"Hello Buoys!"

by It's Only Me from Across the Sea

Tom and Jerry Are All At Sea

We'd been making plans for the summer. Tom and I both wanted to improve our sailing. Fifth overall, even with only two races, was ok for our first external race meeting, and it would have been interesting if we'd been placed in the entire fleet, not just the youth fleet, but it wasn't enough, not exactly. Or, if it was, it didn't quite feel like enough.

"Are you off to Wales on holiday this summer?" Tom's family had gone to a very unpronounceable place in North Wales every year I'd known him.

"Dad's got four whole weeks of holiday this year. I'd been looking forward to it, still am, but I'm going to miss you."

"Silly sod, it's only four weeks." As I said it I knew I didn't mean it. "Mind you. With all this GCSE revision and exams we're not seeing as much of each other. Sailing weekends seem to happen every other week right now."

"Yeah. And the last one I had you had to revise and couldn't come. No-one needed a crew, so I went with Andy on Safety Boat duty. And he tried to pump me on who did what and with which and to whom on our weekend away!"

"You never..."

"Correct. I never. But I turned the tables and asked him what he and Jimmy got up to in the privacy of their hotel room."

"You didn't!"

"And he told me! In graphic detail. If I ever needed a roadmap for gay sex, which I don't think I do, I could draw one from his description, complete with contour lines and road junctions!" He was laughing.

"I think I'll stay on the A Roads for the moment, if it's all the same to you."

"There's a very pretty layby on the B1434, you know."

"So that's what Andy told you!" We were in Tom's room having a snuggle on his bed while we were distinctly not revising. "Where is the B1434, anyway?"

"Wikipedia is your friend!"

"If you think I'm getting out of your arms to look a road number up, you have another think coming!"

"Use your phone. Or isn't that what's digging into me?"

We'd been taking things gently. If either of us was in a hurry neither of us showed it to the other. Truth to tell I was loving every exploration, every small nuanced new thing. I wasn't about to rush into deeper things, certainly not until we had peace, and quiet, and undisturbed time. What we had already was glorious.

I'm not daft and I know for sure Tom isn't. We hadn't discussed going further; we hadn't discussed not going further; we just hadn't gone further. Kissing and snuggling lasts as long as you want. More exotic pastimes are over faster – even faster when someone else is helping you! That hadn't taken any time at all to discover.

Everything was right in our world, everything except seeing each other often enough and long enough. It was both good and bad that we weren't at the same school. We just grabbed the time we had when we had it.

Just as the GCSE exams ended, Tom sent me a text.

>I may have solved us seeing each other this summer


>I asked mum and dad if you could join us in Wales. They said yes. They like you.

<What would it cost me? You know we're not flush. OMG I'd *love* to come

>That's the good bit. We stay on a chalet park. It just means food

<I need to ask my lot, but yes, yes yes yes (please)

>Hope they say yes!

<Me too! I'll ask them tonight when I get home from school.

>Tell me as soon as you know. Please. ILY lotsly

<Me2U. They'll prolly call yours to check stuff first.

>Mine thought they would. Talk later.

The chalet was like a double width caravan. Not only had my folks said I could go, I'd been invited for all four weeks, and they'd said yes!

We're about three hours from pretty much anywhere worth going to, and this place was a four hour trip. Lucky Tom's parents have a big old Volvo estate, otherwise we'd never have got all my stuff in too. He's got a well older brother, but he's away on a gap year thing. He left his until after his degree. He probably wouldn't have wanted to come anyway.

Tommy and I held hands in the back of the car almost all the way here.

Both our parents know we're boyfriends. Mine've always been matter of fact about that sort of thing. We're a 'you are who you are' family. I wasn't ever the tiniest bit worried about telling them about us. They teased me about not getting pregnant. Dad's a bit of a brat at times. Mum cheers him on!

Tommy told me ages ago that his folk knew he was likely to be gay before he did. They'd just been hoping he'd find a nice boy. Seems I'm that boy. It's flattering in a weird way. He told them he liked me very soon after we first met.

We still had separate rooms in the chalet. "I know," his dad had said when we arrived. "But we feel better if we provide a room each for you. And you may want to sleep in it. You're both old enough to make your own decisions." Then he added, "Just remember that chalets like this are on wheels and stands. They rock! And they have paper thin walls."

