02 November 2018
A number of firsts today. First of November, or it was when I drafted this. First time being sixty three - how the heck did that happen? First ocean crossing in a cat. First impressions? Well, for starters, like the Shearwater cat in which I served my apprenticeship fifty plus years ago, its got two hulls. It's stable plus or minus four or five degrees and its fast; squeeze in the sails or point up a bit and whoosh - you're off. Quite a number of people have told me to keep a lid on things. For example, not going to windward at eleven plus knots when the Outremer Owners Manual clearly says in ze bold text, "We strongly advise against exceeding nine knots when close hauled." In my defence, it was our first outing, it was flat water.....and I had Endorphin B behind me..... Colin and Izzy from Largs, not the wee beasties that flood your system when you're having fun, and I've a suspicion the nine knots to windward rule is probably more to do with increasing the chances of spilling red wine and letting the foie gras slip to the floor.
Before heading out for Australia we stopped for the night at Ilot Amedee, the last atoll on the left as you exit the New Caledonia lagoon. It's famous for its lighthouse which towers above the beach, the bars and deck chairs with their little cocktail stick umbrellas under which the visiting bleached tourists burn themselves sunset red during the first days of their holidays. The lighthouse scared the pants off me that night. I was woken from a deep sleep , if you can deep sleep at anchor when sober, by the sound of knocking on the hull. Now, Time Bandit has two large "picture windows" in each hull so that while having a wiz up front or lying in your pit, you can enjoy looking out at the scenery, the passers by and with the latter, wondering if they can see in, ones embarrassment sheltered only by the open pages of an old Yachting Monthly. Anyway, woken from my dreams I opened my eyes, looked out the window and wham, right in front of me, only about twenty metres away was the lighthouse. It should have been half a mile away. Now, I might be in my sixties but physically, when your new boat is about to land on the reef, I've the reactions of a first fifteen scrum half loaded with Red Bull. I was out of bed and on deck faster than Maggie Reilly could say, "Moonlight Shadow".......'cause that's all it was. The shadow of the moon beams were creating the illusion the illusion of the lighthouse on the water, stretching right across the reef to my bleary, and I suppose, ageing eyes.
A few hours more kip and we were up at the crack of dawn to take our new toy out into the wild and wooly ocean for the first time. "We'll keep it conservative" says I putting in the first reef even before we'd left the lagoon. The forecast was OK, eighteen to twenty but I've learnt to distrust these GRIB thingys. Sure enough, come afternoon and all night its blowing twenty five to thirty. We've done our first pitch black second reef, rolled away a few turns on the solent and we're still conservatively thrashing along at ten to twelve surfing to fifteen and sixteen. See! I'm keeping it conservative. As for the ride, compared to the Island Packet, our "beige battleship" its all a bit jumpy. It reminds me of one of these little cars you see the circus clowns driving around the big top. The ones where the hub of each wheel is mounted off-centre and when its underway, every corner is moving in a different direction. When you're inside, that as opposed to outside playing ping-pong out on the patio, at fifteen knots its like one of these YouTube clips you see of Japanese or Californian shops and offices during an earthquake when PC's shoogle off the edge of desks, plates smash to the floor and folk hide under the tables screaming. Onboard, it seems similar. No.......that's an exaggeration. We're not screaming and we're not under the table but the movement and the noise does seem vaguely familiar. When we surf and a wave crashes under and between the hulls its like a piano being thrown down the stairs but man........it's a truck load of fun!