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Messing About in Boats

Messing About in Boats

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Messing About in Boats

105 página
2 horas
May 26, 2019


A collection of sailing stories on boats that I have owned between 1973 and 1996

May 26, 2019

Sobre el autor

Born in South London 1949 and moved to Suffolk in 1970. Has had a varied life involved in music, boats, motorbikes and washing machines. Was editor of The Silhouette Owners Journal 1984 -88 where some of these chapters originated. Now retired and living in Austria (a long way from the sea) spends more time playing music, motorbiking and writing.

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Messing About in Boats - Len Dee



Apart from work and family, three things have dominated my life, music, sailing and motorbikes in that order. Musically, I have sung in a choir, played in rock and roll bands and sung folk music in pubs and clubs (still do sometimes). I rode motorbikes in my teens, had a break while the family was growing up and came back to riding in my late forties. I still ride and have made some long tours across Europe. Maybe if this book works I'll do a follow up Messing about on motorbikes. But this book is a narrative of my sailing years.

I can’t remember how old I was when I first learned to row, but I think I was around eight years old. I used to cycle up to Crystal Palace Park and row around the lake there for half a crown a time. Living in bomb damaged South London was hardly inspiration for a would be sailor, but at that age the imagination works wonders. The lake at Crystal Palace is surrounded by life size stone dinosaurs and they were the perfect setting to my young imagination. I was not in South London, I was at sea adrift in a dinghy fleeing the monsters. South London not, South Pacific? or Southern Ocean maybe? It didn’t matter. When I grow up I was going to run away to sea and live on a dessert island. I had even dreamt up a scheme where I would take one of the hire boats and row away (how I would achieve that on a small lake with no river feed, fifty miles inland, I never did work out.

I used to read a lot, I read the entire series of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazon books, which I had in my possession until recently, when I passed them down to my granddaughter. The book that inspired me most however was called  A camp under sail about a troop of boy scouts that had a sailing holiday on the Norfolk Broads, and the adventures they had. Sadly the book has been mislaid over the years and have never been able to find another copy.

When I was thirteen, I saved my pocket money to go to the Earls Court Boat Show, and while I was there purchased a book called ‘Small Boats and sailing’ (I still have it as I write this 2017) by Percy Blandford, I bought it because I recognised the name of the author as a correspondent for the ‘Boys own paper’ this book more than any encouraged me to fulfil my quest for a boat.

Time moves on, and in 1970 still without a boat I moved to Felixstowe in Suffolk. I had many holidays here in the past and was drawn by the tranquillity of the area. Still without a boat I had eliminated the first hurdle, I now live by the sea.

The stories that follow are a collection of narratives from the logs of some memorable trips I had in the collection of boats I had over the years between 1973 and 1996. For some of that time I was editor of  The Silhouette Owner and wrote these as features for the magazine. I should stress that not all are in chronological order, as for example I made The Meaning of Life the last chapter as I felt it summed up the message in the book.

Chapter 1

Nina’s first cruise

In the summer of 1973 for the first time in my life my dream of having a boat of my own became a possibility. So when we were out on our weekend jaunts I was now looking at the boats for sale in the local boatyards. I was really hoping that Linda would share my enthusiasm, and as she came from a family with a history of sea fairing, it never occurred to me that she wouldn’t.

I had read somewhere in a yachting magazine Let your wife choose the boat and the rest is easy. So when we were walking around the quayside and saw a sweet looking wooden motorboat called Nina for sale at ₤250 and Linda showed a lot of interest, it seemed worth following up. I called a friend of Linda’s brother (also called Rodger) and asked him to cast his expert view over it. Rodger was very thorough but declared it sound, and Pop Pierce (a local old salt) sitting nearby called out Buy it, the motors worth more than wot they’re askin’ Which indeed it was, an Evinrude 6hp outboard, with auxilary fuel tank, remote controls and rigged to a proper ships wheel. SOLD to the young long hair with a beard! My real desire would be a sailing boat, but as Linda wasn’t keen I settled for a motorboat.

Having sorted out payments, marine insurance and all the other things, we arranged for a launch day on Friday 24th August, this was a bank holiday weekend and my brother Philip was staying with us. High tides were morning and evening that weekend, and Rodgers friend Rodger was free on Saturday to be my tutor, guide and pilot. As I was to learn, cruising a motorboat in tidal estuaries is not the same as rowing about on a lake. Little did I know then that this would be a passion that I would be active in for the next thirty years.

In the week before launch day I went around the local Yacht Chandlers and purchased a Sestral  Junior Compass kit. This was a relatively small steering compass, and the kit came with gimbals to fix it to the boat, but also came with a handle and sight ring for taking bearings. I also purchased two life jackets and tide tables. The first thing I had to learn was the tides, and the effect they have. The River Deben at Woodbridge is almost dry at low water, and even Nina with her draught of nine inches would have problems. On the Saturday HW was at 09:00 at Woodbridge and Rodger suggested being on board at 07:30 to depart at eight. That gave us a bit of slack water to start and then go down to Felixstowe on the ebb.

It was an ideal day for a first cruise, unbroken sunshine, very little wind inland and a moderate sea breeze on the coast. There were four of us on that first cruise, Linda, Rodger, Philip and myself. We got under way in perfect time for Rodgers schedule. I let Rodger take charge for the start I had a lot to learn and I wanted to learn it well. Rodger was a good teacher, he piloted the boat through the moorings and explained to me everything he did, on the water everything has it’s purpose and sometimes it’s life or death! We cleared the moorings, then cruised past Kyson Point and the entrance to Martlesham Creek. He then stood  back nudged me towards the wheel. Your turn he said.

So now I was at the helm of my very own boat for the first time. This part of the river was very quiet, the motor was little more than ticking over but pushing us through the water at about 4 knots. Rodger slipped into the cabin to check out the equipment, and sorted out the anchor and cable. When that was sorted he produced a sailbag, This is super he said "You’ve got a steadying foresail.

From that point Rodger left me at the helm for most of the time, just pointing out to me where the bouys were, and on what side to pass, red to port (left), green to starboard (right) when going with the flood tide (upriver). We were going down river so it was in reverse. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of it.

We were approaching Waldringfield

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