"Embarrassing, much, Dad!"

"It's my job to embarrass my younger son. Anyway, that advice made a great contraceptive for your brother when he brought several girlfriends with him over the years!"

We went for a wander. It's an odd place, a bit industrial, and rather grey, even in the bright sunshine. Tom took me beside the harbour, past Bob's Boats, a big, scruffy shed. "They used to maintain MTBs here during the second world war," he told me. Then past the lifeboat station and Billy Marine, a slightly less scruffy shed. "There's a big yacht club by the marina over the other side."

"How do we get there?"

"There's a ferry that happens sometimes. Look, ring that bell." he pointed to a ship's bell on a pole at the top of the slipway. I rang it.

"Nothing's happening."

"It can take a while. He's probably having a smoke somewhere. He started smoking last year, silly sod."

"Apart from having a wander, why are we bothering?" There was plenty more to see on this side, after all.

"I'm a member of the club here, too," he said. "I just want to show you everywhere that's special to me. I hope you'll want to be part of everything I love. I think I'm deeper in love with you every day. I want everything we do to be... special."

"You can be really soppy at times!" I kissed his cheek. "It's one of the things I love about you. Doesn't matter what we do, it's special because I'm with you."

"I've been meaning to ask you. Do I introduce you as my boyfriend?"

"Don't see why not, but equally, I don't think we need to rub anyone's face in it. I was thinking about that anyway. If you were a girl and I was your boyfriend, how would you introduce me then?"

"See what you mean. So, if it comes up be happy to acknowledge it, if not then it doesn't matter. It's not 'none of your business', more like 'Yup. I'm a really lucky guy.'."

"There's a lot to get used to, but all about other people, have you noticed?"

"It feels as if other people need a label to put on us to be able to understand us."

"I had not expected a rowing boat!" The ferry, or I thought it was the ferry, had arrived from the other side. A lad about our age was rowing it.

"That's Iolo. He lives here. Helps out waiting on at the club."

We'd done introductions in the boat. I was introduced as Jerry. That was just right. I think Tom must have been overthinking things before. Then Iolo led the way to the clubhouse. "There's a good few members looking for crew for the regatta on Thursday week, Tom," he said. "Jerry, do you sail?" He paused. "Oh, bloody hell! Tom and Jerry! I've only just noticed! Oh shit!" and he couldn't stop laughing.

"Shall we wait it out, Tom?"

"Gonna have to, I reckon. These North Welsh, they need to get out more!"

"I'll give you taking the piss out of the North Welsh!"

"Think you just did that yourself, Iolo. Looks like you're about to wet yourself!"

"Twll dyn bob Sais!!"i

"Yeah, you taught me that last year! Got me to raise a glass of coke and say it! Then the whole bar laughed at me because I thought it was a polite Welsh toast! I'll have to start calling you 'Taffy' and reciting that rhyme!"ii

"All right, I give up. Still think it's funny, though. It's good to see you again, Tom. Nice to meet you, Jerry. I've got to get on. See you later?"

We both hoped so. I was enjoying a part of Tom I'd not seen before, too. Then he surprised me. "On Monday," he said, "if you would like to, I've booked us onto a race coaching course."

"I hope you mean as students!"

"Sometimes I think you're serious. You nearly had me going, there! Of course as students!"

"I'm up for that. Can I afford it?"

"We've been lucky. There were a couple who dropped out of the course, and they'd paid! Now we're them, bought and paid for. It's one of the advantages of this club. They've got a huge coaching programme."

"Apart from finding out I was in love with the loveliest boy in the world at the end of a club race, this is a fantastic surprise... Actually, Tommy..."


"Yeah. Every day with you is just fantastic. I'm glad my brain went into 'I just have to kiss him' mode that day. Imagine missing out on being in love and being loved..." I petered out into comfy silence.

He knew what I meant, was thinking, or something. "What would you like to do now?"

"Can we go and see the beach? It looked sandy and sand duney."

"It is, we can, we shall."

We did.

It was romantic.

It was erotic, too.

But it was also rather gritty.

