Dawn de­par­tures

What do you do if you’re an early riser but your crew have other ideas? Re­sort to dirty tricks...

Practical Boat Owner - - Letters -

Ishrink from clog­ging this col­umn with too many per­sonal de­tails, so I apol­o­gise for re­veal­ing that I’m what you might call a ‘morn­ing per­son’ – by which I mean some­one who prefers to be astir early, pot­ter­ing about the ship while the decks still glis­ten with dew.

At no time is this more im­por­tant to me than when set­ting out for a new desti­na­tion. For to weigh an­chor and slip sea­wards into the dawn is, I re­spect­fully sub­mit, one of sail­ing’s most per­fect plea­sures. One hand lightly on the tiller, the other wrapped around a cup of tea – what more could you ask for?

Un­for­tu­nately, I all too of­ten find my­self in the mi­nor­ity. My wife, Chele, be­lieves early morn­ings are best sur­vived with her eyes tight shut and it ap­pears that most of my friends are like­minded – most no­tably those that ar­rive very much as ‘house guests’ rather than fel­low sailors.

This is a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem in the Med where there are no handy tidal im­per­a­tives. You know the sort of thing I mean: ‘We’ll be set­ting sail at 0500 to catch the first of the ebb.’ Such pro­nounce­ments bring with them a cer­tain ir­refutable au­thor­ity, the in­ex­orable grind­ings of na­ture at its might­i­est and not to be tri­fled with.

But where the seas are flac­cid and tide­less you have no such ex­cuses and can be seen to be un­rea­son­able if im­pos­ing per­sonal pref­er­ences.

But there are lim­its. Sev­eral years ago, we were joined by a cou­ple who thought it would be fun to spend their hols ‘be­fore the mast’ as they put it.

They joined us at an­chor in Mal­lorca and were no sooner quaffing in the cock­pit when He (I baulk at call­ing him Brian for fear of re­veal­ing his iden­tity) raised his glass and said, ‘Here’s to the ab­sence of alarm clocks.’

I thought it a good time to men­tion our plan to sail to the al­most un­in­hab­ited is­land of Cabr­era the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

‘Not too early, I hope,’ said She. ‘I’ve got a lot of catch­ing up to do.’ By her wan tone it was clear that the com­mod­ity in ar­rears was sleep.

I struck a com­pro­mise. ‘No later than nine, then.’ They looked at each other, as­tounded. ‘Or maybe ten,’ I added in a rare flash of gen­eros­ity.

They looked re­lieved, but not a lot. Tip­toes and whis­pers

The next morn­ing found me tip­toe­ing around the deck, re­mov­ing sail cov­ers and gen­er­ally pre­par­ing for our de­par­ture. From the sounds bub­bling up from the fore­peak it was clear our guests had made their tran­si­tion to re­lax­ation mode with­out un­due suf­fer­ing. An hour later, Chele was on deck and we sat con­vers­ing in whis­pers over mugs of cof­fee. By 0900 I’d had enough of muted ut­ter­ances and was speak­ing nor­mally. There was ev­i­dence of rest­less­ness from for­ward but no sign of any­one else even re­motely per­pen­dic­u­lar.

Time to shorten the an­chor rode, I thought – there be­ing noth­ing like a clank­ing wind­lass and the crash of chain into the fore­peak locker to have peo­ple bound­ing on deck.

And bound they did. The next thing I knew, they were erupt­ing out of the com­pan­ion­way and had dived over the side.

‘What bliss!’ cried She. ‘Ab­so­lute heaven,’ an­swered He as they struck out to­wards a nearby beach. Alone on my fore­deck, I must have cut a pa­thetic fig­ure as the sounds re­ceded with dis­tance.

Well, we did get away even­tu­ally, but not be­fore we had paused for brunch. Had they stayed aboard I might have kept con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion, cowed them into com­pli­ance, had them flogged in my imag­in­ings. Once they quit the boat, short of aban­don­ing them I was pow­er­less.

A cou­ple of weeks later I was ex­press­ing my frus­tra­tion to an­other skip­per. He nod­ded sym­pa­thet­i­cally. ‘Know what you mean,’ he said. ‘My daugh­ter in­vited her boyfriend out last sum­mer. They used the boat as a bathing plat­form and were so ex­hausted af­ter­wards all they could do was sun­bathe. But I did find a so­lu­tion.’

Now he had my at­ten­tion. Across the ta­ble with its be­dewed glasses of beer, my com­pan­ion was smil­ing broadly. ‘Yes?’ I prompted.

‘Yes,’ he said – and here I must ten­der a warn­ing to the sen­si­tive. ‘Just be­fore they came on deck I tossed shreds of toi­let pa­per into the wa­ter around the boat. Amaz­ing how fast they changed their minds’.

‘There’s noth­ing like a clank­ing wind­lass and the crash of chain to have peo­ple bound­ing on deck’

Head­ing sea­ward into the dawn is not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea

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