Nick Burn­ham: “When the half cen­tury rolls around there’s only one thing for it – good friends, good boats and a party!”

Motorboat & Yachting - - COLUMN -

Should a hur­ri­cane not leave you for dead, it will make you stronger. Don’t try to ex­plain it, just nod your head, breathe in, breathe out, move on...

It’s a Sun­day af­ter­noon, a sig­nif­i­cant birth­day week­end, and I’m alone aboard Smug­gler’s Blues 2 in the ma­rina, just en­joy­ing be­ing afloat, lis­ten­ing to Jimmy Buf­fett, read­ing a book and feel­ing at peace with the world. I came across Jimmy’s mu­sic on a trip to the States a few years ago and I adore it. A keen sailor, his lyrics speak of life, love and boat­ing. I nearly named the boat af­ter his song Bama Breeze.

I’d re­cently had cause to breathe in, breathe out and move on, af­ter be­ing un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped via text mes­sage by a lady I thought might have ac­tu­ally been The One. That and the eve of a very sig­nif­i­cant birth­day could eas­ily give rise to melan­choly thoughts, but some­how be­ing on my boat, feel­ing the gen­tle mo­tion of a bil­lion tonnes of wa­ter, mas­sages such feel­ings away. In­stead, I was count­ing my bless­ings.

Firstly there’s the boat it­self of course. Just think­ing about it glad­dens the heart – be­ing aboard mul­ti­plies that feel­ing by 1,000. But it’s not just what you’ve got, it’s how you use it.

The pre­vi­ous day I’d slipped out of Torquay Har­bour aboard Smug­gler’s with my friend Adrian at about mid­day, fol­low­ing two other friends, Greg and Sally, aboard their Rinker Seag­ull 3. It was a short trip to Fish­combe Cove, where more friends were wait­ing. We picked up a moor­ing buoy and Seag­ull 3 eased along­side, raft­ing up with Dun­can and Dawn out­side of them aboard their re­cently pur­chased Maxum 2000SCL, named Dou­ble D. John Bung-gate Shep­pard’s Sea Ray 215EC took po­si­tion along Smug­gler’s port flank, two Cranchi Turch­ese 24s be­long­ing to An­thony (who’d brought his down from Swin­don) and Ger­vais out­side of him. There we spent the af­ter­noon – one big hi­lar­i­ous is­land.

At 5pm we upped sticks for a cruise back to Torquay for the main event, the five faster boats loop­ing and bust­ing through our wash. The venue had been an­other friend Neil’s idea as we’d sat aboard Smug­gler’s one af­ter­noon. I’d wanted a party lo­ca­tion close to the har­bour and was ex­plain­ing how my ini­tial plans for an 80ft char­ter boat had fallen on stony ground. ‘How about Royal Tor­bay Yacht Club?’ he’d sug­gested.

Two days later I’d spoke to the man­ager and he’d shown me around. It was per­fect, a room with a bar we could use if the weather was un­kind and a fab­u­lous ter­raced gar­den with far-reach­ing views across the bay if it wasn’t. I’d booked it on the spot. At 7pm peo­ple started ar­riv­ing, friends and fam­ily, many of the for­mer made through a mu­tual love of boat­ing. It was fan­tas­tic, great com­pany, great food, great lo­ca­tion and a great way to cel­e­brate half a cen­tury on Planet Earth.

Af­ter­wards, a few of us re­treated to the cock­pit of my boat, chat­ting and drink­ing into the early hours of Sun­day, with Jimmy Buf­fett on the stereo. That night I slept aboard, the per­fect end to the per­fect day, re­as­sured by Jimmy’s wise words on the sub­ject: I’m just hangin’ on while this old world keeps spin­ning, and it’s good to know it’s out of my con­trol. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all this livin’, is that it wouldn’t change a thing if I let go...

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