There's just a chance that before Easter 2013, which in Greece is on 5 May, far later than the Latin, we shall be able to sail in Summersong, courtesy of the safety given by a reliable replacement engine. This old 27 foot sloop registered in Poole, moulded in fibreglass at Thames Marine at Canvey Island in Essex in the mid 1970s, is moored, bow to mole in the tideless Mediterranean style, in the small harbour at Ipsos was the occasion for this weblog, and the reason we've been going to and fro between Corfu and England the last 5 years. I bought the boat almost on a whim on eBay because, through an oddity of European grants to the Greek fishing industry, she was on a free mooring - something trickier to find these days than a boat.
|Snapdragon 27 by Thames Marine Ltd|
I went a long way in small boats once - the Solent, the Bristol Channel, the English Channel, the rocky coast of Brittany, the Bay of Biscay, the rias of northern Spain, the canals and rivers of France, the Atlantic trades, the Caribbean and then stopped and almost forgot about the sea but for being a punter on big ferries, with a research sojourn on oil tankers. I've not been to sea in a sailing boat for nearly 40 years.
When the prospect arrived... when I had time to start again - I knew, quite swiftly, there's no fool like an old fool while the sea, unlike me, doesn't age.
I returned as a result of research, looking for the boat designed in the late 1930s by my sailing mentor of the 1960s, Denys Rayner. As a young RNVR officer keen on having a sailing boat for himself he'd designed a small sturdy gaff sloop which he sailed out of the Mersea before the war in which he fought. I found Robinetta in rude health in the hands of her owner Mike Garnham who kept her at Shotley on the East Coast. He let me go out with him, take the tiller...
There's no seafaring in my family. I remember seeing model boats sailed by the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens. I've a small scar on the inside of my right knee which was made by accidentally cutting it with the tin keel of a toy sailing boat that my dad bought me when he and mum went for a day trip to Scarborough from where he was stationed at York in 1944, getting ready for Normandy. How did that happen? Scar? Scarborough?
"I remember you took your wellingtons off in the hotel room and emptied seawater and sand on the floor"
"But the cut on my knee?"
It's gone, perhaps never remembered. Infant minds make firm unconscious choices about which bits to keep forever; what to bin. The data on that event has been quite deleted in favour of the enduring scar and the recollection of a little gaff sloop.
"The figure of eight knot! I've never known one come undone."
"Well it did" said Lin indignantly, head of my court of enquiry
"If Alan hadn't been on board what would we have done?"
This spring after much searching, and a couple of disappointments, Paul and Mark found us reconditioned engine - exactly the one needed - for a fraction of what the cost would have been new.
Meantime we've had the mast down, checked the gear up there and replaced all running rigging.
So. We'll try again shall we?