Wednesday, January 19, 2022

even more nightmares?!!

yes, i've been having nightmares literally every single night. I wake up a few times every night, heart pounding, sometimes in a cold sweat, even though it's the peak of winter. it then takes me a few hours of tossing and turning in bed to fall asleep. I'm lucky shruti doesn't mind being woken up several times a night by me saying "i had a nightmare, please hold me" - and she does her best, but it doesn't seem to help enough for me to sleep well.

my only solution so far is to spend more time in bed, so i can make up my sleep that way.

sleeping meds are an option i don't want to consider at the moment. does anyone have any other ideas?

Monday, January 17, 2022

more nightmares

I didn't sleep much last night, although I spent close to 12 hours in bed. It was just nightmare after nightmare.

Nightmare 1

I was at my motorcycle mechanic's garage in Mumbai. We were trying to fix an engine in which the connecting rod had worn out to the point where it had knocked and dented the inside of the crankcase! The connecting rod, crankshaft, crank pin and even the inside of the crankcase were grimy and looked rusted. It took a lot of elbow grease to take everything apart, and once we did, I decided to walk back home. One of the mechanic's helpers sprayed my hands with petrol to get all the grease and oil and general gunk off them, after which I walked home.

As I entered the apartment compound, an old friend (a classmate from school) walked by on the road and called out to me. He had a matchbox in his hand, and was poised to flick a match at me (this thing we used to do as kids where we would flick a match in such a way that the match would light as it flew towards you... You'd want to dodge the lit match, obviously).

I screamed NO NO NO NO NO as he flicked the match towards me and it lit. For some reason, I tried to deflect the lit match instead of dodging it... And to my horror, it set my hands on fire. In that moment, the world suddenly turned pitch black (even though it was a bright afternoon) and all I could see were my flaming hands as I waved them frantically to no avail.

And I woke up.

Nightmare 2

I was hung by my legs, upside-down. It was a dark room, barely lit by light filtering through cracks in the walls (the walls were made of wood, as far as I could tell). I was being tortured for some reason. A man was torturing me. There were other men, standing and watching - they were armed.

My own arms were tied behind my back. I twisted and writhed, but couldn't really do much. I tried to arch my body upwards, in the hope that it would feel better. As soon as I did though, I found a noose around my neck. I tried to hold that position as long as I could, but it was unbearable. I gave up and let my body hang downwards from my legs again. The noose tightened around my neck. As I struggled, and then gave up, I felt all tension leave my body.

That's when I realized I was actually looking at myself from outside my own body.

The man who was performing the torture on me stepped forward and grabbed my neck. He twisted it until it snapped. A few more twists back and forth, and he detached my head cleanly from my body.

He set my head down on the floor, neck side down.

He took an axe and split my skull cleanly open. So cleanly, there wasn't even any blood to be seen.

He then took a knife and started to slice my brain.

He then started slashing my brain the other way, to dice it.

At around that point, one of the armed guards spoke up and said: "that's enough. he's long gone"

And I woke up.

Nightmare 3

I was sitting at the dining table of my friend's apartment. The apartment he lived at back in 1999. His mom was sitting with us too. Everyone had their hands clasped on the table, silent.

Although we didn't say a word, I heard my friend tell me his dad was in hospital. And that it should have been nothing, but he hasn't been recovering the way doctors expected him to. I heard myself thing: that's exactly what happened to my dad.

I felt a wave of fear come on: is his dad about to die?

We sat in silence, until I finally spoke: isn't it weird, the last time we met here, your dad was as old as we are now?

I woke up and calculated: that was actually pretty close to the truth!

