By sir Taki Theodoracopulos
There are those who say it’s better than sex, but I’m not one of them. Sailing is great fun, a wonderful adventure, even a competitive sport, but it’s not sex, and was never intended to be. But I do see the connection: the sea, after all, is feminine, and the sea has feminine traits: temperamental, serene, untrustworthy, necessary, mysterious, dangerous, beautiful, giver of life, taker of life, profound, unpredictable… I could go on but I can hear the feminists already up in arms.
Since man began sailing for pleasure, aesthetics have been the driving force of design and execution. The writer Antoine de Saint – Exupery who, as an aviator, was associated with sailing said, “If you want to build a boat, do not summon people to make plans or collect wood, but teach them how to yearn for the endless sea. Then they will build the ship automatically.” The building of a ship, especially a sailing ship begins with a dream. The bolder and more magnificent the dream, the better the boat. Some boats look elegant and lean, like the lady of your dreams, and then there are some boats that look like true friends, like women that one’s friendly with without sexual thoughts ever entering the equation. But there I go again, mentioning sailing and sex in the same sentence, I wouldn’t put it past some bore to accuse me of some rare sexual fantasy involving water.
First and foremost a sailing boat has to be beautiful, if for no other reason than to avoid insulting the sea. As stated previously, the sea can turn awfully ugly when insulted, and I shall describe a tantrum of hers later in this article. I’ve always sailed on boats belonging to my father or yours truly that were built for sailing in rough seas. All of them felt as though I was handling a ship that moved through the seas as if she’d done that for centuries. Those of you who have sailed in boats that felt like ping pong balls and mushed to and fro like a bowl of melting jello, will know exactly what I mean.
It was a long time ago, 1970 to be exact. I was 33 years old and was used to sailing to places like Hydra and Spetsai on my father’s magnificent Aries, the largest sailing boat built after the war at Camper Nicholson. I had watched the pine covered hills of the Peloponnese once too often, and had sailed the placid waters of the Aegean ad nauseam. When I purchased my first Bushido in Sweden I decided to put her to the test right away. Sailing down from Sweden, in the waters between Ireland and Britain, the skies grew grayer and darker. I had three Greek crewmen – and I kid you not – named, Karamanlis, Papadopoulos and Grivas, and my old karate buddy Jeff, plus a very pretty English blonde who throughout the ordeal I am about to relate never said a word, just looked calm and rather disinterested.
The waves were two to three feet but glassy and reflective, a bright metal sheet crumbling without sound. In the distance ahead I could see a small squall, a cloud with dark rain beneath it and the waters roughened. Then the squall reached us and for almost an hour we had thick rain and gusty winds, the seas increasing. The spray was coming over the deck with every wave, visibility was decreasing by the minute, and then the howling began in the rigging and the wind instruments showed thirty to thirty-five knots.
In another couple of minutes, the sea changed yet again, and building far too quickly into forty to forty-five knot winds pushing up larger swells. Suddenly a knockdown! That is when the mast hits the water horizontally, the sea covering the sail and keeping the boat lying sideways. Grivas, rushing back from his post in the bow, stepped on the main cabin’s glass and flew through it, fortunately emerging uninjured. We were probably a hundred miles from any land and desperately tried to call for help, but no one was answering our mayday.
The swells had now become streaky and we had managed to right the boat, but we were badly shaken. We were rolling fifty degrees on our side so we decided to go into the waves rather than be battered sideways. Waves five times the size of what we’d seen previously battered us mercilessly. We tried to throttle down the waves while slamming hard into them on our way up for longer than I thought humanly possible. The crew was exhausted, Jeff had passed out after vomiting non-stop for an hour, and Riona remained unruffled although beginning to resemble a dead woman with absolutely no expression on her face. I was thinking what a fool I was to trade the beautiful Ionian and Aegean for this shit.
Soon the light was dying and the wind gauge was showing fifty-eight knots. We were in the middle of a storm without a ship or land in sight. Down below the cabins and salons were under water as Grivas’s carcass flying through the glass had invited Poseidon’s myrmidons to our quarters for the duration. And on it went. Our bow would go up and up and still the wave would rise above us, then it would break and plunge us into the breach. At times I thought we would fall backwards as we climbed the next giant wave. And on it went, throughout the night. I swore that if we survived I would never, ever lie to a woman again or go sailing for that matter, but you know how it is. The moment the winds died down and that fucking Poseidon stopped waving his trireme, all promises made under pressure were forgotten by the simple joy of still being alive. Incidentally, we had no harnesses on board yet no one had been lost overboard.
Well, do any of you still like sailing after this description? I still do but now I sail like an old man, with my wife, son and daughter and three grandchildren. It is enough to make a strong man cry. I’d take that storm again in a jiffy if I could be 33 again. But keep sailing, it beats sitting in a traffic jam in central Athens.