The Continued Adventures of a Yachting Novice – season 1 – by Skipper Keith

Well the end of season 1 fast approaches and for Skipper Keith it has been one long learning curve that’s for sure.

As September drew to a close the primary task ahead for Pop Up Phil is getting organised for the big crane out in the first week of October. Now I should explain my little term of endearment attributed to Phil here. It’s just that no matter when Skipper Keith is about and having some form of minor or major yachting calamity Phil appears from nowhere ready with a useful little “ooh you don’t want to be doing it that way” ditty of advice. In fact I am sure for the more mature readers he appears from beneath the pier like Windy Miller, rising from the box in Camberwick Green …… except Windy Miller, as I recall, couldn’t speak and could merely animate responses to direct questions….now there is a thought, if only….

It’s a tight fit for the yachts on the pier this year and rest assured both Phil and Eva have been out with a micrometer to calculate the required positioning of the yachts to the nearest one hundredth of an inch… And here is the rub. Skipper Keith’s Polish friend Zibi recently acquired Molly V after the last little extraction calamity, and she needed to be removed from the pier as the space she was taking up was factored into Phil’s plan.

Unfortunately Zibi had to do a few onsite repairs so as she could be sailed to her new home in Culross and with one week to go she was still at Limekilns, primarily due to an outboard issue that couldn’t be resolved in time. Molly’s continued presence was a slight issue as it was mentioned to me eight or nine times.

Anyway, Zibi and Skipper Keith hatched a plan to get Molly V launched on the final cruise day before craning out, leaving it to the last minute, right to the wire as they say, no excuses this time, it had to happen.

Luckily the weather was reasonable that Sunday afternoon and with the ever so slightly rust coloured trailer (on account of it being 90% rust less the few pieces of box metal the highly skilled George managed to weld onto thin air), what could go wrong?.

The tide was slowly washing inward when plan ‘A’ swung into action starting with a tip from seasoned sailor John D which was to get the trailer and yacht down the ramp early enough and into the sand, tie it off and wait for the tide to lift Molly V from the trailer. Then remove the trailer to the park nip around the pier to Skipper Keith’s yacht start her up, a quick jaunt round the pier grab the tow line and rush down to Culross and back in the tide, simplsk.

Now another lesson here was to tie a strong rope to the trailer and then to the tow bar and release the yacht down the ramp to save any difficulties with gravity and momentum taking both the yacht and car into the Forth. Alas this wasn’t an option as the trolley wheel was slightly bent and probably unable to sustain the pressure. But having checked the slipway was dry and taking into account that Molly V was only half a tonne Skipper Keith figured keeping her on the tow bar was going to be fine. Now reader, you are most likely waiting for the calamity here but in fact getting the trailer down the ramp and tied off on the line with a few additional forward ropes anchored to the slipway went as planned for a change.

Now those who have used the slipway will know that it’s flipping steep and having reversed most of the way down Skipper Keith detached the trailer, jumped in the car with some confidence, selected first gear and headed……nowhere…., yup front wheel drive should have been good but Skipper Keith hadn’t factored in the kelp beneath them, the car moved side to side but not upwards…. A cold sweat began to form in the back of his neck….no no No No NO. Not again, yet another disaster set to befall him this time potentially his car setting sail like the Bismarck to an inglorious death in the depths.

At this point Skipper Keith looked up to the top of the slipway fully expecting to see Phil having popped up and shaking his head in that “will that boy never learn” way, but then a massive thrust from the rear in the form of the giant of a man Zibi, lunged the car past the kelp and onto firm ground, yes yes yes, YES the plan was working for a change, no more humiliation for this season at least.

With the car on solid ground Zibi and Skipper waited for the tide to rise, a small club audience joined them in the form of Alec and Graham and including Phil who just popped up from beneath the pier where Skipper Keith is most certain a tunnel, indeed a complex of tunnels lead straight to Phil’s house further up the road.

The gathered Team FCC suggested, with Zibi now on board Molly V, that Skipper Keith get himself readied as the tide started to lift Molly V.

