Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sweety and "H" take a boating holiday

Let me start by setting the scene! both the people named above are real and lovely people they are however quite different from the everyday ones that one meets, Having been brought up in a rough part of the world I can relate to H and also having a lovely wife too, I can fully understand why a rough diamond like him loves his Sweety so much. I picked them both up at a quay in Surrey somewhere and went with them down the Thames and around to Dover. I assisted Sweety with the navigation showing her how and when to use the charts and how to plot a safe course out of the Thames estuary, I also gave H some tuition regarding pilotage and the safe use of a 600 hp chunk of floating plastic including ettiquette when passing other boats, rowers and fishermen. In return they got me up at 0200 to start the journey in pouring rain and forced me to eat large fried breakfasts prepared by sweety to standards higher than the Ritz. Copious tea was also on the menu, usually provide at the point when one was thinking that the weather couldn`t get worse than this! Sweeties constitution and ease at sea are now legiondary.

On the whole they were great students and are now really good friends. H has a very chequered past and is very easily recognisable he is also extremely ridgid about not having his name in print or any photos taken of him. Sweety is lovely and looks like an older version of Haley Mills, she has a beautiful temperement with "nothing being too much trouble", I can see why they both get on so well togeather.

On the way down the Thames we encountered thick fog in the estuary which followed torrential rain and a small swell. The GPS packed up as we were about to enter the Princess channel and left us heading for the sand bank, a quick chart plot confirmed this and I opend up my computer programme in time to head south and into the correct channel Phew! (not as bad as it sounds).
We had been sitting on the fly bridge controlling the boat, as H doesn`t like to be inside for any lenght of time (something to do with his past) and were sitting under a plastic sheet to keep some of the rain off our waterproofs (dont ask why) and make things a little more "comfortable" every five minutes ( possibly a small exageration) the hatch would open and sweety would present us with another cup of tea or a bacon sandwich! I`m beginning to like this crew and the cruise.

Given that we started the trip in the dark and with rain, the dawn was now quite appealing even though fog was now present. I told them that it would soon burn off and kept an eye on the Radar for large and small ships. Three hours later it was still foggy and we were turning at the Margate bouy heading for Ramsgate to fuel up before it finally lifted. The whole trip so far was an education for S&H and there was a lot of carefull inspection of my facial expressions to see if I was really concerned or just making out that I was really quite at ease with the situations presented to us during that leg of the voyage. I guess that progressing slowly with a cautious eye looking, usually unseeingly, into the fog and with the punctuating wail of the fog horn as an accompanyment came as a strange experience to them. We approached Ramsgate where we were going to get fuel but as we arrived long before the fuel berth opened, we tied up on the inner pontoon for about 30 seconds as every other berth was taken, unfortunately the swell was too much and we crashed and bashed about and decided to attend the Dover 24 hour (we thought) fuel berth.

