"Hello Buoys!"

by It's Only Me from Across the Sea

Tom and Jerry And The Ensmoothening

Back from Wales after my best holiday ever, our best holiday ever, we were making plans.

"You know what the problem is, Jerry?"

"What the problem is? I didn't even know there was a problem!" We were in his room, sitting propped up on the pillows on his bed, and, geeks that we were, were playing a game about the racing rules . It wasn't easy, especially at the more complex levels.

"It's that we're not old enough."

"Not old enough for what, exactly?" I had all sorts of scenarios running though my head about meeting too young, his needing space away from me...

He must have felt my worry. "What I mean is, we depend on my parents or your parents for everything."

I'd un-tensed a little. "We have to. We're, well, we aren't kids, but we're not independent, either."

"That's sort of what I mean. Even when we're alone I don't feel we're alone... I mean... Even though we're snuggling and kissing and almost nothing else, I feel guilty when we go downstairs, and I start to blush like crazy."

Now I wasn't tense any more. The problem was a 'we' problem not a 'him' problem nor a 'me' problem. "It's bloody hard..."

"Mine, too!" He interrupted.

I ignored him "...to be quiet as we do 'almost nothing else', which is a bit of a damper on ardour, so to speak."

"It's 'arder then ever and it'll get damper soon, and all by itself if all you do is just keep speaking!"

His nose got a kiss for that. Then I got him decorously out of his T-shirt, and less than decorously out of his rather too tightly fastened jeans. I found mine had made a neatly tangled pile half on the floor, too. His scent... Oh his scent. I could bury my face in his scent for ever and still want more.

We spent at least half an hour finding inventive ways to dampen each other's ardour. His was pretty damp after I buried it in my mouth at the same time as he buried mine in his.


"See," he whispered to me, ardour well and truly dampened, as we snuggled on the pillow again, "Go downstairs now and I'll blush enough to set the living room on fire."

I saw. I acknowledged him with a happy sigh. I was busy looking at him, looking at the boy I'd discovered I loved a very few short months ago, the boy I'd just been very good friends with until that day when we'd won a club race and I'd found I was kissing him in front of the clubhouse, right on the finish line, and then suddenly in the water. "I don't mind blushing, you know. Not really. I do it too. It's not that I'm embarrassed, not at all, it's that learning how to make love to you is personal and I don't want to share that with anyone."

"That's it! It's not a spectator sport."

"I think we could sell tickets, though! Pay our way through college!"

"Stupid child!"

"Yes, but I'm your stupid child" And he made puppy dog eyes at me.

I was looking at us. We're different. Tommy carries a little more covering on his bones than I do. I used to see it as puppy fat, but it was turning sleek. Me? I was still wiry, not a spare gram anywhere. I certainly don't feel drop dead gorgeous, but he thinks I am and I think he is. I also know there are better looking boys, but no-one compares with him. He's just Tom. And I love him.

"Penny for your thoughts?" He asked?

So I told him.

Not that any of that solved the privacy stuff. We supposed we'd need to wait until we were older, earning money and had moved out. Or were both students. Not that I thought I was likely to get to a university. I wasn't unhappy about that. I was more practical than academic. But where would Tommy go, if he got into one?


He was right about the blushing. He'd started before we opened the living room door after his mum called us down for supper.

I saw her quietly not notice.

I saw what he meant.


Saturday saw us at the club for a race training day. What was unusual is that I took the helm for the start of that morning, and Tom was helming the other club GP. We each had a young crew, both new to the club. Andy was learning to be a race coach and was running the day, and he'd taken us all under his capable wings.

That makes him sound like an angel! Angel he is not.

Hmm, have you ever thought that angels in classical art have six limbs?

Six?

Count them!

So do centaurs.

I sound a bit ADHD. I'm not, I'm just... Oh look, there's a squirrel!