Friday, January 14, 2022

saving the world

this dream from 30th December 2021 refuses to leave me, so I figured I should blog it for posterity.

it was the end of the world, in a sense. all technology and communication had stopped working.

we hurriedly decided to flee the city. we hopped onto a bus, with nothing other than the clothes on our backs. it was a rickety bus, seats fully occupied but not crowded. we were somewhere in Kerala - dad, mom, kevin, shruti and me. we were glad to get out of the city before the violence and looting started, and did not think even once about the life we were leaving behind. while in the bus, I discussed with kevin what could have happened. the bus was functioning, so it wasn't a complete EMP style switch-off of all electrical devices. our phones were still powered up, but there was no network signal. so i assumed it was some sort of communication outage, which resulted in the power grid shutting down. we tried the FM receiver in my phone, and it didn't pick up any channels either.

on my advice, the bus avoided national highways, and stuck to narrow village roads. I also asked the driver to head to the coast, as I felt that would give us the best chance of survival. we were not far from the coast to begin with, and it was soon within sight. the road we were on headed straight to the coast, and then turned right to follow it. to the left, was a small village. compared to the adjoining farmland, it stood out as heavily wooded, with just a few houses peeking out from among the trees. i noticed my watch was still working, and it showed me my GPS coordiantes.

I had a strange feeling about the village, as we approached it. I felt some strange fate awaited me there. I wasn't sure if I should take my folks along though. I quickly asked kevin to note down my GPS coordiantes on a piece of paper, and told him I would be getting off and getting into the village here. I told him to advise the bus driver to continue straight along the coast until he found a large enough village to accomodate all the folks on the bus, and then stop there - but do not leave the coast under any circumstances. I told him that they should stay put, and if I did not catch up with them in a month, he should try to find me - I will only leave this village if I am reasonably sure that it's safe to do so and that I can either bring my folks back to where I am, or join them.

I kissed shruti goodbye and had to quickly get off the bus as I did not want to risk holding the bus up. I didn't really get a chance to say much to my parents either.

on the dusty side of the road, i walked towards the village - the first building - a sprawling ground floor structure, surrounded by trees that covered it in a canopy of shade - was a few dozen feet from the road. it looked like a school building. I noticed people moving inside. I stood at the half open door and called out if anyone was inside. A lady walked up to the door. I told her my name and told her I need to meet the person in charge - and that it's urgent.

She asked me to sit inside and asked if I'd like a cup of coffee. I gladly agreed, as I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since we left in the morning, and it was already late afternoon. the room looked like a large dining room, with the rectangular table large enough to seat at least 20. the table and chairs were built of solid, dark wood, and seemed well used but in perfect condition. consdering it was a school, the room could very well have been a staff room. as I was finishing my coffee, a man walked in. he had shoulder length hair, but was completely bald on the crown of his head. he had a bushy mustache. I was astonished. I recognized him: he was my computer teacher from back when I was 16! and surprisingly, he recognized me too!

we didn't call each others' names out though - I have a feeling he recognized me but didn't remember my name. he said "fancy meeting you, and at such a time! the last time we met, wasn't altavista the best search engine in the world?" and I replied back "yeah, and how's your xatax game going?" to which he said something like "it's too late to practice that now".

he was someone important (being the guy in charge, obviously), and asked the lady who had promptly appeared when he entered, to make him a coffee, refill mine, and bring out some biscuits.

as we sipped our coffee, he said "i assume you're wondering the same thing as i am" to which i replied, "yeah, figuring out what the hell is wrong with the world, aren't we?"

he said I've obviously had a long journey, and he needed a few minutes to get soemthing done as well. he asked me to take my coffee and biscuits and wait for him in the adjacent room where we could speak in private. the adjacent room was a little smaller, and looked like a large office - presumably his. it had another door, which looked like it might be a private entrance. sure enough, a couple of mintues later, he entered this office from that door, and sat across me at the desk. he asked me how I am and if I'm alone. I told him about my family headed along the coast.

he reassured me that they were welcome in this village, once we figured how to get them and when it was safe to do so. but first things first: this problem that possibly everyone in the world was facing.

he dropped his tone a bit, and told me: I know an intelligent man when I see one. We are in a situation where we need every bit of collective intelligence we can muster. the people in this village are hard working and kind, but not particularly intelligent. it's a stroke of fate that we have met in these circumstances, but the situation is fragile: the villagers will follow him as long as they trust him. he said my prsence as someone he will vouch for as intelligent and trustworthy, will cement the villagers trust in him to help them navigate this situation. he said that while he thinks he knows me and i think I know him, we cannot risk being wrong about each other. so we will do our best to stay united and pretend we are long lost friends.

