Foul Bottoms with John QuirkPiece of cake!

A change for Quirky and boys. Everything goes accordingly to plan … well, almost.

“Of course,” said Arthur when Jack had pondered the question of keeping his new boat on the South Coast, “I can get you a mooring.

Mate of mine keeps on old converted Navy Pinnace on the Hamble. Nice old boat. He will see you get the same deal as he does.”
Arthur, he who knows all and can get everything wholesale, later confirmed that his mate had made a certain ‘agreement’ with a Hamble yard, probably in cash, and that Jack’s new 25-footer could lie on a mooring for the summer for a surprisingly accommodating price.

“Let me known when you are going. I’ve got a rep who services the South Coast. He can bring you back if don’t mind riding in the back of a van.”

Jack’s gleaming 25ft husky motor cruiser, named Spring Maid 2 after an earlier boat, was completed in Cornwall by Easter as promised. So all we had to do was to get the boat from Cornwall to the Hamble a distance of about 160 miles away.

“Piece of cake!” we said over a few ales when discussing our earlier grappling with the steep seas, tides and currents of the Bristol Channel in Ryegate. “Just keep the land on the left, er... to port. How hard can that be? With a LWL of 22 feet, we should do, err, the square of 22 is 4.7, times 1.4, that’s about 6.59 knots. Which goes into 160 miles, hmm, er about 24.27. So, just over 24 hours then.”

Not very hard at all as it turned out.

It was a dawn departure from Cornwall in glorious sunny weather and a mild Force 3 from the South West. We all played being sailors, clocking every headland with a hand bearing compass and marking the chart with a diligent precision they all showed up on time in the correct positions.

We took it in turn to doze, being too excited to take proper watches. The boat’s motion through the water was stately and comfortable with a hissing quartering sea. Nobody threw up. Pre-packed food was passed around washed down with as much tea as the Allies used in the Gallipoli Campaign.

It was the sort of passage you read about in the yachting magazines that Arthur would give us. We always thought they were pure fiction.

Everything went right.

Next morning was fine enough for bacon and eggs. That is, for cooking it, eating it and actually keeping it down.

A piece of cake indeed. After exactly 24 hours, we sailed proudly past the glorious flotilla of craft that was moored both sides of the Hamble to a secure our mooring.
“Here we are!” announced Jack pointing out the unmistakable profile of a converted Navy pinnace. “Must be Arthur’s mate’s over there. We can tie up alongside.”

It was still very early and we could find no sign of life at the yard’s office. So we tied up alongside the pinnace, went ashore in search of a telephone to alert Arthur’s rep.

The only phone box in the area contained a well dressed county lady languidly conducting a lengthy conversation. She went through five cigarettes as we impatiently hung around for her to finish. She would catch our eye with haughty disdain, turn her back and return to the marathon listening session. And from the look of the packet, she had 15 Benson and Hedges to go …

Then Jack reached into his ditty bag and passed me the ratty end of a spare dinghy painter. As we completed the first turn around the telephone booth, Jack began demonstrating one of his home made knots. I think it might have been a running granny on a bight, but unlike most of Jack’s knots, this one did the job.

At the threat of being imprisoned in the kiosk, the fag lady dropped the phone in blind panic and heaved her considerable tweed clad bulk against the door and the embrace of the rope.

I was inside the kiosk with my little handful of coins before she could draw breath … which is more than I could. The fume cabinet in the school chemistry lab was never this bad.

Later that day, we bounced round to Arthur’s large detached house to report mission successfully accomplished and thank him for his assistance in getting such a reasonable priced mooring at what seemed like a first class location and a four hour ride home relaxing on an assortment of ex-navy pumps that were probably still on the Navy’s inventory.

“We are alongside your mate’s pinnace,” announced Jack. “Nice boat, isn’t she?”
A cloud passed over Arthur’s rumpled Syd James-like features. “Bet you bloody didn’t. He’s gone to Guernsey in her for the weekend. Smug bastard just called to see if I wanted any Duty Free.”

We gave a description of where we had left Spring Maid 2 and Arthur’s baggy eyes rolled heavenwards.

“Your mooring – the one I organised for you – is about half a mile further upstream, just beyond the bridge. Christ knows where you’ve left your boat but sounds like …” and he mentioned a name of a spiffy yard that struck terror into Jack’s heart and wallet.

“Jeez Jack, you better go back and shift it, mate. You are at the wrong yard. You couldn’t have picked a more expensive mooring if you had tied up at Prince Rainier’s private wharf in bloody Monte Carlo.” 


Foul Bottoms*John Quirk has been writing about and illustrating the joys of messing about in boats for over half a century. He is the author / illustrator of Foul Bottoms, published by Adlard Coles and available from Boat Books in Crows Nest and from Amazon.