I'm getting comfortable with our bodies. I know I'm meant to think of sex all the time because I'm a teenager, and I confess I've started to think about it loads more than I used to, but sex isn't as important as I thought it was going to be. We're building up to it, but not in a pressure cooker kind of way. In the dunes there was the extra thrill of being vulnerable to discovery if anyone had walked half a mile down the beach and then into the dunes.

Tommy took me by the hands and kissed me, and then slipped to his knees. I had an idea what to expect, but I never knew what to expect. It was, warm, liquid, slow to build, and explosive as it built. And he absolutely refused to let me return the deed.

"We don't owe each other good things. We give each other good things," he whispered as he kissed me. "And I wanted to give you your first one as a simple gift."

"Don't you need something yourself?" I was coming back to earth.

"Later? Right now I'm absolutely happy."

We went round to the club in the evening, all of us, by car. Tom's dad wanted to meet someone, or wanted us to meet someone. "Dad used to come here when he was a kid, and he used to sail with a much older bloke from Wolverhampton on his yacht. It was new then, it's a classic today, and dad's friends with Tony, the chap who owns it now. He's going to ask if we can go out on it tomorrow."

We met. He asked. We could. They'd also arranged it on the phone beforehand

I'd no idea what to expect, not at all. Tony invited Tom's dad who's told me I must call him David. Luckily that's his name, otherwise it'd be a bit stupid. I must try to stop being a smartarse; it always gets me into trouble in the end. And, what I meant to say was that he's invited David and me and Tom. His daughter is coming too. Her name's Hazel. I think she's about our age, too. It's hard to tell with girls. They always seem so much older, somehow.

In the marina the boat wasn't the biggest by a long way. Her name's Rhubodach and she's dark green. Tony gave us all a briefing on what was what. We were going to go out for the Sunday club race round the buoys. "What does the name mean, Tony?" I asked him.

"When I bought her I thought it meant 'Rubber Duck', he said, but I found out that it's a place on the Isle of Bute. Mind you, I think the bloke who had her built back in the seventies had a sense of humour. She's Mallard Green, so Rubber Duck suits her. She bobs about a bit like a rubber duck, too."

"She's beautiful."

"Thanks. I've kept her original rig. She used to be campaigned as a half tonner, though, before you ask, she's a damned sight heavier than that. It's a set of rules they built boats within to make them compete on a kind of level basis. They still had to use handicap tablesiii though. I hate roller furling headsails, so we have a bit of extra work."

"Does she have a class,iv or is she just a half tonner?"

"She's a Hustler 30 . Quite a few were built, but we rarely run into others."

While we were talking we'd all been getting the boat ready, and away from the marina. I'd no idea what to do, so I'd put the sandwiches down below. Tony asked me what I knew about sailing. So did Hazel. I explained that this was a first for me, and that I was pretty decent with a dinghy. We talked spinnakers. Hazel explained that Rubber Duck's were bigger than I'd ever handled, but that her dad had said we'd fly one if we all felt up to it.

"We're going to go out an hour and a half or so early to get used to the boat," Tony said. "David and Hazel and Tom know her already, but we need to get Jerry up to speed since this is all new for him."

As soon as we had space out of the harbour Tony put her head to wind and we got the main up. The genoa surprised me. On the GP it comes back a bit past the shrouds . On Rubber Duck it came almost all the way back to the cockpit,v and that's right at the stern. And, when sheeted in we had to work to spring it up and over to be inside the guard rails! And the sail was so powerful it had to be winched in. And the winches had two speed gearing!

So much was the same as on the GP, but there was so much new to learn. And that was before we worked the spinnaker out. We even had a choice of a light weather and a heavy weather one of those!

She tacked like a dinghy, almost as quickly, which surprised me, but that huge genoa had to get from side to side, and around another obstacle, too, an inner forestay! We had to be careful to wind the sheets clockwise round the winches, and not to drop the winch handles overboard, and that was about the only practical difference, but the power in the sails was amazing. She heeled over, then squirted forwards. Off the wind she shook her head and freed up and pressed hard through the water.

Ok, a modern racer will plane over the top of the water. That's a skimming machine, this is a classic cruiser/racer. The difference is æsthetics.

