Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Pox

Not the boat but skin - but you get the idea.

If anyone should give you the choice of either owning a boat or having medieval thumb screws applied, opt for the thumb screws, it’s less painful.

Having spared no cost in having Starquest renovated we were proud of her and although we were looking forward to moving on to our dream 40 footer it was going to be sad to say goodbye to the old girl. Imagine our horror, therefore, to discover this Essex girl had picked up a social disease and her bottom was covered in ugly blisters.

The potential new owner had arranged for a ‘doctor’ to give her the once-over, a mere formality we imagined knowing that just about every nut and bolt on the boat had either been replaced or serviced. However, when she was lifted it did not need years of medical training or qualifications to see that all was not well below. She may have a stunning top but down below things were not good. The word Osmosis echo’d all the way from Chichester Harbour to here in Oxford. “Osmosis? How can that be? Her bottom was only given a good seeing to last year, coated in a protection that was supposed to last ten years and only a few months ago she was lifted and given a good hosing down under pressure. All looked well then.” Galloping osmosis has transformed a sleek, smooth, rather attractive bottom into a pitted, ugly, festering mass of pungent ooze.

Needless to say no one would blame a potential new owner for running a mile, that’s what I’d do, so the chance of rescuing the sale were zilch.

Osmosis, largely thanks to scare mongers in the yachting press, is the nautical equivalent of the plague. I hardly dare admit to knowing a boat, let alone owning one, which has the disease. It’s all very well the experts saying “It’s only cosmetic no boat has ever sunk because of osmosis” but who wants to be seen with a boat covered in blisters – even if the only creatures who’ll see it are fish, barnacles and plankton out for a jolly. Imagine the talk at the yacht club “He’s got osmosis you know” Oh the social stigma.

Cosmetic it may be but that does not make it any the more appealing. The hunchback of Notre Dame’s deformities were only cosmetic; Gordon Brown would be attractive except for his looks; take away the piercing and tattoos and Sid Vicious was a nice lad. Yes, just cosmetic veneers all of them. Cosmetic they may be but that does not make them any the more desirable.

So, here we are with a boat which has been thickly sheathed in fifty-quid notes only to discover she’s got a diseased bottom covered in blisters.

Bang go our plans to buy a new 40 footer, bang go our plans to put the new boat in the Med for 2010, bang goes our plans for a summer afloat on our new dream yacht.

But hey, it could be worse. The ‘doctor;’ could have found a terminal illness and given the old dear just weeks to live. In fact, he couldn’t fault anything else. So it’s not that bad. True it’ll take more than a pot of Max Factor to sort out the blistered complexion but a thick application of yet more fifty-quid notes should do the trick and the cosmetic surgeon I’ve spoken to assures me she’ll regain her youthful looks and what’s more he’ll guarantee the work for years to come. Blimey, wouldn’t mind some of that myself.

Here, have the keys to the boat and pass the thumb screws.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Women Drivers

FRIDAY 2nd. October

We hadn't even had a chance to mow the lawn before we found ourselves back afloat. Steve and Margie invited us on board Reflections, a Lagoon 380, for the weekend. This was a double treat; not only were we able to gain some experience of sailing on a Lagoon but we also managed to avoid the gardening. Now, given our recent horticultural history you may think we'd be pining for a dibber, a packet of seeds and a good hoeing but oh no. The sooner someone invents the garden that grows to maturity in a fortnight and then stops the happier we'll be.

We have been on Reflections many time, mainly to help Steve and Margie lower the wine lake which threatened to sink the good ship, but this was to be our first sail on her and as we are now actively looking to buy a 40-foot cat it was to be especially interesting.

We left the Gosport mooring mid afternoon on Friday and had a good sail to Cowes. Lightish winds from the West made sailing a bit of a challenge but she pointed well, much better than expected, and we did make progress towards Cowes but not enough if we were to arrive before the restaurants closed. We dropped the sails, stirred the donkeys from their slumber and zipped along at a very perky 7 knots.

