The tough life

I have just returned from a week in the jasmine-scented surroundings of Fornells Bay, Minorca, with most activity revolving around the sea. I spent my days wobbling and scudding across it on a windsurf board, and my evenings dining on its late inhabitants in a friendly, family-run fish restaurant called Es Cranc (‘The Crab’ in local dialect, though I mainly enjoyed sole, squid and mussels). Life can be tough sometimes.

Windsurfers are a peculiar breed, and their weather preferences are frequently the exact opposite of other watersports enthusiasts. On the days when the breeze blows up and most dinghy sailors decide that it’s a bit fierce for them, the windsurfers (many of whom are of a slightly older generation than you might expect) are delighted. You can see them standing on the beach first thing in the morning, excited little bird dogs quivering with anticipation and waiting for the sailing school instructors to come along and unlock the big containers full of boards and sails, as if it were they who were caged rather than the equipment.

For my part, I only learned to windsurf last year, and am what would be politely termed an improver. In lighter winds I can control my board and sail fairly reasonably, but raise the wind above force 4 or thereabouts and all bets are off. However, since the main object of the exercise is simply to go as fast as possible, I still go out anyway. Crashing into the watery arms of the Mediterranean is a soft landing, and there are always rescue boats to fish you out if needs be.

One such day was Wednesday. Only two of us from my particular group went out in the 22-knot winds, and our morning consisted mainly of making our way unsteadily out into the bay, then turning downwind and clinging on for dear life until the inevitable tumble. I managed to catapult over with such force that the joint at the bottom of the mast snapped (it was an old one), and I had to drag my board back along the beach like some big dead albatross, the sail flopping about limply on the sand behind it.

When I returned, the other guy, a Scottish fellow, at a guess a few years older than me, was taking a breather in the shallows. He pointed out into the bay.

‘I’ve been out there, falling off all morning, but a few minutes ago I looked down as I was going along and I saw a little spider crawling along my board. How the fuck did that get there?’

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