如果外语水平不够，可以关注同期学员 @dtfei 周全一的帖子（地址如下： http://www.51hanghai.com/thread-64173-1-1.html ），写的超详细，里面还有许多本牛的靓照（全一这个人有些缺德，连扶舷呕吐时屁股的大特写都往上发）。好的中文就到这儿了，同学们和我大声一起念。。。
Inside the cacophonous sardine tin that is Beijing Railway Stations Number 7 Waiting Room the speakers drone out train numbers and departure times, attempting to simultaneously drown each other out and drive me insane.
Swelteringly oppressive heat makes the occasional brush against a sweaty cool arm less repulsive than it would usually be. Given than people are close packed without any semblance of a line and become more frenzied as they reach the gate where tickets are punched, physical contact is inevitable. The large LED screens and KFC are probably the only thing that has changed about the place since the 80s. Outside the air is humid, but the crowd dissipates as people find their carriages. On board the K51 to Rizhao the air is instantly cool. The generic blue and white interior décor of the train resembles cleanliness, order and structure. If it weren't for the ten year old using the bunks as a climbing frame I might genuinely have been fooled. The train rumbles out of the station and it has begun. Bon voyage!
Maybe it's the fact that a new city awaits at the other end of the line, maybe it's the creaking of the carriage with its sudden jolts and sporadic stops. No matter what the reason I have a hard time getting 50 winks. In a half stupor I hear that the train is running late and we have reached Jinan at 5:20am. One and a half hours later I eat a cereal bar and an egg, swab my infected finger, reapply a salve, and take two Cefradines. There is hot water onboard so I make myself an instant coffee. Looking outside, the weather is overcast. I wonder what it will be like in Rizhao.
Poetry and a Distant Land (the name of my Youth Hostel) is a bit of a dive, but the sheets are clean and the location is ideal: 5 mins away from the beach and its stunning lighthouse, and 3mins walk to the Marina. The Guesthouse has only been in business since April and there is an amateurish utopian freshness about the place. I share a room with 3 others, 2 of which are like me arriving today. A guitarist, a Panamanian Chinese student, an artist, a photographer and a German translator for VW are also staying here. Miss Ma, the translator is also learning to sail, but this is her second sailing experience. I sleep most of the afternoon exhausted from the train journey.
In the evening I accept an offer from Miss Ma to show me where the free lessons are being given at the Marina. A pleasant breeze drifts through a red clouded twilight sky. Later on walking back from the marina and taking a detour past the lighthouse, the beach is teeming with locals bathing in the sea. In the distance, dozens of torches alert us to the fact that people are out looking for crabs to eat. We chat about sailing experiences and plans. Ma will go to participate in a 5 day sailing race tomorrow, and afterward plans to take her mother to Mecca for the Haj. I am not religious but for some families I suppose it acts like an adhesive. It's something they do together. On our return to the Youth Hostel we watch a film in the communal area with some of the other guests. I realize the time, redress my wound and prepare for sleep. Tomorrow I begin my life as a trainee sailor!
The evenings rest is choppy, interrupted as a kitten sporadically pounces on various item of luggage and nibbles at my ankles. The occupant of the top bunk occasionally shifts his posture with an intensity fit for a herd of elephants. Another occupant of the room spontaneously utters "fuck!" Mysterious behavior. I wake at 5 am and dawn has broken. I cover my head and endure more pouncing, nibbles, elephants and curses before gathering the strength to rise at 7:30 am. I dress my wound, put on some sunscreen and brave the sun together with Ms. Ma. At 8 am I meet Lao Xu, a whispy bearded old salt and his mildly annoying son. He has a strange habit of removing my shades to look at my eyes. Perhaps he hasn't seen many foreigners before. Before long I also meet the other two classmates for the next few days: Wilson from Canton and Quanyi from Wenzhou. Wilson does IT for Sony Ericsson and Quanyi does business in Shanghai and Weihai.
In the morning we learn 4 knots: the figure of 8, the reef knot, bowline and Clove hitch. All are good knots for sailors to know and be able to tie without thinking. After about an hour of realizing how many thumbs we have we help preparing boats for the kids taking part in a Summer Camp. The sea breeze is seductive and deceptive. I hardly realize how my neck has burned up! The tenderness strikes me only in the afternoon when I finally get to ride in a Far East 11, all the while being ridiculed by Lao Xus 8 year old about how bad I am at steering. "Are you a pig?" He asks me, incredulous that I am not great at steering even though I've never been on a dinghy before. Nevertheless the wind and power are exhilarating and we move so fast that we almost capsize, twice (accompanied by the type of hysterical laughter that only 8 year olds and 35 year old sailboat virgins can muster). The evening is cool and dry, walking along the beach after having showered is bliss. I stop in a nice cafe and order a surprisingly nice Americano, read the news and soak up the view of the marina as the sun plunges into the waves far off in the horizon.