Our first Mayday went out when we were about two miles from Cowes. Not us, you understand, we had not come to grief on the trecherous Isle of Wight coast, oh no, rather embasrrassingly, this was a sail training ship which had gone aground off the west of Cowes and the swell was giving her bottom a jolly good smacking. being an elderly lady she did not like it, nor did the kids on board who had just been given a lesson on how not to do it. Lifeboats were launched, vessels nearby went to the rescue and HM Solent Coastguard were hyperventilating i9n anticipation of the headlines, "Children saved from sinking training ship. Why did it happen ask HM Coastguard." Luckily, the rather sheepish skipper reported that he'd managed to wriggle free thanks to a tow from a passing boat and was now heading for Cowes. We met in the entrance with her lifeboat escort.

Cowes Yacht Haven was surprisingly busy but they found room for us to tie up. Not long after mooring a monohull with a crew of uncertain skill decided they wanted to moor behind us. There was barely room but we shuffled up and squeezed them on the end of the pontoon.

Dinner was taken at China China a splendid restaurant with great views over the Solent. An ideal place, we decided, from where to view disasters, collisions and the odd skirmish between yacht and ferry.

SATURDAY 3rd. October
After a great breakfast we left Cowes for a few hours sailing in the Solent. The forecast was for 25 knots out of the North and the forecasters were not wrong. So, we were in for a lively sail and it would be good to see how Reflections handled in a bit of a blow. Well, the words rocket and train are not usually associated with sailing but this Lagoon certainly gave every impression of wanting to emulate these other forms of transport. With 25 knots of apparent wind, a reef in the main and about a third of the Genoa out we shot along at 10 knots. There was probably a bit of tidal help but even so very nippy. What was also impressive was that Steve could singlehand her if needed and also the champagne glasses in the saloon stayed upright. One day all boats will have two hulls!

Our Second Mayday occurred as we were slicing through the waves north of Cowes heading for Southampton. Two racing boats had been in a collision and one of the crew had sustained a nasty crack on her head and was suffering concussion. This did sound more serious and an ambulance was despatched to meet the boat at Hamble Point. We never did hear if she recovered but reaffirmed our thoughts about racing sailors. Sometimes passing along the Solent is like being in a dememnted dogem race with boats coming every which way and many totally ignoring the rules of the road.

Having got dangerously close to the shops at Southampton we turned round and headed back to Cowes when the next emergency call crackled over the marine airwaves. This time a Motorboat with engine failure. Some day all boats will have two engines. They managed to get a tow and another disaster was averted.

We entered the Medina and Steve fancied sailing up to Newport, our next planned stop. There was enough wind in vaguely the right direction and apart from a quick burst of engine power to get us safely past the chain ferry we sailed right up to the moorings at Newport. It's the first time we've been there and what a pleasant place it is. On Saturday night it was very busy, no pontoon space for us so we tied up alongside a (smaller) monohull. Dinner was taken at the Bargeman pub, pleasant hostelry directly opposite the mooring.

SUNDAY 4th. October
The Lagoon 380 is a BIG boat and attracts attention. The woman on the boat alongside and her friend were keen to have a look round and so Steve and Margie started the first of the boat tours. The visitors were impressed.

We debated where to go next, anchor somewhere perhaps for lunch? The tides were not right for going East so we opted for lunch in the Beaulieu River which had the benefit of wind and tide being in the right direction. A brisk sail across the Solent had us overhauling a couple of monohulls and a rather smart looking gaff ketch. We entered the river, dropped the sails and anchored. Splendid place to stop for a bite.

After lunch we headed East for Gosport and carried the tide right into Portsmouth Harbour crossing via the North Swatchway with just inches under the hull... but it was a rising tide.

We tied up back at the marina having had a great weekend and having learnt so much about the Lagoon and life on a big cat. We had also had a Mayday free day.

Some day all boats will have two hulls and two engines.

The Crew

The Crew
On board at Lymington