The bar, in fact, played a large part of sailing during club nights on Bristol’s Floating Harbour and for post-race commiserations at various reservoirs and rivers across Wales and the West Country.
I spent a couple of happy years with George and thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of racing and more especially being on the water. We never won anything during our time together but my life was definitely enhanced by the experience of harnessing the wind and the harmony of two people in a boat.
Sailing quickly disappeared from my horizon and apart from couple of outings with a friend and his wife it seemed it would never return. During holidays in Greece I’d often spend time enviously watching crews moor up on late, balmy afternoons excitedly talking about their day. I often dreamt of someday arriving at a small, sunny marina and sitting back to enjoy a glass of something chilled until the sun disappeared into the sea.
I had to wait 37 years until I got back onto a sailing yacht when my wife Jacquie and I took part in a 'Discover Sailing' event with the Civil Service sailing division based at Ipswich harbour during three damp days in April . . . not many chilled drinks on deck. We enjoyed ourselves so much we returned a few months later and took our Competent Crew certificates. They were never awarded to us after we decided we couldn’t afford to join the club . . . and with that my dream was sunk.
Nine years later and purely by accident a light was ignited somewhere far off and the dream was reborn. I had signed up for kayaking sessions on the Thames with the Westminster Boating Base and noticed they were holding a Day Skipper theory course. I joined the 10-week intensive introduction into safety, passage making, navigation and all aspects of yacht sailing with nine other like-minded souls who trudged through the wintry streets of Pimlico from January to March, with the hope that their own dreams were within reach.
Just six months later, I headed to Gosport Marina to join three other keen students to spend five days on the Solent with Nomad Sailing aboard Nomad II with RYA examiner Andrew Pascoots to try for our Day Skipper Certificates. Thankfully all our efforts were rewarded and armed with my little 'licence' I can begin a new voyage of discovery.
I will soon be back out on the Solent with one of my Day Skipper crewmates where we will be increasing our learning curves with one of the Nomad yachts and hone our new found skills.
Jacquie and I have just booked our second trip with Activity Holidays Greece sailing out of Nidri on the beautiful Greek island of Lefkada.
It was there just two months before my practical test on the Solent, that we joined a dedicated, fun team of skippers along with a delightful crewmate, who not only passed on their skills and knowledge but guided me towards my goal of becoming a Day Skipper.
So it was 47 years after my first sailing experience with the wonderful George Simpkins, with chilled drink in hand and sun dipping into the Ionian Sea that my dream was finally fulfilled. Undoubtedly the first of many. Cheers George!