The most important lesson of my life, was learned through sailing.....

G

Guest

Guest
School holidays 1969.....I was a skinny 13 year old, as bonkers about boats as my Dad. My mind was full to saturation with the writings of Slocum, Villiers, Griffiths, and the new kids on the block - Hasler, Barton, Chichester, Rose, Knox-Johnston, plus a bit of a comedian calling himself JDS.

We'd left Mum and my two sisters at home for a fortnight (or had they thrown us out - they didn't feel the lure of a 1939 built wooden cutter, and muddy, shallow waters as irresistibly as we men).

We'd dropped our mooring at Hullbridge (at the top of the River Crouch)and had enjoyed a gentle cruise that took in the varied delights and challenges of Calais, Dunkirk, Ostend, Bruge, Veere, and Zeebrugge.

The weather remained settled and fair, and we arrived in Boulogne on the homeward leg, full of confidence for an easy nip back over the Channel the following day.

That afternoon, the glass started to fall. We sat in the oil-lit cabin, pondering options. For the first time that holiday, we threw some coal and driftwood on the stove, to keep us warm and dry. The rain started to patter down on the deck.

The wind was in the South, forecast to veer and rise, but not to more than 6 possibly 7, as a small summer depression moved to the North of us.

We turned in for an early night, with the wind beginning to howl in the rigging around us.

At one point, Dad, on the saloon berth opposite me, began making the most awful grunting and moaning sounds. In the shadows, and gloom, it took all my courage to take a peek out of the safety of my sleeping bag. Everything appeared as before, except that Dad was writhing around as though in a strait jacket (actually, just a few years later, I modelled my famous 'po-going' style on the very same movement).

I shouted across to wake him up, and he came round, looking, white and absolutely terrified (the only time I've ever seen him like that). Minutes later, when he had come down off the astral plain, we were able to laugh at his distress.

He'd had a nightmare - he and I were on holiday on the boat, and had headed out into bad weather, and run into serious difficulties.

Fortunately, we'd been spotted by a helicopter, whose winchman came and rescued me without difficulty.

When he returned for Dad. however, the rescue harness had broken....the only thing they could rescue him with was a big black coffin with 'Rod' (his name)written on the side.

I'd woken him just as he was about to climb in.

(Phew! Glad I don't have nightmares like that.....)

We listened to the lunch time shipping forecast, which was as we'd heard previously, and decided to wait to see how the weather developed. We set about getting ourselves and our ship ready for a bumpy ride.

We listened avidly to the early evening forecast, and Dad suggested that we should make a dash for it, as long as I was happy. He is an ex-Merchant Navy Officer, and a very experienced small boat sailor - I had absolute faith in his abilities. Though young, I was myself no stranger to the ways of a boat at sea, and, tinged with a real edge of nervousness, I relished the idea of a fast, furious reach for home.

We left under engine (10 hp Albin petrol), and I set about hoisting the double reefed mainsail, and the staysail, in the calm of the harbour (no jackstays, lifelines or pulpit back then).

Once clear of the breakwaters, we turned the engine off as we felt the true force of the westerly wind. 'The Jan' leaned her starboard rubbing strake onto the water's surface and she began to show off - she enjoyed this sort of thing as much as I.

It was still raining, and the whitecaps came hissing at us out of the murk. Steering was hard work, but I loved the feelings of power and dynamism being transmitted through the tiller. The occasional monster tried to leap aboard, but it was really only spray that succeeded. The Whale dealt comfortably with what made it into the (non-self draining) cockpit, and we shut the companionway doors, just in case.

Soon I was no longer in the English Channel with my Dad close by, but alone in The southern Ocean. I felt a Moitessier-esque sense of oneness with this great Ocean, with this mysterious universe. This was where I belonged, surely this was my calling, my destiny. I kept a sharp eye out for bergs, and gazed in awe at the immense white, wingspan of an albatross as it glided by. I made a mental note that I needed to take a sight if the sun showed itself for a few seconds....how many days had it been since the last one?

Suddenly, I began to hallucinate....I became aware of a kindly presence on board....it was offering me sandwiches and coffee. Surely, this cannot be true...

I'm still ashamed to say that I accepted Dad's kind offerings with rather bad grace.

