Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Packed and ready to go: all set for a week sailing on the Clyde

Right, well here we go with the real purpose of beginning this blog, a "proper trip ".

It won't have escaped your attention that, subsequent to setting up this account and posting an introductory piece, I haven't been particularly good at furnishing you with reading material. It hasn't been due to lack of ambition, or even imagination, but rather a tendency to over complicate things, to aim for perfect prose on every occasion and then to run out of steam part way through.

But those early posts, including the ones you've never seen, were only meant to hold your interest until the opportunity for more sustained blogging sailed along.

Which brings me neatly up to date. I am writing this with only a couple of days left at work before embarking on a week long jaunt up to Scotland and around the Firth of Clyde. My bag is virtually packed, I have my tickets to get there and back, and I thankfully also have my brand new bespoke waterproofs, more about which I shall surely write in due course.

Now, I should stress that although this is a pleasure trip, insofar as it is a week away from work, in a beautiful landscape, doing something I enjoy. It will not come without a degree of challenge however, not to mention bucket loads of elbow grease. Of the thirty or so visually impaired and around fifteen sighted people taking part in the VISA GB Clyde Flotilla Week there are no passengers.

Split between six chartered yachts, each hopefully having a couple of sighted sailors (including the Skipper, you'll be relieved to learn ) to ensure we head in the right direction, we will be setting sail for a week of adventure, or at least windswept days and cozy nights, in the estuary of Scotland's great River Clyde.

Those who know me well will recall that I am no stranger to sailing. Having answered a plea for more blind and partially sighted sailors, broadcast on BBC Radio Four's In Touch programme back in 2008 I joined my sort-of-local Sailability club, located on the other side of London, beside Greenland Dock. There, I was fortunate to benefit from the knowledge and know how of a number of experienced and wonderfully enthusiastic sailors. Learning the basics of turning handfuls of rope and unpredictable gusts into forward motion occupied me for much of the summer and autumn before, rather ambitiously joining a selection exercise for the British Blind Sailing team, who were shortly to compete on the world stage in New Zealand. Much to my surprise I was picked as one of two reserves, and only narrowly missed out on flying halfway across the world to uphold my country's honour.

Whilst I never again did quite as much sailing as in those first six months or so, I did compete in four Blind National Championships, hosted by the East Anglian Sailing Trust on the River Orwell in Suffolk, succeeding in winning two of them. Following my most recent win circumstances led me to hang up my buoyancy aid and take a break from the water

So, it is not without some knowledge that I signed up to spend seven nights on a yacht with a handful of strangers. But, there is a world of difference between sailing dinghies and small keelboats in short, sharp races, and cruising a river estuary for extended periods of time, in the rather close company of seven other people. Therefore, with the time before we let slip our lines now swiftly ebbing away I must confess to feeling somewhat trepidacious about the days ahead.

But, enough of that for now, there are practicalities to deal with and expectations to manage.

Sitting here at home it is easy to promise long, immersive, blog entries, sparkling galleries of perfectly framed photographs, and atmospheric audioboo recordings capturing every moment in glorious stereo detail. Not wanting to disappoint however, let me say now that I will give you what I can, when I am able to, but not very much else. In other words, the nature of this trip is likely to mean that I will be occupied for much of my time away, and the opportunities for hiding myself away to pen pieces of prose are likely to be few and far between. Furthermore, there is highly likely to be a striking difference between getting my thoughts down in a clear and understandable manner, and ensuring that every "i" is dotted. My written entries will inevitably contain uncorrected typographical, and even factual, errors, and I will inevitably publish photographs showing my feet or the back of someone's head. Please understand that I would not willingly publish such content, but accepting that this will be the case could make the difference between giving you a flavour of the trip, and keeping it all to myself!

In a couple of day's time I will be hanging up my guide dog and picking up my cane, shouldering an unwieldy holdall, and heading across town to join that night's Caledonian Sleeper service bound for Glasgow. I hope that you will be there with me, at least in spirit, to share the highs and lows, battle the challenges and savour the memories. I very much look forward to having you along.

Location:Richmond,United Kingdom

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