I joined CSSA and found Channel Sailing Division

 Andrea Walker explains how she got started in sailing.

I wanted to give sailing a try, so I joined the CSSA and found my local sailing club Channel Sailing Division (CSD). CSD runs Taster Days (Day Sails) on Sea Essay so I booked in for one.

A week beforehand I received an email reminding me about my booking and providing me with details about arrival and what I needed to bring. A day or two before the Taster Day I received an email from the Skipper giving me contact numbers and further details about what was planned.

Having never been sailing before I was unsure what to expect. I found the boat yard Mercury Yacht Harbour easily and clambered aboard helped by the mate. Two other crew had also just arrived. They had both been sailing numerous times with CSSA and had great fun.

Once the other crew arrived, we had a safety briefing and got kitted out with life jackets and safety lines. The mate started showing us some of the knots we needed to know, which I wasn’t expecting and I still don’t think I can do the knots correctly (more practice required). 

It wasn’t long before the engine was started, and we left the berth. Once we got out of the harbour the work started we were all given jobs to hoist the sails and then we were off! I felt an incredible sense of freedom and began to be much more aware of the wind and the black clouds on the horizon.

We sailed down the Hamble River out into Solent Water doing about 7 knots in a fair wind, the guys who had been sailing before took the helm but I was surprised to be asked to take the helm as well. Unfortunately for my fellow crew I was rather heavy handed at the helm and our previous straight course began to look more like a slalom course! But with help and encouragement from the Mate, the Skipper and the crew I improved marginally and was even given another opportunity to helm on the way back, still a zig zag course but slightly less so than previously!

It was amazing how quickly we picked up some of the sailing vernacular and everyone had a go at helming, tacking and raising and lowering the sails. We learnt about who has right of way and to observe the weather changing. It was also interesting to see the coast from the water side. The Solent is a busy place and we passed many different vessels from ferries, other small vessels including the Harbour Master and some huge commercial ships. We anchored up for lunch just as the rain hit so we sat comfortably in the cabin. Using the loo on the boat was another learning experience and you need to be comfortable with being at close quarters with other people generally on the boat as space is very limited.  The Mate and Skipper suggested that I try another Taster day and a 2 or 3 day Sea Time Cruise trip to get a better feeling for sailing, which I hope to do in the Spring/ Summer.

All too soon we were back with the engine on chugging up the Hamble River back to the harbour. We managed to get the boat back into its berth, made sure it was secure and tidied up the boat before it was time to depart.

The next morning, I looked out of my window and breathed a sigh of relief that I was not sailing that day, it was pelting it down with rain and blowing a gale!! The Taster Day was a great introduction to sailing and I will be back to try it again in the Spring when the program starts again. Anyone thinking about doing a Taster Day, just do it, you may surprise yourself how much fun you will have and how much you will learn.