Team FCC would kindly pull the trailer to the top of the slipway, although Skipper Keith had visions of just the recently welded box frame being the only part of the trailer to emerge from the water. No matter there was no going back whatever happened.

Nonetheless off he rushed to the other side of the pier in his eagerness nudging passed Eva who was getting ready to crane in her tender, stealing the crane, dropping his tender in the water and rowing with great gusto towards his yacht. Arriving he didn’t notice that it was unusually easy to mount the yacht from the stern.

Skipper secured the tender, started the engine to warm it up, added additional fuel for the journey taking great care to measure the 100 to 1 two stroke mixture and securing the link lines.

A quick check, lines secure, affirmative, tender secure, affirmative, engine idling, affirmative, yup ready to go. Quick decision on the release procedure for the securing strops based on wind speed and direction.

Skipper thought he was beginning to get the hang of this sailing malarky as he rapidly released the forward and rear strops securing the yacht to its mooring……..then during the following three seconds a number of things happened that Skipper Keith’s small pea of a brain had to process. As luck would have it due to some inexplicable anomaly in time and space dimension, explained, no doubt in some depth within the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, a copy of which the Skipper had left at home, time appeared to slow down considerably which was both good and bad.

It was good as it allowed the Skipper to process several pieces of vital information but bad as to others externally he was exhibiting the face of Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest having undergone a full frontal lobotomy.

Turning to engage forward gear and take the helm Skipper noticed some things that should have been reasonably obvious but just wasn’t until that moment.

1: it was unusually spacious in the cockpit today
2: it was easier than usual to embark from the stern today
3: disconnecting the line that secured the tiller in place from the port and starboard cleats was unusually easy today
4: 3 was because there was no tiller present impacting on both 1 and 2
5: 1 to 4 above were because there was no bloody rudder there either!!!.

Assimilating all this information in a shifting time vortex was exhausting but there was more. An additional list popped into Skipper Keith’s brain that still didn’t show on his vacant face at that

A: you have just dropped your lines Skipper and you are watching them sink.
B: yup you don’t have a rudder or tiller so how you gonna navigate.
C: does this mean that Molly V can’t be towed to Culross and will have to be brought back to shore….remember what happened last time.
D: somebody has nicked the rudder
E: Phil won’t be happy to see Molly V reappearing as it messes with the craning in plan
F: Eva will be wanting fees for Molly V to remain another day and an application form signed in triplicate before she comes up the slipway.
G: You didn’t factor this one in huh
H: you have no plan B at this stage.
I: why would someone nick the rudder and not also the outboard
J: Limekilns is a picture postcard village not the Gaza Strip is there crime here.
K: how could you possibly have untied the tiller straps and not noticed that you didn’t unwind it from the tiller you moron.
L: Zibi is bobbing about watching for you coming round the pier and you ain’t coming.
M: how interesting it is that the alphabet has no sequence relevance within a time space vortex.
O: you are drifting away from the mooring towards rocks by the way.
P: someone has NICKED THE BLOODY RUDDER
Q: M E R D E

Amazingly all this information was in fact processed at lightning speed thanks to the shifting vortex referred to previously, but it was time to put the lobotomy face away and take action, it was time for the appearance of John McLean, Die Hard.

Using years of police training in evolving crisis management and having previously experienced drifting towards rocks this became priority number one, Skipper Keith threw himself forward and down to the stern and plunged his arms into the depths of the rising River Forth where the sink lines were busily doing what it said on the tin…sinking.., in doing so his chest cavity felt like it had just had a head on collision with a 2 tonne Rhino and as a direct consequence it’s mighty horn pushed into and through the skippers chest emerging proudly through the rear of his back.

Whilst at a very important part of the story here I must digress a little so as you understand the impact of the chest compression which my dear reader you must be thinking was a slight exaggeration alas no.

If I could for one moment take you back a week when the seas were as calm as they had been for some time on the Forth and Skipper Keith and Crewman Varrie were out sailing (drifting) in a very non-tippy way as is Varries preference, a small calamity befell the Skipper.

