Part 1 of 3, a guide to being a loser
It would appear on this blog that I am never short of crew or company on my sailing or other bullshitting adventures.
This is actually not the reality.
I am very much alone for most of the time.
This leads to two fairly defining things, or if not defining, at least a little bit curious.
One of the results of being alone with only the ships dog for company, leads one to talk out loud and express thoughts OUT LOUD. Often aimed in the direction of any inanimate object around the boat. That could be a winch, a line, a tangle of lines, a hatch, my boots, the toilet, my lifejacket…. Etc
Often in a Scottish or Irish accent or in French. I have no idea why.
|Alright? whatchoo lookin' at bawjaws?|
|The furling line block, often referred to initially as: c'mon ya bastard|
You (dear reader) should also be aware by now that Boogie Nights is an inanimate gender free object. It is neither a he or she, it’s an it. In the same way my car is an it and my laptop is an it.
This doesn’t stop me talking to it though. Just because it doesn’t possess a cock ‘n’ balls (le batteau, il est magnifique! Regard, le mat, c'est enorm!), or a pair of tits and a vagina (how fast will she go? Ooh she's spacious down below), doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some life in it. After all, those resins, plastics, metals and various materials it’s made from were all hewn in some form or another from the planet which was made by stars exploding billions of years ago, so it’s made from the same materials as all other life forms on the planet, including you, me and the ships dog. Just presented in a different form.
Right on? Are you with me here?
You can see I’ve spent some time thinking about this.That's too much time spent alone with my cocktail cabinet that is and some special chocolate.
Anyway, I digress,
The second important, defining thing is, that a person alone on a boat is a certain type of person. That type of person is self sufficient.
In all manners of the meaning of the words, self, and, sufficient.
They are capable of coping with their own company.
And capable of dancing alone in a cockpit in the middle of a storm.
Capable of a whole variety of things that keep them alive and thriving in a hostile environment.
(not counting Horse & Hound magazine, that was on a different level of hostile, Ex-editor, that's EX as in, has been, but is no longer, if you ever read this, yes you, hostile, divisional, class divided, prejudiced - even Sir Robin Knox-Johnston solo round the world extraordinaire would have struggled with that)
Mechanic, seamstress, cook, helms person, sail trimmer, meteorologist, navigator, electrician and so on.
Boogie Nights, for at least this part of its life has a custodian (yes that's me) that attempts to be all of the above to varying degrees of success.
And so the August 2014 bank holiday was all systems go.
Clean bottom, raring to go. Friends booked to come and join me somewhere down the coast to make it look like I'm not a complete loner and to reset the sanity levels back to socially acceptable.
The plan, more or less, was to leave Gosport and head to Plymouth. Should be there in a day and a half. So I thought.
It was westerly or south westerly winds forecast. I was heading west. Sure it would be a bit of a slog, but I’m used to it. No Fucking worries, I thought.
I’m fairly well known for my dislike of the use of an engine, at any time. (most people I know would have said, "let's engine out of here, it'll be faster and easier" )
But because I'm like I am, I never even considered using the engine. I had looked at the possibility of avoiding tacking down the Solent where the channel is fairly restricting and full of marine traffic and instead, heading off around the back of the island where there would be more scope to put bigger tacks in.
(for the non-sailing folks reading this, a tack or tacking – is when you have to zig zag the boat to go in the direction you want to go in because yachts cant sail directly into the wind but at varying angles off it.)
I had put Mr Gibbins the self tacking maestro on the front to add a bit of gentile civility into tacking westward. Jenny-go-lighty was tucked away in a sail bag and stashed in the back cabin. (just because they’re objects doesn’t stop me naming them. It’s much easier to identify sails when they have a name)
Well, my first mistake was being a wanker.
The kind of wanker that hoists a main sail (purely co-incidentally mind) alongside a flashy Hugo Boss 99 boat in the calm windless pool next to the marina we both share and then thinks, I’ll go where they’re going.
Fucking right on. Forget all that passage planning, let’s follow that professional racing boat.
So Hugo Boss 99 trundled off ahead of me, carrying a cockpit full of most likely, corporate cocks and cock-esses who needed lubricating to keep the money flowing to that giant organ of PR majesty.
