02/04/2012, Roa Island
As I said in my previous blog we've ditched the idea of buying one of those classic looking old yachts from Taiwan, and the last week we've started looking at more modern conventional boats. This is a complete turn around I know, but we've had a big reality check after last weeks visit to see the CT41.
Now it's all Beneteau clones, as lots of modern boats look very much the same, a bit like modern cars, I suppose. The silly thing is that before now we've passed over these ads, looking for that something a bit different, something with character, lots of wood to polish and varnish, wooden grabrails, bowsprits, some even with figureheads, a traditional wooden helm, the list goes on. What we couldn't find on all these boats though was a fair sized head, ample galley and a large cockpit, and so when we started to swallow our pride and have a look at more practical options, like the plastic tubs with a stick what did we find.
On the whole that's exactly what these newer boats have, a spacious heads, bigger galleys and large cockpits. The only thing is they're mostly fin and skeg, not your heavy displacement, long keel jobs, the ones that we've been steered towards from all the heavy weather sailing books, your first ocean crossing, secure at sea books etc, we've devoured in our quest to become navigators.
Surfing the net on this new tack, we found a boat in our back yard, at Roa Island just eight miles away. This was a Janneau sunrise, and at 34'6" just about our size. We made contact with the owner Paul and arranged to see her on Saturday morning. We chose the morning because Jackie, who had an eye on the weather reckoned it was likely to snow in the afternoon, so we arranged to meet at 11am. At 10am it started snowing.
Oh well, not the best day to see a boat that may be bound for the Caribbean. Luckily the boat, Silver Lining, was on the hard standing, but the northwesterly's were blowing in freezing rain and snow flurrys. We clambered up the ladder propped against the stern and gave the decks a miss as the boat was caked in ice. Below was cozy though, Paul had had the heaters on. First impressions were that we quite liked her, not love at first sight, but not a no no. She's a 1987 model so not too ostentatious like these production boats can be and the layout would definitely suit our list of requirements, nice heads, ok galley, largish cockpit. And then my smart phone sounded an alarm, telling me we had to be back in Ulverston in 30 minutes, clever things these smart phones, which is why they called smart phones, I suppose.
We said to Paul we would like to see her on a better day and scurried off back to our appointment. On the way home we mulled over the pros and cons of Silver Lining and agreed that we needed another visit in more pleasant weather. By the time we reached Ulverston the snow was thick on the ground. This was not the day to view boats bound for the tropics but it lightened our hearts on a very cold and miserable winters day. Maybe our boat lay in our own backyard, just maybe. Surfing the net over lunch we found a similar boat, but a thirty eight footer just south of Glasgow about 5000 pounds cheaper. We'll arrange to check that out I'm sure, but today Silver Lining was the name of the game, an apt name for a winters day.
We had a call yesterday lunch time from a guy called Richard who owns a CT 41 that's in Whitehaven. We had spotted this boat standing in the boat yard a couple of weeks ago. The boat wasn't for sale and it looked decidedly like a project boat, which it was. Being new to this boat buying game, and being romantics, we had always been drawn to the photos of these, and other Taiwanese models, the Cheoy Lee, Formosas etc. They just have that look about them, that look that turns heads as you sail into harbour, such pretty lines, they just seem to fit our ideas of what we wanted, and quite often they were cheap, within our budget.
We had asked Richard to call us whenever he was going to be visiting his boat so we could come and have a peep inside one of these, as there seem to be few, if any for sale in the UK. Although we knew this one was not for sale and that he had already begun to take her apart it was still a great opportunity to get on board and find out if this was the sort of boat we wanted to buy.
Now Richards emails had been, shall we say a little less than chatty, he seemed to communicate in lists, so I was prepared for a bit of a character, I suppose. When he rang it was a very last minute call, he was going to be there this afternoon if we wanted to come see. We were watching the Australian open final and it had just gone into the 5th set, so at first I said thanks but we may give today a miss. Anyway we were an hour and a half away and he sounded like he was only making a quick visit. Call you back, I said if we're coming. When I rang back he informed me that they would be there at 14.28. Now that was a bit weird, I thought, why not half two, mmm Richard was going to be different.
We arrived at 3.15. Richard was in his early 60s, I would say, and a bit of a live wire. From the off he told us how this boat was not the sort of boat we should even think about buying. He piled the negatives on top of negatives and then finally invited us to climb the ladder and come see the pain that we would inherit should we be foolish enough to buy a boat like this. Jackie, declined the offer to come a board and chose to stay on terra firm and chat to his girlfriend. She had already decided that this was not our boat, much to big, much problemo.
