Back a few weeks, to the Easter weekend, and I travelled down to Dartmouth to bring our new boat home. The deal was concluded on Wednesday, and on Thursday I and my crew stepped on board Ty Dewi in Kingswear, Devon. As I walked down the pontoon, I couldn't resist. 'See that boat there. That's my boat, that is'. The crew indulged me, even if it must have been a bit tiring after the fifteenth time as we went back and forward to the chandlery, the supermarket, the marina office and so on.
We had a pretty good trip, overnight to Brighton, but with too much motoring for my liking. The wind was fairly unco-operative, although we did spend about 8 of the 27 hours under sail. The first few hours were the best, sparkling sunshine and at the helm of a 50 foot cutter under full sail. Certainly a taste of things to come.
A delivery trip is always a stressful challenge for the skipper. You step on board an unfamiliar boat, with a brief handover, and set off on a trip that is usually under some time pressure. The life and well-being of the crew are in your hands, and every noise and movement is unfamiliar. Under sail, every minute that the rig hasn't fallen down or the halyards haven't parted is another step that builds the trust that has to exist between boat and owner. Under engine is even worse, every change of note or missed beat could be the precursor to a host of problems. A big cruising boat is an incredibly complex assembly of systems, structures and materials, and things go wrong all the time. That's OK when you've had months or years of getting to know the boat, but on a delivery trip, it's a bit more of a challenge.
So the crew slept well when off watch, but I only dozed, though the boat did well and confidence grew with every hour.
A night at sea is a special experience. Hour by hour, the boat makes her own steady progress, marked by small pencil x's on a chart and scribbles in the log book. The tide ebbs and flows, alternately speeding you on your way then holding you back in equal measure. Watches change, and crew rise to tend the helm whilst others go below to make a cup of tea and catch a few hours rest. The hour before dawn is cold and hard, as the body's rythyms struggle to compete against the need of the voyage; but as the sun rises, spirits lift and the world looks very fresh and new at 5am.
We spent a night in Brighton marina before setting off again on Sunday, passing the famous cliffs at Beachy Head, a favourite spot of those wishing to end it all, by way of the highest cliffs in the south of England.
Graham nabbed my favourite spot to do some sketching. Sitting up front, on the bowsprit, watching the bow wave foaming away from the boat is a chance to relax and enjoy the raw power of a sailing boat a full speed.
'That's my boat, that is....'
Sunday evening saw us motoring through the Thames' anchorage, with about ten ships waiting for the tide, and a pilot, to take them up the river. The weather was calm and a little murky as we threaded our way through the complex sandbanks that obstruct the enterance to London's great river. With narrow channels, shoals and much shipping, this are requires great focus and concentration from navigator and skipper, but when it is calm, it's a magical part of the world.
We arrived at Woolverstone, near Ipswich, and took up our berth at 2am in the morning. Valerie, Graham's wife, wanted him home with the kids so drove over at 6am to pick us up, very kindly taking all of us home in the process. The dawn sunshine on the wooded banks of the Orwell was a joy to behold, as was the big boat bobbing quietly at her berth behind us.
'That's my boat, that is.'
Meanwhile, up in Shropshire, the rest of my family had been visiting Nana and Grandpa and enjoying Easter activities, including a lovely chocolate egg hunt. They arrived back at teatime on Monday, and now the adventure begins as boat and family start the process of getting to know each other and spending more and more time together until she becomes our home. Oh, and there's something I'm even more proud of than the boat.
'See those kids there? Those are our kids, those are.'