‘Lucy’ is our family’s fifth boat , and it’s taken quite a time to get this far.
I’d always wanted a boat. As a small child I can remember saving my pocket money for an inflatable dinghy. Air beds just didn’t cut it – I needed a boat, and somehow, and I can’t remember how, I did get one. I think it was a Campari, a size smaller than the one below, and I lived for it. We would take all of our holidays in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, and in the days long before wetsuits for children I would literally spend all day, every day, in the cold sea in my dinghy. I was the ‘shivering prune boy’. I’d be on it, in it, under it. It was my life.
Tenby was instrumental in my love of boating. There were times when I wouldn’t be in the dinghy, but I was to be found either on a mackerel fishing boat, visiting the lifeboat station, or playing in the harbour. I would look at the yachts there and dream, and dream, and dream that one day I would own one – and that one day I might even take my own boat to that very harbour. Then I’d go and play at diving off the launch ramp, ad infinitum.
Many years later, our first family boat was a Laser Pico, the thought being that we could all learn to sail, and live happily ever after. Not quite. Its arrival on the driveway at home immediately led to domestic strife, and I had to cook my own meals for a week. Nicky wasn’t impressed back then. She’s not that impressed now.
After a while I was able to sell Pico ownership on the basis that it doubled up as a camping trailer, and we would be able to take camping such luxuries as folding chairs, windbreaks and Swingball. Taking Nicky out in it one wet, windy day in Abersoch wasn’t one of my better ideas. It was raining and blowing an F4 at least. The Pico flooded as we crashed through the waves. There was a look of horror on her face. I seem to remember having to cook my own meals for most of the next week.
So with this camping trailer we regularly headed off to places such as ‘the coast’ and to Bala in Snowdonia, each time making sure I’d thought to pack something extra under the Pico cover. Eventually, there was not enough room under the cover to put all of the ‘stuff’ I pretended we needed. There was now no escaping the fact that we needed a bigger camping trailer. The Pico was promptly sold, and into our lives came ‘Breezer’, a new Laser 2000.
‘Breezer’ was our first named boat; after the alcopop I quite liked at the time. She was also referred to as ‘she’ and not ‘it’. I can remember to this day my first sail in her. We’d taken heaps of ‘stuff’, in this new camping trailer, to Bolberry in the South Hams, and we rigged and launched just in time to participate in the Hope Cove dinghy race. It was fantastic; I had my then young son, Jake, with me, and his friend Natty. Mid race Natty was sick, so we dumped him in the rescue boat and carried on to finish the race. I might have made my own supper that night. I didn’t do myself any favours later that holiday when I took Nicky out for a sail. It was just the two of us, on our little boat, sailing in a nice breeze under a blue sky; living the dream. But what was my dream was Nicky’s nightmare, and she screamed each time the boat heeled even the slightest bit, so I had to quickly take her back to shore, and perceived safety. I went straight back out alone – pondering what I was going to cook myself that evening, and possibly for the rest of my married life.
Nicky did sail in ‘Breezer’ a few times over the next 10 years, but only in the most benign conditions. She was happier being a Laser 2000 widow and remaining on the beach, and in years to come she would find that she wouldn’t be alone in that role. I became more involved with the Laser 2000 Class Association, and took it upon myself to push family events, the first of which was a Family Fun Weekend at Bala. It was a great success, and other events followed. We made friends with other owners, as they were people like us, with the same boat. We made fabulous friends with one family and mirrored each other by having the same boat, car and even the same tent! I even bought another Pico, so everywhere we went to took two boats. We took our main annual summer holidays at the Laser 2000 Nationals, and while I raced, the families sat together and played on the beach. I loved it, the kids loved it, and most importantly Nicky loved it – provided I didn’t actually take her in the boat. We still regard these holidays as the best we’ve ever had.
However, all good things come to an end. Our sons started to want to other things, and Nicky decided she no longer wanted to sleep on the floor in a tent for two weeks. ‘Breezer’ was used from time to time for club racing, and eventually even less than that.
I was 48 years old by now, and still hadn’t had a ‘proper boat’, so I set myself a target of having something I could call a yacht by my 50th. That’s far too long a timeline for me, and I bought Zephyr, a Cape Cutter 19, that October.
This was it – the big time. We now had a boat we could live on – to a fashion. It had an engine, beds, a sink and even a tap with pumped water. We could tow it to places far and wide, and we certainly did that. From the Firth of Clyde in the north, to Biscarosse in south west France. From Burnham on Crouch in the east, to Falmouth in the west. North and south Wales, the Solent, Poole, Plymouth and Morbihan in South Brittany. Over three years I had a ball.
However, Zephyr didn’t have a toilet, and you couldn’t stand up in it. After three days living aboard in July 2013 Nicky said, “I think we need a bigger boat”. It was very hard for me make the decision, but Zephyr was sold in the September. She had been a brilliant boat, and allowed me to make my dream come true – I took her to Tenby harbour for two nights in June 2013.
We weren’t boatless for long. ‘Lucy’ was acquired just a few weeks later, and the next chapter begins…..