Ok, that's got that off my chest. Andy. He's asked us to take the two girls out to, as he put it, 'show them a good time'! He winked when he said that. Andy was the first person to see us kissing. He knows we like girls as people, just not as, well, girls. Today was junior race coaching. There was a third boat. Mandy was helming, Colin crewing.

"We've got three things to improve today," Andy said as he briefed us. "If you know them already, great. Show the others how to do even better, but be prepared to learn, too." He got six murmurs of assent. "For each exercise we'll swap crew and helm. I know you may have preferred roles, but you each need to know what the other's doing."

Exercise one was knowing when to tack to fetch a mark.i Andy had us close hauled, in line astern, as close as we could be. Helm of the middle boat had to call the tack when they could fetch it. Get the call perfect and the boat ahead has gone too far, the calling boat goes the perfect distance, and the boat astern hasn't gone far enough and has to tack twice more to fetch it. Obvious when Andy described it to us.

We were, of course, perfect.

We called the tack and, the first time, showed with perfection how we'd not gone far enough before we tacked.

The second time after we'd swapped over, the other one of 'we' called it and we'd over compensated. The boat astern of us could fetch the mark perfectly.

Perfect.

We all had a lot to learn on the most simple of topics.

No-one else found it easy, either. Being separated from Tom in different boats added to the challenge.

"We're going to practice this, Jerry," Tom told me when we'd come ashore for the debrief. "This is so basic, and I thought I was good at it. Bugger!"

"Not in front of the others, but I'm starting to consider it!" Wow, I was, too. That was a surprise.

From the wink Andy gave me I realised I ought to talk even quieter! Or maybe not! Life is for living!

Exercise two was rounding the windward mark once we'd fetched it. The trick is to maintain boat speed and accelerate away while bearing away smoothly. We'd all been kind of getting it right by accident, with the boat already heeled to leeward, but we'd scrambled to do the rest rather than planned it. Our task was to ensmoothen it. Andy's word, that. I like 'ensmoothen'; it goes with 'embiggen' and 'ensmallen'. We'd remember to ensmoothen.

If we steer too hard the rudder acts like a big barn door in the water and slows the boat. We have to steer with care, balance the boat to leeward, move the crew weight aft to get the trim right, raise the centreboard the right amount, and all the time be so close to the buoy that we can pat it!

Andy showed us how we improved by making the leading boat do it wrong and the following one doing it right. There was a half boat's length advantage! The other way around the trailing boat could take an early overlap on the leading boat. We didn't go into the extra rules that came into play. This was improving our own manoeuvring. Rules would only complicate it.

Colin was the best helm at it. That was clear to see. The rest of us were equal.

I was enjoying this. I like getting better at sailing.

"If we can fit the third one in before lunch we can do some very short races this afternoon! Who's up for it?"

We all were.

"I'm going to shuffle you around in the boats. Current crews, same boat, All helms, round one clockwise."

I ended up in the same boat as Colin. "What's it like being the only gay in the village?"ii He was smiling.

"Beats me!" I laughed. "Tom was there already!" I paused. "Are you looking for pointers?"

"Wouldn't mind knowing how you're so open and confident."

"Oi!" Andy was grinning at us. "You two lovebirds pay attention! How do we go round the leeward mark, Colin?"

"Very carefully?"

"Give me strength! Who can tell them?"

"We all can," Mandy told him. "But were not going to!"

"You are all total brats! Every last one of you!" And Andy told us again. "in wide, out close, steer well, balance to leeward, centreboard right down, come up to windward as you sheet in and point up, move the trim forward. Leave the mark so close you can pat it! Ensmoothen!"

It made sense. Instead of coming down to the mark and just turning round it we were to sail the boat round it, drive round it. We'd leave going faster than we arrived. Even better than that we could sneak inside a boat doing it the way we'd used to do it. Yes! Result!iii

While we were ensmoothening I answered Colin. "It's just normal. Tom's my boyfriend, I'm his. It's as special as a boy with a girlfriend or a girl with a boyfriend. Or a girl with a girlfriend, come to that."

