Ahoy there hearties,
You will be pleased, I hope, to know that I have stopped wallowing in the deep blackness of my heart and boat and am once again embracing all manner of ambling activity in the lovely old Wall of Corn. This has been in no small part thanks to the return of Rich from the North Sea, bringing with him after four and a half weeks of absence (his last, at last!) a reason to escape this concrete bunker and a refreshed summer sun. Though Gwen is still in hibernation, we are not.
Once my working week was done we ran away to Falmouth for a couple of days to luxuriate like a pair of swells in a fancy hotel overlooking Gyllyngvase beach, eating like kings (or, observing the rest of the clientele, like wealthy pensioners), swimming, sleeping, drinking and wandering in aimless merriment, sucking up diversion wherever it was presented. We went to the National Maritime Museum where our first sights were of an original mirror dinghy (an ancestor of Serenity) and a recycled boat made by local schoolchildren in a scheme run by people we know, and among the many fascinating exhibits was a piece of ferrocement showing the layers of its construction. The sun shone and we chatted on walks and outside pubs, where we also had a bloody good time and decided that Fal would be a great place to return with Gwen.
After an overnight at my mum’s we returned to the boatyard filled with purpose, and after I’d painted the last bits of Serenity Rich helped me to fix a broken part of the gaff so that we could sail her the next day. I had primed and painted most of the inside while he was away, before misery drew me to the less wholesome pursuits of smoking and watching TV shows about mass murderers.
Monday came and we had the morning to rig her before the tide came in that afternoon. Rich helped me to tweak, tie and heave her various parts in to place just outside our prison shed, and fixed a few bits that looked shoddy. By the time we came to carry her down to the water she looked a veritable dream, even with my dodgy paint job.
It was pretty much as soon as we put her in the water that one problem became clear. The automatic bailer, a metal flap in the bottom which could be lifted to let out water once the boat has momentum, was letting water in with a scarily regular little spring. Though Rich was confident we could bail faster than she could fill, this put me on edge. Excitement and fear grew inseparably, and by the time we nearly drifted into the next boat I was tense. When Rich realised we didn’t have a main sheet and ran off to steal one from his own dinghy I was holding in desperation with a clenched, hopeful grin, so that when we finally pushed off from the pontoon an internal whirlpool came spilling out of my eyes in silent streaming tears. I concentrated on trying to steer the damn thing, trying not to let anything else go wrong, trying not to look at Rich lest I crumble into the floor of the boat and never leave.
But of course, from that moment onwards, it was great. My little experience on Rich’s dinghy and Shamrock came back to me, the wind direction seemed clear and the water round my feet was far from my mind. I took the tiller and Rich hardly directed me, letting me get used to my little craft, my first boat project, not finished, not polished, but out on the water and scooting across it with glee. She is lovely to sail. We took out Needle, the fishing rod Rich bought me in Falmouth (he had a lot to make up for, I guess!) and failed to catch a single thing while stealthily stalking the seagull’s points of interest. I like going fast way too much, so this didn’t last long. I steered, Rich bailed, gusts of wind made me grin and giggle and squeal and challenges from Rich made me concentrate and deliver small inward prayers to the gods of my instincts – Tack, Gybe and Duck.
Since then Rich has taken her out a couple of times while I’ve been busy, so I’m hoping to go out on her on my own for the first time before I go back to work on Tuesday. This morning we went on a lovely morning cruise down the river with Smily Nick on his little gaff rigged weekender, waking early and supping Tia Maria laced coffee while meandering past the cormorants and seagulls that stand guard on the river’s buoys. Sailing is becoming a part of my life, which is bloody handy, really.
All this learning, all Rich’s kindness and understanding after my shitty August and all this fun and renewed activity have come despite some rather bad news we got just before our holiday. The results came back on Gwen’s concrete sample and it seems that we have 50% more sulphate in the diesel stained area than the supposed maximum safe amount. Talk of turning her in to a house boat returned, crazier possibilities like sinking her into a field and turning her into a glamping site were posed (by me, of course), but after a few days gradually some hope returned and we’ve sent off for some more tests to establish the extent of the damage. In both of us emotional forces battle, each winning over from time to time – the “fuck it, let’s just paint it and go, it can’t be that bad”, versus the “fuck it, let’s just turn it into a houseboat and fly to the Caribbean and have an adventure already” versus the “can’t something just go right for a change? Maybe it’ll all be okay…”. Once again, we just don’t know. Once again, I have my hopes up. It’s not nice, to think of giving up on the Gwen dream is just… gaaah, not nice. But at least we’re having some fun to while away our stay here in limbo.