BULLETINS: TRUE TALES OF ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE DERRING-DO
These tales of the sea (and inland on mighty rivers) are accounts of the travels of Deneys Reitz and its many friends and admirers who entrusted their lives to her, sometimes with a little trepidation. But even the most nervous soon came to recognise that the old boat was born to look after people calmly; even if her helmsman was barking mad.
As our journeys unfolded, we started to send missives about our experiences to a range of people. Many of them replied and asked for more. Some didn't. Some sent messages of their own and we replied. And gradually a dialogue developed which encompassed us and a growing group of people in several countries.
One day, the e-mail below came in from the daughter of a friend:
“Dear Don & Charlotte,
It sounds like you are having a whale of a time.
Whoever says, ”It never rains but it pours” is quite right. Weather is awful everywhere and has been for ages.
My lettuces are so sodden they refuse to come up.
We have joined the Great Dane adoption society and they are looking for a dog for us.
Please keep up the Bulletins-they're so funny and have everybody in stitches.
You should write a book-“Titsoot Totty and Cap'n Broontroosers Sail the Seven Seas”-or something like that.
Fairly rapidly, a pattern began to emerge. We composed and sent “Bulletins”, recording our observations and experiences (and your fantasies, Totty); people replied sometimes and we responded through the “Bulletins”. On some occasions, they wished they had never raised their heads above the parapet; as in the case of June Barnes who confessed to a fascination with the malodorous tragedies in the boat's sanitary system. June was instantly appointed “Sanitary Sage”, and her opinion has been publicly sought after each disaster.
Just for tasters, many secrets will be revealed through these tales of adventure. For example:
- How on earth did a retired director of Thorn Emi and Redland plc - and co-founder of three businesses come to be known as Cap'n Broontroosers??
- What in God's name led a grandmother many times over, ex Dean of a School of Management and chair of the School for Social Entrepreneurs to be known as “Titsoot Totty”??
The voyages of Deneys Reitz and her crew of friends, relatives, friends of friends, children, children of friends, grandchildren, dogs and teddy bears, a rabbit called Flowers and a bird called Bartlett took the old boat to 17 countries, if you count England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales as four. The journeys started with a “Little bit of a sail around Britain”. This innocuous description earned the approval of the heart surgeon who had just operated on Don.
The circumnavigation of Britain was also a bit of a get-to-know-you between the boat and her new friends. Fortified by the mutual confidence thus generated, the serious adventures began: to Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany (West and recently unified East), just post-Soviet Poland, Lithuania, Latvia - to blessed and “summerly” drunken Finland for a summer and winter; Sweden (ditto) and Norway (for two glorious seasons). Thence: On to Denmark for a winter, Germany again - the canals of central Europe, the mighty Rhine (artery, or bowel more likely, as it is brown and excretes into the North Sea). Up the Mosel, through Nancy and French canals to Strasbourg and then the “Dash Down The Rhine” (Rheindrang) to Elburg in Holland for a winter. Latterly, the old boat has returned to Scotland and is on the West coast, awaiting a return to Norway.
There will be German Yokes, Lithuanian Litharios, terrible turds, barfing Bucket Boys, breath-takingly potent potions, frenzied, frothing waves (and harbourmasters); Polish Peniches and Police, bewildered bats and all manner of other wonders.
Weird and wonderful people
You will meet many strange and exotic people en route - maybe none stranger than Professor Markus Alexandrov (the Prof) - actually a real professor, who uses advanced philosophical techniques from his lair in deepest Surrey to help our frail navigation. Well, maybe Meteorologist Paul Bartlett (“Ye shall surely perish”) is worthy of a mention. This ace forecaster, friend of Don's since the age of 5, provides daily bulletins from his studio in Rutland, about as far away from the sea as you can get in England, with amazing accuracy for all parts of Europe, beating the local Met offices into a cocked hat.
These Bulletins, which are for starters, cover four major Quests:
- Ega in Denmark to the Rhine, Mosel, French canals, via such places as Mittelfart and Arsends (Assends, Totty). This trip eventually drove the boat to the brink of a breakdown, as it sobbed that it couldn't stand the nimby-pimby canals and pathetic plastic boats - being a manly,(well, butch), craft used to the rise and fall of big ocean combers.
- Elburg in Holland to Ardfern on the Scottish West coast; in response to the boat's impassioned pleas to get back to real sailing
- The disastrous attempt to circumnavigate Ireland, beaten by all manner of misfortunes. But it was interesting in 2007 to witness a dark brown economic Bubble that was obviously going to burst, covering everybody in sight with ordure - as it did not long after!!
- A boat journey round the Outer Hebrides, visiting places like Ug and Muck
There are many other fascinating voyages, but some of these will have to wait until psychotherapy unlocks Don's deeply buried memories of just Post-Soviet Poland. (AARGH - not P.......d).
Oh, just one last thing before we down our last drinks, and make our way to the boat, cast off and slide down the harbour into the sunset.....All the stories are true, I tell you (Don) - sometimes a little exaggerated (Charlotte). (I did see a giant squid). (But you were drunk).
PS. An example of Alexandrov's genius
Professor Markus Alexandrov has for a long time been convinced that the boat and its crew have never been near the Western Isles of Scotland. He claims that it is “As plain as the ears on your face” that we have never in all the years of arduous travelling left the confines of Sixhaven Marina in Amsterdam, from where we visit a bar and bordello, called “The Hesperides” that supplies excellent ganja. He has deduced by the use of complex modelling that all this vapouring about heroic Scottish adventures is simply based on Grolsch and smoke!!
His latest analysis, based on the work of linguistic philosopher Maurice Cranston, modulated by Schumpeter's Third Theorem, has pinpointed the position of the boat as being three miles outside St. Petersburg. Are there no places to hide from such penetrating analysis? Thank the Lord all our friends don't have minds like Professor Alexandrov!