"When you put it like that I can't think of anything more normal." We rounded the mark better than before. "Hey, that worked well. Sorry I teased you..."

"Teasing's fine." I told him about the git at the Masters/Youth meeting.

"That's deeply unpleasant. Ok, your turn to drive. That needs a two gallon galvanised iron bucket!"

I took the tiller. "That, you have to explain. Ok, bearing away"

"Easy. Fill it with water and hold the bastard's head under until all movement ceases! Too close."

"Bugger. Ok, round again. Wide enough? Wait, do I need to rephrase that?"

"Works for me. Wait until we get to 'harden up'!"

"Now, I think! Oh gawd. The boat!"


"Are we special, Tommy?" We were in the middle of a healthy mars bar and crisps lunch almost ready to go back afloat again.

"I think we are."

"Put like that, so do I, but I mean to other people." I told him about joking with Colin. "It started out as teasing," I told him, "But it turned into the start of getting to know each other better, him and me."

"Not special, unless you look at being gay as special." He paused, deep in thought. "I think we're just two ordinary blokes who do ordinary things. Didn't John, one of The Two Jays, say something like that?"

"I think he did. Unless it was Janet."

"It was around then, anyway. If being boyfriends makes us special to other people that's a bit weird, isn't it?"

"Andy? Over here a minute!" he came over. "I was just talking to Colin, and then to Tom about the way he thinks that Tom and I.... I'm going to start that again. That sentence failed in every possible way. Ok, Colin thought we were special. I have no idea, so I asked Tom. Tom reminded me that other people thought we were ordinary."

"You can be a pretty ordinary pair of brats, that's a certainty," he said. "Special... Well, yes and no. You seem to be totally devoted to each other."

"We are!"

"Ok, Tom, you are devoted to each other. At the same time you're not like me. I flaunt being gay. This camp thing I've got going, it started as an act, you know a 'come and get me, boys, I'm available' piece of bravado. I wasn't available and I'm not brave. Hmm. How'd I turn this into me? Now, you and Jerry are a pair of real lads; blokes, pretty much. You do lad things. You behave well and not so well, as the mood takes you. You just happen to be unavailable to anyone else, girls or boys alike."

"True, we're not," I said.

"But, and this is the thing, you aren't gay in big capital letters. You just happen, quietly, and in your own way, to be part of each other. And I think that's more something to be respected about you both than thinking you are, either of you, in any way special." He paused. "With that it's time to get back on the water."


The races in the afternoon were for illustration more than anything else. Andy had laid a very short course with just a windward and leeward mark. His idea, which worked very well, was that we'd all lie toiv and then start on a countdown from five, tack to the windward mark, fetch it accurately, round it well, bear away and round the leeward mark well, harden up, get started on the next tack, and then stop and come back to the start point.

What we were not doing was racing to win. No-one cared who won. We were there to learn from Andy and to learn from each other, too.

Andy followed us all in the coach boat and gave each of us individual feedback.

Ashore, after putting the boats to bed, Andy brought the session to a close. All of us felt we'd learned a lot.

"I can see why the more experienced boats have pulled away from us at the marks in the past, now," Tom told us. "I used to think it was just a matter of getting there and turning round it. I thought it was the turn itself that was important. I mean just by using the rudder. I've learnt a lot about how to make the boat do the work, not the rudder alone. I'm going to practice this in every race, and between as well! Thanks Andy; great session!"

"Awesome job, Andy," Mandy told him. "I, for one, am going to remember to ensmoothen my sailing from now on!"


We cycled to my home after the day was finished. "That was tougher than I expected. I'm knackered," Tom said, about halfway home as we forced our way up the rather more than steep hill leading through the heathland that meant we had three miles left to go. The sun was still high and the day was warm still.

"I've still got a big bag of crisps left. I don't want to go home quite yet. Let's turn off and sit in the sun?"

"Barbecue flavour or cheese and onion?" he asked, a few minutes later.

