How I went from beginner to yacht skipper - Part 1 - my first sailing experience
I never thought I'd be into sailing but since going on my first trip I discovered a true passion. Here's how it all started.
I had nothing better to do this one week in April other than study for my undergraduate engineering exams so I’d agreed, four months prior, to join my friend and 48 other people I’d never met on a sailing trip consisting of five yachts from Sardinia to Corsica via the Maddalena islands. Sailing is definitely one of those activities I’d always thought you’d have to be born into in order to pursue as a hobby so I was curious and excited to discover an activity I was so unfamiliar with. The trip would leave such a lasting impression on me that I decided to pursue sailing seriously and obtain my skipper license so that I too could one day start taking my friends and loved ones on trips such as this one.
My friend and his four mates were experienced sailors and all had their skipper licenses so I knew we were in safe hands. I’d never gone on a sailing trip before and liked the idea of being out at sea with a bunch of what I was assured were “really cool people”. My one real concern was how much this trip would set me back. I was really quite surprised to find out that the overall expense was much less than what seven nights in an average hotel in Sardinia would have cost me. In fact, this was a pretty good deal considering the expense for the trip included the skippers, accommodation and food for the entire week - plus I’d get to sail around and choose where to spend each night…or day for that matter with the sea at my disposal!
My next big worry was trying to remember how bad my friend snored so I decided to play it safe: I’d be bringing heavy duty earplugs just in case.
With a month to go before the trip, we all received a detailed email with a description of our travel itinerary, useful info about the places we would be visiting, contact numbers, and a list of things to pack (lo and behold earplugs were mentioned!).
Finally the big day came and we all met up in Paris Orly airport where we were introduced to our skippers for the week and the 9 other people we’d be sharing the yacht with. We were each being paired-up and I was going to be sharing a cabin with my friend, the skipper of our boat. The skippers gave us a nice brief of our week and told us we’d get to meet the rest of the merry crew at the marina where we would be picking up our yachts.
After landing in Sardinia we made our way to the marinas where our yachts were waiting for us. The skippers had organised enough food for the week which had been delivered to the marina in crates that were now sitting in front of the boats. Seeing as each yacht had its own fully-kitted kitchens, the skippers had planned easy-to-cook recipes we’d all be helping out with including pasta bolognese, carbonara and even a prawn curry. Apart from two evenings where we explored the city we had moored-in, we mainly cooked and ate on our yachts in fantastic bays and coves.
Before setting-off the morning after landing in Sardinia, the skippers took the time to give us a good safety brief and explain to those of us who’d never sailed before how to operate the boat as well as some of the theory behind sailing.
I still remember the huge rush I felt once we’d motored out of the marina, hoisted the sails and switched the motor off. The sails caught the wind and the yacht began to heel as it picked up speed and I kept a huge grin on my face for the remainder of that trip!
During the week we stayed in various locations including stunning bays with large sandy beaches (one days we went ashore for a wonderful hike and picnic with a great view of the bay and our five boats – see pic3), rocky coves with crystal clear water, bustling marinas and picturesque towns (Bonifacio on the southern tip of Corsica remains one of the highlights of the trip for me). The evenings we spent anchored out in bays and coves were magical. We’d all help out with the cooking, enjoy each other’s company in a fantastic setting, go for a midnight dip, admire the starlit sky, then let ourselves be lulled to sleep by the gentle lapping of the waves on the boat’s hull. Nothing like what I was used to back home where my sleep was ineluctably affected by the flight path into London Heathrow airport, cats fighting in the streets, drunks stumbling home from a night out, or the soft and gentle flutter of rubbish men flinging with unreserved vigour the contents of our bins in rubbish trucks.
A particularly fond memory of mine was the day we sailed towards the end of the afternoon to a vast bay with no other boats than ours. Setting our dinghies to the water we paddled to shore (some of us preferring to exhibit our amphibious qualities and swim to shore instead) and unloaded our bags filled with food. The skippers had spotted this area on the maps earlier and thought it would make a perfect place for a campfire. Imagine 50 people who by now had become good friends sat around a roaring fire on a deserted beach telling each other stories and having a good time. The tricky part was getting those who’d started a 5-a-side football game and those who were playing Frisbee to help out gathering logs and branches for the fire.
This was unlike any other trip I’d done before. I’d had an immense amount of fun, discovered a passion for sailing and met a bunch of fantastic people I’d learned so much about. There aren’t that many fun activities we get to do which allow us to bond with others to such an extent and I couldn’t wait to find out about sailing courses back home so that I too could organise a sailing trip of my own along with close friends. That’s the beauty of sailing, you get to choose which location to discover and explore, and all in great company!
Several years down the line and I’ve since gotten my skipper licences and taken friends and family on trips they too have cherished. Sharing this passion with others has been such a rewarding experience and I hope this recollection will encourage others to gather friends and family and put “three sheets to the wind!”
About the author:
Gregoire Sharma is of French-Indian origin and grew-up in London. He is one of the founders of Yacht Pack, a keen sailor and a RYA certified skipper. When he's not sailing in his free-time, Greg is fully committed to his role as a portfolio manager at a London-based investment firm. We love his infectious good humour and his regular bursts of laughter when hearing Monty Python or Only Fools And Horses impressions. Feel free to send him your funniest jokes for him to pass on as his own at email@example.com