Friday the 13th

This was supposed to be a short stop. If you have been following events, you will know that Samsara and I arrived home in Woodbridge in mid-December. It was supposed to be just for Christmas and repairs to the damaged rail from getting clobbered by a motorboat in Brighton (not to mention my own foolishness on the River Orwell within reach of home). I had planned to be off again by the end of February.

Why do we make these plans? Has any plan actually survived a brush with reality?

First of all, if the boat was going to have to come out of the water for the work, then I might as well touch up the paint. I didn’t sound much to ask: All I needed was a couple of days with the thermometer over 10oC. And what did I get? The longest, coldest winter in living memory.

Then there was the sailmaker whose excuse was: “I’m afraid we took on too much work.”

… and the elderly engineer whose apology goes into my collection of cherished quotes: “Look, it’s going to cost me more to heat my workshop than I’m going to charge you for the work…”

So, one way and another it was Friday 13th of April when I set off.

“What time are you leaving?” said Lottie who seemed to think the correct protocol was to wave a damp hanky from the quayside.

“Oh, about 11 O’clock, I should think,” I replied with all the assurance of one who has decided to spend the night before departure on the boat, just to make sure everything would be ready.

And what didn’t I have? Possibly the most important item – and it wasn’t even on the list: Music.

Last time I did this sort of thing, I had a plastic suitcase full of tape cassettes (remember them?) Oh, the pain of trying to decide what to leave behind (Frank Sinatra made it, Fred Astaire didn’t). Now, of course, you can take all the world’s music on Spotify. Except my phone seemed to have forgotten the lot. One way and another, by the time I had downloaded it all again (and walked the dogs since I was home anyway – and taken that cheque to the bank…) I was late leaving.

Now, here’s the thing: If this was a strange port, any competent skipper would check the tides, read up on the pilotage information, have the chart ready…

If it’s your home port, you assume you know everything – at least I do. I’ve sailed a Laser around here every summer Saturday for years. I left (but never returned) with the catamaran Lottie Warren. But Samsara is rather a different prospect. For instance, a Laser has a centreboard. Lottie Warren drew 0.7metres. Samsara draws 1.5metres and her keel is most certainly fixed … as became clear when we reached the shallows off Kyson Point.

The river path down to Kyson is where everyone walks their dogs – it’s where I walk the dogs. This is how I know how fascinating it is to stop and inspect the yachts that misjudge the turn and spend six hours settling comfortably to an angle of 45 degrees on the mud.

By the time I floated again, it was dark with no moon and this is when I made the next  discovery: That the night vision gadget Tamsin gave me for Christmas is not as simple as the instructions would have you believe. In the end, I groped my way down the river with a torch until I found a mooring in what appeared to be deep enough water (it wasn’t, as became evident when things started falling off the chart table at 4.00 a.m.) But by then I was past caring.

 

Now, I don’t care anyway. On Saturday the 14th, I have sailed all the way down the river in beautiful spring sunshine and as I write this, the stove is going, The Frankie is on Spotify and in a minute, I shall get up and cook myself some dinner.

There’s still a long list of things to do and for the first week, I shall be holed up in an Essex creek painting the decks. But for the meantime there is an immense sense of contentment in the fact that at last The Adventure has begun.

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