August 19, 2009
Apolgies to our readers for the lengthy break in our saga. Your e mails of concern for our welfare touched us deeply. Worry not, gentle reader, we are alive, dry and amazingly still afloat. Just to re-cap. A couple, of advanced years, with absolutely no sailing experience apart from two or three episodes of Hornblower and a quick look round the Cutty Sark go for a trip round the bay on an old Oyster with ex friends. Smitten by the clement weather and far too many Pimms No 1 they decide to buy a boat and sail away. Previous episodes have dealt with the traumatic introduction to the world of yachts, sailing and the lure of the deep. The story continues………
Buying something was the tricky part. Its not as if you know you want something big enough to get the dogs in the back or something that will cruise comfortably on motorways. We didn’t really know what we wanted. We decided to enlist the help of the professionals. The broker looked promising, a Helly Hansen shirt and young enough to have done a couple of Vendee Globes but not so old a lifetime of timewasting customers to become completely cynical.
‘Do sit down’ he sharpened his pencil. I decided to come straight to the point. ’ We’d like to buy a boat’. He didn’t even bother to write that down. ’ No problem, what sort?’ ’ Not sure, probably one with sails’. The beginnings of a ’ Oh no, two more daytrippers up from the beach’ look began to cross his face. He stuck with it. ’ What sort of size?’ Before I could answer the memsahib leaned forward and fixed him with a steely glare. ’ One big enough to get a 32" television in’. She had her priorities. ‘OK, is it for weekends and holidays?’ ’We’d rather thought it would be nice to go somewhere warm with nice scenery and sort of wander about a bit’ I replied. Once again she who must be obeyed listed other important requirements ’ There has to be good shops, decent restaurants and plenty of parking space’. ’ He visibly paled, just his luck, Saturday afternoon and there were a couple of unbalanced senior citizens between him and the door. ’ Umm, OK maybe the Med then?’ ‘That general direction sounds good’ quoth I. He struggled to return to the script. ‘So you’ll be living aboard then?’ ’ I suppose we’ll have to’ says herself ‘Do you have any with dishwashers?’ The point of his pencil snapped on the pad. ’ and what sailing have you done?’ ‘Absolutely none’ I beamed. ’ But we have done the Competent Crew thing, do you need to see our certificates?‘. It took a while but eventually we established ourselves as bona fide prospective customers. He tried to be diplomatic. ’ You may really want to think about something not too big to start, at least till you get the hang of it’. That was one thing that both the memsahib and I had as a fixed priority. ’ Nope, no point messing about, if we are going to do it we may as well do it properly, have you anything around 50 feet?’
We spent the afternoon clambering over Jeannau’s, Benetau’s and the odd Halberg-Rassy. We told him what everyone had told us so we didn’t bother with Bavaria’s. They were some very nice ones, sloops, ketches but nothing that really sort of grabbed us. We repaired to the marina bar with the exhausted salesman and tried to explain our predicament. ’ Trouble is its not really a yacht we want, its more like a motor home that floats’. ’ Have you considered a motor cruiser’ was the obvious question. I had but had also considered at what point we would actually go bankrupt putting fuel in it. The other half finished pouring the remains of the bottle of vastly overpriced vin rouge very ordinaire into her glass and issued one of her rare romantic utterances. ’ Besides we rather like the swishy sort of noise that they make when the sails are up’. He was used to us by now. ‘Leave it with me, i’ll find something’.
It took a while. I surfed the internet through pages of interior and exterior shots of every kind of sailing craft known to man and a few that looked as if they were best unknown. Why is it that the one you really like is just outside your budget by about half a million or so? And then the phone rang. ’ I think I have found her’ came the jubilant voice of our now good friend the broker. ‘The owner has just bought a Discovery 55 and she is on her way back to the UK from the Med. Everything you want on her, fully loaded , lots of space, plenty of extras and easy to sail’ He gave a price. It would mean selling the collection of Limoge eggcups and borrowing heavily from the kid’s trustfund. ’I’ll e mail the spec now with some photographs’ ’ Right ho’ says I ‘By the way, what make?’. ’ Shes a Bavaria’ came the reply. I started to protest, hadn’t everyone told us not to touch Bavarias, good sound boats but a bit lightweight etc? He carried on ’ but shes a rather unusual one’. I galloped to the PC and feverishly called up Hotmail.