"You only love me for my crisps!"

"True!" We'd put the bikes down about five minutes onto the heath. We had the view that toiling up the hill had given us, over soft rolling heathland and heather and gorse.

One of the many best things about me and Tommy is that we don't need to talk all the time. We can just be together and all's well with our world. I like just looking at him, marvelling that the boy I love also loves me. I wonder, sometimes, why I love another boy. I mean why I'm not interested in girls enough to consider one as more than a friend, nor the minutiæ of why I love this particular boy. I've not come to a conclusion. I think it's just simply meant to be.

We'd found a soft and grassy place to sit. Our world was concentrated into a small place with just us in it. An English lesson drifted into my head. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." I could only remember that line.

"I love you in at least 27."

"I didn't know I'd said that out loud." My head was on his shoulder, sitting, sharing the sun, sharing the view.

"Not sure you did. Maybe you're a loud thinker."

"Or you can read my mind. Hmm, would that be wonderful or awful?"

"Not sure we can get closer than we are, Jerry. What real difference would mind reading make?".

"Yeah." I sighed it out. "I was thinking about that. Example, if I'd known you were falling for me, would I have been in a boat with you at all? I wasn't into love and stuff before you. I might have felt pressured or something..."

"And just who kissed whom that day?" He was smiling at me, that special smile that gives me goose pimples.

"That was a wonderful feeling. It crept up to me on tiptoes and it was just so right suddenly, and I knew I had to kiss you, then, at once, come hell or high water."

"That was one heck of a day. I won twice that day. We won twice, but I thought it was just me. The race? That was special, a triumph. I'd... you'd... we'd won! The rush was amazing."

"God, yes!"

"And then, then... You know I fell for you back when we first met? But that day you kissed me! And I hoped it was really happening, that I wasn't imagining it. Just a simple kiss, a sign that, just maybe, it might work, that you might be a little bit interested in me, just a little bit."

"I started out just kissing you. Instinct, I think. It was sort of what best friends ought to do anyway. This gay thing, I'm still not sure I'm gay. It's just you, Tommy. Best friends ought to kiss. But that kiss... It was... It opened the way to us!"

"I like us."

"It's not private here, not exactly, but I think we ought to repeat that kiss..."

"Just to make sure we got it right?"

"Just to make sure. Yes. That's it. Just to make sure."

The sun was lower in the sky when we left that spot.


"You know," Tom told me while we were snuggling on my bed playing that racing rules game on the laptop, sad boys that we are, "We never have to. Not ever."

"I know. I know we won't ever do anything we're not ready for. But I've got a question about that."

"Hit me with it!"

"Pervert! No, what I mean is, how do we know what we're ready for?"

"Isn't 'we just do' the answer here?"

"Not sure. Imagine one of us, either of us, is a girl. Doesn't matter which."

"Where are you going with this? Neither of us is girly. I love a boy, not a kind of fake girl."

"Humour me. I love a boy too, and I'm not a girl either. Hackles down, Rover!"

He wagged where he thought his tail might be, and panted, raising a paw and swatting me with it, just like a dog. "Woof?"

"Ok, put a boy and a girl in this room together, on the bed, with the house empty. Both love each other, or at least fancy each other rotten."

"Do they have to be naked?" His face was a pretend barf.

"I love the fact that you refuse to grow up!"

"Sarcasm will get you everywhere!"

My eyes wet up to the heavens. 'Ignore it' I said to myself. To Tommy I said "How do they know what they're ready for?"

"That's a doddle. The girl might get pregnant. Doesn't matter what she wants to do, she doesn't dare do it." He paused. "Ah, now I get it. We can't get pregnant however hard we try!"

"Wasn't quite what I meant, but near enough. The thing is, How do I know, you know, we know, if and when we're ready? And is it a big step or a natural progression?"

It was obvious that 'it' was what I'd always assumed the end goal was of two boys making love.

"Well," he said, "Bottoms," he giggled, "Bottoms have a sort of taboo about them, don't they?"

