Bor­row­ing my mother’s boat

Ber­tie Wheen en­joys a sum­mer afloat on Peter Duck and finds ad­ven­ture sur­pris­ingly close to home

Yachting Monthly - - HOMEWATERS -

Ihad been plan­ning to cover as many miles as I could, skip­ping past the home ter­ri­tory of the East Coast rivers and on to the un­known. As is the way with plans, noth­ing of the sort ac­tu­ally hap­pened. Upon ar­riv­ing aboard, I ex­pe­ri­enced the op­po­site of déjà vu –

ja­mais vu, when some­thing fa­mil­iar sud­denly ap­pears new, as if seen for the first time. That sen­sa­tion of un­recog­nis­abil­ity stayed with me, on and off, through­out the sum­mer.

I have been loung­ing around on Peter Duck for as long as I can re­mem­ber, on her fore­deck and cabin roof, in her cock­pit and my bunk, ful­fill­ing the light, in­fre­quent du­ties of a cabin boy. De­spite my years on board, the yacht I boarded seemed al­most a stranger. The dawn­ing re­al­i­sa­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity that I ex­pe­ri­enced was much as mum de­scribed her own re­al­i­sa­tion. As well as dis­ap­prov­ing ghosts of for­mer own­ers, how­ever, I also had a man­date to re­turn the Duck to very-much-stillthe-present-owner come sum­mer’s end. Thank­fully, you’re never alone on board a boat. Peter Duck, hav­ing seen seven decades of mixed com­pe­tence, was ca­pa­ble enough for the both of us. That said, I knew I could still be duf­fer enough to get us both drowned if I wasn’t care­ful.

Shortly af­ter set­ting off, I dis­cov­ered how lit­tle of my home wa­ters I re­ally knew. This, cou­pled with com­ing to terms with sin­gle-hand­ing for the first time, meant U-turn­ing on my rather grandiose plans. In­stead, I bliss­fully spent an in­or­di­nate amount of time head­ing nowhere in par­tic­u­lar.

Sail­ing un­der my own di­rec­tion forced me to bet­ter un­der­stand these wa­ters, and to see the con­nec­tions be­tween one place and an­other. Ex­plor­ing a river felt like fi­nally hav­ing a proper con­ver­sa­tion with some­one I had known for years with­out get­ting close to. Those quiet, in­tensely in­ti­mate river­bank sun­sets taught me how much ad­ven­ture you can have with­out go­ing ter­ri­bly far.

‘I bliss­fully spent an in­or­di­nate amount of time head­ing nowhere in par­tic­u­lar’

Ber­tie sails out of Tolles­bury as Ju­lia en­trusts her pride and joy to a third gen­er­a­tion

Cop­ing with bad weather was an­other part of the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

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