Chapter 9 Repairs and Racism ?
Monday 24th July
A cycle seems to be developing. Sail and fix the stuff that got broken. I wake on Monday to three problems; a jib sheet that we cut to ribbons, a broken stanchion and a nagging problem with the steering. I ring Hanse’s (for Kite is a Hanse 385) spares department and talk to Andy, who is becoming like an old friend. I discuss the problem with the steering where the machine screws seem to work loose on a regular basis. I order two different sizes of hex machine screw together with some Nyrex nuts and washers and new stanchions (2 so I have a spare this time). He agrees to deliver the stuff to Falmouth, my next port of call.
The next job is to visit the chandlers to buy some new jib sheet. It is rare that I’m in a port and do not pop into the chandlers. In the UK, these ship supply shops vary enormously from the sophisticated chains like Force 4 and Marine Superstore with an on the ball web presence, to caves of wonder like the chandlers at Emsworth yacht harbour where you can still buy an individual bolt, machine screw or nut. The chandlers in Kingswear, is on the same side of the river as my marina, and is somewhere between these two extremes.
My walk there is a pleasant one, along the side of the steam train railway track. On the way a train passes me slowly. I’m amazed at the size and magnificence of an iron horse when viewed from track level. I learned the day before that the only colour line that the chandlers has, that won’t easily be confused with an existing line, is a kind of lime green. It will have to do and I buy 22 meters of the stuff and head back along the train track.
I find repairing a boat in a marina often takes longer than it ought to do. This is not due to some inherent laziness on my part but rather due to the friendliness of marina folk. I had removed the broken stanchion the night before when there weren’t many folks around so it had been a quick job. Kite has a self tacking jib, which makes changing course against the wind very easy. However, the run on the jib sheet line is much more complicated. Starting in the cockpit the line heads up to the base of the mast, it goes through the mast to a height of about three meters where it drops down to a car that runs on a port-starboard track. The line then runs up from the car to the sail itself.
After having to free the jib from the guard rail on the way to Dartmouth, all that is left of the old line is the bit that goes up to the mast and leads back to the cockpit. If I can thread the new line through there then the boat is sorted. This procedure will require me to create a mouse line, a small line connecting the old and new lines. This I do by using a nail knot between the small line and both the old and the new line. This actually works out perfectly and eventually the line draws all the way through the mast and back to the cockpit easily. However it doesn’t seem that way at the time because of the interruptions.
Many people stop to ask what I’m doing or to offer advice. Full scale discussions about boats ensue. With one couple the conversation becomes considerably extended. I decide to keep working while talking and at that point manage to thread the new line all the way through the difficult bits. Maybe it’s the joy that this difficult task has been completed or maybe its just politeness on my part that lets the conversation continue. The couple’s boat has been filling up with rainwater. The man has a number of theories as to why and in the end I go over to his boat to have a look. It is a lovely thing, about 28 foot long. It was bought for a few grand and he has been doing it up since. It reminds me very much of my first boat the Cockney Pride, though it’s considerably larger. He shows me all the places he thinks might be the source of the water. Looking at things, I think it might be one of the rear lockers in the cockpit. I suggest they test the theory by simulating rainwater with a hose.
They look admiringly across at my boat. I tell them how when I started off thinking of a second boat boat that I was looking at something like theirs but that I worked my up to Kite. I justify this because she is my home and even though she was expensive she is still a fraction of the price of a studio flat where I used to live in London. They ask to have a look onboard, so I invite them over.
Kite isn’t as luxurious as some boats, in fact I choose her because of her practical aspects, so there is, for example only one bathroom (or head as sailors tend to call them). On the other hand, there is still a bathroom with a sink, a toilet and a hot shower. She is also light and airy and in very good condition still, despite my clumsy self’s best efforts. She is my home. The couple clearly like the boat but exclaim that they could never afford something like this. I beg to differ and say it is about what priorities you have, if for example one gives up one’s property then that frees capital for the boat. Oh they say our home isn’t worth that much. Don’t get us wrong it is a lovely 4 bedroom house with an office in the garden but we won’t get as much as 200 grand for it. Only Asians buy houses in our area and they won’t pay much. My mental gag reflex is activated again.
I will spend much time in my voyage analysing this statement. In quiet moments at sea I will mentally unpick it, trying to find, what it is about it, that I find so offensive. At the time of writing there are ideas running around my head but these are not yet fully formed enough to write down and publish. These thoughts concern the concept of fake news and when and where it is appropriate to make a statement about a group of people. I can only hope that more time at sea will help these thoughts coalesce.