"Mothers! 'WASH those hands, young man. I KNOW where they've been!'"

"Yup. Exactly."

"Mine makes me wash after I've had a pee, too!"

"I've never understood that. Nor does Dad. He's a fan of an old TV show, Boston Legal; he's got the boxed set. I'll have to show you.v"

"I now have absolutely no idea what you're talking about!"

"Well, how, precisely, does it get dirty?"

We'd wandered off into comfy banter as he explained that snippet of the show to me. Neither of us turned the subject back. I wondered whether it was such a big step. What was I waiting for?

Answer came there none.

Truth to tell it felt like a bigger step when we went to Dún Laoghaire in a yacht only just larger than two GP14s stuck end to end.

What I liked, what I've always liked, about our relationship, his and mine, is that it was about him and me, not about him and about me. There wasn't ever any pressure. I was beginning to find out though, that I could put pressure on myself. Was this pressure?

I must have drifted off to sleep. Often did that in Tom's arms. It was just so safe.

"Why are you muttering about a layby on a B road?" Tom's voice woke me.

"Was I? Weird. Was I asleep?"

"Cute little snores. Yes. Then you weren't, or I thought you weren't."

"I snore?"

"Cutely."

"Bugger." I stretched. "Well, not now, obviously. Smells like supper's ready." But my mind was on the B1434. Somewhere in a layby just out of reach...


Tom was home for the night; he'd left after supper. We did sleepovers, but we didn't live in each other's homes. We knew how wonderful our families were; not for accepting us, we didn't want acceptance, tolerance or any other 'ance'. Our families treated us as if we were boys with girlfriends, or girls with boyfriends. I'm getting that just wrong. I'm trying to say we were just two kids in love with each other. We both just happened to be boy kids.

I checked the time. Still civilised o'clock for phone calls. I had one to make.


Sunday, we were at the club early. It was a cup race for each fleet. It was part of the three league tables as well, but the race also stood alone. Each fleet had its own cup. Tom and I were determined to make use of Andy's training the day before.

It was a decent wind, about force 4

"I wish he'd given us some good starting techniques, too," I said as we were launching.

"We do ok, though. I'm never too sure when to lurk and when to mix it in the middle of the fleet, though."

"That rules game's helped some, though."

"Yup. Ok, simple tactics. Check the line for bias. Pretend the opposite end's the favourable one and see if we fool anyone. Get the best start we can, and sail hard, and... ENSMOOTHEN!"

The bias was at the starboard end, but not by much. With no current our ideal course made goodvi meant starting on the starboard tack and the starboard end of the line, then tacking away onto port early. The trick was to get to the line, moving fast, in the right place at the right time.

We didn't.

We managed the next best thing. The whole fleet was fighting for that spot. Tom had a different idea, risky, but different. He positioned us towards the port end of the line, gybed us round to port and took us on a beam reach, then a close reach to the starboard end of the line, behind all but one of the starboard tack boats who was lagging behind. His timing, based on my countdown, was pitch perfect. We treated the final boat whose transom we danced round as a leeward mark, ensmoothened into close hauled, skimmed the committee boat and just cleared ahead of tail end Charlie who was on starboard and who thus had rights over us. We hit the line exactly right.

And the boat was driving hard in clear wind!

Not exactly ahead of us, nor astern of us, the class expert had tacked onto port as well. He was too far to windward to cover us, so we had clear air, certainly unless we cocked up. They and we were heading for what we hoped was a positive wind shift from the bank, a lift. And it should have been, but it headed us instead.

"Header. Tack!" He called it, we tacked it.

"We need to ensmoothen those as well."

"True," he said as we settled onto the new tack. "Apart from not bearing away, let's treat every tack like a windward mark. Make the boat steer, follow the boat with the rudder."

"Got it. 'STARBOARD!'" The leader was on port, closing fast. He was give way boat. He tacked ahead of us. There'd been no way he could have crossed us without penalty. Tom held on. We closed on his stern, a little to windward.

