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……….