Still groggy from a dream in which I forwent a steamy tryst with Tyrion from Game of Thrones (it must be the beard he has in Season 5) to return to Richard, I woke this morning to him calling me out from the dark forward cabin. He wanted me to witness an unusual presence in the saloon. Daylight.
The day before, while I went out for the afternoon and returned well after dark, the boat was moved from the back of the shed to just outside the front. Now the real world was streaming in through Gwen’s tiny portholes. After eight months of cold, dark, dusty, noisy shed life we had crept just far enough out to witness the start of a beautiful day. I threw on a top and some shabby trousers and had a cigarette and coffee on deck while I confessed the night’s indiscretions to my love, looking out over the boatyard like a fairytale princess who has been trapped in a tower for a long winter and has only just uncovered the window.
It was not long before Jonathan arrived to drive Gwen down the slipway. We followed and marvelled at her and received many a compliment on her paint job, got her nicely propped up on her legs and some blocks and climbed up to her from a ladder that became ever more submerged as the tide came in. Suddenly, it was summer. Suddenly working seemed like a terrible idea and cups of coffee and pottering about on deck were the order of the day. I took out my sketchpad and basked in the sun, trying to remember how to draw or relax or not work.
With the afternoon’s rising tide, however, came duties. Checking the ropes to start with. Discussing over and over again with visiting wellwishers how the water line isn’t the water line – we’ll find out what the real water line is when the tide comes in. Moving the ladder so we can still get things on and off. Running to the shed for something we’ve forgotten. Her arse started to bob, and people got hopeful – “she’ll be floating any minute” – and we weren’t so sure, but about 4.50 it happened. We amassed a team of assistants including two Johns and occasionally a Jonathan, and a nice guy from Brighton called Chris who had just bought a catamaran in the marina and was trying to fix its engine so he could get off our pontoon. Between many of us and many ropes we pulled and yanked and stepped and even windlassed Gwen over towards the pontoon’s floating steel mesh, and though we promised them all a beer our team dissolved and went back to work (or sailed home to Brighton with their windlass handle still on our deck – shit!).
It was then back to merry sunshine laziness while the tide turned, followed by a cycle to the village for cider and cigarettes to celebrate while Rich began the evening’s main task of drilling and fitting the exhaust. When I got back the familiar scream of the drill was emanating from Gwen’s stern and I saw it emerge from a hole in the edge of the scum line that the water had formed, 2 inches below where it should have been but fine for the exhaust Rich has planned. I went and got in the shitty dinghy and pulled it round the small amount of remaining water to Gwen so that we could drill the rest of the holes from the outside.
There was this moment, when I was sitting in the dinghy only just still floating next to Gwen’s rudder, gripping the pintle with one hand and a rope with the other. Rich was sat in front of me, his extended foot jammed behind Gwen’s prop, both of us trying to keep the dinghy still. He showered me with the dust of old concrete as he drilled four bolt holes around one of two fitting holes for the exhaust and I put my head down and held on for all I was worth. Two geese flapped by with a honking, fluttering, mechanical noise and I thought “this is just fucking brilliant”. The whole day felt like that.
Tonight we’re knackered, again, and a bit sunburnt. Rich had to work well in to the night to get the fiddly exhaust plumbed in, so I’ve sat with him beneath the stars (STARS!) in the aft cabin to keep him company while I write this. It was a special day, so why not write it a post. Not our mast going in, first trip under our own steam or our first sail – those are yet to come. Today’s significance is small and forgettable in the large picture of what we’re doing with Gwen, but in terms of emotion it’s a boost like no other. Today we left the shed and went back to the water.