Learning to sail in Kos, Greece
By Chris Watts
Part 2 – Sailing and Big Dave
I coped adequately on my maiden maritime adventure, managing to maintain some sort of control over my boat. I even turned around in nearly the exact place Max asked me to, although whilst turning I took a knock to the head from the boom. I interpreted this as my boat warning me not to get too cocky too quickly. After three quarters of an hour, I returned to shore, excited to continue my education the following day. On the walk back from the beach to my balcony, I encountered Big Dave for the first time. He appeared from behind a bush, wearing a sombrero and a Stella Artois vest.
“Hey there champ, wanna come on a bar crawl tonight?”
Before I’d had a chance to answer, he continued.
“Big Dave’s Big Night Out. Ten euros, two free beers, three shots and one hell of a nightclub to end up in.”
“Not tonight thanks, I’m going sailing early tomorrow morning,” I replied, although there was something intriguing about him.
“Eight euros?” He bartered.
“Just leave it, Dave, please.”
“See you later, Big Dave”
Sailing lessons – Day 2
My second day of sailing went swimmingly but only lasted for twenty minutes as the wind picked up suddenly and I was called in by Max who clearly didn’t deem me ready for intermediate conditions. I filled the rest of the day with beach volleyball, a spot of tennis and a walk down into town. On my return to the hotel, Big Dave popped out from behind a palm tree wearing an ‘If found please return to the pub’ t-shirt whilst carrying a set of multicoloured maracas.
“Ehhhh! You again!”
“Hi Big Dave.” I scanned around for possible escape routes.
“Big Dave’s Big Night Out- ten euros, two free-”
“Why are you called Big Dave, you’re not that tall?” This had been troubling me since yesterday.
“I know.” He paused. “I’m not called Dave either. I’m Tim.” Big Dave had retreated inside himself a little, and was now shuffling his feet, embarrassed.
I struggled to find the words to follow this bombshell. “Well, you look kinda like a Dave, I guess?”
“Thanks. That’s what people say.”
There was a second of silence as Tim realised we had gone off-pitch.
“So, ten euros, two beers, three-” he continued.
“You said six euros yesterday?”
“Alright, six euros?”
“Sorry, not tonight. Maybe tomorrow. Good luck.”
“Alright, don’t tell anyone about the Tim thing though. Please?”
“Don’t worry Dave.”
“Big Dave!” He shouted after me as I walked away.
Learning to sail the hard way
After a breakfast of muesli and freshly cooked pancakes I wandered down to the beach. My heart dropped when I saw a half blue, half red flag flying from the watchtower. That meant only experienced sailors should venture into the ocean, and I could see why. The wind was high and the waves were choppy. This placed me in a predicament. Tomorrow we were going on an all day mountain bike ride and the following day we were booked onto an Aegean cruise to visit some of the surrounding islands. The day after that we were flying back to Gatwick. Today was my last chance to master sailing. Maybe this was fate, with only one day left to hone my skills perhaps throwing myself in at the deep end was the best way to conquer the high seas. I weighed up my options for a second and decided sailing was the only option. I got a lifejacket from the equipment hut and asked for a boat. When asked if I had appropriate experience for the troublesome conditions I lied and nodded as if it was a stupid question.
I clambered aboard and wobbled out to sea. Within seconds the boat was shaking from side to side and I felt out of my depth. I was furiously fiddling with the sail trying to balance the boat, it reminded me of my first time trying to drive a car. There are so many things to remember; the clutch, accelerator, brake, steering wheel and indicators, or in this case the sail, the mast, the tiller and rudder. The only difference is when driving you have an instructor telling you what you’ve forgotten. When sailing, a metal boom pole swings round and hits you in the face. Worse things do happen at sea. When the boat threatens to overturn, you have to use your body weight to counter it and lean backwards out of the other side of the boat. This is actually quite fun and doing it successfully gives a real feeling of man conquering water. Then I capsized.
I resurfaced from underwater spluttering and humiliated. My boat was upside down. I saw the rescue boat in the distance and reluctantly performed the distress signal. The rescue boat saw me and zoomed over straight away. This is the boating equivalent of calling the AA, but much more embarrassing. The understanding lifeguard showed me how to right my boat, the technical term for uncapsizing, and helped me back onto my vessel. I set off again and improved my handling of the boat, beginning to better understand its balancing point. I also became more competent at manipulating the sail to capture the wind. Then I capsized three more times. After the fourth capsize, I deemed it unnecessary to call the rescue boat over. In a matter of seconds I had removed the dagger board, pulled myself up onto the hull, freed the mainsail from the water and returned my boat to an upright position. If you asked me how to control a boat in windy conditions, I wouldn’t be able to help you. But if you asked me to right a capsized boat, I could have it upright before you’d finished the sentence. As I got back into my boat for the fifth time, I realised my sunglasses had disappeared. It seemed I had left more than my dignity on the seabed below, my broken pride was hiding amongst the seaweed, behind a pair of shiny black Ray-Ban’s. Riding the crest of a wave of new-found optimism after righting my boat so expertly, I had planned to attempt to sail back to shore. But this latest kick in the teeth, coupled with the rough waves and swirling wind between me and the beach, broke my resolve and I called over the rescue boat for the final time and sheepishly asked him to tow me towards land. My sailing career had lasted as long as my desire to learn Russian after spending £100 on textbooks and materials. I went overboard on both.
I wandered into town to try and forget about my failings as a sailor. I was lost in my thoughts, deciding whether to try windsurfing or waterskiing when I return here next year, when Big Dave jumped out of an ice cream shop. Wearing an inflatable ring around his midriff, he stuck a pair of novelty flashing sunglasses on my head and asked the inevitable.
“Pub crawl tonight? Only five euros for you, my friend.”
“Go on then.” What else did I have to lose? Saying no to anything when you’re wearing a pair of flashing sunglasses makes you feel like a killjoy. And I liked his enthusiasm, if I’d approached sailing as eagerly as he went about his business, maybe I wouldn’t have a bruise on my forehead from the boom.
Big Dave’s Big Night Out is optional, but if you like sun, sea, sand and adventure then Mark Warner’s Lakitira Resort is a must.
A big thank you to Mark Warner for this activity holiday in Greece. For more information visit MarkWarner.co.uk. Also thank you to Lee Hubbard from Global Grasshopper for taking the photos while I did my best to stay in the boat.