Yesterday I rendezvous’d with a family friend in Emsworth in order to bring a new motor cruiser around the Chichester harbour estuary.
Previously he’d had a smaller craft with an apology of a cabin, but this one was a belter with twin engines, a galley, a seated area, a sink and (lo and behold) a proper toilet. On the main deck there were twin seats and a huge canopy that provided perfect protection from spray and, most importantly, allowed the human voice to be heard. At my age, catching snatches of conversation across a deck with twin motors running, the boat bouncing and all the on-water action happening around you is variable at best. Normally in such circumstances all I tend to do as a companion speaks is nod occasionally and laugh hysterically whenever I think he is telling an amusing anecdote, simultaneously hoping (of course) that the speaker is not telling me the tragic story of how his entire family died in a motoring accident.
In short, this new vessel – boasting a short-wave radio and satellite-navigation, neither of which I have experienced before – was two steps up the scale of marine ‘eff-you’ one-upmanship, albeit still nothing more than a pimple upon a bear’s behind in terms of the sort of thing in which Roman Abramovich or Eddie Jordan go to sea.
Yesterday was a perfect day for being out on the water. The conditions were calm, the wind stiff enough to allow yachtsmen and women to have their fun and retire home weary but happy, and the sunshine across a blue sky with wispy white clouds consistent but not oppressive.
Alan let me take the helm as we reached the mouth of the harbour and disappeared below to make us a pair of stiff gin-and-tonics. Traditionally, drink and all matters naval go together like … er … rum and coke. If they ever brought drink-driving laws to seamanship, half of all British shipping would never leave port for fear of being ‘nabbed’.
Learning how the boat responded to commands from the wheel and flicking the engines forwards and backwards took a few manoeuvres and half and hour or so, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you not only feel a million dollars but can have some fun.
It’s obvious, of course, but skippering a motor cruiser – which can turn any which way according to its choosing, ignoring the wind – and skippering a sailing yacht, which is entirely dependent upon (and subject to particularly the direction of) the wind are as different as chalk and cheese.
In all, we had about three hours out on the water before securing the new motor cruiser to its mooring and hitching a lift from a passing rib back to the shore … and a welcoming Pimm’s upon reaching dry land.
It doesn’t get much better than this.