Having attended some sheeting matters (note the correct yachting reference) at the bow, Skipper walking swiftly and indeed sure footedly towards the cockpit felt the need to somehow misjudge his footing, a claim made by Varrie who completely denied shoogling the rudder to imbalance him.

Instead of stepping down into the cockpit he actually stood in the hole left by the open hatch and disappeared down the five feet gap, stopped only by using friction against his left shin and forearm supported by a significant compression of the chest cavity thus enabling an exchange of kinetic energy through the body and saving the Skippers 15 stone plunging him straight through the bottom of the yacht to the sea bed below.

Four things came of this, firstly, Varrie chose wisely not to see this as a comedy moment and laugh at Skippers utter stupidity, secondly Skipper hurt badly but recognised he could have been knocked unconscious but put on a brave face and thirdly this was a timely reminder that they had no B plan involving Varrie being able to navigate the yacht in anything other than a straight line and lastly were some cracked ribs.

So back to the story and you will realise the relevance of the Rhino attack.!!!!

Biting the back of the pain, after what felt like an age grasping in the cold water, the line was just within reach and at last the second disaster of the day was avoided. The strops were recovered and tied off.

Skipper having been winded by the Rhino lunge managed for first time to catch a breath, it was a biggy full expansion job and it hurt like hell.

From nowhere Pop Up Phil appeared this time in his yacht Fyne Thyme and could see Skipper Keith looked at best bemused, “somebody has nicked my flipping rudder” shouted Keith by way of explanation for the face pulling. As this information carried from yacht to yacht, George who was heading out declared that a rudder had been found washed up on the shore and lay at the Sea Scouts hut. This had to be Skippers.

Despite the Increasing pain, part subdued by adrenaline, skipper fetched his tender and rowed furiously to shore, recovered the rudder and tiller which happened to be larger than the tender but skipper was in no mood for this small matter. He struggled back like a seal half eaten by a great shark but determined to survive. He had a duty to Phil and Zibi to get Molly to Culross or Bust.

He struggled back to his yacht and once again boarded, he would not be beaten…..alas on examination of the rudder the lower clamp and rod were missing and no doubt now lying beneath the yacht and in the mud some two metres below.

Skipper, exhausted and deflated, had to admit defeat, there was no way the rudder could be fixed that day. It was time to break the bad news to Phil and poor Zibi who was still afloat around the other side of the pier totally unaware of the calamity that had befallen Skipper Keith.

At that moment a most wondrous thing happened, in a shower of bright light and sound of angels singing Phil and Nan, having returned to harbour in Fyne Thyme, pulled alongside.

Phil held his arms out and said, “cometh unto me my son, dry your tears, you have suffered like no other, let me lessen thy pain, I shall take your heavy burden and deliver Molly to Culross” . To be honest this was skippers translation of Phil’s shortened sermon “do you need a lift” .

And so it came to pass that Fyne Thyme delivered Molly V to her utopia and the season’s final cruise was on such a beautiful evening with the sun casting a low but bright light across the Forth. Skippers ever increasing aching ribs were somehow temporarily soothed by a nice cuppa from Nan…The things Skipper has to do to get a shotty on Phil’s boat.

An almost idyllic ending to the day and indeed season save for the fact that returning to harbour to deliver skipper Keith from his doom, Phil’s sink lines were disturbed in the harbour and sadly snarled in the prop of another club member holding them dead in the water and putting the end to the plans to enjoy the last cruise of the season and Phil’s ability to return to his mooring, but hey ho such are the challenges of sailing.

Watch out Skipper Keith’s about and calamity seems to follow.

Awe well it’s been a most interesting and eventful season with so many lessons learned but good friends made. With just craning out weekend to get through what else could go wrong !!!!!

Here’s to next season.

One thought on “The Continued Adventures of a Yachting Novice – season 1 – by Skipper Keith

  1. Well related and thanks for sharing your experiences. Next season will run smoother! Hope the ribs are better.

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