Do you believe in a thing called luck?

“You’re so lucky Dougal! You get to work in such lovely places and meet such fascinating people. I wish I was as lucky as you and got to travel the world, sailing beautiful yachts and getting paid for the privilege”

I am incredibly lucky. To the extent that I was born with relatively few health deficiencies,  to two very supportive parents in probably the best country in the world. Really being from Scotland is like winning the lottery if you want to travel, no-one has any negative preconceptions about the Scottish, we are internationally blessed with popularity.

However me swanning around the Caribbean like a Ray-Bans clad Jack Sparrow has very little to do with luck so I resent the remarks I invented for the start of this post.  I believe I am where I am today not necessarily through lots of hard work but by making the right decisions. I chose to not go to university (after I got rejected), I chose to take a job on a boat in the Bahamas (after I got sacked from my summer job) and I chose to hitch a ride on a yacht sailing across the atlantic when everyone else was heading back to the mountains and the snow. I think you have to make your own luck, if you have at least some idea of what you want to do in life then do yourself a favour and throw yourself bodily in that direction.

Although there may be some exceptions. I often noticed whilst sailing on a previous yacht that, regardless of how miserable it seemed the conditions were going to be, when the owner (a very wealthy banker) showed up for his weekly yacht around The Hamptons the weather was invariably impeccable. It could be an all out storm, lashing rain with thunder and lightning thrown in to boot but by the time he stepped on board the grey clouds would have parted. The birds would set up a whistle like they were in on the joke, the sun would be bouncing off the startled wavelets and with a clap of his hands Mr Boss Man would say “Right what are you all standing around looking so soggy for? Let’s go for a sail!” Of course it would be perfect. We’d up anchor and a fresh breeze would take us up and down the sound for as long as the ladies could stand the gentle motion of the ocean. Then, as soon as the chauffeur driven car had disappeared around the corner, the first rain drops would start to fall. Our seven hour sail home would become ten ours with the cruel head wind that had blown up and we’d have to zip our heavy waterproofs right up to our eyeballs to keep the wet out.
Kraken 2
Another meteorological example occurred this morning. A different yacht and another ludicrously wealthy boat owner. This incredibly successful entrepreneur had organised the sinking of an old ship to become a diving attraction and ultimately a new living reef. They made a big wire Kraken and had it designed so it looked like it was consuming the back of the ship, I’m told they’re going to implant coral on it and there will be Go-Pros set up to capture the whole process with time lapse photos. It’s going to look pretty awesome. The day of the sinking arrives, I could hear the rain hammering on the hull when I woke up. Sitting on the aft deck having some breakfast it seemed like they wouldn’t need to put any effort into sinking the ship but merely wait for the thing to fill up with rain. At 10 o’clock we climbed into our tender, all of us bedecked in fowl weather gear, and headed off to watch the sinking. Before we got to the sight, about 10 minutes drive away, it had stopped raining. We now learnt how long it takes for a ship to sink and for those of us who happen to work on them it was a reassuringly long time. Had it been pouring with rain it would have been miserable, had the sun been out it would have been torturous (especially for me as I’d forgotten the aforementioned Ray-Bans) but it wasn’t. Of course the conditions were nothing short of ideal, the sky was almost entirely overcast for the three hours it took The Kodiac Queen to go down, which during the Caribbean summer is pretty darn pleasant. In the very last moments though disaster seems to have struck, the ship is going down on it’s side, it looks like it might even land upside down, completely crushing the intricate Kraken structure which has taken a team of men months to construct! Just imagine the sorry sight of the upturned hull with all the wee Kraken legs sticking out the side like a squashed Daddy longlegs. Of course it didn’t though. During the 60ft decent the remaining air in the hull righted the ship and she landed evenly, Kraken side up. That was lucky….
Kraken 3
I did intend to write about my time working in Greece and eventually get to how I came to be laying on a spinnaker on the bow of this 105′ yacht but I guess being british talking about the weather just comes all too naturally to me. Next time, I promise.

So it began- High expectations and very cheap wine.

People always say “You can do whatever you want to do, you can be whoever you want to be” and by people I mean my mum and by “you” she was referring to me.

My dad asked me, when I was 18, what I wanted to do with my life. I answered “I want to work somewhere sunny, do as little, and make as much money as was possible.” He laughed. Five years later he reminded me of this conversation and congratulated me on achieving exactly what I had set out to.

As I begin this blog writing experiment I am laying on a spinnaker on the bow of a 105′ luxury sailing catamaran which is tied to an island in the British Virgin Islands and I’m drinking a vodka soda all of which are owned by a multi billionaire.

The plan was to follow in Dad’s footsteps and become a doctor, fortunately that plan required a lot of hard work and studying, which I was not prepared to do, so it never came to fruition. I distinctly remember being sat in chemistry class and wondering how to get a job that would provide me with enough money and free time to be able to go sailing in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. It occurred to me that I could simply find work in the sailing and ski resorts that I so enjoyed visiting so much and thus cut out the hard work inducing middle man of actually getting a real job.

My first foray into the world of Seasonnaires was working as a kitchen porter (which is a euphemism for dishwasher) in the Hotel Val-d’Isère in a ski resort, funnily enough, called Val-d’Isère. If you know Val-D, then congratulations you may well be middle class, especially if you call it Val-D, you may also know that it has a reputation of being something of a party resort. This came as a bit of a shock to the system of the 18-year-old fresh out of the Highlands of Scotland that I was. We had a game in the kitchen called “Dorris, cheque on, song change challenge” try saying that after several glasses of cheap house wine. The premise of the game was simple. In the middle of the kitchen there was a small table with enough glasses for everyone working in the kitchen, one of the glasses was a half pint the rest were those miserly small juice glasses you’ll find in any hotel, each glass was filled with very cheap wine of varying colours, predominantly red or white. Dorris was the name of my washing machine, and a very warm and wet girl she was indeed. Every time I closed Dorris on a fresh load of dirty dishes the entire kitchen staff had to run to the “wine table” and down which ever glass they could get their hands on, if you were the last to the table you would have the pleasure of a half pint. The glasses were refilled and the process repeated whenever a song playing on the stereo changed or whenever a food order came in, in our defence we usually waited until we were about a third of the way through the desert orders before we started playing. I recall one time waking up, in my boxers, covered from head to toe in Bolognese sauce with my phone in my hand letting me know I’d had a half hour conversation with my mum. I don’t think I have any recollection of ever finishing an evening shift.

I had to quit that lofty position of kitchen porter after little more than a month to take up the real dream job of being a sailing instructor in Greece. My flight home was delayed by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, causing me to somewhat empathise with this fellow Scot, but after a lonely flight from Geneva (I was one of only two people brave enough to be on the first plane to take to the sky) I had less than 24 hours back at home before jetting out to Greece to start having what could conceivably be called the best time of my life.

I’m concerned this may be a touch long for my first blog post so I’ll have to get to how I came to be laying on this spinnaker in the next post.