"Something's gone soft with the wind. Thoughts?" Tom asked.

I checked. "Boat ahead's got good wind, so's the part of the fleet I can see." We were still slowing. "Got it. Lee Bow Effect.vii Take him by surprise, tack quietly. Ensmoothen."

We tacked, and, as we sat the boat back upright, our weight pulled the mast and sails through the wind and we accelerated. We'd made some wind of our own!

Mark fetching next. This was our weakest discipline from the day before, but we were already starting to see how Andy's coaching could pay off. "You were better than me, Jerry. You call it."

The shift was holding... No. Header. I checked over my rear shoulder. "Now! Ensmoothen!" We tacked. "Awesome tack. We need this shift to hold." Apart from a few free spirits the fleet was on our side of the course, and not ahead of us. "Don't you dare pinch.viii We can fetch this ahead of them all."

It was tight. I got the call perfect. We rounded the mark as we'd been taught, balanced the boat to steer the bear away, used the time to launch the kite. We accelerated around the mark. I could have patted it if that wouldn't have meant a 360º penalty. "Check astern. Anyone got an overlap for the next mark??"

I looked. "One's close. Can you do the wide then close thing?"

"Soon find out. I'd hate it if he got his bow inside."

Light dawned. "He can't. Not if you keep him off until we're in the zone. He can't claim mark room. If he tries it we have to give it and then protest!"

"Genius!"

He bore way imperceptibly, trapped the boat behind into thinking he could claim room, went wide, managed to stop the overlap, just, heard the hail for room, yelled "No Overlap! No Room! Protest!" and also gave them room. We didn't dare be wrong by not giving it.

Nor did he. He took a 720º penalty turn and dropped back. He was in the past. "Well done. Now we need to keep it up." In the middle of all that I'd gybed the kite as he gybed the boat. "Remember the leeward mark?"

"Yup. Ensmoothen."

Round the leeward mark we had a sausage and a triangle and a final beat to go. The wind was steady. So was the pressure from behind. We were in a weight advantage position, we weren't finding it hard to keep the boat flat, and we were light. We made no ground and lost none up that beat, and rounded the windward mark softly, close, and cleanly. The next leg was dead downwind, a classic square run, wind behind us like an old square rigger.

That was the problem. On all other points of sailing the sails are doing something. They have an aerofoil. There's laminar flow of air across them. Dead downwind we were being blown along like a raft. It was just the wind hitting the sails and pushing. And the fleet astern grabbed the wind and dirtied it before it got to us as leaders.

My job was to trim the spinnaker to try to get airflow across it. I had to make the pole end almost collapse, and free off the other corner. I was good at it. "Tom, I've got an idea."

"Tell me?" he was willing the boat to go faster.

"Experiment, Bring the main in a little so it's almost by the lee. Treat the leach like I treat the luff of the kite. I want some flow around the sail, even if it isn't conventional. If it doesn't work we won't lose much. If it does we may stop the fleet from catching us."

"I'll try it for 20 metres or so. Might work."

It wasn't a spectacular difference, but the fleet stopped closing on us.

"Working?"

"Looks that way. Genius!"

"I researched it.ix I'll show you we we get ashore. Just don't gybe by accident." We held them off cleanly to the leeward mark. Then the upwind work started again. Spinnaker down, board down, balance, wide and close, ensmoothen, trim, accelerate into close hauled. Four more legs and we were still ahead. And I've left off extras like adjusting the Cunningham and kicker. Dinghy sailing happens fast. Our job was to control it and do it smoothly.

