On hen-pecked twenty-somethings and how yachting will make a meal of you

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the hand-holding and hen-pecking I saw going on at the French Embassy in Cape Town. And my eavesdropping confirmed it all: two ADULT yachties still wrapped-up in the clutches of mommy’s cotton wool.

At one point, I very nearly did the ‘shoulder tap’ followed by a polite: Excuse me lady. Yachting’s not for siessies. You’re not doing your little Johnny any favours here.

Little Johnny was a porkster anyway, bulging at the ankles and at the belly. He had that “I’d-rather-be-playing-Playstation look while mommy spoke oh-so sweetly to the consultant and flurried her way through the paperwork.  I wondered what would come of him when a first mate threw a shammy at his feet and told him to build up a sweat and then squeeze into a wet suit and scrub the hull.

The other was a spoilt blonde who ordered her dad about like a pool boy, “You’d better get [the visa] for me,” she ordered.  I saw the future her, seasick (those girls always get “seasick”) and cowering in the shadow of a no-bullshit, chief stewardess. She would realise then that the comforts of her Bishops Court home and an “I’m-a-somebody” attitude are lost on the yachting industry.

Come to think of it, it’s probably good we weed these people out early.

Queen crew placement agent Erica Lay has me in stitiches over her mamma vas commentary
Crew placement queen Erica Lay’s entertaining commentary

Crew placement queen Erica Lay has me in stitches over this topic: I will not send the cv of anyone who’s still tied to the apron strings because clearly you lack the independence (and balls) required for a life at sea.

I thought back on my own weening from the breast. Mom had sat me down and made the rules of life quite clear: I won’t fight your battles for you my girl. Go out into the world and fight them yourself.

So I did. And I still do.

When other mommies marched about the school grounds dressed in their gym-pants and head-bands, I sat in the principals office alone . When I was kicked out of university, I sat unchaperoned in front of a string of professors and begged to be let back in. And when I set sail, I did that on my own coattails.

Bottom line: do your own dirty work. Visas, flights, paperwork, banking, accounts, reading and research, travel insurance, medical aid and crew agencies are all part of the unglamorous side of yachting. And please don’t expect a pat on the back for doing it. It’s par for the course.

In fact, I’m so grateful to mom for giving me the “gloves off” treatment because she wasn’t there when I left my passport in Zimbabwe and had to negotiate my way over the border. Or when I arrived in Namibia on an expired passport.  She wasn’t there when I was pulled over in Frankfurt and questioned or when I couldn’t find work in Antibes and my visa nearly ran flat. She wasn’t there when I was dropped off at a Mozambican port and I couldn’t prove I’d entered the country legally. She wasn’t there when authorities walked onto a bus in Gibraltor and asked for the only three South Africans to step forward.

It’s only through mistakes that we learn and through our own determination that we succeed. Where’s the sense of worldlyness and chutzpah? Where’s your own dream to become a yachtie?

When mom and dad hold your hand at the Embassy, it’s clearly not a good start.