We practiced tacking for a few tacks and then Hazel opened the forehatch, and called me and Tom forward to start to understand a new toy – the spinnaker. A whole new world opened up. Two spinnaker poles, two sets of sheets, two pole downhauls, and something called a jockey pole. And the sail was clipped onto the pulpit in a turtle, which it had been flaked into last time it was used!

If there'd been somewhere to sit down I'd have had to, just to take it all in!

This was going to be fun!

Tom turned to me on the foredeck while Hazel was explaining it all. "You're loving this, aren't you!"

"Yes, oh yes! Almost as much as I love you. Though it's a close call right now!"

"Oh that's so cute," Hazel said. "I've known there's no hope for girls with Tom for ages. I'm so glad you've found a good looking boyfriend, Tom!"

"Wait? What? How? And yes, he's adorable..."

"Later, matey, we're going to connect this thing up and fly it. Then we get to drop it and re-pack it."

"Ok, now, how?" We'd flown and dropped the big kite a couple of times, and Tom was below repacking it with Hazel. They almost had time for a conversation amid the rustling of their fighting with the huge sail in the small cabin.

"Well," she started, "It's not that I've drooled over you and got nowhere, exactly. And don't look hurt with those puppy dog eyes, they fool no-one! It's that you've only ever treated me as someone you get on well with, not someone you might want to climb into bed with. Not that I want anyone to climb into bed with me, you understand, but it's nice to feel wanted."

"Would you be upset if I told you I'd tried to be attracted to you?"

"In an odd way a bit flattered, but in most ways slightly weirded out!"

"Won't be telling you that then!"

"Nah, best not. Anyway this is all packed. Let's go up and see what dad's got in mind."

Yacht racing and dinghy racing are pretty much the same, except with bigger, heavier boats. The start was just the same as any club start; those with nerves of steel battled for position. Tony held Rubber Duck close enough to the press on the line, but far enough away for us to keep clear.

"We're here for a bit of fun," he explained to us before the start. We've a great handicap and we may well win overall if we sail well. It's a three hour race, or thereabouts. There's not a lot to be gained by bumping and barging on the start line. And this lot are as keen as mustard." He gestured over the stern with his thumb at a couple of J80s busy taking aim at a third one. "We'll let them fight each other and we'll try to walk all over them in clear air."

I liked his calmness. We each had duties. Hazel was tactician, keeping lookout for openings and other boats, very hard to do underneath the enormous genoa, Tony was at the helm, David on the mainsheet and Tom and I provided power for the jib sheets and winches. I found out later that these were the original style, well serviced, old, and not self tailing, so getting the genny in every time we tacked or needed to adjust it needed two of us, one to winch, the other to tail the sheet.vi And there's a knack to winding the sheet around the winch, too.

After the start flags lowered and the start was called on the VHF we settled down on a beat to windward. It wasn't just buoys that were marks on this course. We had islands to leave to port. I wondered if you could call for mark room for an island! After the islands we were looking for a Trinity House navigation marker, then turning for the club line. Each leg was around six nautical miles, in a scalene triangle.

As we headed out to the islands it was all very similar to sailing on our reservoir, except the spray was salty. The sea was smooth. As we came round the islands things changed. We came into waters not sheltered by the land and I found out what the sea was really like. I knew before, of course, I've been on boat trips, but never in something only 30 feet long and never under sail. I'm a bit ahead of myself, though.

We were about half way up, down, the fleet. Tony told us that was fine. We had a more favourable handicap that the boats ahead, but he was a bit concerned about not yet having enough gap with the boats astern. "Handicaps make it hard to judge," he said. "Just sail the boat the best we can and accept the result."

Hazel was in charge of all things spinnaker. In the smooth water as we approached the easterly turn around the islands she sent me forward with the turtle. "You know what to do," she told me, far more confident in my abilities than I was.

I clipped the turtle to the pulpit, and checked the sheet and guy pairs on each side were rigged outside all, and clipped them on to each clew, and the halliard onto the head, putting the turtle's lid back on to stop it all flying out too soon. We were preparing about half a mile from when we were going to hoist.

"Starboard pole," she called. I hooked the inboard end to the big ring on the mast, just as she'd taught me, and the outboard end I led forward and clipped to the starboard guy, made sure the downhaul, something she called a foreguy and Tony called the downhaul was outside the inner forestay, double checked the pole was to starboard of that as well, and then crouched down on the weather deck, out of the slot between the genny and the main.

