Today’s blog post is a little different. We normally write these with “the voice of Agapi”, but today you get my voice. I’m Gerard Ross, an Australian living in Stockholm, and I’ve been writing for Agapi since late last year. I signed on with an attraction to boats but no real experience at the helm. But I’ve been bitten by the bug, and I wanted to share my experience of what it’s been like to get started and how Agapi Club and Agapi Academy are bringing me into the boating life.
I’ve always been a city boy. Although I grew up by a river on an island continent, boating was never an option in my family. Nevertheless, since I moved to Stockholm a decade ago, every time I’ve walked by the water or crossed a bridge, I’ve watched the folks on the boats with more than a little envy.
There are so many waterways to explore, so much beauty to discover, and the people on those boats always look so relaxed. But, it seemed, there was no way for a family like mine to get in on the action.
We live on one of Stockholm’s inner islands and don’t need to own a car. But there’s an app on my phone that means we can jump in a vehicle whenever we want. When I learned there’s an option to do that with boats too – well that’s a no-brainer. Of course it makes sense. There’s just one little catch – I didn’t have much experience.
But Agapi means love, and when you’re in love you want the world know to about it. So, part of Agapi’s mission is to spread that love of boating and bring in more people. People like me. The Agapi approach is to grow the boating community, to welcome more people onto the water, and to make sure everyone has fun, safely and responsibly.
That’s where the Agapi Academy comes in. These past months I’ve been learning a lot in my work with Agapi. But when I finally found some time in my own schedule, I jumped at the chance to get onboard under the experienced eye of captain Lars Weiler.
I was a little concerned that someone with Lars’s experience would have no patience for a landlubber like me, but I could not have been more wrong. In fact, with Lars, you feel his genuine enthusiasm about sharing the love of the boating life.
From his first warm welcome I knew I was in good hands. Lars is calm and friendly, and absolutely knows what he’s doing. And that immediately made me feel like I was making the right move.
He started by showing me around the dock and the boat, explaining in clear terms how everything worked. He literally taught me the ropes.
We then stepped through the Agapi web app. The booking interface is simple and completely intuitive. It’s clearly been crafted to match the overall experience of the boats themselves.
With a booking made and the boat’s condition checked, we easily accessed the keys and unlocked the boat. Next up was the laminated checklist, so clear and structured that it’s going to be a great help to me as I learn.
With the checks done, the canvas folded and stowed, the engine down, and the ropes and tenders shipshape, it was time to get moving. I was feeling nervous as we edged out into the marina but we soon passed the entrance and were off.
As we cruised, Lars talked me through the marine traffic rules, stressed the need to keep track of other boats in the area, and coached me on the best ways of handling the controls. There was a lot for me to take in that day, but through it all – thanks to the way Lars teaches – I was not only feeling relaxed, I was having fun.
And I got the chance to appreciate just what a lovely experience these boats provide. I love the fit and finish and the little touches that make the most of every part of the boat. It’s clear that the design philosophy here is “practicality is always essential but it’s never enough”. Everything onboard works great, looks great, feels great.
If there was one thing that I was most concerned about screwing up, it was docking. Naturally, this was the skill Lars spent most time leading me through. It was warm, clear weather, but a stiff breeze had been blustering all day, letting me know it would throw some challenges my way.
Lars first took us to a floating marker to practice on, without the fear of ramming a solid object. I’m not going to say I nailed it straight away, but I did get pretty damned close. After a few more attempts on the soft target, it was time to do it for real, so we zipped over to the refueling dock at Stora Fjäderholmen.
Here we go, I thought, as we edged closer. But really, by now, I was feeling good about it. I really can’t stress enough how easy the Agapi boats are to handle. For a beginner like me, an eight metre vessel seems intimidating at first, even with that big inflatable ring providing reassurance, suggesting I couldn’t screw up too badly.
But there’s another secret weapon on board that I totally (and unexpectedly) came to love: the bow thrusters. Despite the wind, despite the wake from other vessels, those babies made the close-in handling an absolute snap. Before I knew it, I had docked a boat.
After a few more practice runs, we took the time to cruise a little. The islands here are stunning in the summer evening light. I can’t wait to start exploring the Agapi Routes with my family, and the bright, responsive touchscreen of the navigation unit gives me confidence we can do it in total safety.
On the way back, Lars encouraged me to open the throttle up a little and get a feel for what that big Yamaha can do. We’ve set a plan that until I build up more experience, I’ll stick to low speeds, around 12 knots. I’m a cruiser by nature, so that’s fine, but there will be times in the future when I may just feel the need the speed.
With the basics covered, Lars now wants me to get some more practice before he guides me through more advanced skills in the coming months. As luck would have it, I spent time in Gothenburg, so I hit the water again with Agapi’s West Coast rep, Marcus Lindholm.
It feels like there’s a whole new world opening up for me. See you at sea!