They then unfurled their massive genoa and fekked off up the Solent into the wind like Frankle with his ears pinned back, leaving me behind like an ill-bred knock knee donkey.
I’m not bitter.
Not at all, I smiled to myself as I passed them at anchor, three hours later.
I ran down below to fetch my phone to take a picture and gloat about my wonderful life on facebook. But no, the phone had been propelled during a particularly enthusiastic tack, off a non-slip mat, straight onto the floor. Into a puddle of salt water.
First of all, shit. My phone is dead. But secondly and more importantly, SHIT, THAT’S SALT WATER!
With each tack I had a glance down below to see which side the water was coming in from. Just a trickle and it appeared to be coming in from the back locker.
There’s a through hull fitting in there and an engine exhaust pipe. Those are the only two possibilities other than a ruddy gre’t ‘ol’ punched through by a partially submerged shipping container. Which it wasn’t.
Now another lesson for the non sailing. Rules of the road here determine who gives way to whom. Because the watery road way is way more complex than the high street in Kensington in the sense that those in small hatchbacks give way to those in big 4x4’s and 4x4's give way to cars with flags on the bonnet, we have rules for who does what and when on the water.
So each time the sails on my boat are aligned down the right side, that’s called port tack, because the wind is blowing on the port side, the left side of the boat.
When we are on port tack, then we have to give way to pretty much every fucker out there in the Solent. Ships, tankers and ferries, always. Yachts, mostly all of them out that day. BUT, when the sails are the other side, that’s starboard tack, that means for a little while, during that tack, most yachts have to give way to me. And they're the cheeky bastards I'm looking out for.
So it was during these starboard tacks where I did my investigating and ran around pulling the boat apart to find the source of the water.
So convinced was I that it was the seacock valve in the back locker, that I emptied the locker and climbed in headfirst to reach it to check if it was wet.
The problem is the restricted access. It’s just, just beyond finger tips. So I have to wriggle ever further than is safe or comfortable into the cupboard, head first. Diagonally.
With just my legs sticking out of the cupboard I eventually reached the valve. It was dry. But I closed it anyway.
Then the reverse maneuver out of the cupboard was the source of amusement for: no one.
No one was there to see it, or pull my legs to assist with the reversing.
Thankfully I’d removed my lifejacket for this otherwise things could have gone from faintly ridiculous (3) to highly ridiculous (5.5) on a scale of ridiculous where paying people a fair living wage is right there on 1 and Boris Johnson being prime minister is a 10.
It took what felt like half an hour to free myself, it was probably just 30 seconds. I was half expecting to have a trail of boats diverting course behind me to avoid the runaway yacht without a helmsperson. I finally re-emerged the right way up, with a very red face, looking guiltily around for signs of annoyance to other Solent users.
But no. Only some Cant calling starboard on me, spouting a technicality of the double starboard rule and pointing at his sail and then my sail, as if to incite any amount of giving a shit from me.
A quick glance at the depth gauge said it was time to tack though.
On the next starboard tack I ran down below to send out a message via the downstairs chartplotter to friends to say my phone was dead and then a message came through from Hazel of Triangle Race fame.
You’re not sailing tonight are you? Suggest you look at the weather again.
to which I replied something like: Meh, bloody solent, has me still in its grip. I just want to get out of here. It'll be fine
Port tack… Wait.
Starboard tack… download more wind files and look at met office weather. (again)
Port tack… Wait.
Starboard tack… have a look at the tide times.
Port tack… Wait.
Starboard tack… think.
Port tack… It’s been 11 hours of this tacking bollocks. Shall we go and hide in Yarmouth? I asked the main sheet. It was silent in its reply, but it seemed to just ease out on its own.
|I know no shame. Here is the proof of my days exploits.|
180 degrees about turn and head for Yarmouth, Isle of Wight.
It was a wise move.
The top slider on the main sail had just snapped again and the mainsail top batten had vanished.
Time to lick my wounded ego and do a new passage plan for tomorrow and find that salt water ingress.
Soon after mooring up and having tidied the snake pit, I went to flush the toilet and realised, salt water had seeped from the flush handle nut which had vibrated loose. It had seeped along a part of the hull and into the shower tray.