About me

My name is Jeremy Friend, commonly known as Jez, and I’d like to welcome you to my new website. I hope you will find it both interesting and useful and will keep coming back as it expands. I’ve lots more to add but there’s only me to load the information and it takes time. So bookmark it now and do let me know if there’s anything in particular you want covering and I’ll see what I can do. Meantime a bit about me and about Sailing Choices.

I was a latecomer to sailing (though it’s never too late – I once met a gent on a Flotilla Holiday who had started sailing at age 80 and his skipper’s main complaint was that Donald loved it so much he wouldn’t let anyone else helm)!

The end of my first sailing trip. Safely back in La Rochelle, engine-less, after my first ever Mayday (in French)!!

The end of my first sailing trip. Safely back in La Rochelle, engine-less, after my first ever Mayday (in French)!!

My introduction came through a friend at university who out of the blue asked several of us if we’d like to go sailing on his father’s yacht on the west coast of France. We pondered this for several nanoseconds before accepting!

Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure who I’m most grateful to, my friend Jim for being brave enough to take a bunch of incompetent novices out, or his father David for trusting us with his lovely yacht (far nicer than many boats I’ve sailed since)!

I was chuffed I managed to keep my food down (my previous sailing trips having involved throwing up on various cross channel ferries). However, when we blew the engine up on the final day and had to be rescued by the French coastguard I guessed that was probably the end of my sailing days, and my new found ability to put out a Mayday in French would be of limited use.

David arrived next day for his 3 week annual holiday to find the engine in component parts spread across the saloon – we had no idea what we were doing but figured we ought to show willing. It only took the local boatyard another 3 weeks to put it all back together!!

Amazingly we did get several more invites and steadily moved the yacht, and it’s successor, a very nice Bowman, around to the Med.  By the end, my sailing skills were still rudimentary (“Jim, just tell me which colour rope to pull, and when I’ve pulled it enough, say stop”)!

The engineering skills improved though – I successfully re-plumbed the new hot water system one year, and got the new electronic nav system working the next. Amazing what you can do when you’re stuck in fog, though in retrospect it would probably have been better to check it worked before we went out!

I left university with a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering, just as Mrs Thatcher decided there was no future in manufacturing. After a few years climbing the career ladder I soon found I was helping her achieve her goals as I got my first management position and was promptly asked to make a large part of my department redundant. This would have been less difficult if the average age of my staff not been more than twice my age, with most having worked there for 30 years, compared to my 3 months!

I’d forgotten the sailing for several years but decided it might be welcome relief from the stresses at work and that it was maybe time to find out what the red rope actually did!  I booked some lessons in the Solent with an ex serviceman I found through the small ads in a yachting magazine. In retrospect, I had an excellent teacher, though “the Colonel” drilled us hard and it did take a while to get used to being called “a b****y useless idiot” several times a day. So much for the customer always being right!

"OK, I thing I've got the hang of this skippering thing"

“OK, I thing I’ve got the hang of this skippering thing”

Things got better once I realised that endless layers of clothing were no substitute for a decent sailing jacket, and that I was much more useful when not physically shaking with cold.

Then out of the blue came a call from an old friend telling me I owed him £500 and was going on holiday the following week! He’d just got his Day Skipper certificate, had recruited several friends and booked a Flotilla Holiday but then decided it might be wise to have another capable pair of hands around. For some reason he though that was me.

I arrived in Corfu full of confidence – the sea was flat and tide-less, the weather warm. This was going to be a breeze compared to the Solent.

The Skipper bottled the first mooring so I took over and by the end of the week had racked up several prop wraps, a couple of groundings and doubtless many other crimes now lost in the mists of time. Thank goodness we didn’t have a breath of wind or heaven knows what we might have managed. But we ticked off the North Ionian and decided we’d do Turkey next!

We took two boats in Turkey and the element of competition did raise the standards a little. A little the worse for wear at the Beach Party I envied the Lead Crew their life, rather loudly! Six months later I bumped in to one of them at a Boat Show who suggested I should give it a go.

The strain of flotilla skippering turned me grey. Sadly the pay didn't stretch to a razor.

The strain of flotilla skippering turned me grey. Sadly the pay didn’t stretch to a razor.

I pointed out one or two problems – I had no sailing qualifications, little experience (and maybe less talent), a mortgage to pay and a drive full of classic cars “under restoration”. Somehow, I forgot all this during the 6 pints in the Guinness Tent and left the show with two job offers (and a nagging feeling that recruitment standards in the sailing industry were perhaps not what they should be)!

And so began my life in the Sailing Industry. For several years I managed to intersperse the sailing with IT consultancy work but by chance, even these jobs ended up with a maritime flavour, with spells at both Devonport Dockyard and the the UK Hydrographic Office (“the Admiralty”). And I did finally finish one of the car restorations. But eventually it became a choice between the “proper” job and sailing. Sailing won.

Since those early days I’ve been a Flotilla Engineer, Skipper and (briefly, fortunately for all concerned) Hostess, also a Charter Skipper, a Delivery Skipper, and a Yachtmaster Instructor. I’ve worked for companies large and small and freelanced for a while too. But finally the allure of a life lived in an aft cabin wore off, or maybe the muscles needed to keep the skippers smile in place grew too weak. So I switched to an office based role as as Operations Manager for a well known sailing company.

By 2010 I felt the need for a change and said farewell for a while to the sailing industry to help an old friend set up a new business hiring stretch tents.  Having helped someone else start up a new company, I thought it was time to do it for myself.

So this is it – Sailing Choices, a website that aims to give you an independent take on your holiday options, and guide you to what’s best for you. I’ll try and spare you the over-saturated pictures of infeasibly blue water, scattered with yachts decked with models in skimpy bikinis and cute kids. I’ll also avoid the tiring drivel about tranquil bays and idyllic beaches and try to give you the facts. There will be some opinions too, but without bias – I’m not in anyone’s pocket.

As a charter skipper I found it best to resort to camouflage!

As a charter skipper I found it best to resort to camouflage!

I hope this way I’ll play a small part in reducing the number of people that end up sailing in areas that don’t fit their needs (because they booked with someone who didn’t offer the place that would have done), flying from airports miles away when they could go from somewhere nearer, paying more than they needed to, or sailing a shed when they could have had a well maintained yacht.

I’m not completely altruistic though – I have to make a living!  So my hope is you’ll reward my efforts by booking through me.  I act as an agent for many many yacht operators and sailing holiday companies so can offer you a wider range than if you just contact one or two of them direct, with unbiased advice about the pros and cons of what’s on offer. I’ll get a small commission, you’ll get a bigger choice, and you won’t pay any more, in fact you may well end up paying less!

Enough self promotion – there’s a whole page devoted to the benefits and drawbacks of the different ways of booking your holiday, so I’ll leave you to read about the advantages of using an agent if you don’t already know.

Finally, much though I, and my friends who kindly feed info in to the site, would love to sail every yacht in every place every season, it just isn’t possible.  So if you find any errors, want to take issue with any of the opinions or can spare time to tell me about the good and bad experiences of your sailing holiday (whoever you booked it through), please drop me an email. Photos for the website are also much appreciated – nothing fancy required so don’t be shy.

Enjoy the site and I look forward to your news, views and enquiries.