he said he's a man of honour and would not lie. so, in order to make sure he doesn't need to, we need to agree not to ask each other questions about each others' past, or anything that could conclusively prove or even give rise to a doubt that we are not the persons we believe each other to be. we also need to act like the situation is compeltely under control.

i told him i see the intelligence in his thought, and I agree.

he said that as there are no pressing problems at the moment in the village, and I am quite tired, I should eat and sleep for the night. we will meet first thing in the morning to discuss what should be done. he reassured me my parents wouldn't go too far, as the nearest village along that road was just a few kilometres away - I could borrow his motorbike tomorrow to visit my folks, and reassure that village as well that things would be fine soon.

as we prepared to leave that room, I asked him "what should we call each other?"

he told me I could call him Charles. I told him he could call me Kristopher (spelled with a K).

I was relieved. Charles was indeed the name of my computer teacher when I was 16!

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

thank you dad

it's strange, writing this on my blog when i'd rather be speaking to you.

you are no longer in this world.

you will not read the card i left with mom "to be opened on your 76th birthday"

you will not read the card i left with kevin "to be opened on your 40th anniversary"

but i guess you don't need to any more.

you do not need more reminders of how awesome you are.

how strong you are.

how much you mean to us.

how much we cherish your every memory.

how much you loved.

the things you taught me.

the things you let me learn for myself.

the things you took in your stride.

i look around and i see reminders of your beautiful existence everywhere.

i need to remind myself that i am your creation too.

every moment with you enriched me. 

even the moment when you finally taught me that i need to be able to let go of everything i hold dear.

thank you for making me who i am.

for making me able to do everything i have and will do.

your embrace has kept me going even when you did not know what i have been going through.

i feel it now, in this cold room.

your few words have said more than what the world's books could.

i hear them now, in the silence of my thoughts.

your ideals will live on, as long as i live on.

i will carry your spirit with me as long as i live.

our corner of the world has become a better place thanks to you.

thank you dad.

Friday, December 31, 2021

nightmare to end 2021

 after a rather long stretch of (seemingly) dreamless nights, I had 2 nightmares in a row. strangely though, while today's would qualify as a nightmare, it didn't feel like one - just an unpleasant dream that i woke up from because my alarm was ringing. and yes, i'm working today 🤦‍♂️

i was in mumbai. in an outstation train. it was a day train, as there were only seats, no bunk beds. the train had all seats occupied, as far as i could tell. i was travelling alone. i must have boarded the train at its start point, as it was still in mumbai. i had a window seat, with my back to the direction the train was travelling. i didn't really pay attention to anyone sitting around, although there were people sitting on all available seats. there was one guy sitting diagonally across me, who looked Scottish, and did attempt to exchange pleasantries near the start of the journey. other than that, i just buried myself in my tablet, put on some music on my ipod, and kept to myself.

minutes into the journey, i felt i would enjoy a book more than my tablet, and thought I could ask my brother to drop off the book at borivali, when the trian passed it. i called him, and he agreed. he told me to inform him two stations before the train got to borivali, so he could get there in time. he also asked me which coach of the train i'm in, and I didn't know that. so at the next station, I got off, and started counting coaches. unfortunately, the doors closed and the train moved off before I could get back on - and that's where the dream turned into a nightmare.

i had left all my stuff on my bag (which, strangely enough, was a yellow backpack!) which was on my seat.

the only thing to do was to chase the outstation train in a local train, and try to catch up with it. i tried to get on a train, and it was super crowded. i could not enter. i finally managed to squeeze into the next train, and then noticed i had even broken my watch in the scramble to get on the train. in fact, i didn't have my phone or wallet either - i literally had nothing on me. anxious, i stood near the door of the train, trying to figure which track it would end up on so i'd know which direction to run to get to the outstation train. the train i was on was supposed to be a fast train, but it kept halting at signals. realistically, i had very slim chances but i was hopeful.

at that point, a guy said hi to me. it was rohit, my classmate from school! he got to the doorway and stood with me, but before we could exhange pleasantries he noticed the anxiety on my face and asked me what's up. i explained the situation, and he offered me his phone so i could call my brother.