We roared on, and I began to enjoy the trip for what it was. We seemed to have the Channel all to ourselves.

'This is IT,' I thought, 'this is living'.

All too soon, we were in the lee of the South Foreland, and as darkness fell, we rounded its Northerly namesake, to find that the wind had all but died.

We dropped anchor for the night off Margate pier, under the lee of the Margate Sands.

As we ate our delayed dinner in the cockpit, we listened to the familiar sounds around us. All was quiet now, except for the occasional gentle rumble from the anchor chain a few feet below us.

We felt the comfortable, satisfied relaxation of a tough passage well executed. Neither of us spoke about it (we are British, don't you know), but I know I certainly felt a really special bond had been forged between us......I felt priveleged to be my Dad's son.

As I lay dozing in my bunk that evening, I became aware of new sounds, human sounds, wafting over the water. I looked out of the porthole. The sounds were coming from Margate Pier. As I concentrated, I could make out the ordinary sounds of laughter and the rattles as coins were fed into one arm bandits. Then raised voices as people disagreed over God knew what, followed by shouts and ugly swearing as a fight broke out. Soon the sound of sirens, and the loom of flashing blue lights, and even more determined scuffles.

I lay there thinking profound 13 year old thoughts. Just hours earlier I had been at one with the world, in awe of the wind and the waves, humbled by my own sense of feebleness against such beautiful, majestic, eternal forces, but rejoicing in the cosmic comradeship.

Now here I was, so nearly back in 'civilisation', listening to just one tiny example of the ridiculous arrogance and excesses of man.

Man is feeble, our mightiest efforts are not even a tickle in the Universe. Whatever we do, the winds will still blow, the tides will ebb and flow.

Now, for those of you (if any), who have stuck with me, what on earth has all this to do with this BB just now?

Oh, its just a saling story.....
 
G

Guest

Guest
Excellent Neal, well written, thanks for taking the trouble to write it nm

nm
 
G

Guest

Guest
Re: Every sailor has a story to tell.

Thanks for telling us yours.

Tom
 
G

Guest

Guest
Thank you Neal. That\'s as good a tale as I\'ve ever read. Again thank you. NM

NM
 
G

Guest

Guest
Beautiful tale, I really enjoyed reading it, wish more postings were like this. (nm)

.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Thank you, folks, I greatly enjoyed writing it....

and thanks also to the 'Margate Pier' types, and Hullabulloos everywhere, who made me want to write it (every cloud has a silver lining)..
 
G

Guest

Guest
A marvellous tale Neal! Once again, quality abounds from the East Coast! :))) nm

*
 
G

Guest

Guest
If there were a Scuttlebutt Posting Prize...

...you'd have my vote, for sure! My thanks to whoever drew my attention in a thread elsewhere, I wish I could go back and thank them directly. Best posting in ages! You star, Neal!
 
G

Guest

Guest
I\'ve been a traitor, and headed SouthWest.....

after spells in the Solent, The Irish Sea and the Mediteranean.

Despite the varied, colourful beauty of those newer places, I still feel the pull of the grey, flat, shallow winding creeks and swatchways. I left over 20 years ago, although still return frequently.

I guess you can take the boy out of Essex, but you can't take Essex out of the boy.
 

Phoenix of Hamble

Active member
Joined
28 Aug 2003
Messages
20,974
Location
East Coast
Re: Well, that was pretty good!

Superb.... a perfect description of the sheer pleasure of sailing.... and beautifully written....
 

Phoenix of Hamble

Active member
Joined
28 Aug 2003
Messages
20,974
Location
East Coast
Re: Well, that was pretty good!

Is it just me, or is Neal's and the following dozen or so posts showing as from 'unregistered' users? (even though I think they are all actually registered users?)

If so... how!?

regardless, thoroughly enjoyed it!
 

BrendanS

Well-known member
Joined
11 Jun 2002
Messages
64,555
Location
Tesla in Space
Re: Well, that was pretty good!

Look at the dates, its from when the ybw forums didn't have logons! 2001!
 
G

Guest

Guest
Boating - gets into the blood ....

You have my sympathy ..... it bites us all .....

I as well forged a love-affair with boats through my father - his love of Hilyards etc. lives on with me ....
 
Top