Our route took us around the Goodwin sands on the shoreward side, so the swell was a little less, being protected, somewhat, by the sands themselves, as we approached Dover we hailed the port control on the RT and were asked to wait for a few minutes for a Sea cat (Known by the staff as a superseasick! and yes I have had a go on the wheel of one) to enter after which we can enter. The sea state by now was roughish and turning broadside to the sea during our entry was fatal as Sweety spilled a cup of tea whilst hanging by one arm to the flybrige stairs, only toimmediately go back down and get another one. we hit calm water as we passed the harbour wall in the west entrance and proceeded to the fuel pontoon. We gassed up and left for our destination, Brighton. We called up port control and gained permission to leave and turned into a sea that was confused and about a force 5, passing Folkstone and approaching Dungeness which H commented looked like a larger version of Belmarsh prison as seen from a custody wagon??? We rounded Beachy head and passed Newhaven which was presenting us with various lights (it was now dark again and about 21-45) I asked Sweety to confirm from the chart that the lights were correct which she did (I cheked later) and we passed them about a mile off. we were now heading for Brighton proper and a whole lot of lights presented themselves. I checked the lights at the entrance of the Marina and we approached at about 12 knots half what the vessel does at full speed. I asked H to scan the many lights and see if a green or red flashing light was present to which he replied I see it its red now green oh! its amber now! no its red. He then looked at me and we both started to laugh as he had been relaying the sequence of the local traffic lights te he! we fell about and then sweety appeared with a salad sandwich for us both wondering what was going on. She had been quietly plotting our course as we went along having now mastered the GPS and honed her plotting skills. Eventually the correct lights became evident and we turned in and having contacted the Marina, crept to our berth. S&H have friends in the marina not to mention me and they came out to take the lines. The berth that we were allocated was a foot larger in beam than the boat and H made a fantastic job of berthing it. We all had a cup of tea and turned in for the night.I had arranged for a Yachtmaster Instructor, I know, to take them both out for a couple of days and assess them and their boating skills with the intention of certifying them to a suitable level of RYA standard.and he was due in the next couple of days which gave me enough tome to polish and hone the skill that they both already possesed. The next day we went out and practiced bucket overboard drill and with much reading of the manual they conqured the Williamson turn which H now calls the Wilkinson turn. Sweety was magnificent and a natural at this she showed no sign of stress and once told how to do something she did it time and time again without any problem. H and I spent some time on the navigation and course plotting which he mastered immediately and I proclamed them ready for the assesments.On the first morning of the assessment they both asked me if they would get the ICC international certificate of compitence, to which I replied that I thought that they would do better than that, they said that they would be happy with the ICC if they indeed got it. I left them alone after the examiner arrived and two day later in the afternoon they came along to my boat jumping for joy and shouting, I got a big hug from Sweety and a life threatening handshake from H and was told that he obtained the Coastal skipper and that Sweety obtained the day skipper and that they were "over the moon". we celebrated that night and prepared for a trip to foreigh parts within the next couple of days. H & Sweety attended the Casino a few times and I believe lost a lot of money, a rare thing according to H, he said that he "couldn`t pick a fight let alone pick a number" They generally enjoyed their time in Brighton and I returned to take them to foreigh parts (Hornfleur was the destination but the weather had been bad and it was decided that Boulougne would suffice and it held memories for H??) . We departed in calm weather having an uneventful trip across the shipping lanes, arriving in force 5 winds. We settled onto a berth in the Marina yacht club and duly went to the supermarket for the usual chese bread and pate. I could smell diesel during the crossing and H said that he was finding it in his bildge so we decided to investigate that and couldn`t find any obviously real reason for it. I decided that we should call into Dover on the way back and ask my mate Nigel the Marine engineer to look at it. We left Boulougne at about 11-00 and passed Cape Gris nez in a force 7 with confused seas. I had both H and Sweety looking at me with eyes like saucers asking me if this was rough and looking for reassurance to which I replied yes its rough and uncomfortable but the boat and crew will deal with it admirably! but would they like to call into Calais which is only another 8 mile or turn and cross the shipping lane for Dover as planned approximately 21 miles, to which Sweety replied without hesitation, go for it! Im not bothered and H agreed. As we left the vicinity of the cape the comfused sea calmed down a bit and the wind dropped a little and we crashed on our way to Dover. We were met by Nigel who diagnosed a damaged anti surge diaphram on the starboard diesel pump (always the most awkward to get at being between the fuel tank and the engine block). Being late on friday we could not obtain one and would have to wait until monday morning. We tried and exhausted all the sources that both I and H had gathered over the years even Volvo didn`t have one in stock (according to theior computer). On monday I located one in Broadstairs and we taxied over to get it (It also turned out to be a friend of Nigels too as it happened). In the evening Nigel fitted it and at 0600 the next day we departed for Surrey via the Thames estuary. Sweety and H decided that they would like to go back via the four fathom channel, which has sand banks on either side. H chose the time of departure so that we could enter the channel on a rising tide which we did. Sweety navigated and took photos of seals on the sand banks and we passed Wapping police station where a friend of mine works (much waving from her) we didn`t stop and carried on under Tower bridge to Hammersmith bridge which we passed under without having to lower the Radar arch, we progressed up to the Richmond half tide lock which was just opening as we turned the corner at Scion reach, and into the Teddington lock. H had really sorted out the tides well, with no stops or waits for tiday anomolies etc. we arrived back at their berth at about 1800 and I was duly sent home in a taxi. Much enjoyment had by all parties. I am so proud ot those two having obtained their certifications achieving much more than they really thought they could do. I was treated like a king, and they were so grateful for my assistance that they doubled my fee!

Obviously I have flitted through the trip without as much detail as there was, but hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I did taking part.

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