his phone was a super ancient nokia, a silver coloured one that had a pull out antenna. i have a feeling that was the actual phone he had when we were in school! the keys were so badly worn that they would randomly press multiple times even when pressed once. after a bit of fighting the keypad i managed to call my brother and tell him simply: i've lost everything, my phone, wallet, etc. he asked me how. i tried explaining but then he realized it was pointless. he asked me what he should do.

i told him: nothing. just don't worry about bringing the books to the station. i'll try to chase the train to its destination.

and that's when shruti's alarm went off (why did she have an alarm? she isn't working today!) and i woke up and dashed out of bed, probably before she realized it was ringing.

my first thought when i woke up was: shouldn't i have just asked my brother to get to the station, get on the train, collect my stuff, and wait for me to get there? or at least, lend me some cash so i'm not travelling across the country with no money?

either way - no more nightmares this year! 2022, here we come!!!

Monday, September 27, 2021

learning to sail: day 2

after a lot of action and information on day 1 of the sailing course, we had a good night's sleep (my second ever night on a boat - the first one is still etched in my memory, although i'm surprised it's not on my blog!) and were up and ready for another day on the sea!

breakfast'd and tea'd up, we asked Hugh what is now to be our (and probably his) favourite question: "what's the plan?"

and so, we had our first introduction to nautical charts, tidal charts, and I finally found a use for the wind indication on my phone's weather app: to make plans!

the two main things a sailor needs to know before making plans are: wind and tide.

we checked the weather prediction for that day. i don't remember what exactly it was, but it was supposed to be a pretty calm day, light wind and (not that it mattered), no rain. it was around 10am, and we were hoping to be off in an hour, looking for a destination we could get to in time for lunch. our plan at the outset was to sail to and learn to anchor at a suitable spot, have lunch, do some tricks, and sail to bangor, a town across belfast lough. we assumed we could do a speed of 5 knots (which Hugh then explained: 5 knots = 5 nautical miles an hour. a nautical mile is slightly more than a regular mile - and in fact it has a precise relationship to distances on a map!). we then had a look at the chart, and had a look at all the places we could get to in a 10 nautical mile radius (ie getting us to anchor for lunch at 1pm). this involved a few new things for us: converting the map into actual distances on water is not as simple as it might be expected to be! the technique to find the actual distance for a given page of the nautical chart is was basically finding the divison on the chart which had a tick next to the vertical axis (latitude), at which point one minute (ie 1/60th of a degree) of latitude equals one nautical mile. one minute is further divided into 10ths which are called "cables". and each page of the map has got the horizontal distance (ie longitude) scaled so that the length corresponding to one mile in any direction is the same. all of this ended in some amusement when we decided that all these complicated distance calculations were to be converted to finger lengths to find out how far we could go 😂, but Hugh humoured us (or maybe egged us on, I don't remember 😁)

the other consideration was wind: you want to anchor at a spot where the wind is blowing away from land, as that provides a calm anchorage. wind blowing towards land gives rougher seas, and a whole lot of other problems. based on the direction of wind and distance, we found copeland island (or more specifically, a bay on the south side of the largest copeland island) to be a suitable spot to aim for.

the next thing was the tide: we first had to find the timing of the tide. each of the ports in the UK had their tide timing relative to some reference (i think it was Liverpool). it also had the high and low tide height at spring and at neap. tidal charts suggested the tide was about to turn halfway through our journey. unfortunately the tidal chart had just one number for all of belfast lough, and copeland is just slightly outside it, so it was just a rough approximation. it was something like 3 knots at its maximum, but since the tide would be turning during our journey it wouldn't be that much of a concern. on the other hand, the height of the tide was more involved to calculate - Hugh just told us we could assume it to be 3 metres, but as I was curious he showed me how he got to that number: the movement from spring to neap tides is linear, so you need to first find out which part of the cycle you currently are at, and then tide height on that day follows something of a sine wave, and you have to take the maximum and minimum, and then take the number of hours (or more precise, if you need to) before/after high tide and find that point on the curve. there's also the law of 12ths which provides a useful approximation: in the first hour, 1/12th of the water moves, in the next hour, 2/12ths (ie 1/6th), and the 3rd hour it's 3/12ths (ie 1/3rd). this assumes full tides are 12 hours apart, which they aren't, but this is close enough if the tidal range isn't much (it was 2 metres or so) and we were anyway at the time the tide turns so the change in depth won't be much.

