By the time it came to Saturday a-sail we all had our positions, we seemed to know what we were doing, we could come about, we could tack into the wind like seasoned pros, we had nearly lost the anchor when we threw it overboard and then realised with one second to spare that the chain was not fastened to anything at the other end, Tom the cabin boy could make a pot of tea down below while we threw the boat all over the place in an attempt to get him to scald himself, and we had grown to like rum in everything.
Truth is we only did stuff when Si our skipper bawled at us to do it and when he gave us control by standing us up to the huge brass steering wheel right at the back of the boat and told us to keep it heading into the wind by watching the ruffles on the lakes surface and hence working out which angle this particular gust of wind was blowing – we were lost, so many tacks were scuppered in the 30 seconds after Si handed the wheel over to someone else that in the end he just steered and bawled all the time and we went back to being obedient little jack tars again.
We’d brought a tender with us on the Saturday, a tender, you know, oh yes I forgot, a blow-up dingy then, seated two people rather uncomfortably and we towed it up and down Windermere that day for no apparent reason until we reached a point on the lake where the command was bawled to lower the sails and tie up to a mooring buoy – about fifty yards off shore.
“There is a pub on shore, through those trees me hearties” our skipper explained, “prepare the tender for evacuation …”
It seated two, there was six of us on board, with one person doing the rowing back and forth to the shore that meant five trips, the nominated rower took the first person to shore while four of us waited on board trying to work out just how many bodies you could get on the tiny little inflatable dingy.
Five is the answer, we all got on it when it came back, thirsty for a pint we cared not for waiting for the next half hour while the rower went back and forth, so like one of those Guinness Book of Records attempts to get forty seven students inside a phone box we all carefully and arithmetically took some very delicate and well balance positions on the dingy with one of us keeping a seadogs eye on how far the dingy had sunk down into the water after each person climbed aboard – we weren’t necessarily the slimmest of crews.
Surprisingly the dingy hardly moved in the water even with all of us balancing precariously sitting around the edge of it – what we didn’t realise was that at the back of the yacht was a platform at water level for bathing from (or something), and the dingy was actually resting on this.
We only realised this when the rower started to row and the dingy slipped off the platform and started to rely on its own lack of buoyancy.
As soon as it was free of the yachts support it dropped in the water, to our horror. And now cast your mind back to those school day Physics lessons and in particular the lesson that you must have had when your Physics teacher tried to teach you the theory of water surface tension – remember filling a large beaker full to the brim with water and then gently trying to add one more drop of water so that the water in the beaker actually rose slightly above the top of the beaker but stayed there in suspension even though you had expected it to spill over the edge ?
Well our dingy did that.
If a phalanx of schoolchildren had been strolling the banks of Windermere led by their Physics teacher at that very same moment as our dingy dropped off the back of our yacht then he would surely have called them all together and pointed at us, “Look children” he would have said, “behold a perfect example of surface tension being exhibited upon the lake by those drunken sailors who must surely now perish if they move just one inch or so…”
“Don’t move” we all whispered to each other, each with that frozen grin on you face that trys to say “this is great fun” but actually means “50 yards to swim to shore, in November, its cold, I’m terrified, let me get off now”.
The nominated rower tried to row but even that action caused the dingy to wobble alarmingly, “Stop rowing” we all hissed in unison, “Dont…anyone…move…at…all”
We all sat there absolutely frozen still, “My arse is wet” someone said, “So is mine” we all replied, we were all now sitting right on the actual surface of the lake supported only by a very unbouyant inflatable dingy, one less puff of air in that dingy and it would be on the bottom of the lake by now.
And then someone passed between us and the lakeshore in a motorised boat, a motorised boat that left a bow wave a couple of inches high, a couple of inches was all that it would take to send us all to a watery grave, we stared in horror at the approach and then the passing of the boat while the people in the boat just turned and stared at us as if we were mad, five strapping lad all sitting in a circle on top of the water apparently unaided by any visible means of support.
“Oh bugger” we all said in unison and the slight ripple, a mere undulation on the surface of Windermere made its way inexorably towards us, a mere ripple which looked like a tsunami from where we were sat invisibly supported by surface tension, “if we all jump up in the air at the exact same second that it hits the boat then maybe the boat will just ride over it” suggested our skipper, you could tell that he’d been on a course to get his yacht masters licence can’t you, why on earth the master of The Poseidon never thought of that I don’t know.
We did ride the tsunami, it had all but petered out by the time it arrived at our location, still just two yards away from the yacht, still terrified of moving, still with 48 yards to go to reach the shore and pub, our rower started with tiny little baby strokes, rowing by inches, the oars barely moving in the water and the dingy started to move ever so slowly with all of us clinging onto our neighbour hissing “don’t move, don’t move” to each other and the occasional “I’ve got cramp in my foot” and “My arse is really wet now”.
It took forever, if we’d gone ashore one at a time then we’d have been in the pub half an hour before we finally made it, and none of us would have had to stand in front of the log fire in the pub to dry our soaked through pants out, five of us stood in a line, backs to the fire all saying “oooh thats nice” amid clouds and clouds of steam.
We rowed back one at a time.
But we were very drunk by then.