Port, helm, starboard… these were all sailing terminologies Willow and I were researching before we ventured to Lymington. As summer draws near, the sailing community are making sure their vessels are prepped and ready for what we hope to be a sunny few months!
Russ and Andy, the owners of Sailing Spook, were kind enough to invite us on a sailing trip, allowing us to see first-hand what customers experience when they purchase a sailing gift. This was going to be their first sail of the year, and Willow’s first sailing trip, so everyone was excited for Friday 5th April to arrive.
Prior to our trip, Russ advised us to wear flat shoes and plenty of layers, as let’s not forget it’s still only April! We were also given the meeting point of the Haven Bar and Restaurant. On the morning of the sail, Willow and I drove to Lymington Yacht Haven. After a pleasant journey, we drove into the marina and straight away we could see a two-story building: the Haven Bar and Restaurant. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot right outside, and walked up the stairs to the entrance, excited to meet the team. As we walked in, we were greeting by two friendly faces. Jonathan (nicknamed JB) and Alan were sat on stools near a roaring fire. These were the other crew members who’d be joining us on our sailing trip! Shortly after we had sat down, Russ and Andy arrived, and we discussed the itinerary for the day over a hot cup of coffee. Every trip can be different according to the weather, but with their impressive weather prediction apps we could plan our day to avoid the rain.
Next, it was time to walk down to the yacht! Yes, you read that correctly. The sailing experiences take place on a luxurious 53-foot yacht, aptly named Sailing Spook 2. We boarded the boat and were welcomed by Erica, Andy’s cousin who was also sailing with us. We were then shown to the lower deck and given a tour of the living quarters, consisting of 4 double en suite bedrooms, a kitchen and seating area. I was surprised at how spacious and cosy this was. Willow and I filled in a short health and safety form, and were offered some Sailing Spook gear to keep us extra warm. This was music to my ears, as I had regrettably only worn thin leggings. With our new trousers, jackets and hats, we were ready to brace the wind, but not before the most important piece of clothing... our life jackets. My initial thought was a big, orange life jacket that gets in the way, but this wasn’t the case. They were small enough that you didn’t know you were wearing one, but technical enough that sensors inside would register if you were in water and automatically inflate.
Looking like experienced sailors, we walked up to the main deck and watched Andy sail us out of the marina and onto the Solent. The sight of all the boats was one of a postcard. Russ mentioned that the majority of these magnificent boats would only sail twice: once when they are brought into the marina, and once when they are sold and leave the marina. A big part of this is due to the expense. Sailing Spook 2 on the other hand sails more than 160 times a year, simply due to the popularity of these experiences. As we left Lymington, and sailed down the river, Russ explained to us the identification of the channel markers, the red ones being on the starboard side (right) and the green markers being on the port side (left). As we headed towards Yarmouth, we enjoyed Russ’ commentary on the local landmarks, which included Hurst Castle and Brian May’s white mansion, fit for a Queen (get it)!
There is a sheltered area on the deck, which was perfect for keeping out of the wind. As we sat and enjoyed our complimentary chocolate bars, Andy asked if I wanted to have a go at the helm! I excitedly jumped up and took hold of the steering wheel. There was a second steering wheel next to my one so Andy could take control if he needed to. I am proud to say this wasn’t needed – phew! Russ gave me the compass heading to follow and I happily controlled our direction, understanding the delay in steering. To test my ability even further, Andy asked me to steer upwind until the main sail was flapping. This was called ‘luffing up.’ I then had to get the yacht back on track, working with the wind instead of against it. Willow was up next, and did equally as great at the helm. Russ, Andy and Erica were a great team, and often asked if anyone wanted to help with the sailing of the boat before we set sail back to Lymington Yacht Haven for some lunch.
Once the yacht was securely moored, we headed for some well-deserved food where Russ had reserved us a table. The seaside themed restaurant had a lively atmosphere and the service was friendly and attentive. Willow and I both decided on the lunch special of a fish finger sandwich with salad and fries (definitely recommended)! As well as the lunch menu, there was the all-day menu, from which Alan ordered the yellow Thai fish curry. This looked incredible! JB ordered the mushroom risotto. Sadly, the time came to drive back to Brighton in an attempt to beat rush hour traffic. We had a brilliant time, and would like to say a huge thank you to Sailing Spook’s Russ and Andy for inviting us on a sailing taster day.
If you think that sailing experiences are strictly for experienced sailors or those fortunate enough to be able to afford a yacht themselves, think again! Sailing Spook welcome everyone, and are incredibly friendly and encouraging. So, whether you’re planning a birthday party, a team building activity or a father and son trip, this experience ticks all the boxes.