finally, we had to plot our course. Hugh mentioned the various ways to do so: using the compass and a bearing (ie direction), various waypoints, aligning features on land and water, both forward as well as backward. we had to also ensure we stayed clear of any hazards, and the one shipping lane nearby.

we then looked at the wind direction again and checked if we could sail or if we would have to use the motor. Hugh explained the various points of sail - close haul, beam reach, broad reach and run. we spent some time trying to understand why we couldn't sail closer to the wind than a close haul, and how the sail and wind are aligned (the best angle is 45 degrees) and how the boat is oriented with the sail and the wind during each of those points of sail. we looked at the chart again and our course, which consisted of some 3 different steps, and decided we could sail to the copeland islands (or at least, try).

there was one last thing: finding a good anchorage spot. we looked at the contours on the map, combined with the tidal height, and the information that we would look to anchor at a spot not more than 6 metres deep. once we found it, Hugh explained a technique (i forgot the name) of how we find our way to that spot by keeping a fixed direction and speed, and measuring the distance in advance. we converted cables on the map into fractions of a nautical mile, assumed a speed of 5 miles, and calculated that we had to head in that direction for precisely 5 minutes to get to our anchor spot.

preparation done, we had one last cup of tea, a couple of us popped seasickness tablets, and we were off to sail - this time with a lot more understanding of what we were about to do!

we uncovered the mainsail and attached the halyard to its head, setup the lines to slip (ie replacing all the bowlines with loops around the pontoon cleats, tied with ox knots on the boat), fenders ready, slipping the lines - this part seemed quite familiar after yesterday's practice. once moving we untied the fenders from the sides and tied them at the stern. getting out of the marina we again used the lights to guide us out until we got far enough to get the sails out. by this time we were about an hour behind schedule, but we didn't notice (or say it aloud if anyone did). getting the mainsail out involved pointing the boat directly into the wind and pulling the halyard, first by hand (with someone "sweating" at the mast) and then with the winch. after some misadventures (I don't remember precisely what but I do remember it was less than perfect 😜) the main sail was up, and Hugh taught me how to switch off the engine. we were sailing! we unfurled the jib, and Hugh showed us how to watch the telltales. we also learned to adjust the mainsail based on the point of sail (although I don't remember any more - I must revise this!). Hugh said the main thing is the skipper needs to ensure the boat is at a constant bearing and the sails need to be adjusted till they're taut and filled. any bit of flapping or the telltales dropping (on jib or mainsail) is a sign that things are not perfect. this is in contrast to what I remember doing when sailing in Mumbai 10 years ago - back then I was disctinctly told to keep the boat pointed so that the sails stay full, instead of the other way around!

we tweaked the sails all we could, but the boat was still doing a leisurely 4 knots of speed: this was probably because we were late and the tide wasn't helping us as much as we had hoped it would (or at all, possibly). there was a bit of a debate on board, and Hugh asked the skipper to decide if we would continue to try to get to Copeland island for lunch, or do some random manoeuvres instead (tacks and jibes). I personally was more keen on learning to sail than I was to get to any specific spot for lunch,  and I suspect Hugh felt the same. Copeland sounded tempting though and the skipper got to decide so we decided to press on - I'm sure Hugh's sailing brain was forming plans of things to teach us along the way anyway, and we had the sail back from Bangor to learn some sailing basics too. and of course, it was a lovely sunny day, we had planned our course, and it's not everyday that one gets to a barely inhabited island (someone even knew some of the history of the island!) so no regrets! we furled the jib, took down the mainsail (another adventure - pointing the boat into the wind is not as easy as it might sound, and the slightest deviation makes the sail very hard to handle!). we followed our plan as closely as we could (i dare say I completely forgot it and completely relied on Hugh's directions, although I suspect some of the other folks were doing a far better job than I was 🤷‍♂️

