But my sailing trip at the Alster, the last item on my itinerary on my trip to Hamburg, couldn't have been more different.

As I headed out from my hotel, I noted the grey clouds gathering overhead. However, I wasn't going to let a few clouds get in the way of my sailor-inspired fun. Surely we can just go below deck if it starts to rain, I thought to myself. As I boarded the bus for Captain Prüss' Sailing School, it was the press trip organiser's turn to look disconcerted. "Do you think white trousers are wise?" she grinned.

The trip from the hotel to the sailing school took no longer than ten minutes, but that was enough time for the few harmless grey clouds to turn into something a little more menacing. As we alighted from the bus, I started to get the feeling that what I had in mind and the reality �of it were two very different things. On the school's pier, there were no yachts in sight. Just some very small looking boats. How are all eight of us going to fit on one of those, I thought to myself.

Welcome aboard

We entered the school and were introduced to our skippers for the afternoon. We were then handed full body suits that wouldn't look out of place in a car garage.

That was the point when I started to realise I had definitely got it all very wrong. I was left with no doubts when I was asked if I was ready to learn how to sail by Sven, our trainer for the afternoon. I smiled and answered yes, even though I was dying to ask why I was going to be doing any ‘sailing' at all. Yes, it sounds naïve of me, but imagine being told you're going to a Michelin-star restaurant, only to turn up and be handed a chef's outfit?

Ready to sail

My fellow students and I were instructed to head out to the pier, where we were divided into two groups of four and shown to our boats. The Skippi 650 was definitely not what I had in mind, seeing that it could only carry around five people.

We climbed aboard and were told that in order to even our weight out, we had to sit two on each side, facing each other. As the boat veered from side-to-side on the lake, I started to have images of capsizing. "Don't worry, you're perfectly safe," smiled Sven, sensing my apprehension.

We set off, engine roaring, and once I felt brave enough to open my eyes fully, what struck me was the beauty of the lake. The trees that lined the water were dramatically offset by the grey sky, making the landscape look surreal. There were myriad boats dotted on the lake, people coming and going, enjoying the cool, fresh afternoon breeze.

I was woken from my Alster Lake-inspired reverie by Sven, who was explaining ‘tacking' to us, something I still don't fully understand but know it's to do with the manoeuvre you make in order for the boat to change course. Sven instructed me and the others on my side to move to the opposite side as soon as he announced ‘tacking,' so the boat would veer to the other side.

‘Tacking!' he exclaimed and we all shifted to the left side of the boat, clamouring to grab onto anything that would prevent us heading head-first into the Alster.

At this point the boat was veering to the right, at what felt likea 90 degree angle. ‘Tacking!' he announced again, as we all clamoured to the right in order to even ourselves out again.

At the helm

I was then allowed by Sven to do a bit of steering. Having the boat's fate in my hands wasn't a prospect I would have particularly enjoyed prior to boarding, but the fresh lake air had left me feeling exhilarated and wanting more.

"You're a professional," Sven laughed. "Some people take agesto get the hang of it, but you're clearly meant to sail."

I'm still not sure if he was being ironic or not, but I chose to take this as a compliment.

While I could have gladly stayed out on the lake for the rest of the afternoon, Mother Nature had other ideas in mind. The clouds were verging on looking black and the wind was picking up very quickly. Sven decided it would be advisable to head back to the pier, which was wise: as soon as we reached the school, the heavens opened and we were drenched from head to toe.

We all ran inside to the warmth of the school where we were offered hot drinks and sympathy. Outside, the rain lashed the pier and the lake looked dark and uninviting.

While the sailing trip on the Alster was not what I had inmind, I can sincerely say I enjoyed myself and I'd definitely loveto try it again.

But next time, I'll save the white nautical trousers for Dubai. n

Contact details

Captain Prüss' Sailing School

 Ander Alster 47a Gurlittinsel

20099, Hamburg

B 040 280 31 31


 Prices for boating trip with instructor for two starts from 240 euros (about Dh1,300)