A First Time for Everything

This morning I was woken by the sweetly pitched dubstep chirrup of a young swift, beep beep brrrrrr bidduping outside the open hatch just above my head. How lovely, I thought when she was done. Then she started again, which I found less lovely. “Fuck off” I whispered and went back to sleep for an hour.

It seems I’m always hungover when we move the boat. It wasn’t intentional that today should be started with a desperate necking of water and a bleary-eyed slump to the shower, but evenings at Maker are what they are. Once I was refreshed I was as merry as could be, and while there was still no wind Rich and I motored Gwen to the outside end of the pontoon. I fetched Ren and rowed her up to meet Gwen and we both worried a Sainsbury’s driver with the enthusiastic joy of receiving our shopping delivery. Yes, it’s 8am on a Saturday and yes, we are the happiest people alive. Thanks for the bread! Bread’s great!

That was loaded on board, and Rich set about literally teaching me the ropes – the location of the halliards and suchlike on the pins, the way to secure the blocks and sheets for the gib, staysail and main, and the protocol for the runners. The engine was started. Nathan came along to interfere, but we were off almost before he could say “what do you mean you want to sail out? You’re as bad as he is”.

gw02

Drunk on more than last night’s cider

The engine ticked over as Rich hoisted the staysail, after which he popped back to see me at the tiller. “We’re sailing, by the way” he commented. My lip wobbled. He cut the engine and soon I was sailing us up the channel and in to the Tamar, where the mainsail went up. I waited til Rich was fiddling with some ropes up forward before I let myself have a proper joyful blub. Not for long… we’re sailing the boat, the boat we’ve been working on for two and a half years, the boat that nobody’s sailed for twenty years… no… stop.

There were a few times today when I let that emotional tap open for a few seconds and then jammed it shut again to concentrate. I’ve tried not to build up to today too much in my head. Rich has spent the last week putting fiddles and straps on everything in sight, performing all manner of jobs from creating a secure place for the eggs to tightening the gooseneck fitting, just so we could be ready for today. We’ve gone to bed at night whispering to each other – how long it’s been, how soon it’ll be, how much we love each other and our boat. But wait… we know too well that everything can go wrong.

The saloon, upgraded with banjo strap and plant holders.

The saloon, upgraded with banjo strap and plant holders.

gw03

Ren follows Gwen

It wasn’t until we’d come grinning up the Tamar, through the bridge and round Mount Edgecumbe to the edge of Cawsand bay that we hoisted the jib and tried our first tack with three sails, potentially an embarrassing prospect in front of the many many other boats who had shared our idea to head there this weekend. As with everything else, it went fine – there’s plenty for us to work on and for Rich to refine – but it works. It was starting to get a bit chillier and jumpers and snacks were fetched from below decks, which was a strange experience for two reasons.

1) I’m out sailing with my boyfriend again, bobbing about on a fully functional deck and I come downstairs and… I’m in my lounge! It hits me – this is my home. The two things are the same thing. The mind boggles, the body bogles, an imaginary lightbulb switches on above my head.

2) Euuurrrrggghhh. I hadn’t suffered on deck but inside the lurching motion is exaggerated and it isn’t nice. Back up top, post haste.

Sails good

Sails good

Gib up

Jib up

Once we were out on the open water away from the crowded bay the sky clouded over a little and the dull, deep waves took on strange shines from the slivers of sun that peeked through. We both began to feel a little bit odd, mostly tired with a hint of that drunken, constipated wobble in the stomach and head that isn’t quite seasickness, the body saying “I’m not used to this”. After we passed the beautiful bunched trees near Penlee Point I went down to the saloon for a half hour nap and woke up in Whitsand Bay, where we turned the boat round and I let Rich sleep as I sailed us back to Penlee.

With Rich slumbering below I had time to think and appreciate the experience of being in command of this marvellous vessel. This taste of sailing has stoked the desperation for travel I have been feeling these last few years. I want to go out. I want to call the mainland and say “you’re all terribly nice people but there’s something I simply must do. I’ll see you in a few years.” The dream is real, and I want it.

The view from a lie-down on deck.

The view from a lie-down on deck.

We anchored in Cawsand bay a few hours ago and toasted our great fortune with red wine, pouring a little out in thanks to the sea, in thanks to each other and the trees of Rame and everything else that has brought us here. Nick Skeates waved to us from Wylo 2 and popped over to join our tired, giddy celebration, and Rich has popped back over to his while I write this, sampling his famous rum-based hospitality. I’m enjoying the setting sun, the bobbing wobble and creak of the world I feel like I’ve just joined, and a bit of a time alone to not be overwhelmed.

Wine

Wine

Our home for the next few days. Not bad.

Our home for the next few days. Not bad.

We’ll stay here tonight despite the bad weather that’s going to come in tomorrow and the fact I have to be in work in the morning. I’d rather suffer a soggy row and a longer yomp to work than go back to the marina tonight.

Not for the first time I am in awe of my boyfriend. His dedication/obsession/infuriating stubbornness have paid off and we’re here. He in turn is delighted that I have stuck with it, that I’ve taken to sailing and that it’s all come about. I’m so happy for the calm, beautiful way that we have started sailing Gwen, that she has been brought back to the sea. I hope the photos tell you something about how it looked. All I can think of to tell you is about how it felt, and that was wonderful.

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3 thoughts on “A First Time for Everything

  1. Emily says:

    Yeehaw! You committed and saw it through! Now look! You did it. Go girl (and man). The inside saloon is so effing sweet like sweeter than most apartments. Cheers!

  2. Lucy and Chris says:

    Congratulations, medals all round for endurance and dedication. Gwen looks wonderful and you both look so happy. See you soon. X

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