There is such a thing as love at first sight. I got the same feeling when as a youth I begged borrowed and stole to buy an E type Jaguar for £600. ( NO, i’m not going to tell you how long ago it was but the price will give a clue). She looked graceful, 47 feet of elegance, a deckhouse saloon so none of that wedge of cheese appearance that to me made many boats look like the sea going equivalent of Ford Mondeos. The list of extras seemed impressive. Bowthruster, electric winches, air con, SSB radio ( whats an SSB radio?) generator, etc. damn , no dishwasher. I summoned the boss. ‘What do you think?’ ’ Pretty thing, isn’t the sail rather small’ she queried. ’ I think its one of those furling jobs that roll up inside the mast, I think thats just the end of it poking out’. ‘Oh, OK then, has it got a power shower?’ I sighed. At the end of the mail was a note from our man. Apparently this was a rare beast. Before turning to production lines and churning out boats by the thousand the people in Gibelstadt had experimented with a centre cockpit heavyweight and tried for the upmarket market. Even now its difficult to discover why only 20 or so were built. But I digress……..
We (I) feverishly awaited its arrival on the east coast. Our yachting friends were put on standby for initial inspection. The day dawned and our experts were collected at an ungodly hour and bundled complaining into the car. ‘Stop moaning’ says I ’ It’s your fault, you should never have taken us sailing’. She had been taken out when we got there and sat in splendid isolation dwarfing the boats around her. The experts got to work, I followed on tenterhooks. There were lots of lifting of hatches, opening of doors and inspections of dials. Non commital grunts accompanied each observation. The memsahib went straight to the aft cabin which resembled a suite at the Dorchester in its size. ’ This will do, though I’m not sure if I can get all my clothes in these wardrobes’. I breathed a sigh of relief and resigned myself to living out of a small suitcase. A small price to pay. The party gathered on the transom and the chief examiner gave his verdict. ‘Not really a sailing boat, more like a gin palace with a mast. Too many gadgets to go wrong but ideal if you just want to pose I expect. ( Too right I thought ). ’Surprisingly solid though, get a survey done and go for it’.
A week later my fingered hovered over the button on the keyboard that was to send the equivalent of the annual turnover of the Ivory Coast to someone else’s bank account. I shut my eyes, took a deep breath and stabbed. We were now yacht owners.
April 05, 2009
So there we were, on the strength of a quick trip across the Solent on a sunny day and without even the excuse of a blow on the head, two senior (ish) citizens who should have been looking into lifetime membership of the bowling club had decided to buy a yacht and sail away.
We took a methodical approach. Settling down with a pencil and back of an envelope we listed what we considered to be the essential equipment. After 30 minutes and one or two Stella Artois to clear the mind we had the exact specifications of what we wanted. The list read – washing machine, tumble dryer, freezer, lots of space, patio ( or the nautical equivalent ), power shower, a sat nav and some power tools for emergencies. ‘Right ho’ says I, ’I’ll fire up the PC and see whats available’. In the pantheon of the Gods there was much chuckling and nudging and winking. Orpheus struck up ‘All the nice girls love a sailor’ on his lyre while Zeus had a side bet with Athena. ’ I’ll give you two to one they take one look and decide on a caravan’ ’ Your on ’ replied the deity ’ Those two seem dumb enough to go through with it’.