I followed Richard up onto the rotting deck to be shown the horrors that lay buried beneath the bowels of this project. It was dark and dingy inside and all over the place were lifted boards that revealed a couple of years of restoration that Richard was embarking upon. It was not a pretty site, although I could sense that he was committed to bringing this craft back from the brink. But as he pointed out the herculean task that he was undertaking I could see that this was not the way I wanted to go. The dream of romantic sailing craft ebbed away as fast as the falling tides of Morcombe Bay. Sure, the teak interior was lovely but the mass of rotting pipe work and fraying wires exposed soon put paid to my ambitions to own this type of vessel. Richard talked it down, and down some more. Even though for him it was going to be a labour of love he made a great job of quashing my enthusiasm, and I thank him for this. We had be seduced by the lines, the superficial shimmer of the woodwork and space that we had seen in the photos of boats like this on the web. But no longer, we came away with a reality check, and Richards wise words.
We have been barking up the wrong tree, we want to sail, not too inherit a project.
So the trip was well worth it, we have struck another set of boats off our list, and although we don't have a clue what we want now, at least we know it's not going to be some romantic notion, we will choose more wisely, and may even go for a plastic bath tub with a stick that we can sail tomorrow, not spend our time doing something up that could take years to get to be seaworthy.
Another trip out to view another boat today, this time it's a Gib'sea 38 in Whitehaven, which is about an hour and a half up the coast from us. For a change the weather has been more like winter with clear skys and frosty mornings. It was a fine day to take a drive, a drive that took us along the coast with clear views into the mountains of the lake district as a backdrop to our mission. Lenticular clouds hung motionless over the landscape like giant almonds in a clear blue sky.
The last time we were in Whitehaven it was also a cold day, in fact so cold that the water in the marina was frozen solid. That was a couple of years ago, today it's cold but the waters are ice free. We stop the car in the car park overlooking the harbour, light a fag and watch a couple of swans perform a symmetrical dance of pre mating foreplay on the water in front of us.Then, just as it all seems to be getting serious one of them, the girl I suppose, decides it's all to public on the waterfront and glides away, followed by her suitor, later maybe he'll have more luck.
We're here to have a look at this Gibsea but we've been unable to get anyone from the brokers to come and open her up so we can get the full picture. Never the less we have decided that a look around the outside will be enough for today, and it's a good excuse to get out in this beautiful day. The yacht we are going to view is called Grumpy, not the best name for a boat. Why would you call your yacht Grumpy? We find her lying at the end of jetty QB bobbing on the slight breeze. She's a ketch with in mast furling and looking a little forlorn, in need of a little TLC but at first glance she looks in reasonable shape for her age. My mobile rings and its the broker asking if we've found her yet. Yes, we've just arrived, I say. What do you think, he asks, I say we haven't had chance to look yet but one of the stantions is a bit loose, I'll give you a call when we've had a proper look round.
After about 15 mins of crawling round her deck and peering through the windows we decide that it's probably not the boat for us. Sliding windows don't feel right, the route from the cockpit to the companion way is awkward. The jammers are too far from the helm and we don't need a separate entrance to the captains cabin. It's OK but it's not our boat. That's fine at least it's another one to tick off our list. We saunter off along the jetty and cast an eye over all the rest of the boats, although not for sale it's good to be in among lots of different craft and make mental notes of the ones we should look up on the net next time we're surfing. It's a needle and haystack business finding the boat that's just for you, unfortunately our haystack is not even a sheaf, and today we drew another blank, but the more we see the more we eliminate. It's a long game we thinks.
After soup and a cuppa in the harbour side cafe we take a detour to the repair yard where we go looking for the boat we came to see last time we were here. There's a couple working on their boat who we discover have just returned from a two year cruise around the Caribbean and the East coast of the States. They're stripping her ready for a new paint job and we chat for a bit, about boats, what else. A few pearls of wisdom are dispensed in our direction, always a plus to talk to those who have been there, done that, got the T shirt. They're sailing a 43ft Onvi, which is way outside our league, but this chat reaffirms our idea that we need a long keel boat, an old long keel boat, and that still points to the Tayana type of thing, or perhaps an Island Packet 31, both are about within or just outside our budget of £30,000.