Tony'd said that we'd take it steady, but we could tell that he also wanted to win. He bore away and called for the hoist. Tom and David hauled away on the halliard as I went forward and unclipped the turtle lid, and the kite was up. My job then was to drop the genny and gather it along the leeward rail. It's a bloody big unwieldy sail!

Not only did we do this in half the time we'd practiced, but waves had arrived from around the headland. We were on a broad reach and storming along, Hazel trimming the sheet with David, and telling me and Tom what to do with the guy and foreguy. You have to let one out to pull the other in! Complicated or what! We'd done well, but the boat ahead was battling with an hourglass, and we were reeling them in!

I know how to fly and set a spinnaker, but this thing was huge . It almost deserved capital letters. The rig made a humming noise. I've never felt so much power in a boat before, and RD is just a small yacht. She's only just bigger that two GP14s end to end. "You're doing really well, all of you," Tony said. "We can't go any faster. We're at the top speed the hull can go , but I can make use of surfing down the waves. It means you're going to be working hard on trimming the sail, though."

While not enormous, I know that because I've seen enormous waves on TV, they were not small. We were busy trimming guy and sheet most of the way to the turning mark.

This wasn't just a new environment, this was different from any race I'd been in before. We were surrounded port, starboard, ahead and astern, by a flock of coloured spinnakers, and, though we knew where we were on the water we had no idea what position we were in the race because of the handicap. It meant we had to work hard at maximum boat speed all the time. It wasn't a case of overtaking a boat and staying there. If we overtook a notionally faster boat then we were way ahead on time even if our bow was just in front. If a notionally slower boat was even quite a distance astern of us she might be ahead on corrected time.

"We can gybe and keep it flying, I think?" Hazel told her dad.

"Safety harnesses on the foredeck, please. And lifejackets. Lifejackets for the cockpit as well"

Those were a struggle to get into. We should have had them on earlier before it got exciting. Tom moaned about putting a lifejacket on. We all ignored him.

"Ok, Jerry, you've gybed a GP's spinnaker, here's what we do." Hazel explained it to me. "Think you can do that?"

I repeated the sequence to her.

"Good. Now we'll take it as steady as you need to. We may be taking the race seriously, but it's meant to be fun as well, right, dad?"

"That's what we're out here for," he said. "Clip your harness on to this jackstayvii before you get out of the cockpit. Yell if you need help. You know how to inflate the lifejacket? These may be automatic, but you need to know how to do it yourself, too."

I knew.

I clipped.

I left the illusion of safety the yacht's cockpit gave me for the wild ride of the weather side deck. It hadn't been like that when we hoisted the kite, we were in the lee of the headland then. Then I started to get the foredeck ready. I went through the list of tasks, in order.

Port hand pole to the lazy guy, the one that was to be the new one on the next gybe.

Pole uphaul on, just enough.

Port foreguy clipped on, slack.

Push pole out to clip it to the other ring on the mast. Damn that was hard, even though the new guy was slack.

Check all lines to be sure nothing was snagged round the inner forestay. Phew!

I heard Hazel from the cockpit, "Ready in about 200 metres, please!"

"Ready foredeck!" Me

"Ready Sheet!"

"Ready Guy!

Two hundred metres goes by fast at just over six knots. "Ready to Gybe... Bearing away... Gybe Oh!" I felt the sudden change of angle as the boat heeled to the new gybe. More from Hazel, loud from the cockpit! "Main's gybed! Port pole up! Sheet port guy! Port foreguy on! Port sheet loose! Starboard guy loose! Starboard pole down! Starboard sheet on.... Trim it! Jerry, dump the starboard pole!"

I unrigged it from the mast, and tripped the hook that the old starboard guy was clipped into, balanced myself in what were now cross swells, and strapped the old pole down and disconnected the lines I had to disconnect. Then changed to the weather side jackstay and made my way back to the cockpit. We had a strong angle of heel on.

Hazel again, "The guy's on the shrouds. We need the jockey pole! It'll take two of you to rig against the pressure."

