I've been invited to the lateen sailing day at L'Ametlla de Mar every year for the past five and have always regarded my failure to attend as evidence of the insipid nature of my sailing credentials. What sailor with salt in their veins would let such an opportunity go by, five consecutive times.
But even so I still didn't get there in time for Friday evening's cooking contest in which boat crews were given half a kilo of fresh tuna, a gas ring and an iron pot. They were allowed to bring any other ingredients or tools they required and apparently the results were spectacular. However, after my recent experience on the stressful side of preparing food for a wedding I was glad not to be cooking. The weekend would be about enjoying food without having to make it. But as the early morn found me in a service station examining the wheels of the boat trailer I wondered if I'd even get breakfast.
Events were due to kick off with a skippers meeting at 10:30 but before that I had to get the boat to the harbour and on the water. But I was letting my English sense of urgency and punctuality get the better of me, causing unnecessary stress and worry. I chilled, established the trailer wasn't about to dissemble despite its juddering, arrived, readied the boat, had breakfast then got OB craned on to the water and rowed over to the town with plenty of time to spare before everybody else was gathered and collected. After a 'Hello' the meeting went like this: 'Right we've got to sail down to l'Ampolla before lunch or we won't get anything to eat. Then we've got to sail back in time to attend a conference with Anna Corbella before dinner. So, down to the boats, hoist sails and we'll regroup at the entrance to l'Ampolla harbour.'
The wind was light and from the east. Each boat gradually unfurled it's wings until, a little white flock, we glided out of l'Ametlla and on to the gentle heave of a subsiding sea overlaid with a sloppy chop rebounding with irritating unpredictability from the rocky shore. Sailing large, off the wind, I raised the centre board and adjusted OB in such a way that she trickled along at 2.5 to 3 knots. This was about 0.2 knots faster than the rest of the fleet and OB slowly advanced through the boats giving me a chance to receive unintelligible snippets of good will, or impending doom, from other sailors. One phrase that I did manage to catch and pass on to other boats was that we had to get a move on as otherwise the awaiting rice ('Rice' is the generic term for paella, itself a generic term.) would be irredeemably overcooked. This was a call to arms and while others started their engines I set the mizzen staysail athwartships to present more canvas to the breeze and so accelerated by half a knot. There was no conspicuous regrouping at the harbour entrance we all just bundled in, boats crazily zigzagging as they lowered sails, crowding up to the available pontoon space in a thoroughly disorganised yet nonetheless seamanlike manner. We all hurriedly disembarked a) to avoid the rice overcooking and b) to find some shade and hence arrest our own cooking.
In the lavatories where people were dousing themselves under cold-water taps I overheard one crew say that next time they'd be drinking wine instead of beer as that way they wouldn't have to pee so much. So that was reason c) for the hurry. The rice turned out not to be a generic term for paella but rather a euphemism for food itself. To wit, an utterly predictable pasta salad, which I ate with undisguised disappointment, followed by two pieces of over-marinaded meat. As I examined it I heard someone down the table pronounce that it was chicken. I asked the fisherman who was serving—he didn't know what it was, then a neighbour on my other side declared that it was turkey. I decided to try it. It was obviously pork. For all that I consider myself a creature of the sea I can tell a pig from a turkey even when it's dead and on my plate.