It wasn't that easy to stay ahead. The wind was fickle, We had to tack on big headers. We almost missed one and those who tacked on it early made up ground on us. I wasn't looking at who they were, just where they were. We got to the top mark neck and neck with another. He'd got everything absolutely right all the way up the beat, out tacked us on the shifts. He'd over-stood, we were just right. We claimed mark room, he gave it to us and ended up in our wind shadow as we both bore away for the wing mark.There was a danger that he would be driven far enough astern to sneak round our transom and try to get mark room at the wing. Tom held us up to windward of him enough to make that hard. And we did the same wide and close thing at the leeward mark that made the other boat do a 720º earlier. This one didn't fall for it.

Leeward mark we rounded ahead, ensmoothened round it. We'd been planning. Did we cover him all he way to the finish or sail our own race?

"I want to win this!"

"Me too." I really wanted to win. "I think we cover him. The rest of the fleet's far enough astern to be unimportant at the moment. We'll keep between him and the finish. You do that, I'll keep an eye on the rest. If we need to change tactics I'll warn you."

The other boat turned out to be Mandy and Colin. I didn't mention it to Tom. They were sailing very well. So were we. And we were sitting on their wind.

Mandy tacked to try to get free. Tom kept his nerve. Mandy crash tacked, we ensmoothened. Our lead lengthened a smidgen. But they had better boat speed, just a bit.

She tacked again, Tom covered. There was no way out. He was too quick. But we were suffering from wind shifts against us. The fleet was almost upon us, and we were almost at the line. We were on port, give way vessel. Mandy was beneath us, the fleet called STARBOARD! On us. "Keep your nerve, Tom, Keep your nerve!" Mandy had to tack away, there was no way she could cross the fleet. She was history.

Were we?

We scraped across the bows of a fleet of boats yelling 'STARBOARD' at us. All we could do was drive the boat. We were committed. There was no room to bear away. If we tacked we'd tack in another boat's water and obstruct them and be in the wrong and have to do a 720º. Imagine crossing the tracks so close ahead of a train it almost touches you and you get knocked down in the slipstream. We were that idiot crossing the tracks!

The finishing hooters came thick and fast. Parp, parp, parp, parp, the first ten or so boats were that close together. Our port tack took us very close to the committee boat. "Did we make it?" Tom hailed the boat.

"You won, Tom! Well done, you won!" We heard the race officer call to us.

And then my Tom kissed me. This time we didn't capsize! "You beautiful boy! We did it! I did it, you did it, We did it!"

"It feels amazing! We won!"

We fizzed and buzzed all the way to the slipway. We'd taken probably the oldest boat in the fleet to the top of a club trophy race! My boyfriend and I had won a cup!

And this time my boy had kissed me.


One of the first to congratulate us, well, two of, were Mandy and Colin. "I really though we'd got you at the leeward mark," she said. But we couldn't shake you off. And I forgot yesterday's lessons on ensmoothening on the last beat or I might just have got free."

"Bloody close call on crossing the fleet, Tom" Colin said. "Very close judgement on that one."

Andy was next. "Well done boys. I was watching you the whole way round. You only put one bad tack in."

"We worked really hard. Jerry had an extra idea with the main, too." He told Andy what we'd done.

"Who's been reading Finn class hints and tips for downwind sailing, then?"

"No-one, Andy. I got it from a Laser video! I thought it might just work. I'll show Tommy tonight."

"Is he getting what I think he's getting, later?"

"Shh. That phone call was meant to be our secret."

"Never said a word," Andy said, laughing. "That was all down to you!"

"Phone call?" Tom had picked that up.

"Research. I was doing research. B road laybys, if you must know!"

"What does Andy know about B roads?"

I left him hanging.


After the boat was tidied away and we'd all changed a load of older members came up to congratulate us. It felt great. The best thing? No malice anywhere.

Andy came up to us after it had all thinned out a little. "I'd like you both to think about instructing," he said. I'm going that way, too. I've started a bit arse about face with race coaching, but you don't need to be an instructor to know what you're doing there."

"Us? Instructors?" Tom sounded very surprised.

"Not so far fetched. You have to be 16, competent, and have a couple of other certificates. You're both 16. Each of you is competent; today proves that. I know Tom has a PB2.x Not sure about you, Jerry?"

