Your very first sail!

Way, way back in the mists of time in the 1950's our late father, Eamonn English, bought a lovely clinker built punt - mainly to be used by my brother Joe and myself. She was sleek, looked well, varnished with brass "spurs" or oarlocks and a lovely pair of light, long oars. The daily routine for the summer months was for Joe and I to don our laced up yellow buoyancy aids and to head down the hill to "Dinny Macs" strand on the Holy Ground - just below our house on East Hill in Cobh. We got the hang of rowing pretty quickly - especially since Dad bought us a pair of shorter oars made by master craftsman Eric Rankin. We rowed up and down if front of Cobh and learned about the tides and how to avoid them and to NEVER try to pull up the punt at low tide! We went on "foreign" trips to the "Batteries" and Cuskinny to the east of Cobh and indeed learned to swim off the back of the punt in the "Batteries" with our mum Mary English.

Cork Harbour One DesignAt weekends we watched with envy as the beautiful Fife designed Cork Harbour One Designs raced up and down in front of Cobh and were amazed at the sleek 8 Metre yachts sailing like sharp knives through the water.  We saw the wonderful clinker built, Uffa Fox designed National 18s perform at the Royal Munster Yacht Club in Crosshaven and saw an array of boats sail with Cove Sailing club from the "Town clock" slip every Wednesday evening. Indeed I was lucky enough to get a berth crewing aboard "Emmy" with my dad's cousin the late Joan Denvir. This was a una rigged (no jib) fibreglass boat - My job was to whistle for the wind!

I reckoned that this sailing crack was much easier than the hard work of rowing so Joe and I decided to copy one of Da's ideas - Eamonn had rigged a window blind as a sail for his first sail as a kid - we rigged up a "dust cover" on the oars and a boathook to make a square sail. We had a nice westerly breeze and decided to sail "abroad" to Cuskinny! We were hardly started when the dad of my school buddy, Jimmy Lynch, was roaring and shouting at us from the Holy Ground - warning us of impending doom - we could drown ourselves! Well we DIDN"T - and that was the start of it. Rowing was now a secondary occupation - for going upwind only.

Cobh Sailing DinghiesEamonn copped that we were really keen so he got a mast and a loose footed mainsail from Downers in Dun Laoghaire and a HUGE rudder (there was no centreboard and the big rudder was to combat leeway) We mastered sailing across the wind as well as downwind but it took a while to get the hang of this sailing upwind lark! I will never forget the day I managed to sail a mile and a half upwind from the Holy Ground to Spike Pier - I made it - I WAS HOOKED ON SAILING!  A couple of years later Dad got us a "Measle" sailing dinghy about 8' built by Johnny Geary - and built to last! Joe and I got great fun from this and raced it on a regular basis at the RMYC in Crosshaven where we had begun to learn at sailing courses. 

Shortly after I moved on to Cadet dinghies (she had a main, jib and spinny) the RMYC became the RCYC - we had great racing in the cadet Wichita and some of my best friends are the guys I met back then racing cadets (we had up to 30 racing in the Club) Anyway enough about Joe and myself  - today Jul 23 is our son EAMONN ENGLISH's day - this was his first solo sail! Our kids Aisling (8) and Eamonn(6) have been on boats since the carry cot - and have been on sailing courses for a couple of years. They love the water and have done tons of sailing but not ALONE. We had a great weeks sailing last week and our kids were on the course too - they were very enthusiastic at the end of the week and last night Eamonn said " DAD I'D LOVE TO SAIL AN OPPIE ON MY OWN"  I immediately got a plan together in my head and we were up bright and early this morning and headed for the SailCork base at East Ferry.

Kayak SailCorkWe loaded a Kayak, an Oppie sailing dinghy, Aisling, Eamonn and Spike (our 9 month "sort of" Lab pup) aboard our big RIB the Excalibur and headed at speed to Cuskinny. conditions were perfect with a light S- SW breeze and high tide. I launched Aisling and Spike in the Kayak and the lone sailor Eamonn in the Oppie. Things went "swimmingly" and Eamonn did lots of tacks and gybes and sailed around Cuskinny Bay enjoying every moment of it!

Oppie Sailing at SailCorkWhen the time came to head back to the SailCork base at East Ferry  Eamonn came up with this question - "Dad - can I sail the Oppie back to East Ferry?" I could not refuse and off he went on his first solo sail for over 2.5 nautical miles! I escorted in the RIB and Aisling paddled some of the way in the Kayak with the dog aboard! Eamonn sailed into the Ferry against the tide and managed to get his centreboard and rudder up before a perfect landing at our slip at East Ferry Marina. 

A new era has dawned for the English family - WELL DONE EAMONN!

Now - what about your first sail? We have a lovely prize for the best story  - e-mail yours to us or post it on the SailCork Facebook page!

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