Saturday, May 14, 2005

Saturday, 14th May

There’s less than a fortnight to reach Plymouth to be there before the start of the OSTAR – The Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race - with starts at noon on Sunday, 29th. At this rate I’m wondering if I’ll make it, but fortunately the wind abated this afternoon, despite the forecast for occasional spasms of gale 8 flurries.

At 0945 Martin Morris was as good as his word, as he duly showed up with his partner Roma in their functional van with nautical items spread over the floor. On the way to ‘Mad’ Cowes we had a congenial conversation about various boats we have built and sailed, and before I knew it, Martin and Roma were taking me to D. G. Wroath’s marine electronic shop where I hoped to leave the Autohelm for servicing, but it was not to be, because they were closed on a Saturday.

The only other place where the Autohelm could serviced was R. H. P. Marine, but they too were closed. Apparently it is usual at Cowes for marine shops to close on Saturdays – the very day when they would have much custom, but maybe, five days a week is sufficient, and they like getting out on the water. ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ so goes the saying.

Martin and Roma bumped into me after they had picked up a few bargains at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club’s nautical ‘boot’ sale and excitedly told me they had seen an Autohelm there for £75.00; so it seemed a good idea to have a look, but the actual price was £170.00! No amount of bargaining would bring the price down to £50.00 which I thought was a more reasonable second-hand value, because it was a much older version than my broken one.

At 1100 it was time for coffee, and in the little cafe by Cowes Yachthaven it was very good at £1.50.

The rain continued all day, but I was togged-up in my new set of waterproofs which I had bought for Gordon, I decided to explore West Cowes. All the narrow roads by the sea front are set aside for pedestrian use, which makes for pleasant window shopping. As you would expect, there are many clothes shops and boutiques. Also there are several jewellery shops, many cafes, loads of restaurants, marine photographers, galleries, chandlers and pubs.

Around lunch time I took a stroll along the sea front and was amazed to see hundreds of yachts out racing, despite the high winds. Early in the morning there had been a lifeboat rescue off the Needles, which I monitored on channel 16 and 74; there had also been a Mayday, because a crew member of a racing yacht had fallen into the water, but fortunately he was rescued by his crewmates.

Cowes, of course, is famous for everything to do with sailing, and has several prestigious yachts clubs; perhaps the most famous being The Royal Yacht Squadron which has pride of place where the sea front curves to the north. It seemed to me that these fellows who run the races at the RYS are a bit like little boys, because I counted 22 polished brass canons, 11 either side of the start line flag staff which has a top mast. Also there is a very grand and much larger canon high up on the wall of the veranda of the yacht club.

Other clubs I noted were the Island Yacht Club, which has a red flag with gold castle emblazoned on it; the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club and the Royal London Yacht Club. Apart from the Island Club, all the others have royal patronage.

While having my lunch seated near the entrance to the Medina River leading to Newport I was entertained with all the comings and goings of many yachts, the Southampton to East Cowes car ferry and the catamaran high-speed passenger ferry which runs between West Cowes and Southampton.

After lunch the rain continued, but this did not dampen my spirits or take away the fun I was having by observing so many activities.

My journey back to Yarmouth was by two buses, the first to Newport and the second a number 7 to the Harbour. On arrival there I found it packed full of JOG (Junior Offshore Group) boats, probably after taking part in a rather rough Mum Pavois race from La Rochelle.

As I type this before cooking dinner, the rain continues to fall heavily, but thankfully the awful wind and the associated howling and whistling in the rigging has been replaced with the pitter-patter of rain drops.

I look forward to a peaceful evening and a good night’s sleep.

No comments: