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……………….