Home, and we drive into a sunset of baby pink clouds and misty mountains. We chat boats, and chew over our conversation with the Onvi crew. It's been a fruitful day and another step closer to finding our boat. The thing is that we don't even have the funds, as yet, until we manage to sell the bungalow, we can't buy anything anyway. It's going to be much harder to make the decision when we have the money I suspect, but for now we just have to keep on looking because you never know when your going to stumble upon the one.
Our search for a boat continues, and today we were at Glasson dock, a quaint old fishing hamlet near to Lancaster. There is a small marina here and we've come to have a look at a Nicholson 35 which I had arranged yesterday with Wendy from the brokerage at the chandlers. The fine still morning had turned to a low cloud and drizzle afternoon when we arrived a few minutes after two. We had been here just a couple of weeks before Christmas to see this yacht but hadn't been able to get on board as they were short staffed and couldn't let us on board by ourselves. As it turned out we had missed the owner by about 20 minutes on this occasion, so we were only able to check her out from the pontoon. She looked like a fine boat, and we were now back on a Friday to get the full picture. Unfortunately they couldn't find the key. Seemed that the owner had failed to leave a key with the broker, and he may be in Greece. We were a little deflated, to say the least, but agreed to look at another boat we had thought may be worth a look, a Colvic something or other. This boat was on the hard standing and so we would need a ladder. The problem there was that all their ladders had been recently condemned by the health and safety police. We went outside, in the drizzle, for a fag and a moan. Wendy appeared with an illegal ladder and we followed to the Colvic something or other. The moment the door was opened into the pilot house we knew we didn't want this boat, and after about 5 minutes of chit chat we climbed back to terra firma and back to the office, but taking a detour to the pontoon where the Nicholson lay to have a sniff about on deck.
We hopped aboard and at once were impressed with the her. Good sturdy oversized standing rigging, big winches, her soaring stepped mast, CQR anchor, spacious cockpit. Everything looked like a boat that was ready to cross oceans, solid, such a shame we couldn't get to investigate her below decks. We returned to the office. Here we heard that Wendy had managed to contact the owner who was on his way over, from near Blackpool, and would be with us in three quarters of an hour. We went to the local pub and ordered a pot of tea. The old Vic was empty, but with a roaring fire and was crammed with nautical memorabilia, a good place to while away half an hour on a drizzly afternoon. By the time we met Dave, the owner of the Nicholson the day was coming to its gloomy conclusion but that wasn't going to stop us having a tour of the boat.
Dave is a youthful sixty something whos' obviously been sailing a long time, he had that air, and drove a black 4x4. Dave is very handy and has, as we discover on the tour lovingly transformed this 1978 Nicholson from a bog standard boat, to something of a work of art. He's rebuilt the galley and topped it off with some ceramic top that they make mortuary slabs out of, not sure if that was a selling point Dave. Its had a brand new engine with a "Z" coupling, built cupboards here there and everywhere, except he forgot to build one for hanging cloths. There seems to be a back up for anything that might fail, and all in all this is a fine boat, we're impressed. We even get every chart we may ever need for cruising Scotland, plus a decanter and more cutlery than we need to serve a full compliment of Nelsons Victory. Dave is the consument salesman, excited to show us each labour saving device he's incorporated into this labour of love, each safety first addition and every angle that he's covered to make this a boat that would keep you safe and sound. This is a boat that won't let you down, a boat to carry you any where you choose to go. We spent over an hour below with Dave and now it was dark. He now showed us round the deck, but I was getting cold and I'd seen enough. I'll start the engine, eh. It starts at the first attempt. Yes we're impressed but it's time to go, hang on, he says, I'll show you the flood lights that i've got here I'm going to fit on the aft end, enough, enough. Your now overselling it Dave, we like what we've seen but we now need to be on our way, which is what we do. We head off down the pontoon in the dark and find our way to our car outside a closed and deserted marina. We light a fag and Dave pulls up beside us in his 4x4 to explain we need him to open the gate to let us out. Good job he thought of that or we would have been stuck there all night.
On the way home we chew the fat and come up with the downsides of Daves' boat, there's not many, but they are there. But that's the way it is with boats, compromise, it's all compromise. As a sailing vessel it's going to be hard to fault this boat but at the price he wants it's perhaps a no no. However it's very close to what we should be looking for, and I'm not ruling it out, and it is here. But we need to look at lots more boats to know we've found our boat but I must say this was very close to the boat my head says we should have, my heart will need a little more convincing.