"Not driven a powerboat. I can learn. It's just a boat."

"We've a course coming up at the end of the sailing season. Get your name down for it. First Aid too. And, not vital, but a personal VHF licence would be a big help."

"That sounds expensive?"

He told us about the club sponsoring juniors for courses, especially if money was tight. All we had to do was pay the club back by delivering a few courses. We also lent instructors to other local clubs.


"Right," said Tom when we were at his home after supper. "What was Andy talking about?"

"Ah," I said, suddenly a little nervous. "Well," I added, playing for time. "It's just... Well, I have a present for you."

"That's silly."

"No. Wait until you understand what the present is."

"Ok, you're keeping me in suspenders."xi

"Me."

"I've got you already?"

"All of me."

"I don't... Oh." I watched light dawning. "Wow. That's a really big step." He paused. "This cuts both ways. All of me's yours, too." Another pause. "Why the mystery with Andy?"

I was a little shy, suddenly. "I wanted to find out more about it, to find out how normal, how expected anal sex was to gay men."

"And?"

"Andy surprised me. A huge number of gay men don't. I didn't know that until he told me. I thought it was the next thing to do and everyone did. And it's perfectly normal to do, or not to. He gave me some hints about going slow, and being clean."

"Both of those sound wise. Especially being clean. I'm not into poo. I hope it's good! The experience! Not the poo!"

"So do I. I really want to try. I want to feel you deep inside me, to be one person with you."


Sex, we discovered, especially trying to fit things into interesting new places that fought back at first and having them ping right back out again by accident, could be hilarious, frustrating, awkward, sometimes a little uncomfortable, very messy at times, and deeply, if you get my drift, deeply fulfilling. Well, I found that part. Tommy would get his turn another time.

Like sailing to Dún Laoghaire it seemed a bigger step beforehand than during and afterwards.

The best description is 'orgasmic', which we achieved in many and varied new ways.

A better description, better than 'best', is becoming one with each other. Cliché? Certainly, but most of love making is a cliché if done well.

Luckily, his parents had gone to the pub. I know I wasn't very silent!


Now we just had the rest of our lives to love each other. Andy had helped to solve two problems that weekend. The second was about to arrive the following Thursday.

Footnotes

i To "fetch" a mark is to go round it in the direction required by the race instructions, without wasting any distance run. Get it perfect, especially from close hauled, and you have a distance advantage over those who have gone too far or not gone far enough. You can make up on a boat ahead of you, or sail away from one astern, just by getting the course right.

ii This may not travel well! The Only Gay In The Village became a bizarre catchphrase from a running gag in the British comedy TV sketch show Little Britain, a show full of grotesques.

iii If you think this one through it's like driving a car on a race track, or on a road. Come to a tight bend, arrive wide, leave close while accelerating.

iv "Lying to" is setting the boat on a closish reach and letting both sails flap. No real drive means no real forward motion. It's sustainable for short periods, depending on the design of the boat. It is not the same as heaving to, which is having the foresail hauled to windward, and the tiller to leeward, with the mainsail flapping. Here the boat maintains its attitude to the wind and makes small forward progress in a highly controlled manner.

v Alan Shore - "I keep an extremely clean penis!"

vi Course Made Good is the shortest track from where you are to the place you have to be, taking obstructions, wind, and, if there is any, current into account. Jerry and Tom's venue made it fairly easy to work out.

vii The Lee Bow Effect feels weird until you experience it. Because it feels illogical, even though it isn't, it can often take too long to recognise it, and the boat performing it can march away. This is what was happening to Tom and Jerry.

viii Pinching – sailing too close to the wind, in the No Go zone. The boat loses drive.

ix Sailing By The Lee requires skill, but can increase boat speed downwind

x RYA Powerboat Level 2, the standard for safe powerboat handling.

xi On my side of the Atlantic suspenders hold up stockings. And those are what Tom is picturing. In other parts of the world they have a different meaning.

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