Thinking of sampling the yachting lifestyle, but unable to swim? Nathan Irvine discovers that it’s never too late to learn.


I was drawing some curious looks from the lifeguard, as a mixture of concern and bewilderment crept across his face. The scene: a grown man armed with a cheap pair of swimming goggles, nose clip and earplugs bobbing up and down in the water at the side of a pool… watching YouTube.

It’s not your average method of learning how to swim, but, well, it’s how I’ve been doing it. Apart from splashing around in various pools and bodies of water, I hadn’t tried to swim ‘properly’ for decades, probably not since primary school, almost 30 years ago.

I distinctly remember one session at school during which I had to swim 200 metres in my pyjamas – to this day I have no idea why. Anyway, flash-forward to today and, without a teacher to offer instructions, I’m learning to swim again at the age of 40.

Refresh your stroke: Being able to swim doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a confident swimmer. It’s worth investing in lessons if you’ve not taken the plunge for a while.


I’ve learned a few life skills by watching ‘how to’ videos on the internet. I can repair a bike wheel, change a plug and perform a half-decent moonwalk thanks to YouTube. And although it’s an impractical way of learning to swim properly, having my phone by the side of the pool to hone my technique has been a huge help. My first few swimming sessions were rough. There was a lot of splashing and thrashing for very little forward movement. I’d imagined myself carving through the water like a slightly out-of-shape porpoise, but in reality, I just looked like I was in deep trouble.


But like anything new, with a bit of practice, I started to get the hang of it. The hardest part about swimming, I’ve found, is putting all the movements together. Breathing at the right time, making sure my head was under the water, stretching through each stroke, and a million other things I hadn’t considered, all need to be done at the same time. It’s a struggle, but for my kids, who are also learning to swim, it comes naturally. I can manage a nonstop 1.5km now, but with a bit more practice and a few more poolside viewings of YouTube tutorials, I’m confident that I’ll be able to teach myself how to swim properly – which should settle the nerves of the watching lifeguard.