As a boy I remember once browsing through the library on a wet day and picking up a tome on Particle Physics. The next hour on the internet would make that look like a kindergarten spelling primer. Ketches, schooners, lazyjacks, anodes, spreaders, jibs, genoas – don’t they even speak English these boat dealers?? I returned to the memsahib who was engrossed in the Sun football section. ’ OK, I think I have found the perfect yacht. It’s got everything we need and three bathrooms’. ’ Good, thats nice dear, how much? ‘. ’ Three and a half million ’ I answered then stood back as Stella Artois was spluttered all over the Man City – Chelsea match report. ’ BUT, it does include a crew and I think we are going to need one ’. Several medicinal beverages later to ward off shock we came to a decision. We would have to go on one of these sailing course thingys that seemed to be available. Preparations were made. Meanwhile I settled down to some serious study of all things nautical and consulted our yachting cronies who were responsible for all this in the first place. ’OK’ says the culprit ’ if your really serious then heres what I recommend’. He then went into a 10 minute discourse delivered in a mixture of English and Technospeak and summed it all up at the end with ’ Quite simply, you need an Oyster’. ‘Thats what you have isn’t it?‘. ’ Yes, great boats, well made, take you anywhere, tough as they come’ says he ’ and extremely expensive I added mentally. You see.. I was beginning to learn. ’ But’ says he in a voice of authority, ’ whatever you go for, Oyster, Hallberg, Moody do NOT, repeat NOT buy a Bavaria’.
Two weeks later we stepped on to the tarmac at lanzarotte and were whisked to the local marina. Our mentor was the epitome of the great British seadog. A rolling gait, eyes that seemed to stare continually to far horizons, wind tanned and a Simpsons tee shirt. Now this was a man I could learn from. We boarded the home for the next week. It seemed like its master, basic, no frills, utilitarian, vainly I looked around for the plush cushions and cocktail cabinet. He led us down some narrow stairs and pointed to a door. ‘OK, get your kit stowed away then join us at the bar’. He departed. A short time later I had come to the conclusion that in his haste he had inadvertently showed us a wardrobe. ’ This can’t be our cabin ’ says the boss, ’ Theres absolutely no room for my cocktail dresses ‘. ’ Well, I think thats a bed’ says I.’ But it’s triangular’ says she ’ We’ll never get our heads in that tiny space at the top’. But we were of the stock that had ruled the Seven Seas and had confounded the damn Froggies at Trafalgar. We managed. On our return from the bar we discovered a problem. There was no room for two of us inside at the same time. ’ Easy’ says I. ‘You go in and get changed and when your in bed I’ll take my turn’. This worked. After a fashion. Undressing in a pitch dark telephone box ( no light switch on the wall anywhere ) and crawling towards the top of the bed I suffered mild concussion on some low obstruction. On coming round I groped around me and was startled to find, level with my throbbing cranium, a pair of feet. ‘Are you OK?’ came her voice from somewhere in the distance. ‘Silly us, its obvious really, your heads go at the wide bit and the narrow bit is for your feet’. ’ How big did he say this boat was? ’ I groaned. ’ 37 feet I think’. ’ OK, in that case we need a 60 footer’.
’ Knots!!’ boomed Captain Birdseye on a sunny first morning of school. ’ Right, we’ll start with a bowline ‘. 15 minutes later as we motored out I was still trying to fathom out which end went through which loop, I seemed to have lots of loops. ’Don’t worry now’ says he ’ Haul out the mainsheet ‘. Funny time to do the laundry I thought and started for the companionway. I have every admiration for people in the teaching profession. Mainly because thay have to deal with people like me all day long. But we persevered, tacking, reefing, winching, man overboard ( I paid particular attention to that ), mooring and basic navigation. At the end of the week we were the proud owners of a slip of paper that said we were competent. ’Who’s kidding who’was my immediate thought.
BUT, we knew the sharp end from the blunt end, roughly how it all worked and had at least some idea of what we needed. On the final day we discussed our plans with our instructor. ‘Lots of options’ says he. ’ Jeanneau, Benetau, schooner rigged modern boat should do you ’ lots of the work done for you. Word of advice though, steer clear of Bavarias.
