As the season for sailing club meetings looms, it's time to look back at last year's mistakes, and look forward to next year's adventures, says Jonty Pearce

Jonty Pearce: As we approached the weekend the weather forecast cheerfully predicted snow, ice and gales. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my predilection for armchair cruising during the winter climes; I’m glad to say that this weekend I avoided the weather and indulged in sailing activities a little more energetic in the form of our club AGM and Ceilidh. The AGM provides a forum to boast about the year’s cruises, anticipate the cruises to come, and mock those who have made idiots of themselves – me included.

As I had anticipated I received the ‘The Golden Gaffe’ again. This worthy award is an 8 inch aluminium gaffe ‘won’ by a club member after an irate Frenchman had thrown his toys, including said gaffe, out of his pram in an anchor-entangling episode. After indulging in some Gallic swearing and insults he was rather taken aback that to discover that his English target had worked on a French building site during a prior existence, and was in fact far more fluent and experienced to indulge in such a blasphemous exchange.

The humbled Frenchman retreated, leaving his gaffe behind. It is now engraved with the name of the perpetrator, place, and details of worthy exploits either good or bad. I have won past club awards for unwinding a prop-wrapped anchor rode (by turning the engine in reverse), and for creating the tri-function boathook (both chartered boats had managed to lose or break the proper item so I lashed a potato masher to the blunt end of the ship’s broom, thereby creating a boathook/broom/masher that could be passed between boats when it came to picking up moorings, then be used to mash the spuds before tidying up with a bit of sweeping).

The reason my name was put forward for inclusion this time, however, was for a less productive reason; my club fame as ‘The man who tried to melt Edam’. The town, not the cheese. Having disposed of a cold, non-functioning instant barbecue in the trash bin after thoroughly soaking it I deny all inference that the Dutch Fire Brigade had to be called to fill said skip with foam in order to extinguish the conflagration caused, allegedly, by my barbecue disposal. I have learnt to take my new label on the chin.

Another award went to my worthy colleague Ian, who succeeded in entering the one remaining vacant box berth in Edam Marina by inventing ‘The Edam Shimmy’. The berth’s poles were 2.6m apart, but his beam was 2.7m. A little forward power whilst alternating the helm between full port and full starboard wriggled his yacht neatly into the berth, egged on by a shapely Dutch lady waggling her ample hips in encouragement while chanting ‘Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy’. Departing was not quite so easy – and he was sad to leave.

After the business of the afternoon was completed, we enjoyed a skipper’s forum to exchange good tips and wise seamanship before sampling the real ale, wine, and dinner as the band set up. Once all were replete, the dance floor was cleared so we could all jig about to settle our food properly. Or, of course, gather round the bar to tell tall tales and boast of false passages.

So, as the wind rattles our windows and the slush lies underfoot, we can still enjoy sailing chatter in good company whilst anticipating the joys of the coming season. And, week by week, the days draw out and the dark nights shorten. Those halcyon days of warm, dry, sunny drifting as the orange sun sinks to the horizon will soon be with us again. Bring it on, says I.


Jonty Pearce: Winter migration

Jonty Pearce and his pontoon mates are made homeless for the winter when a howling gale necessitates some marina repairs

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