when we got to our desired depth of a little under 6 metres, which was comfortably off the coast but close enough to see it quite well, Hugh taught us to drop the anchor. I was up front with him as he explained the calculation of how much anchor to let out (chain = 4x the depth, chain + rope = 6x the depth). we had 10 metres of chain on the anchor and the rest was rope. Hugh unshackled the anchor from the bow of the boat and counted off the length of rope as we let the anchor down. at the same time, there was an orange buoy ("Timmy") tied to the anchor with 6 metres of light rope which we also tossed overboard with some ceremony - this buoy marks our anchor, so we know if we're being blown about, we don't motor over the anchor rope by accident, and it lets others know "something" is there. there was also something else he mentioned - I think it's about being able to free the anchor if it gets stuck on the seabed, and an interesting anecdote about how Timmy ended up with a brother Jimmy due to the time the anchor had to be cut off and was presumed lost, only to be rescued days (or weeks?) later - apparently Timmy helped locate the lost anchor! anchor rope let out, we then reversed away from it until the rope was tight - this ensures the anchor digs into the ground and doesn't come loose.

secured, it was time for lunch: sandwiches (and tea, obviously) put together by our self-nominated chef and eaten on deck with the lovely sun on us!

surprisingly there was even network, and I managed to uplaod the photo before digging in 😎

Lunch done, it was time to retrieve the anchor. After that, we did something called fairy gliding: a technique where you hold the boat steady at an angle to the water, using the motor to keep it stationary and using the pressure of the water against the keel to drift the boat sideways. pretty cool, and also a tool to help you get into certain tight marinas where the current flows across the entrance making any other means of entry tricky (or dangerous).

Around this time, I was given the helm - a proud moment for me! For this leg of our journey we were not following any precise directions as far as I know - simply motoring away in the general direction of Bangor, avoiding the shore and finding things on the chart-plotter (the touchscreen instrument at the helm) to aim for on the horizon. I enjoyed being at the helm, and everyone else got a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery. fun! we passed by Ballyholme and turned towards Bangor marina... but not without some photos!

the tide was with us getting towards Bangor, and we were there pretty quickly. Hugh guided me into the marina as we radioed in and asked for a berth. the radio script went something like: "bangor marina, bangor marina, this is yacht trinculo requesting a berth. over." to which they responded with the berths available. couple of basics: when starting the conversation always start with the recipient said twice so that someone hearing it has a second chance to pay more attention. also, every message has to include the name of the yacht sending the message and end with over. pretty simple!

We were given a choice of a few berths, so we went in to the marina to have a look before getting partly out and back in to finally park properly. being a rather nice Sunday evening, there were plenty of boats moving about, and it was an interesting experience, keeping away from various walls and markers (and hidden rocks, including some at a spot where Hugh remembered there being a marker but there wasn't any now!), and following the rules of right-of-way: in short, you always keep right (ie the exact opposite of driving on a road). once we saw the spots we could use and picked the one we would, I had to reverse back out to a part of the marina Hugh called the "pond", which was large enough for the boat to turn around. I then reversed all the way back to the pontoon, and at the very end, turned off the engine and coasted into position: it was really smooth, basically first aiming for one point, then as the boat got nearer, aiming for the next one, and the final one to get it into position. if the layout of the boat allows it, it's much easier to steer in reverse if you physically move to the other side of the wheel, isntead of looking over your shoulder and turning the wheel in the oppsite direction as you usually would. Hugh must have done all the thinking about wind direction etc, because it was straightforward for me to get the boat into position while everyone else was fumbling around with ropes and fenders 😁

once we were secured and the engine off, everyone said it was very well done! i was definitely feeling good about myself although I know I was merely following instructions - apparently that's not very easy to do perfectly as well!

we settled in for dinner, and then headed off for a walk into Bangor, to stretch our legs and stock up on bread and milk (we were drinking way more tea than Hugh calculated, I'm sure 😂). this being Sunday evening, most shops were closed, and we ended up taking a much longer walk than intended (almost an hour!), but I enjoyed it.