To be continued ( if I ever get this bowline right ), now which loop……….
March 20, 2009
If you are expecting the usual tales of sun drenched islands, heavenly beaches and quaint island villages where the local tomatoes are out of this world – forget it. This is a tale of how the Gods, as in the classic stories, for no particular reason, struck down two unsuspecting mortals and infected them with the sailing madness. Unless you enjoy gothic horror novels or Marx Brothers films read no further……………….
We hope, in recording it, that should any other innocents be tempted by the lure of balmy breezes, the prospect of cavorting dolphins off the bow and the thousand and one other supposed delights of life on a yacht under the Mediterranean skies they will learn something from it.
It started with a phone call from friends ( at the time ). ’ We’re taking the boat out at the weekend, want to come?‘. It was a surprise, obviously they had reached the end of their standy crew list with no takers. ’Sounds fun’ says I. ’ Put us down for it’. I informed the memsahib. ‘Know anything about sailing?’ She was deep into Coronation Street at the time and obviously wasn’t paying attention. ’ Not much’ says she ’ I thought it was banned. I know the Japanese still do it and I saw Gregory Peck in Moby Dick’. ‘No dear – sailing not whal… oh, never mind.’ At our age hearing is probably the first sense that starts to detiorate.
Came the day. We stood on a narrow, bobbing plank of wood that seemed to stretch into eternity. On either side were forests of masts, ropes, shiny bits of metal and the ether was filled with strange clattering noises. ’ Whats it called? ’ says the other half. ’ Lady something’ says I. ‘He said its an Oyster’. ’ Whats an Oyster look like?‘ I assumed an air of nautical nonchalance ’ Oh, they usually come in white’ praying it wasn’t the blue hulled one half way down. We looked at names.
The very first thing I learned about yachting is that owners, at the time of choosing names for their yachts, must be suddenly afflicted with the sound of heavenly choirs, great blazes of light and the literary passions of a Tennyson or Kipling. Either that or they are all estate agents. I looked at a nearby example which, like me, had obviously seen better days. It was festooned with drying towels, tools littered the deck and it was obviously on the flight path for seagulls returning from whatever fishy diner they used and were caught short at that point. Emblazoned on the stern, under a thin layer of grime and aerial avian bombardment was the name ’ Spirit of Trafalgar’. Nelson would have turned in his barrel of brandy.
However, I digress, we found the Oyster. The Gods had created their trap to perfection. The sun shone, the breeze sent us scudding over a sparkling sea to a tranquil bay in what I was assured was the Isle of Wight. The captain carefully explained what each rope did, how the gruntfuttock halyards kept tension on the bimbling genoa, how she sailed better on a broad reach than a downdraught or whatever. It may just as well have been delivered in a Mongolian dialect of Han Chinese. I nodded sagely, made the appropriate noises and understood not a word. It didn’t matter. I was hooked.
At the end of the weekend we arrived home. I could still feel the pure exhiliration of actually steering this great white beast through the foamy deep. I poured the boss a treble Bacardi, waited the usual few seconds while it was despatched then topped it up. ‘OK, we have been talking about retirement long enough. Its decision time. We either buy the apartment in the Costa del Ingleses and play golf all day and sit round the bar with the ex motor traders from Walthamstow drinking Sangria and tonic or ……… ’ She raised a quizzical eyebrow ’ ….we buy a yacht ’. There was no immediate hysterical laughter so I delivered the deal clincher. ’ It’s perfect, we just find a nice bar somewhere warm, moor it alongside, when we get fed up we just go moor it somewhere else down the coast and make our way round to the Greek Islands’. Her eyes lit up. She’s heavily into sunshine. ‘What about sailing it? Don’t we need a licence or something?‘ ’Not a problem’ says I. ‘There must be a book you can get’.
On Mount Olympus, the Gods smiled……………….