23 April 2021
This popped into my scrambled head sometime overnight.
Pollock Trophy - Roy Hepburn and I in the 505 Seestu, about 1971
Polaris Trophy - Anne and I in Scotchmist, our first joint boat, a few years later. Like a wedding ring, just more practical and faster downwind.
Over the coming years we won a few more “gongs” in our Fireball but nothing of the quality of the “Big P’s”, both stunning sterling silver model boats about 13” long. (I wonder where they are now?).
Much later, i.e. life after kids, we tried our hand again, pot hunting in Beige Bandit, but that was only an exercise in frustration, pitching the Beige Battleship against hot shot lightweight French fibreglass. A double disaster.
As I scoured the recesses of my brain for any other major trophies, other than the nineteen bottles of rum we won in the ARC for being thoroughly nice people, it occurred to me that, other than my lovely wife, the only other trophy I’d won since then was atrophy.
Despite trying to offset the onset of maritime ageing, keeping nearby cruisers amused and passing locals bemused with
our mostly daily, deck dance cum workout, we’re creaking a bit more than we used to.
It’s these tropical climes you see. We’ve now spent many a year under tropical and equatorial suns. Not that I’m one to complain, but you’d think that by now we’d have acclimatised. Other than our annual pre-Covid trips home at Christmas, where we freeze our nuts off, we’ve been languishing in the steamy tropical heat for nearly ten years. Ten years where every day we’re awash in perspiration like Dirk Bogart in the African Queen, or indeed, for Scottish readers, Dan McPhail in the Vital Spark’s boiler room.
All “jagged up” we tore ourselves away from Gan, the southernmost island in the Maldives chain, under the relentless, searing sun........ and no flippin’ wind about a week, possibly a month ago. We liked Gan. It had that perfect combination for us. A real living village, locals bustling around, sweeping their yards, smartly dressed kids shuffling along to school, the harbour unloading the daily needs of the village, all as yet untarnished by mass tourism AND, hypocritically, ............ adjacent to a discrete five star resort with comfy chairs, WiFi and an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
The villages, for there’s actually four, the islands of Gan, Feydhoo, Maradhoo and Hithadhoo are all joined up by causeways. One tarmac road runs the full length, all eight and a bit miles. All the other roads are coral. Each village has its complement of small shops, mini markets, mini DIY stores and, of course, the phone shop. Clothing shops, old and new, line the dusty coral sand streets. Tiny traditional coral “brick” houses sit amongst smart, architect jobs, all verandahs and stainless steel balustrades. Smartly, all the homes are set amongst the shading coconut palms and spruce trees, presumably imported as I don’t think they’re local. Oddly; there’s no chooks running around. We’re used to mangy wildlife roaming the streets in the island communities - the rabid dogs of Fiji, Tonga’s street pigs, Indonesian roosters chasing hens all day and of course, the single handed cruisers.
Anyway, we left Gan behind and headed out for the three hundred miles through the Doldrums to Chagos, the island archipelago ceded to the Brits by the French way back in 1814. Presumably, as was the norm back then, the locals didn’t actually have a say in any of this.
Back in the sixties, when it was apparently OK to displace legal occupants from their family home of generations and ship them off over the horizon, the Brits shipped the locals out to Mauritius, Seychelles and, for those who again fell for the marketing, London. Having “cleared the decks” so to speak, the Chaps in Westminster then had the gall to sub-let the main island, which basically, we’d nicked, to the Americans and declared the rest a national park type thing, limiting access to passing cruisers, only to rest and recuperate as they wend their way across the Indian Ocean. Once a colonial power......
Our planned two day, three hundred mile off-wind wheech turned into a drifting match taking four days at an average speed of three point something knots, including the hours we motored through glassy seas. As if to emphasise how slow it was, at one time, a Mahi Mahi casually overtook us with nary a backward glance.
It’s unlike us to motor, but with a two plus knot W-E current for the first half of the crossing, painful as it was, if we hadn’t burned the diesel we’d have been on our way back to Malaysia. Fortunately, most of the time there was enough wind to ghost along under star lit skies. Ghosting in the absolute calm and quiet of the dark until......CRASH, BUMP, KERFUFFLE. Our chests pounding with fright, we dashed out the lounge into the patio, sorry, lapsed into catamaran speak there, we dashed out the cabin into the cockpit, to find an embarrassed looking Booby sitting on the steps trying with some difficulty to fold his wings into their non-flight mode. Like Rocky in the cartoon movie, Chicken Run, he’d crash landed into the boat, all feathers and poop.
Quickly, we rung his neck, plucked him clean and, with a dash of red wine and some garlic, popped him in the thermal cooker. Nah. We didn’t. Your hero calmed the poor wee soul with some Budgie speak which I learned from my Gran as a child, gathered him in a towel and launched the wee guy into the dark.
Finally we made it although, having clawed our way up wind to get around the last reef, we got a call from the BIOT boat we could see in the horizon. Out here, in the middle of nowhere we get this broad, west coast Scottish voice saying, “Time Bandit , Time Bandit, this is Grampian Venture”.
Our brave boys were in the process of nicking an illegal fishing boat and would we mind diverting three miles back downwind to go around the illegal net.
We met the team the next day. The skipper is from Oban, our summer base and one of the biologists has his boat in Ardrossan, just down the road from home.
*Vital Spark - see YouTube “Para Handy”