The night passes quickly and I awake feeling fresh. A fellow resident of Poetry and a Distant Place lends me a fabric tube (like a huge sock without a closed end) to shield my neck from the sun. This is a welcome present as I am badly sunburnt on the back of my legs, the area where I had been wearing socks and on the front of my neck. I arrive at the marina at 8:30 and we practice using the onboard engine reversing in and out of the docking area. You have to keep in mind not only the position of the rudder, but also the wind, the tide and the position and orientation of the motor. My first attempt was perfect, but perhaps it was beginners luck as the second attempt was less than satisfactory. In the afternoon we set up sailboats tying all the correct knots in the right places and fiddling around with pulleys until the teachers lost their patience and did it for us. Many students at the summer camp fall foul of the slippery algae on the slope where the boats are gradually eased into the water. Their injuries vary from minor cuts and bruises to mild concussion. It comes to light that the decision to replace the original concrete slope with shiny granite paving was made by a local official who thought "it would look classy". When you have someone with no actual understanding of what somethings function is and nobody raises any objections because they are scared of losing their civil servant jobs, the civilian casualties swiftly ensue. I despair.
In the afternoon we start to shift a 26 footer which is being propped up on a scaffold for repairs. One of the casters needs changing and the direction of casters is not reliable. Each time we want to change direction, we have to use a carjack to lift the scaffold and move the wheels manually. I suggest grease for the casters but my suggestion falls upon deaf ears. On the way to our final destination our path is blocked by an SUV parked carelessly in a no parking zone. Because nobody knows the driver we are helpless and we don't have the slightest inkling of when the owner might return. In the light of the circumstances we do the only polite thing possible: park the bugger in with a 26ft sailboat. That'll make you think twice. Leaving the scene of the crime it's time for some fun.
We take the Far East 11 out on the water and take turns trimming the sails and steering. We get quite good at changing direction downwind, moving forward without stalling. It is only when we come back to shore that Lao Xu tells me that this is hazardous and as noobs we should change direction upwind, using the rudder as propulsion if we stall. I'll take a moment to say a bit more about my companions on this journey of discovery: Zhou Quanyi comes from Wenzhou but does business located mainly in Weihai. He sells car cleaning powder to car washes. A DIY enthusiast he made his own catamaran. Wilson is an IT expert from Guangzhou who works for Sony Ericsson. Both are nice to be around, but Quanyi often assumes he is in charge and likes giving orders (bossy). Maybe he's had a bit of practice because he has a 2 year old daughter.
The slurp at the end of a milkshake, the gurgle of a plug hole as it drains. These sounds seem superimposed upon the raucous snoring of the fat man sleeping directly above me. The night grinds slowly by with short bursts of low quality sleep and I find myself staring at my iPhones alarm before it finally goes off at 5:30am. I lock my phone and money belt up at the front desk and put on my sunscreen. I fail to empty my bowels for the fourth day running. By 5:45 I'm out the door walking towards the marina. The weather is overcast and windy. Zhou Quanyi, Huangshan, two other sailors, myself and a short middle aged lady who's surname is Zhan climb aboard a Far East 26 in high spirits. As we motor our way out onto choppy seas past fly fishers we joke and laugh. I drink my coffee, washing down a cefradine for an infected finger. I munch on an apple as the boat rocks up and down among white crested waves, smelling the sea air mixing with the diesel. I help attach the mainsail to the boom, grinning ear to ear that we're finally out on the open waves. But then it comes: a change....
Someone says something about feeling sick and it hits me like a train. A cold sweat, an urge to shit myself, a primeval need to spew the contents of my stomach overboard. At first I look down at my feet. My silence has been noticed. "Don't look at the sea, look into the distance!" They aren't helping. I am having a hard time suppressing the urges. "Do you want to be sick?" This is the last straw. I throw up mostly over the gunwales. Thrice. The cold sweat coupled with the ocean wind makes it feel even worse. Four days of constipation seem like a distant memory but despite everything I control my sphincter. Being remembered as the Englishman who got sea sick is embarrassing enough, being remembered as the foreigner who simultaneously threw up and shit himself would be unforgivable! I close my eyes and cling to the cabin door, resting my forehead on my arms as the boat continues to bob up and down buffeted by the waves. I feel useless: deadweight onboard. The crew would be justified to throw me overboard but they are surprisingly sympathetic. I make a mental note not to be cruel to people who are seasick in the future.
After what seems like a year and a day we finally arrive back on land. I help docking stowing the gas tank, rudder and folding the mainsail. Back in Lao Xu's office people tell stories of their own seasickness and I feel a little less inadequate. It's 8:30 and we take a hose a bucket, some brushes and detergent to the marina to scrub the boats. As I scrub at the dregs of apple and coffee that used to be in my body, the fabric of my shorts gives way. Ms Zhan chuckles as she points out that my shorts are torn and she can see my bum. Will the humiliation ever end? It rains heavily as we eat a takeaway. Zhou Quanyi lends me a pair of shorts and Ms. Zhan uses a needle and thread to patch mine. Many thanks.
The rain gets smaller and we take the FE11 down to the marina. The rain makes the algae that much slipperier. I fall victim to the granite slope and Rizhao bureaucracy. One of its countless casualties. Light concussion. As I get onboard the boat my shades fall into the murky water never to be found again, but not for lack of effort. The lack of any wind makes sailing impossible. We use the rudder as an oar to propel the vessel forward oh so slowly. Not fun. It's 6pm and I say my goodbyes to Lao Xu and his partner Hong Laiyun. I admire what they do at 51hanghai.com and despite the poor luck on my last day I think I'm better prepared to approach sailing realistically, free of any illusions because of the experience.