Saturday, May 21, 2011

Crewing on ‘Ladybird’

Laid-back crew

Readers who have been following this Blog will know that I’ve had a series of mistresses. The latest one was ‘Ladybird’, a Seawych 19 twin keel sloop. When I first met her I eyed her up and down to see if she would do for the job I had in mind, which was to teach my nephew and his son how to sail. She more than fit the ‘Bill’. They learnt to sail and acquired their own shared mistress, a plastic dinghy they sail and race at Thorpe Bay Yacht Club.

‘Ladybird’ proved her worth last year when she took me along the South Coast from Burnham-on-Crouch to the far West Country and back. We had a brilliant time together and I found her a delight to sail. Like all of my past mistresses, I decided she would have to go to the highest bidder, and I was surprised when my daughter said she wanted her. She persuaded me that if I taught her to sail she would buy the yacht. That was a deal I could not refuse, but in addition, I could sail ‘Ladybird’ any time she was not using her.

Today the roles were reversed. I was the crew and she was the skipper. She was not at all harsh and domineering like some skippers who change their personalities as soon as they embark. On the contrary, she was very gentle and didn’t make me work too hard at winching the sheets, hauling in the anchor, scrubbing the decks and starting the outboard.

In fact, we had a fine sail from ‘Ladybird’s’ Burnham mooring to the Crouch Buoy against the incoming tide. With the wind from South by East we reached both ways. There were quite a few yachts about and youngsters racing Optimists and Cadets. As usually happens on a fine summer’s day, the wind gradually increased to be at its maximum around 1600, which happened to be about high tide – just right for picking up the mooring with wind and tide together.

There on the mooring, we tightened up the luff of the roller Genoa, tidied the boat, put the cover on her mainsail and we were ferried by the Rice and Cole launch to the pontoon. I failed to notice that I had left my rucksack aboard the yacht, and it wasn’t until I was home that I realized I didn’t have it with me. Good daughter that she is, she went back to Burnham and collected it for me.

My latest mistress is being tailor-made, fashioned in my garage. She will be cheaper to keep, and I have a feeling she may be my last, but I’ve said that before and I’ve been proven wrong. Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to sailing ‘Sharpy’, a 15 foot keelboat.

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