In the fourth of the ‘Challenge Zoë’ activities for The Kendal Courier I had a sailing lesson with Outrun Sailing, based in Bowness on Windermere, on England’s longest lake in the heart of the Lake District. Here’s the original of the article that originally appeared in the magazine.
“I can’t find the wind …” There was a slight note of hysteria in my voice as I wafted the wheel from side to side with no visible effect. “Don’t worry – it’s gone away so let’s just relax and enjoy the view.” So said Simon, the totally chilled instructor for Outrun Sailing, where you can get RYA certified, charter a yacht for a celebration or organise a business day out. I was having a couple of hours’ tuition to brush up my skills. I love sailing on Windermere and used to race every Sunday, but hadn’t been out for ages.
We took a nippy zodiac out to the mooring near Windermere Marina and got on board ‘The Adventurer’, a sleek 32 foot yacht with plenty of space to move around and a good sized cabin. Simon gave a safety briefing that included what to do if he fell over – “don’t panic!” – then we motored out into the lake. Simon demonstrated how to use the winches for the sheets (ropes) and gave a quick lesson in the quirky nautical terminology that all sailors like to baffle land-lubbers with.
It was an overcast afternoon but the morning’s rain had cleared and there was a light breeze. We hauled the two sails up - I’ve always found it difficult to know which way to turn a boat to make the most of the wind but Simon explained it all really clearly and soon we were slipping across the lake at a fair rate of knots. With a large wheel which responded smoothly to the touch it was easy to steer the yacht. There can surely be no lovelier place to spend time on the water than Windermere, with its little green isles, wooded shores, luxury Victorian houses and the glorious Lake District fells hovering above it all.
As we meandered from side to side along the lake, I got more confident and started to enjoy that wonderful sensation of being at one with the elements. The rain held off and the skies gradually brightened. Tacking, when you zig-zag from side to side to catch the wind, can seem annoying to those who love to go in a straight line and zoom along – but for those of us who like to take our time, with a light zephyr helping along, it’s a great way to enjoy the scenery. And if there is a strong wind blowing then it can be both fast and exhilarating – and occasional dangerous! Not the case today …
Eventually we had to turn back; and it was then I got a tad panicky as I tried to find the elusive breeze. The sun had come out and the wind had dropped completely. Simon said, “Just relax. There’s nothing we can do – it’s the Zen of Sailing …”
So we sat back and enjoyed the scenery, birds wheeling overhead, a graceful ferry taking visitors around the lake and children shouting with glee as they paddled about in kayaks. Eventually the breeze picked up again and we slowly made our way back to shore, relaxed and invigorated by the little adventure on the water.