That’s it, then (really)
For the last three years we have been bumbling around the Swedish Archipelago, leaving the boat for the winter with Oxelosunds Batvarv. (Not bats, Boats).
To add colour to our endeavours, we have been accompanied as always by old companion Princess Sha Sha Toptani. Sha has been with us on adventures all over North Western Europe and has not been unduly affected by rocks, frothing combers, whales and strange people who go to sea in pleasure boats. Her response to 15 foot waves off Lindesnes, the Southern Cape of Norway, dreaded by generations of British sailors was “They’re only waves!!
Sha has been with us round Britain, to the Scottish Isles, part round Ireland, to Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, up the Rhine, back to Scotland, back to Sweden. This is to say she has spent part of those trips, a week or so at a time.
Sha has been filmed dancing and donning arctic gear for the Irish summer. Her last trip with the old boat lasted about half a minute when the bow-thruster packed up. Luckily the boatyard offered a van as substitute and Charlotte and Sha had a nice time exclaiming at the beauties of the Swedish scenery whilst Don rolled about in the back covered in dust and growling disagreeably.
Then……… Sha contracted cancer from which, after a heroic struggle, she died in early 2018. We pay great tribute to Sha Sha, who was an erudite and amusing companion, and has left a hole in our lives, as well as in our village community.
Other companions have been Sally and John Howard. They are second generation friends; Sally’s now dead parents, Allen and Roz Harford, having spent many happy days on the boat, debating, drinking, shouting and joking all over Scotland.
So, this summer was spent round the Swedish Archipelago for a week or so with Sal and John, the very best of companions. John is a capable engineer, known as “Scotty”, or at least he fixed the “Strum Box”, an essential thingy that lurked in a dark recess of the engine room and pumped out bathroom “grauwasser”.
But we should not forget Margaretta and Curt, also doughty companions. They are great for a lively discussion washed down by various beverages. Their speciality is Swedish Midsummer “feast” (pickled herrings, onions, schnapps and boiled eggs), and Margaretta has regaled us with her trenchant views of Norwegians (“disgraceful”).
Not to be forgotten is son Al and wife Sarah, who was most comforted by our resident bear.
Then there is a variegated phalnx of people and dogs, including Pete Day, who accompanied us on our first big trip; and Reg, the world’s most intelligent dog. Then there is Bob the Dog, who found owner Jen on a beach, and Alf, friend of Jane.
Paul Watts, the engineer who co- created the old boat in its current form, was prominent, both as a visitor and on the telephone, when a panicked Don rang about some engineering glitch. His funniest intervention was to suggest that Don had installed the “schwarzwasser” expelling pump upside down, so that it pumped water in rather than expelling the smelly stuff!
Last, but not least, Bartlett, my oldest friend, a weather forecaster, who provided the most impressively accurate forecasts for all over Europe. Bartlett did not come on the boat, living as he did in Rutland (“as far as possible from the sea”). His motto was “Ye shall surely perish” and he was represented on the boat by a porcelain bird with the most maudlin expression. ”Professor” Markus Alexandrov was our adviser on matters of erudite philosophy.
This lengthy preamble is leading up to…… We have decided to finish our boating careers after 20 years of bumbling round some of the more interesting places in North Western Europe, becoming quite resourceful, but amateur sailors. We learned to trust our old boat, but to view the sea with deepest respect. In all of this time Don has worn dark blue underpants, proving that such garments are the best bringers of good luck available to mankind.
Charlotte, strangely, seems to believe that skill at navigation works the same trick What can, however, be said, is that it is incontrovertibly true that a combination of intellect and blue underpants is infallible. After all, we have only run aground or hit rocks three times in twenty years – so there! (Never mind whose fault it was, Grrrr)
The reasons for calling it a day are a bit complex, but are a combination of :- Old age and a strong feeling that we sailed to get there, so bumbling round places we have been before many times somehow lacked psazz. The decision did not happen in a bar, it happened one morning as we lounged in our bunks, and was cemented over many glasses of this and that (can’t leave any booze laying about)
Then a really positive event, Joakim Struwe of the Oxelosunds Batvarv suggested that he and his colleagues might like to take the boat, do it up a bit, use it a bit and sell it to a good owner, probably in Norway (Joakim has quite good views of the Norwegians, as do we. Better bunch of drinkers you won’t come across anywhere).
This is very good news. Most of all, we wished the boat, which had been such a trusty companion for so many years, should pass to a good home, and be looked after by people who understood wooden boats, and would give our old boat the care it deserves.
So now with a mixture of hope and sadness, we are about to hand “Deneys Reitz” (never were sure whether it was male or female, it had strong characteristics of both sexes) on to its next life. In many ways, it fulfilled the role of a faithful old horse, say a Suffolk Punch.
With this, it is worth reflecting on the many lives of the old boat:
- 36 years as an all-weather lifeboat with the RNLI, saving lives off the Atlantic coast of Cornwall
- 5 years as a pilot boat from Sheerness on the Southern coast of England
- The dream of Dave, a Cockney Londoner, to do it up and sail round the world (not so stupid, as several of her kind have done just that). One Watson lifeboat was the first through the North West Passage solo.
- But Dave’s dream turned to ashes, and the boat was left to rot in a mud berth in Canvey Island near London.
- Then, he/she was discovered by Don and Charlotte quite by accident (some might believe that the boat found us), converted to a fine cruising boat, provider of amazing adventures to a couple of landlubbers.
- Now…… another life in Sweden or Norway
Farewell Deneys Reitz
She/he/it has been a wonderful companion. It understands the sea deeply, thanks to a double ender design more than a hundred years old.
In calm conditions, it bumbles along at just over 8 knots. In really big seas it cavorts along, riding with and occasionally head-butting big waves. It takes water over the bows aplenty, but pours it off the decks.
Above all, it looks after its crew and gives them confidence to carry on. All in all it has been a wonderful old friend.
One lingering memory is of proudly entering the harbour at Fowey, Cornwall, its old home, soon after the boat had been converted. As Don called the harbour radio for permission to enter, a disembodied voice came over the radio:
“Denis Ritz, weren’t that our old boat”.
Not on your bloody life!
More adventures beckon, this time it’s Motorhomes. Just imagine driving through the Pyrenees. John and Sal are up for it too! Poop Poop!!