A couple of days ago I popped off to the south coast with my son Barry, who is in the UK on a brief visit. When he first arrived I put him on my car’s insurance, since when he’s been driving around the country in it, having medicals, and meeting up with business contacts and personal friends.
As luck would have it the morning weather was lovely, so when we arrived we had a village pub lunch before going out to the family keel boat, which had just been placed on its mooring after a winter spent in storage undergoing routine maintenance.
For completeness, I need here to explain that although I can certainly sail – and in my teens and twenties regularly crewed my father during his racing season – my natural humility and honesty would require to admit that, even if I ever technically qualified for the description of ‘sailor’, it would never on the basis that it warranted the adjective ‘expert’ or ‘keen’ attached to it. I have never been remotely interested in owning a boat, committing to sailing as a hobby, or even going upon a ‘flotilla’ sailing holiday.
My son is a professional sailor and so part of the scheme of the day was that he would check that the set-up of the boat was rigged and ship-shape, ready to go and possessed of all the appropriate equipment. When we had first arrived there had been not a breath of wind in the air and so, because he had other commitments after we had returned home, we had planned simply to do said ‘check’, have a cup of tea and then drive back to the metropolis.
However, after twenty minutes or so of him flaffing about, checking ropes, shackles, the mast, the back-stay and everything else that a boat entails and then giving me a list of things to get and/or do, Barry announced he was satisfied. At this point I began to make ready to depart. He then looked up at the sky and said “The wind is getting up slightly, why don’t we go for a sail now we’re here?”
So that’s exactly what we did. We spent a couple of hours going down Chichester Harbour against the tide, to East Head and back, in a Force 3 to 4 wind and beautiful sunshine – in other words, ideal sailing weather. I may be over-egging it here, but it felt to me – as we talked about every subject you could imagine, great or small – that it was less a chat between ‘father and son’ than two pals chewing the cud together who happened to be from different generations. It goes without saying that Barry has sailed hundreds of boats all over the world but at one stage he commented that he loved the opportunity of taking out a classic hand-built yacht like this because of the simple pleasures it involved.
Returning up the harbour the tide was still coming in, so in ‘running’ mode (wind directly behind us) we shot back in record time.
We eventually reached my place at approximately 6.15pm and, after Barry had set off to see more friends, I relaxed, made myself something to eat and watched the West Ham v Manchester United FA Cup quarter-final replay live on television.
As a day in my life, I’d describe it as just about perfect.