Tom told me what it was. A short pole that pushed the guy off the shrouds, to be clipped to the unused pole ring on the mast. I went up first, he followed, passed me the jockey pole. Hazel was right. It took brute force. We couldn't do it. Tom called back, urgently, "Hazel, let the pole forward, slacken the guy. We need about half a minute with less pressure!"

She slackened it, we pushed it into place. "Ready. Sheet the guy in!" I called. And watched as the spinnaker pole inched off the forestay where it ended up when the guy was slackened. The jockey pole changed the direction of pull just enough to take the pressure off the shrouds and forestay.

"You two stay on the side deck, sit down, face the rail, legs outboard, just as you did on the beat up to the islands," Tony called. I've got David and Hazel here to trim the sails. "Sit at the widest part of the hull, please. Think heavy!"viii The he added "Stay clipped on, please!"

"Wow," I said to Tom, "I enjoyed that. Oww!" I found several bruises I hadn't noticed getting.

"You did that like you've done it before. I'm impressed!"

"You're easily impressed, then! It was logical, just like gybing a GP, but heavier and with more bits of metal and string!"

"I love you when you're being humble! Are you having fun?"

"Am I? How could I not be? I'm with my best friend in the whole world, and I love him. He loves me. Our parents are happy for us, I'm doing a sport I adore. I'm on a yacht for the first time ever, doing things I never dreamed I knew how to do... I'm having the best time of my life ever!"

"I'm so happy, too!" and he kissed me as I turned to look at him, right on the lips, in front of everyone. And he took my hand as we sat, side by side, watching wave after wave roll under us as the three at the blunt end powered us toward the finish line. We had bright sun, dark grey-blue sea, almost more wind than we wanted, on a thirty foot yacht that seemed now twice the size it was in the marina. I hadn't realised that size was relative until then. Rhubodach was our world until we got home fit and well and safe.

We weren't doing badly at all in the race. Tony'd driven us past a couple of others who'd slipped down to leeward. They'd already had to drop their kites as they realised the tidal stream was taking them downtide of the mark before the finish. He'd kept RD uptide to make sure our course made good was as short as could be and that we could keep the big kite up. As we were driving back into the lee of the islands and headland the waves were easing. We were powering along hard and smoothly.

Tony called from the tiller "Boys! In about half a mile we have to drop the kite, get the genny up to starboard, and round the turning mark to port, them ODMix to port a couple of hundred metres later. It's going to get busy! Hazel, allocate jobs, please!"

"Tom, Jerry, get the genny to the starboard rail please. When you've done that I need Tom back here to handle the drop while Jerry springs the guy off the tack of the spinnaker." We'd rehearsed this. It was far easier then the gybe, which we hadn't rehearsed! "David, you will raise the genoa, and get ready to winch the sheet in. Tom's coming back to tail the sheet. Jerry, once you let the clew fly you man the spinnaker halliard and lower as soon as I have it under control in the cockpit. It's going straight into the cabin." She paused. "Ok, is everyone clear on their jobs?"

She got a chorus of yesses.

"Ok, after we get the genoa up and sheeted for this reach I'll give you a 'prepare to drop' then count to 10, and then yell 'DROP'. Jerry, free the clew as soon as I call the drop, then move to the halliard. to lower away handsomely, but under control."

We had about five minutes to wrestle the genoa round, then another five of sailing hard until "Ok, Hoist genoa. Jerry make sure it flies clear..."

The rest went as Hazel planned. She knew precisely how to get the best out of us all. As we hardened up the angle of heel increased dramatically and I saw the turning mark, then very soon afterwards the ODM go past our port rail, then BANG, the finish gun from the club start/finish line

And we were finished! Wow. No idea yet where we were placed, there were still half a dozen boats behind us, any of which might yet beat us on corrected time. Another half dozen or so had already finished. They had no idea where they'd come either.

Back in the club bar an hour later, shandy for Hazel, me and Tom, beer for the so called grownups, Tony relived the race with us, and was very pleased with how we'd all done. "You did an amazingly good job on the foredeck, Jerry. I'd never have known it was your first time."

"First time for a lot of things this year," I told him.

"Yeah, I've heard from David. You and Tom make a sweet couple!"

He'd made me blush.

Felt like a good blush.