I wonder if I hadn't set out on this dream of crossing oceans, learning to sail, buying a yacht, exploring the islands of the Caribbean, would I be in this waiting room at Preston Royal hospital at 7.30am on Wednesday 23rd of November. Perhaps not, perhaps I would have opted for the radio therapy, a rather less painful, less radical way of dealing with my cancerous prostate gland. I may even have gone for the watchful waiting option of doing nothing. After all it may not develop into a life threatening problem at all, that's how it is with this disease. But these alternatives would mean having very regular tests to keep an eye on its progress. The idea of going cruising and having this Damocles hammer hanging over our voyaging in the end swung the decision.
So there I am at 8am with my NHS backless smock and dressing gown being escorted to the theatre clutching a pillow I've been given to carry. I'm reminded of Ford Prefect in Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy who has to have a trusty towel with him prior to his excursions in hyperdrive. I don't think to ask why I'm carrying this pillow, but sheepishly follow directions as we trek the maze of corridors to finally be ushered into theatre 7, and the pre op room. Lucky 7 says my escort, but I'm not at all feeling lucky, I'm feeling distinctly nervous.
Carolyn is the antithesis and Jo her assistant, who exchange a sort of calming banter with me as I'm wired and pricked and readied for the reason I made it to here, next is oblivion until I come round in a bed on ward 15.
Jackie appears with a massive smile and a big hug, its about 3pm and my operation has been and gone. the surgeon pays a brief visit, tells me my prostate weighed 100g and is gone. Funnily enough I'm not in any pain but this tube stuck up my willie does feel decidedly odd. My only inclination of the op is a feeling in my midriff of perhaps being kicked, sort of tender but not what you'ld call painful.
Jackie stays around until eight and we even manage a couple of games of backgammon then it's chucking out time and Jackie goes off to find a hotel for the night, and I settle in to hospital banter with the other inmates and the sights and sounds of ward 15. Next day I expect to be going home, but it doesn't quite go that way, I have to stay an extra night. Something to do with the amount of stuff in my drain bag. A bit of a disappointment but on Friday afternoon I'm out and on my way home.
I've been home now for a couple of days and apart from the inconvenience of having this catheter to deal with, which I've got for another ten days I'm feeling ok. It was not a very pleasant experience but by all accounts it should be a cure and that was what I wanted. The prospect of our high seas adventure without the threat of cancer hanging in the air will have made this trial more than worthwhile, although I'll have to wait about three months to get he all clear, but by all accounts it should be all behind us now.
As all this has been going on so has the ARC which has just set off from the Canaries on route for St Lucia and we've been tuning in to check their progress. We said three years ago that we would love to do this trip, before we knew how to sail, and after going through this last week trial we're starting to think seriously about entering for next year 2012. I have a feeling that we may have a plan coming together here.
The postman hardly ever comes before we go off to work so every night we open the door to post. For the last couple of weeks we have opened the door expecting to find the letter. The one from the hospital telling me when my procedure will be carried out. You don't want it to be there, but you do. And day by day the suspense builds, like how they leave those big gaps of silence before they announce the winner of the talent shows on TV. Well seeing as how he said within 31 days, the silence was being stretched just a bit beyond bearable. The tonight the phone rings, it's the appointments lady at the hospital. Will the 23rd be ok Mr Williams? I'll just check my diary I said, strangely, and then said yes I suppose that's fine. Wednesday the 23rd, please be there for 7.30 am. We'll send you a letter to confirm all the details, thank you, goodbye.
Now I've got butterflys, now it's real, and I get a big hug from Jackie. You just have to be brave, everything will be fine.
I don't think I'm the brave type, dentists don't do it for me, and as for surgery, well, luckily it's not something I've gone into in a big way. In fact to my knowledge it's been tonsils out at about 8 or 10, and a minor op to release a tendon on my thumb about four years ago. So I'm pretty dumb on hospitals, perhaps luckily. I did do a lot of visiting when my dad was in towards the end of his life, same too with Jackies mum, but visiting somebody in hospital is a whole other ball game, this time it's me, and this time it's a fairly major op, well to me it is.
But the trains rolling, and I'm onboard, no getting off now, just got to go with the flow and put myself in the hands of the experts. Funny thing is I'm not too scared about the op, well maybe a bit but no, the bit I'm not looking forward to is the aftermath, with catheter and pads and the prospect of impotence.
But hey just think by Christmas I will be cured of this cancer and be well on the road to being back to health again, and our adventures in the new year.