There are perks about being in the Army and Adventure Training is one of them, and I was lucky enough to get a last minute spot last week to sail around the Danish Isles and German Coast. Before we could even think about starting any sailing we had to endure the (most uncomfortable) 18 hour drive from the UK to Kiel Training Centre in the North West of Germany.
After finally arriving in the early hours of the Thursday absolutely shattered from the drive we stayed awake even longer as it wasn’t long until breakfast, where our introduction briefs followed, and I was informed I was going to be 1st Mate, which is effectively the Skipper’s right hand man. Gulp. The last time I sailed was four years ago, so to say I was pooping myself about it would have been the understatement of the year! We were then split into our crews. My crew consisted of myself, Keely, Tom, Nick, Mike and our Skipper, Tony, our boat was called Curlew and this was to be our home for the next week with people we had never met before. Keely and I were lucky enough to have the front of the boat with a door, the lads sleeping area was the dining area, who knew the backs of the seats doubled up as bunk beds, and the skipper had his own sleeping area at the back of the boat. We unpacked and settled in for our (much needed) first nights sleep on board.
After some basic lessons on the Friday morning we were off, things were slowly, and I mean slowly coming back to me, but I felt like a complete novice, and our Skipper had his work cut out for him with a crew of five that didn’t know where to stand when he called out port or starboard side. The sail was long and non exciting, 10 hours long to be exact, but arriving into Sonderberg in Denmark made it totally worth it. We successfully managed to come alongside another boat and secure our lines. A boat that came in after us to come alongside wasn’t so successfully and there was a slight collision, whoops. After a long day of sailing it was time for an ice cream and early night.
Saturday morning and Keely made our first breakfast on board and we were treated with egg and bacon sandwiches and we set off soon after. We waited for the bridge in Sonderberg to raise and we started our sail further North of Denmark. We all took in turns at the helm and it took us all a while (all week to be exact) to remember that left was right and right was left, something that you could tell frustrated our Skipper. The wind wasn’t in our favour so we had to keep beating (changing direction) which made our sail longer than it should have been and eight hours later we finally arrived in Middelfart (yes, we all laughed). Our coming alongside wasn’t as good as the night before and somehow Keely, Nick and I were on the jetty with no lines to secure. We got there in the end though and due to our late arrival we thought it would be best to go out for dinner. 40 minutes of walking later we finally managed to find a steakhouse! Turns out the walk was actually only 15 minutes from the marina…
Sunday mornings breakfast was our usual staple of bacon, egg, bread and orange juice. We were told that todays sail was going to be a timed passage so off we set for another day at sea. All was going well, wind was steady, and we were going in the right direction (probably because our Skipper was at the helm), then the Skipper handed the helm over to Mike, and moments later all our asses started twitching when a gust of wind caught our sails and our boat keeled over rather steeply. I let out a rather girlish scream and was now able to stand up on the part where my back was just resting, Mike was swearing, Keely and Nick were holding on to what they could grab, Tom was down below deck oblivious to what was going on and our Skipper came out of the hatch asking what on earth was going on! The Skipper took control and within a matter of seconds calm was restored back on Curlew. I made everyone a cup of tea whilst we were sailing, that will be the first and last time, hardest cup of tea I have ever made in my life! Five hours or so later we arrive at Faaborg and treated ourselves to another much needed ice cream.
Mondays sail was more relaxed and we were heading back down South, at lunch time we learnt how to anchor up and enjoyed a relaxed lunch whilst at anchor, a welcomed break for us all. The sail was pleasant and drills were beginning to become more familiar with us all. We arrived at Marstal around six hours later which was to be our last stop in Denmark. To celebrate our last night in Denmark all boats (there were 10 in total) had BBQ’s, it’s a shame that the weather wasn’t on our side, but we still had a good time. Quick shower and we set off for the Irish bar to watch the football, (well done Wales!)
Tuesday morning and the Skipper had his morning brief and told us that todays sail was going to be another timed passage and was to be lead by the 1st mate - me! Eeeek! I think he was dreading it just as much as I was. Sails went up well and we were off and making good pace, sadly in the wrong direction as the wind wasn’t coming from where we needed it. I made the decision to go about (change direction) to try and get us back on course, and we struggled to gain momentum, it was slow and painful for all for the next few hours as the wind kept messing us around, even completely dropping at some points, so frustrating for some boats that we saw they dropped their sails completely and turn their engines on for rest of the journey. We kept going though and managed to successfully sail the whole way to the marker point, only took us 7 hours and 14 minutes. We were back in Germany though and moored up at a lovely marina in Kappeln, After we put the boat to bed, we had a quick shower and off out we went to enjoy a lovely meal alongside the marina.
Wednesdays sail was to be our last sail as we headed back to Kiel Training Centre, and unfortunately for myself I developed my first bout of sea sickness all week, I just didn’t feel right and slept wherever I could rest my head up on deck. I perked up though after Keely made a delicious meal whilst we were sailing for lunch. We had a pleasant sail back into Kiel, not before a quick refuel, whereby we nearly left Nick on the jetty as he was treating us all to ice creams. We put the boat to bed and gave her a good clean ready for handover in the morning. Quick shower before the group photograph and people started heading out for some end of sailing drinks. We headed into Kiel city centre and Kiel Woche Festival was on much to our delight, there was live music, cheap beer, plenty of food stands and good atmosphere, what more could you want?! So, there we were, soaking everything up and I say, ‘What a brilliant way to end such a good week.’ When a bird decides to poop on my head. Brilliant. We get to bed just before 1am and settle in for our last night on board.
Thursday morning I was up early to wash the last of the bird poop out of my hair and we make the boat spotless ready for inspection before handing it back over to the training centre. Boat handed back, kit handed in, it’s time to say our goodbyes. Considering we had never met at the beginning of the week, I say goodbye feeling like I have made new friends - cheesy but true, we had a brilliant crew and there were laughs constantly though out the week.
So, as I write this sweating out on the dreaded drive back to the UK, I reflect on what this week has meant to me, it was a much needed break from work, I’ve laughed - a lot, which was very much needed, I’ve relaxed in the evenings, no tv, phone signal has been intermittent, wifi non existent, I’ve eaten what I wanted and not really exercised. That being said, I cannot wait to get home to see my husband, son (who has walked half the living room whilst I have been away), and my dog. I cannot wait to get back in the gym and eat clean wholesome meals, I have eaten so much bread this week I am surprised I haven’t turned into a loaf! I have also learnt that if I want to gain further sailing qualifications I have a LOT to learn, but I am not giving up.
From time to time it’s good to be pushed out of our comfort zone, I definitely was this week, it’s scary, you may get things wrong, but so what? You learn from them (hopefully), and try again. So, next time you have the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone, go for it, you never know what you might achieve!