It is one of those curious quirks of human nature that a proportion of the population when behind the wheel of a car picture themselves as Lewis Hamilton, when strapping on a pair of skis become Franz Klammer, or when stepping onto the deck of a boat, however small, suddenly transform into Horatio, Lord Nelson. I suspect that the main demographic for this particular behaviour would be males between the ages of 18 and 35 (Just a gut feeling. Absolutely no Government research funding has been spent on this study). However in the case of sailing boats I suspect that the maximum age for this curious behaviour extends to a greater age.
Why should this be I wonder? A smoke screen to mask a general under confidence or a desire to appear to be really good at something?
Michael Green in his wonderful book, “The Art of Coarse Cruising,” (if you haven’t come across it I can recommend it as a very humorous read) describes a Coarse Sailor as someone who uses complicated nautical sounding terms in normal speech, often making up his own new, but fictitious terms. However, when life gets tense, you can spot a Coarse Sailor as all the technical jargon disappears to be replaced by a cry of, “For God’s sake turn left!” I apologise if I have misquoted Michael’s words but the sentiment is the same.
Yesterday I was sitting having a quiet beer in Gibraltar when I saw a friend walk past with a roll of artificial grass. Nothing too strange there you might think except that this individual happens to live on a boat! Whilst John and his wife have sailed extensively, their advancing years have led them to set roots down in Gibraltar and their ketch is now a stationary home. Nevertheless, one might still, as I did, wonder why artificial grass had any place on a boat. When I asked, “Why?” John responded that he and his wife already had some garden furniture that they use on deck so they had decided to make it look more like a garden. “You can’t take life too seriously you see,” he said.
The same day, my lovely wife Jacquie received a photograph from a friend who has a boat on the other side of the marina. The picture was of a rocking zebra who goes by the name of Zak. Why on earth would any boat need a rocking zebra? Especially one called Zak. Lou and Michael have added Zak to their growing collection of animal facsimiles which started with a duck shaped lamp. Their boat, a Westerly Ocean, has problems with its teak decks and Jacquie suggested that they might want to solve the problem by tearing up the teak and laying artificial grass instead which might also provide grazing for their rocking zebra. Lou responded, “Just been to check out turf at Morrison’s. It’s £30 a roll. Blow that for a game of soldiers! He’ll just have to rock on teak like the rest of us. Did buy a pork pie to console him.”
Although I cannot confirm or deny the fact, I wouldn’t mind betting that Lord Nelson did not include a rocking zebra called Zak in the ships company of Victory at Trafalgar, but he was in a much more serious environment than us cruising sailors.
Now where is all this going you might ask? (And so do I!) Sailing is a serious business of course. The sea has a habit of going up down and sideways in large lumps and if the weather turns foul one has to deal with it. You cannot run away as tends to be my habit in an aircraft. Once out on the water there is also no place for complacency as things can go badly wrong so quickly, so a serious approach to sailing is essential. However, there is also a place for a bit of fun and un-seamanlike behaviour. Incidentally Jacquie and I bought a garden gnome in Morrison’s to add to the ambience of John’s garden furniture and false grass. I am not sure if the Royal Yacht Squadron would approve.
As to Jac’s and my progress on our Mediterranean saga, well you might have guessed it …. we are still in Gibraltar. Earlier on in May my uncle Dennis, who was 92, was taken ill and died a few days later. Jac and I returned home for his funeral and came back to Gibraltar on 1 June. This weekend my sister, Fred, is coming to visit us in Gib so we finally have a proposed departure date of 14 June. This will be a tad over 9 months since we arrived in Gib and almost exactly 12 months to the day that we left Suffolk Yacht Harbour. We are now 3 months behind where we expected to be but, “Hey Ho!” we are retired and don’t really have a plan anyway.
Now please excuse me as I have to go and mow my AstroTurf.