back at the boat, we settled in for the night, again exhausted by very satisfied. things were making a lot more sense now, and I had an idea of not just what to do, but also why. brilliant!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

learning to sail: day 1

 yes, i know, i still haven't finished blogging the stuff covered in my driving lessons even though those were over 2 years ago (it's been 2 years since i passed my test last month - talk about being late!), but my sailing lessons are probably more noteworthy 😁

anyway, before i start: just like everything else that i seem to do, this was by coincidence too. the first time i've been on a sailboat was 11 years or so. i thoroughly enjoyed it, but never ended up sailing again after those 3 weekends on the water. it was always on my list though, so i attended the open day at the carrickfergus sailing club two years ago, and that was the first time i was on the water in this country. right after that, a colleague told be about a facebook group where people in NI look for and offer themselves to be crew on sailboats, with all levels of experience and expertise being welcomed. i joined that group, and offered to crew, was contacted by people who wanted crew, and finally the pandemic happened before i could actually set sail.

and then, last month (or was it july?) someone asked if anyone offers training. and unlike my usual experience of facebook, the post and one of the comments showed up in my notifications. i contacted Hugh of WaveRides, and booked myself in. I was going to learn to sail!

the course is for 5 days, and is usually done at a stretch (including 4 nights on the boat), but my office situation necessitated me to split it into 3 days and 2, which Hugh agreed to despite it not being his usual pattern (I was basically blocking a spot on two courses which is not great for the school, but i'm glad he allowed me that!).

the list of things to bring along was quite reasonable, and didn't need me to buy much besides a pair of deck shoes - regular trainers have large grips which tend to pick up gravel/pebbles that can scratch the boat, and deck shoes are waterproof + designed to be grippy on deck, which is always textured for grip to begin with.

i was at carrickfergus marina at 9am, where i met the my co-students and the people who had come to drop them off (i on the other hand had to drop myself off 😜), and Hugh, our instructor.

basic housekeeping (ie showing us where the marina toilets were) done, we made out way to the boat, with everyone else's luggage in a trolley and mine in my backpack (i packed light!).

we were shown to the Trinculo, a Sigma 400 (the 9th of 15 ever built), a rather nice yacht, defintely better than any i've set foot on before. once we popped our bags in we sat around on the deck, and Hugh started our training.

the first item was safety: how to make sure your life vest is on perfect and why it's best to always have it on. how to reduce your chances of taking an unplanned swim (ie using the harnesses), what to do in case someone falls over, and especially what to do in case Hugh falls over 😜. the other risk is of having to evacute the boat in an emergency: how the life raft works, how it's activated, the emergency bag and what's in it, the types of flares and how they are to be used (and some interesting stories about how they're disposed). then came fires: the types of fires, where they're most likely, and what to do (and not do) in each situation. the location of the fire extinguishers, smoke/carbon  monoxide alarms, and why it's important to be on your guard against fire at all times, with a few anecdoes about instances where things have gone terribly wrong (thankfully, none involving Hugh or anyone on this boat, or the boat itself!).

we were shown around the inside of the boat, especially the sleeping quarters, cabin, galley (ie the kitchen), toilets, engine bay, radio... and most importantly, the kettle and snack stash, which are probably the two things on the boat we used the most 😂

next, we got to the parts of the boat, and especially the names for them. the helm, mast, boom, vang, main sail, jib or genoa, rigging, fenders, cleats, fairleads, winches, compass, chart plotter, and the engine control (i forgot what it's called 😁).

then came the ropes (also called lines). there were a baffling array of them, but Hugh reassured us there were only 5 ropes on the boat we needed to know about: the main sheet, halyard, jib sheets (there are two of them) and the furler.

after that, we had an overview of the knots we needed to know. the round turn and two half hitches used to tie fenders to stanchions (ie the railing), the cleat hitch used to tie a line to the boat or the jetty, and the bowline, which is the knot used to tie a line to the jetty when the boat will be tied up for a while.

we were shown how to coil ropes so that they don't bunch/tangle and also stay organized. we were also shown where the ropes were stored on this boat. and the last step: how to make a lasso and use it to lasso cleats on the jetty - very useful when you need to park the boat!

we were shown how the locks on the lines work, how the winches work on this boat (i assume they work differently on other boats, but the principles would be the same), how to hold ropes, pull them, secure them, and how to release them from the winch with fine amounts of control if required. some of the winches also had a mechanism to lock the rope. "sweating", a technique to make ropes easier to pull. also, how we store ropes when sailing and when not sailing.

