I began sailing in 1994 when I joined the local club here in Abingdon on the river Thames. I was besotted with boats of all kinds, but now I was learning to sail, it was fantastic.
Crewing in a Merlin Rocket in the Autumn months on the river was almost suicide! The experienced racers showed me the way to sail competitively.
But somehow it did not feel right. I disliked the fierce attitudes and felt that I wanted to sail somewhere and discover things. I dreamed of sailing a dinghy on the sea and one day we all went to Poole Harbour in a stiff breeze and I had a real shock! This was sailing and I needed to learn how to sail in a different way to be safe.
Over the years since, I have sailed in many locations around the south coast and in Cornwall. I decided to do my Day Skipper training and also get the short wave marine licence. The navigation aspect took over and I spent many nights staring at charts of the Solent. Yet larger boats did not satisfy something deep down.
I found a lovely Wayfarer and joined the UKWA; it was here that I began to day sail properly and in relative safety. I have sailed West Wight Potters, Enterprises, Lasers and many others since.
But then came the development of discovering lovely little creeks and cooking aboard. I lost any appetite I ever had for racing. I am not adverse to using my outboard as I know some are. It has helped me get to otherwise inaccessible places.
Then one day I discovered the DCA. I read about them and realised that I was not a Martian after all. Many others around the country were just the same as me. Since that time, I have met a number of members while out dinghy sailing for the day. It is really nice to do that.
I don't think I shall make a habit of sleeping on my Wanderer 'Castaway', I save that for the occasions when I charter a Cornish Shrimper in Falmouth (they are so much more comfortable I find). But dinghy cruising has become my life's great passion. I am never so relaxed as when at sea with the smells and the sound of the gulls.
If I could offer any single piece of advice to would be sailors, I would say this: Be brave, you only live once; if you are determined, you will succeed. Just be safe and consider learning some navigation, if nothing else for the safety of your crew. You will be surprised just how good you will feel about yourself! Being a helmsman with a crew is a responsibility that is developmental to a person.