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A Scarborough sailor's route into sailing

by Chris Clark 12 Oct 2019 12:49 BST

Susan Griffiths hails from Kingswinford, near Dudley, in the Midlands and moved to Scarborough in 1991. With no real connection with the sea growing up, Susan always enjoyed spending time by the sea.

By profession Susan is a Maths teacher teaching GCSE and A level Maths, and also a GCSE Examiner for Edexcel. Susan's passionate about Maths and when she's not teaching or marking national exam papers, she enjoys gardening and has recently found time to rediscover knitting and sewing.

"I'm not a sporty type" Susan says, but after seeing an article about Anne Morrison, a fellow Scarborough Yacht Club member, in the Scarborough News, I joined South Bay Scuba as they were looking for people to research local wrecks and Susan felt her academic skills would be helpful. Although she doesn't dive as "that's far too scary" she soon became their social secretary and her first real small boat experience came on a trip to Tobermory, Scotland on a large rib (a permanently inflated boat), where she also met Carol Sherwood, Scarborough Yacht Club's treasurer. Through being a member of the South Bay Scuba Susan met members of Scarborough Yacht Club and first went to the club to watch the Six Nations Rugby. Susan met other members of the club. and an interest in learning to sail was sparked.

Susan initially had a share in a yacht which although subsequently sold, had inspired her to sign up for the Day Skipper - shore-based course run by the late and greatly missed Peter McIntyre at Scarborough Yacht Club and then the also shore-based Yachtmaster course the following year during which time she bought her own yacht. But how does a girl from landlocked Dudley buy a yacht when there's so many different types? What about the mooring rights?

On hearing Susan had expressed an interest in buying a yacht, Edd Peacock, Vice Commodore and former chair of South Bay Scuba, suggested several for sale in the harbour Susan was a little concerned about the cradle storage as a tender would be needed. Scarborough harbour's wall or the Chicken Run moorings were definitely better so Edd connected Susan with owner Martin Gledhill, who was seeking to sell, and who's yacht 'Autumn Liz' was moored in a convenient part of the harbour.

On a cold day in February, Susan was introduced to Martin and had her first experience of steering a yacht around the outer harbour. A few days later she met Martin at The Sunrise café and the deal was done. She was now a yacht owner and she couldn't have purchased a yacht from a better sailor, as Martin was keen to continue sailing and share his wealth of knowledge with Susan. Timing wasn't perfect as this was only a few days before the Beast from the East hit the harbour but being moored on the chicken run protected her new yacht Autumn Liz from the storm which sadly damaged so many yachts nationally.

Stepping onto her yacht at the end of the harbour's 'Chicken run' to embark on her first ever sailing experience, Susan thought, "I'm a bit scared but why not? Anyway, it's moored in a nice suntrap so at worst I have a floating chalet in a lovely sunny locale"

From the first day out, Susan found Martin a true help. He coached Susan through ropes, or sheets as she would now refer to them, helming, practicing tacking and all the pre-sailing preparations. As a non-driver, even starting an engine was an unfamiliar experience. After a year, Susan's sailing knowledge is beginning to embed though Susan still gets very frustrated when she forgets things. It takes time to process new learning to old experience.

Susan's worst moment was the first time out, trying to make sense of the checklist and overwhelmed by the ropes and adjustment. The first time out she over steered in the wrong direction and collided with the harbour wall on returning to the mooring, luckily not in sight of the yacht club balcony. So hopefully avoiding damaging the reputation of the many excellent and very experienced women sailors currently members of Scarborough Yacht club.

Then on the second time out Autumn Liz heeled over after a sudden gust. It was the first time Susan had experienced the yacht heeling over so far. At the same time Susan realised that the yacht was just the right size for her legs to wedge against the other seat.

But the best times, with more to come, was when a seal arrived and followed the yacht for a while, and on another occasion two puffins paid a visit. Susan even enjoys the days spent off the moorings anti-fouling as the harbour community welcoming because they always stop for a chat, are friendly, and offer advice.

Scarborough Yacht Club has a perception of being an all-out racing club. That isn't the case at all, everyone with a sailing interest is warmly welcome. Susan isn't so much interested in the racing, as "sailing with a cup of tea in my hand and seal watching." However, she has very much enjoyed helping out in the race station initially with Martin and then for the mid-week races with Win Russell, learning from their wealth of experience. Susan is also very much looked forward to assisting Martin in the race station for Scarborough Yacht Club's recent regatta though light airs caused two of the three race days to be cancelled.

What did Susan's family and friends make of her buying a yacht?

"My sister just thinks I'm the adventurous one and mum always asks if I've been out and probably worries as we weren't allowed roller skates as children as they were too dangerous! As for my friends, well they just accept I'm quirky and strangely all suffer from seasickness??"

Looking to the future and having reached the magic age of 50 years young, Susan's very interested in pursuing a better work life balance, and sailing (and watching seals) as a big leisure part of this.

Susan has plenty of ideas for the future. After meeting a businessman at the Yacht Master classes, who has connections to tech and design people, Susan has designed an app which she hopes to launch soon. Susan says "It was an idea I had many years ago to revolutionise gift buying whilst helping the environment to cut down unnecessary waste products."

For those thinking about sailing but haven't quite taken to the sea, Susan has a powerful message for readers of all ages. "I can't swim. I'd never been in a small boat until I was in the rib at 46. As a sport, sailing (and watching the seals over a cuppa) is not as expensive as people think. If I can do it, you can."

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