We'd come third on corrected time, seventh over the line. We'd beaten all except the boat directly ahead of us, and been beaten by the one who crossed the line last. We pissed all over the J80s!

Even Hazel was pleased. I'd been worried, secretly, that I hadn't been good enough for her. "Dad?"

"Yes love?"

"This lot did pretty well. Shall we ask them aboard for the regatta?"

"Unless they've got anything better to do!"

"Well," she said, "No-one threw up or fell off. They seem ok for a bunch of randoms we picked up in the club!"

"If you're not careful I'm going to kiss you!" Tom was laughing.

"No, I know where your lips've been. I saw you sneak a kiss with lover boy here when you thought we were all too busy aft!"

"Ok, I'll kiss, you then!" and I made a move towards her.

"Gawd, I know I like boys, But I'd prefer them to fancy me, not just kiss me for sport!"

"Tom?" We were walking back to the chalet. Dad had gone in the car.


"How is it that everyone we know is so nice?"

"Daft question, that. The ones we care about are nice. The ones we bump into like that awful bloke at the GP Youth thing, they don't count."


"Also, I think it's because we're ordinary, normal lads. Think about it. Andy's nice too, but he's camp as a row of tents. He likes being like that, but it polarises folk. I dunno if camp is natural or an act. Probably nor does he now. I like Andy. Andy likes us. But I'm not sure the reception of his being so camp would have here, where folk don't know the boy inside."

"He's tough like us and does normal sports stuff too, though."

"Yes, he does. Maybe he's a bad example. Is being sporty important, do you think?"

"No. At least I'm pretty sure it isn't. Nor's being 'blokey'. I think it's just being as ordinary about you and me being a couple of boys as it would be with a boyfriend and girlfriend."

"Aren't you overthinking this?"

"I thought that was your job!"

That night we went to bed in my room. To be fair it was just like his room.

We did our best not to make the chalet rock.

Not making any noise was harder! I mean, just how do you stay quiet, even when you have your mouth full and it's all getting rather steamy?

Tastes bloody odd, does that. It's not my favourite, but it's my Tom. It's just fine.

That wasn't the big step, either

There isn't a ferry in this harbour. I think there ought to be one, but there just isn't. Still, it's a story. Ferries can be made to exist where no real ferries are. With a bit of divination you can work out where in the world this vignette is set, but neither boy was there. Nor was the boat, which is somewhere else entirely now, though very real, and with a different name. I know. I've raced on her often when I was around Jerry's age. Guess who did the foredeck work?


i I have seen this spelt many different ways, and have concluded that each way is valid in its own way. Ah, but what does it mean?

ii You know the one: Taffy was a Welshman... Google is your friend here!

iii Yacht racing with different types of yacht usually has the whole fleet start at the same time. Then a handicap system is used when the boats finish to correct the actual elapsed time of each boat to the theoretical time, or corrected time, that is then used to place them in real finishing order. So you can be first across the line and come way down the fleet or be last across the line by ages and come first on corrected time.

iv Most yachts have a class. This is the name of the design given to them by the designer. Often the name of the class reflects their length overall. So an Elizabethan 9 metre is a nine metre long yacht, give or take. A SHE 31 is 31 feet long, give or take, A Nicholson 30 is 30 feet, etc etc.

v Back in the days these boats were amongst the top racing boats of their day the genoa scraped the side deck and came the entire way back to the cockpit as can be seen here. The number 1 genoa was bigger than the mainsail, or, if it wasn't, it certainly felt like it. For stronger winds there was smaller genoas. We changed the headsails when we needed to.

vi Seriously? This one you are just going to have to work out for yourself. What might it mean?

vii A jackstay is, in this context, a strong rope or piece of webbing running stem to stern, to clip a crewmember's safety harness onto. There are other contexts with other meanings

viii On a racing yacht with guardrails all crewmembers must stay within the guardrails. But they may sit on the weather rail, feet outside. The rule applies to the bodies, not the legs! Not bizarre at all, that! Doing this helps balance the boat against the huge pressure of the sails. A boat that is level sails faster, and the keel works more effectively to prevent leeway

ix Outer Distance Mark, the seaward maximum extent of the start/finish line from the club starting rostrum. Yachts must pass between that and the Inner Distance Mark, if any, to be awarded a finish time.

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