When I was at school one of the things I wanted to do was join the Wrens. My father had a fit and I lost interest when I learned they didn’t go to sea (well in those days they didn’t). When I lived in Cornwall I met a man who became my partner for 17 years. He owned a yacht just like the one in the photograph above. She was a Folkboat called Applejack.
When I was 50 I was asked to help crew a catamaran from Plymouth, Devon to Santander, Spain. Yes across the notoriously choppy Bay of Biscay. The trip took two whole weeks of my summer holiday but what an experience! I spent one night in Santander then caught the ferry back to Plymouth and work the next day.
But it was on Applejack that I learned to sail. Most weekends and every holiday was spent sailing or cruising. No full headroom in the cabin and the heads (loo) was separated from the bunks and table by a curtain. It was a Baby Blake though and not a bucket and chuck it so I did have a bit of luxury. I learned to cook sitting on my bunk holding the pans on the gas as the boat ploughed its way across the English Channel en route to France or The Channel Islands.
I learned to steer at night using the stars (as well as the compass) and how to tell whether a vessel was going to go ahead of us or behind or whether we were on a collision course!l
When I was off watch during a Channel crossing I would lie (fully clothed) on my bunk and be lulled to a couple of hours sleep by the sound of the water gurgling against the hull.
In St Peter Port CI I was sitting in the cockpit in the Marina peeling potatoes for lunch into a bucket between my legs when a rather snooty woman walked up and said ‘My dear, every time I walk past I think of you crossing the Channel in THAT! I should have told her how seaworthy the Folkboat was and that Blondie Hasler used one for several years in the Singlehanded Transatlantic Yacht Race.
It was never a chore visiting her in the boatyard out of season and anti fouling and painting and varnishing her ready for the next season.
This is a watercolour painting I did of a boatyard in the early Spring – it might have been Applejack under that tarp and my coffee mug upturned on the oil drum!