12/18/2009 05:57:00 pm

Land Ho

Posted by Tom French |

Sailing.jpg

I'm home from the camp of sailing goodness.

I'm not really much of sailor. I went sailing once as a young lad* and remember there was a bed on board the boat. And that's my entire sailing experience.

As you also know I was a little ill equipped for sailing adventures before leaving having no hat that attached to my clothes, no woollen jumper and no rashie. However Valentina did kindly offer me this hat, and I visited K-Mart before leaving for camp and bought myself a rashie which I intend on using approximately zero more times in my life.

I was also a little perplexed how I was going to get to camp as I had a wedding to go to on Saturday morning (which was lovely thank-you-very-much, but I missed lunch, damn it) meaning that I would miss the first few hours of camp, and all the lifts to camp.

But Ryan kindly drove me to camp so we could bond as the kilometres drifted past as we lazily made our way an hour up the Central Coast. Then he drove home alone. He's a good friend Ryan. As is Lesley who lent out her car again for the trip.

So I arrived at camp feeling happy to have solved a few of my issues and a little apprehensive as to what camp with a bunch of unknowns would be like and what my lack of sailing skills would do to my camp enjoyment.

But as it happens both turned out fine. The people on the camp were lovely, campers and leaders, and I didn't die while sailing once.

Admittedly I only sailed twice, and both were on the most stable boat of the fleet. I spent another day on the rescue boat filming for the camp video guy. It was a windy day so I just spent most of the time filming capsized boats and injured campers.

The second time I went sailing all the boats had a race around the lake. My boat was chock full with 11 people, competing with other boats who had around 5 or less people (except one which was the same as ours with 12 people although they were almost entirely year 7 kids who we all know about are about a 3rd of the bulk of a normal sized human). On my boat, Noah's Ark, there was Tom (the captain), Tom (the speaker) and 9 of the girls. It was like sailing with people smugglers. In an attempt to lighten our boat for the race we devised a cunning scheme, to throw the children overboard, and the speaker too, and then send our boat off to race with a lightweight crew off five.

So just before the race began, we slipped quietly into the water like Navy SEALs. Sadly the other people smuggler boat noticed and threw many of their children overboard too. Soon there were more bodies in the water than boats.

Still the plan seemed to be working. Noah's Ark was in second place for the first lap. Soon race officials turned up though and told us that we'd have to join our boat as it came around for the second and final lap due to safety requirements. When Noah's Ark came around all 6 of us who were in the water hauled ourselves back into the boat in less than a minute, Noah's Ark kept going and we managed to maintain second place. It was a magnificent piece of seamanship, a rapid boarding of which even Somalian pirates would be proud.

We ended up coming in second but being disqualified because we had dumped our crew. I'm told that in official racing rules a boat must finish a race with the same number of crew that it crosses the start line with. We finished with an extra six. Had the race officials not told us to join our boat I think we could have mounted a good argument for holding on to second place. But The Man doesn't like innovation and so we were kicked out because we broke convention.

If all sailing races involved jumping overboard on a 36°C day and just hanging around in the water, I reckon I could do the sailing gig. But sadly, I think most racing teams aren't looking for people to join their crew just to jump overboard at the start line.

Perhaps my favourite activity was helping people get out of the water into the rescue boat and Noah's Ark. I think I liked it because it was a role that made you feel a little like you were rescuing people. You'd either pull them up by monkey grip or by gabbing them by the strap on the back of their life jacket and hauling them into the boat. The latter option was the most preferable because it felt more like rescue work probably due to the utilitarian nature of the boat entry and it's reliance entirely on my hauling power. Seeing as I spent the rest of the time sitting on the boat being rather useless it was good to be needed a little bit.

Apart from all my aquatic adventures, the camp was still good fun. The campers were friendly and well behaved as were the leaders. My talks seemed to go well. References to my talks regularly popped up during other parts of the camp, so I at least knew that people were paying attention. One popular line was "I'm angry enough to die", though my particular favourite were the multiple references to my "lady friends", perhaps only because I feel it's important to propagate the myth that I'm a player.

Aside from that there were a number of people who indicated they wanted to become Christians, so you can't complain about that. (Well I'm sure many people could, but no good Evangelical can, and that's what I am.)

I did notice once again that relationship building in free time on camps is not in my skill set. Free time tends to mean that I go and read my book or have a sleep. I think it's the introvert in me coming out. Being faced with unstructured hanging out where you need to go and just relate to people you don't know all that well, kinda scares me. Books and sleeping on the other hand are personal favourites of mine.

All up, I did have a good camp. I used to dream about being a camp speaker, back in the old days. I used to think camp speaking was like the pinnacle of preaching, because you were good enough to get asked to do five talks in a row and you were a little bit of a celebrity to 50 young people for a week. Having achieved this particular, low-end dream, it's not really like that. But it is certainly a privilege, very enjoyable, and I love the chance to hang out with a whole bunch of excellent young people. Plus I love getting free food for a week.

I reckon I'll keep doing camps as long as I keep getting asked though I'm not sure if I'll sail again any time soon, though I'll practice my hauling skills just in case.

*I need to stop using the phrase "young lad" around teenagers because they think I'm talking about when I was younger and I had a rat's tail, a bum bag, short shorts, and Nike cap put badly on my head.

Photo by: Januz Leszczynski

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