Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Inaugral Sail........

It was September 2002 and Fliss and I had just purchased our Saltram Saga 40’ long keeled Blue-Water cruiser. Neither of us had set foot aboard a sailing boat for many years and, after begging three days annual holiday from work, it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that we drove from our home in Surrey England to Plymouth for our first excursion.

After a night on-board, it was with trepidation that I fired-up the motor and Felicity cast the lines off. We have since found that “Nadezhda”, being long-keeled, has a severe aversion to reversing, but we gracefully slid from the pontoon and motored gently into the river Tamar from the Mayflower marina.

Those that are familiar with the area will know that the river narrows between rocks at this point. We saw a local police launch and the friendly constabulary waved to us. I waved back with the enjoyment of fellow seafarers acknowledging each others common-ground.

These friendly chaps continued to wave and Fliss suggested that they were trying to tell us something. Surely we were not in danger of grounding. Did I really not check the chart correctly before leaving? Doubt crept insidiously into my mind as I smiled and waved back again!

Fliss, who was putting-away the fenders in the anchor locker drew my attention to a (very) fast motor launch coming down the river. To my surprise, there was an apparently stationary grey behemoth lurking behind that was keeping pace with it. Well, what do you do when there’s a Royal Navy frigate bearing-down on you at up-to 20 knots in a narrow channel? RUN AWAY!!!

Having watched the marines, all “to-attention” at close-quarters, we finally nosed our way back out of the marina for an interesting sail 20 miles down the coast to the beautiful inlet of Fowey. Three days of blissful but nerve-wracking sailing ensued – we were hooked!

Of course, we are not completely irreverent to the need for the necessary skills and arts of sailing before we set-out. Fliss was capable in the art of dinghy sailing and I had sailed extensively on my parents yacht (albeit many years ago). I had almost completed the RYA Shorebased Coastal Skippers course and we both had a VHF operators certificate. However, these first few excursions taught us by necessity and the learning curve was steep indeed!

In the Beginning......

Felicity (Anderson) and myself (Pete Jobson) have sailed on-and-off since we were nippers. Actually, Fliss sailed dinghies up to the age of 16 and I sailed My dad’s dinghy and latterly, his Westerly Tiger and Homebuilt Colvic Countess (28’) until about 18 years of age. From there, Fliss gave-up sailing to become a teenager, I didi the same until I found windsurfing in my 20’s.

All could have finished there.

However, in my ‘teens I had read a book about a crossing of the Atlantic by a lone yachtswoman. The book was poorly written but invigorated me to want to go on a high-seas trip that promised adventure and self-reliance.

Of course, these flights of fancy dim as time passes and no more became of this. Little did I know that the impression of this book, and the experience that I had gained with my parents, had indelibly etched itself in my subconscious.

I met Fliss at age 34 and it was a couple of years later when we took an extended trip to India, Nepal and through the whole of the Indonesian Archipelago by boat, bus and any other transport that presented itself. We hired an ex-fishing boat to take us from Flores to Komodo Island (to see the famous Komodo Dragon) and thence to Sumbawa in order to continue our travels. As we arrived in Sumbawa, there was a lone ketch sitting serenely in the bay under wall-to-wall blue sky. The picture was idyllic! My words to Fliss were “next time we go away…..we’ll do it like that!”

Again, time goes on. Work and other responsibilities take-over as society urges you back into the Rat Race.

It must have been five years later that, in a fit of boredom, I actually picked-up one if Felicity’s “Girly-Mags”. The centre-story was about a man and his terminally-ill wife decided to sell-up-and-sail whilst his wife still had a quality of life that allowed them to do it. The story spanned 3 years of blissful times during a circumnavigation that was cut-short by the eventual ingress of her disease.

Somehow, this story held a message. Not only did it give an undeniably excellent account of blue-water live-aboard sailing but also tainted this with the reminder of ones own mortality .

We decided to go Blue-Water sailing and set-out to buy the boat that would give us that dream. This was June 2002.

The following months consisted of buying Yachting Monthly, Practical Boat Owner surfing the internet and referencing any other magazine that held the possibility of second-hand boat adverts. Weekends were spent in boat yards looking at impractical day-sailers lightweight cruiser and the occasional “real” boat. My father had seen an advert for a Saltram Saga, “ooooh, ooooh, that’s nice”, he said. Most people have never heard of them, but I took this as good advice from an old sea-dog who has spent much of his time navigating through foggy British waters with just a log and hand-bearing compass!

It was on holiday that August to Woolacombe in Devon with Felicity’s family that we managed to escape to continue our boat-hunt in the West Country. We drove to the South coast whilst scouring the small-ads when Fliss found a Saltram Saga for sale. We rang the brokers in Mayflower marina and, after a small amount of begging, secured a viewing. I was smitten!

The purchase completed and in September 2002 “Nadezhda” was ours!