing certification designation that I was looking for.

I’m learning to sail.  I am back at Airlie now and have returned from the first of two tours around the Whitsunday Islands.  We’ve sailed in 30/knot winds, through rolling swells, in calm clear waters, and dark temperamental seas angry from the storm clouds above.  I’m tackling a nautical language that is to me.  Halyards, clove hitches, sheets, tacks, cardinal marks and the list easily goes on-and-on.  Along with learning another language I am taking in another world altogether, but I’ll touch on this new universe some other time. 

So the first tour ended yesterday.  As I sat there with Mel and his deckhand Dave I posed the question on whether this six day training would provide me with a skill-set I could be confident in working on another boat.  “I asked you what you had going on in Melbourne.  Do you remember?” Mel said obviously going somewhere with this.  He was right.  He had asked me that.  It was then that Mel offered me to stay on his boat for another week or two.  “All you have to do is pay $37 each time we go out to pay for your tucker.”  This was huge.  An opportunity of enormous weight was being thrown before my feet.  I had already paid for my bus and plane tickets though.  I had The Robinsons holding a bag for me.  I had a musical who lives on the beach near Melbourne expecting me in the coming week.  I quickly weighed it out.  My mind meandered over my log book, a sailing credential much like a drivers license that holds information regarding your sailing hours and distance at sea.  This is your sailing resume.  You want to log hours aboard sailing vessels both recreation and commercial.  You want that experience so that someone will take you onto their boat in the future.  It’s one of those you can’t get experience unless you have experience on boats already.  Other credentials are further certifications in power-boating and first-aid.  The power-boating is to operate outboard motors and the first-aid is self explanatory.  “Those certifications are weekend courses bro.  They will cost you $150 and a weekend.” Mel explained. 

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