October 23, 2011

Sailing Lessons

The Sailing Club ( at a yet undisclosed location)

It’s not that I am dying, but I thought it was about time to start working on my bucket list. Life’s too short, and you never know when you’re going to go, and wouldn’t it be a pity that you didn’t do all the things you would like have liked to do before your time was up?

I have always wanted to sail around the Mediterranean. One prerequisite is – besides owning a sail boat – that you should know how to sail. Now I come from a country where everybody and their grandmothers know how to sail. I am not quite sure how this all happened, but I somehow skipped that phase. I cannot sail. Even my son knows how to sail. But not his mom. I live about a block away from the sea. I have access to a sail boat. There’s always wind in Lebanon. I could practically go sailing 300 days a year! Yet I do not know how to sail.
The instructor & Marijke

Now this didn’t bother me, but the item – ‘Sail around the Mediterranean’ – remained on my bucket list. Until this summer, when I went sailing (for a mere 2 hours, I might add) with my brother off the coast of Narbonne, in France. I thought the experience was so fantastic that I decided then and there that upon my return to Lebanon, I’d take up sailing.

I am taking this very seriousLY (See Hadile, I know!)

I took me a while to find a sailing school though. Readers in Lebanon are probably all going to say now “Oh, but I know a good sailing school!” Well, I looked around, asked around and surfed the web, but couldn’t find anything that instilled much enthusiasm nor trust. Web sites that didn’t work, phone numbers that weren’t answered, people that had moved; it did not predict much professionalism. Lebanon is not much of a sailing nation anyway; people prefer the motor boat; it requires less effort.

But finally I ran into the web site with phone numbers that were functioning, prices posted, all transparent and simple, and I called for a sailing course. No problem. Start on Saturday. Now I could share with you the place & name, but I won’t, until after I know how to sail. I’d like to keep these people and place for myself for the moment.
Bow knots, eight knots and crochet hooks

And so this Saturday I went with a Dutch friend of mine - who by chance is the other Dutch person in the world who doesn’t know how to sail (no matter that her brother even owns a sail boat rental company) - to this lovely place on the beach to get our first lesson in sailing.

Now picture this. We’re not exactly 21 years old. We’ve got children that are taller than we are. We are working women. The last time we sat around a campfire on the beach with a guitar and a bottle of red wine (or more) was probably in the eighties if I remember correctly. Yes, even the ‘remembering part’ is getting a little shoddy, so you get the picture.

Bumming around on the beach

And on the beach we encounter our instructor. A boy of maybe 21 years old, who has lived on the beach for probably half of his life or more, and who probably doesn’t own a shirt, because who needs one? Dread locks, tan, six-pack (okay, I may be exaggerating a bit here) bare feet; your perfect beach bum.

And this guy, looking forward to teach two Dutch girls the finer aspect of sailing – because that’s what I think I said on the phone, that we were from Holland – sees these 2 unglamerous housewives coming down the stairs with a bunch of kids in tow.

Our study notes

He was a wonderfully good sport about it! Without skipping a beat, he went right to work. He taught us all about the wind, the directions, the terminology needed for the moment, jibing, tacking, dead-run, broad reach, up and downwind, center board and what not all. Dutifully we sat down and like good students, made our notes.
Afterwards he made us ‘untackle’ (I am afraid I was slightly distracted here by his chest so missed the exact terminology) the boat, i.e. taking off all the ropes (is that what you call it in a sail boat?), the center board, rudder, sail, mast and boom (I think it is called a boom), and then made use re-assemble the boat again. He taught us bow knots and eight knots, and we taught him the crochet knot, and we had great fun. I think in the end it quite amused him to teach sailing to ladies that could be his mother.
Life is a beach

The weather was gorgeous and the mood was relaxed. They had placed a couch on the beach, and from the look of it, all the guys hanging around the sailing club, probably lived on & around this couch for most of the year. What these guys do in winter, you wonder? My guess is they get their snowboard out of some closet, dust it off, and bum around the slopes of Faraya until it’s time to go back to the beach again. I tell you, if I were young again, that’s what I would do too. What a life!

Oh, did I mention our sailing instructor?

Next week our second sailing lesson, so stayed tune, because he took one long look at us, and his boat, and he said “I wonder if you can handle this boat. You know, it capsizes really easily, and I don’t know if you’ll be able to get the sail out of the water.” Well, watch us buster! We’re all working out this week.


Pepsi Can Pat said...

>Now I could share with you the place & name, but I won’t

Well that one is just too easy!

Cause if you squint real bad I think you can see me fishing on the rocks in the background!

And I am aware I am becoming your official stalker, so maybe I should stop trying to figure out where every pic you post is located :-)

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

This had me laughing, and just to be clear: I'm the third Dutch person who does not know how to sail, amazing if you realize that I was born in Sneek, sailing town extraordinaire. I guess I had my nose in a book while opportunity passed me by.

Now that I am wiser, I'd love to know how to sail, so I admire you greatly for learning it now at the ripe old age of whatever it is! Fantastisch.

Of course, just hanging out with that sailing instructor would be incentive enough.

Anonymous said...

I think I should have a bucket list. Maybe learning to fly a plane would be on that... I have wanted to take lessons for some time but I am not sure that I should even consider it.

H in the Wild

Mich said...

Hilarious! Can't wait to hear how you get along! Good luck :-)

Anonymous said...

the background of the couch pic is quite revealing of the location :)

Sietske said...

@ Pepsi Can Pat; Identify yourself, young man, so I can come and bug you while you're fishing next week! Don;t tell anyone, I want to learn how to sail in peace ;p
@ Miss Footloose: OMG, a third Dutch person who does not know how to sail!!!!! Well, there's a lot more on my bucket list, and I doubt I'll accomplish many of them. But you're right, the instructor is an incentive, although I didn't know we'd have this kind of instructor when we started!
H in the wild: How about buying a car first!!! And a shot gun to shoot that bear! Would look good over your fire place! Or in front of your fireplace, even better!
Mich: will keep you updated!!
Anonymous: WHat's in the background? A fishing village. Could be any village.

Nick said...

Well now- all you needed to was ask- though I know I'm no match at all for the instructor you ended up with! but sailing was the one little bit it DID pick up as a kid. Done tons. Own a 30' sloop back in Canada. Really really want to sail round the med before it's too late. So if you want to go out again, give me a buzz.

Anita said...

Well... here is the fourth Dutch woman who can't sail ;-)
I can canoe a little, but haven't used my canoe the last three years...
I think it is great you are learing how to sail!

Anonymous said...


In the far background are Chekka cliffs.. so the location must be somewhere before Batroun ;)

Anonymous said...

Hoi Sietske,

Waar ben je geweest?
Ik dat je een lekkere man naast je zit! Het lijkt mij ook leuk om zo man te hebben:)
De groet aan Hana en Adriaan!
We zien jullie snel.
Tien en Jacob

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Awesome sailing lessons! why you don't post a tutorial? it would be so nice!

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Now that I am wiser, I'd love to know how to sail, so I admire you greatly for learning it now at the ripe old age of whatever it is! Fantastisch.

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You have a great setting there. The tiki huts are wonderful! Now that you have leaned how to sail, it is now your duty to yourself to sail every opportunity that you have!

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