Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A rambling post about sailing

We stared out of the windows out of the World of Pie at the sheeting rain on Friday night. A black dog haunted myself, the Commodore and my chum Arch Chap and co-conspirator in much of my Chappy endeavours.

An autumnal slick of rain and spray filled the night sky - this was November in July.
We were supposed to be striving with a full crew to blood, glory and treasure to sink, burn or take as a prize the fleet of bloated galleys departing the Isle of Blight to cross the chops of the channel down to Weymouth.

We were supposed to be racing.

I shall avoid the details, but we lost a full third of our crew even before first muster - one for work reasons - the other for a reason so awful - he could not be expected to deliver his duty and compliments to his slot aboard.
Our fourth and remaining crew member arrived to find us in ale and decided she should join us.
Now, we are normally chaps of resolution - we can certainly serve out the equipment aboard with only four of us - but we had complications stacking up like writs from your tailor for payment.

Firstly - crew member number four - whilst a Chappess and more than capable of handing, reefing and steering confessed to being of a somewhat more delicate disposition than normal. She too had seen our forecast.

Second, the forecast - to make it back to home port to get me to the hamster wheel on Monday we had to chase a tidal gate known as 'The Anvil'.
This meant we needed to slip at the sort of hour one is normally only just getting warmed up in a lock-in at the Belgravia gaming tables.

This meant sailing in watches - or in this case - two handed. Not a prospect we relished especially when one looked at what they met chaps were offering.

The forecast for this time was 'alarming'.

Selsey Bill to Lyme Regis SW veering W later 5-7 Occ 8, heavy rain. Rough to Very Rough.
In non yachtie speak - Blowing a full gale - with a following sea of waves 4-meters high.
We concluded by pint four, that we would rather be in here cowering in ignominy, than out there in a blue funk faced with the horrors forecast.

Democracy reigned and we voted to scratch the race.

With the pressures of racing off our mind, we set our heads straight for a loon about the Solent.
Now, Arch Chap has not been float for a couple of years and his influence on the barky has been sadly lacking.

His influence is largely on myself and the demeanour of the boat - rapidly transforming it from fragrant racing yacht to foul tub smelling strongly of recycled curry and goats. However - he means well and despite ongoing scatalogical references, it is all done in the 'best possible taste'.

Our Dear Lady Honorary chap soon smoked this and was able to present a humorous outlook on affairs. A chirpy bonhomie, even.

This was to be eroded so suddenly and with such vigour that I feared for her fortitude - and her spirit was so sapped that she was hampered in her duties the following day.

The events that caused the mental disturbance occurred in the Saloon - a communal sleeping area - as it were.

A parenthesis:

A misconception that many have of yachts, is that they are vessels of luxury.
The reality? Try and imagine a caravan with the electrics of a Skoda and the furnishings of a 1973 Mk2 Ford Cortina and you get close to it. With a hand pump toilet.
They smell of Sea water, diesel, urine and seagull poo.
Now - many Chappesses wrinkle their noses at such privations and are never seen again - this is why I salute any fragrant or high minded young filly who sails. They can take such privations with fortitude and they are oft to see off a challenge from the French or the like with alacrity.
Such 'gels' are made of stern stuff - and two generations ago would have been on the veranda with a Martin-henry seeing off the natives. (I think nowadays one might be a blogger of some note)

So what caused the turn of fortunes you ask?

It was the Commodore and the Arch chap's snoring.

A harmonic not unlike pigs trying to sing the halleluiah chorus to an air-raid siren is the closest we come to describing it.

They complement one another to form a continual tone similar to the cutting of stone….. And when they snore together the resonant harmonics make the hatches rattle and one's ears pop.

The result?

When we arose and shone, she appeared pinched, worn and troubled. Lines cut into her visage like the Corinth Canal and she had the haunted look of one who has faced phantoms and ghouls.
Needless to say - her spirit was broken. The horrors had clearly filled her head with most terrible visions - and her wits had been discombobulated such that she could barely sit upon the rail and balance the boat.

We took a simple decision.
We shall eat a hearty breakfast, potter about in the lee of the Island, moor up for some luncheon then repair to our favourite hostelry for fortification then a stiff curry - and so rest with the hatches ajar, lest we slide further into a silage like aroma.

The mooring was a fine exercise in some advanced seamanship for which I was forced to congratulate even myself (cross-tide ferry gliding donthcyerknow) and luncheon stood us until tea time of cake and biscuits and ale.

Cowes greeted us with congestion and we were forced to establish a cat's cradle of mooing lines in the second harbour. I am delighted to report that we provided no spectacle in the Internationally renowned hobby of 'watching other people make a hash of their moorings'.
I brought the barky in and gently kissed it alongside a visiting Frenchman, no doubt spying.

Ale soon ensued, and a thumping good curry.
One to write about no less.
News which delighted our ears was that two thirds of the race fleet retired due to heavy weather citing gear failures aplenty - spars and sailcloth carried before the winds.
We congratulated ourselves on our wisdom, wit, choice of curry house and all round greatness and settled to a night of rich loamy aroma and autumnal marbling smells - while the gale howled and the rain beat a tattoo on the coach roof.

Our Dear Lady Fourth Crew member took a wise option and slept in the forepeak - with double bulkheads and ear plus.

Hubris before nemesis, as always in this column.

Annoyingly chirpy chap leaps aboard bashes his halloos and requests and requires we move the boat so he and his papa can catch the tide home.

Fiend. My sweetest dreams of home comforts and a dear friend shattered by the grey chill and a witless grin of the interloper.

The rest of the evolutions are technical, involve warping out of the basin and a reluctant sail home in the early morning gloom.

One crumb if comfort.

In our efforts, we woke the entire marina up, especially the Frenchman next to us.
We congratulated our selves on our efforts, and set off for home with vim, vigour and verisimilitude.

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