with all that knowledge under our belt, we went off and did some practice with the ropes: lassoing cleats, tying them, tying fenders. i managed to do a decent job after a couple of tries - much to my surprise! i've been terrible with knots all my life, but i guess having a purpose automatically made me better 😂

we then took a quick break for lunch, which was sandwiches, more tea (yes, i had already drunk more tea that morning than i usually would in a week 😜).

lunch, more tea and an informal q&a session later, we were ready to set off... once we were told how!

getting a boat untied and freely floating (also called "slipping") involves a few steps: first, since we're planning to sail, we take the mainsail cover off to make things easier once we're out and about, and pack it away. there was also the bit about attaching the halyard to the top of the mainsail - locking it in place is very important! once locked, it has to be threaded into the mast, through the "monkey nuts" (no points for guessing what they look like 😂) next, we untie the 3rd line that was used to keep the boat from swinging about when parked, since we only need 2 lines to keep the boat tied securely: the bow line and the stern line. we then replaced the bowline knots with a loop around the cleats on the jetty and a cleat hitch on the boat (so basically all the knots are on the boat, freeing us to "slip" from on the boat, instead of untying and jumping on). we were then taught how to slip: one person at each line unties one end from the cleat on the boat and holds it firmly. when the skipper calls "ready to slip" and both people reply that they're ready the skipper calls to "slip", which involves letting go of the end that has been untied, and pulling the other end back quickly. it should be done quickly enough that the boat is free in seconds. once the rope is about to be off the cleat, the person at the bow or stern slipping the respective rope calls out "bow slipped" or "stern slipped" so that the skipper knows the boat is free and can be powered out. the other thing to pay attention to while slipping is the fenders: in windy conditions, the boat may be blown about and the fenders are the first line of defense against collisions. everyone without a task assigned gets a "roving fender", which is a fender that they take to whichever spot the boat might collide with something else.

we had a couple of practice attempts at slipping the rope, and once confident, we were ready to go!

we slipped without a hitch (no puns intended) and were floating free in the marina. i coiled up the slip ropes and put them away, while others handled the fenders and the helm.

once out of the marina we were showed how carrickfergus marina makes it easy for boats to get in and out using the deepest part of the channel: there are 3 lights, one green, one red and one white. on the way out, the green light indicates you're on the left of the channel, red indicates you're on the right, and white indicates you're in the channel.

once we were out a bit, it was time to pull up the fenders, tie them to the back of the boat, unfurl the sails, and sail away!

the first step is to point the boat directly into the wind (as that's the only direction the sail can be pulled up and down without catching the wind), under low power (as the rudder only has control when moving). we then pull the mainsail up tight using the halyard (once the sail has reached the top of the mast, the tightness can be guaged from the edge of the sail next to the mast) - towards the end you can feel the weight of the sail and you need some help, from someone "sweating" the rope, or winching (or both!).

we then point the boat at an angle to the wind, depending on where we want to sail, and let the mainsail fill up. that gets the boat sailing!

next up, someone pulls the furler a bit to free the jib, and then depending on the direction we want to sail, we pull the appropriate jib sheet to the point where the telltales rise up and are beginning to float horizontally instead of hanging vertically from the jib.

the rest of the afternoon was a blur of doing what we were told: pull this line, tie that line, etc. we got to use the stuff that was pointed out to us in the morning, although i didn't really understand most of what i was doing.

before we knew it, it was almost 6 and time to furl the sails and head back into the marina. first, the jib, using the furler (you know the sail is furled when the sheet wraps one turn around it), then the main sail - it has to be folded as it's brought down, by releasing it 1 metre at a time and folding it on alternate sides. as it's folded, "sail ties" are used to make sure the folds stay in place. fenders out, slip ropes ready to lasso, and we headed back in. we managed to get the ropes lassoed, pulled and tied it tight, covered the main sail, and we were done for the day!

 a lovely dinner had been popped into the oven for us, and we polished it off, seconds and all. dinner time conversation drifted from thoughts about the day to all sorts of random banter, and we were finally treated to a firework show that happened to be on at carrickfergus castle - a nice end!

day one was super amazing, and i was happy that i had learned so much... and hoped i'd remember it all!

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