Holland to Ardfern - bulletin three
Woodbridge to Lowestoft, Suffolk.
Crew: Titsoot Totty, Broontroosers, Princess Sha Sha, Curly Jane and Alf the Lurcher.
Two old salts are standing at the point of Loch Craignish, Argyllshire, looking out to sea.
Says one: "Look ye, Haemish - is that not the graceful form of the famous 'Deneys Reitz' approaching from Oban and the North?
"Aye, surely, Janusek (many Poles have settled in Ardfern)", says his companion: "And see - that must be the renowned navigator, Titsoot Totty standing on the foredeck, pointing oot the rocks. She stands alongside Captain James Cook as one of the all-time greats, ye ken".
"And what is that strange discordant shouting coming from the wheelhouse - something aboot rocks and killer wavelets in the Dorus Mhor at the loch entrance?"
"Shure but that must be Cap'n Broontroosers, the great helmsman and wonderful brave seaman to boot, given that he has a huge aversion to water in all its forms."
"But where are Peg-leg Hamilton and the Princess Sha Sha of Albania, whose imperious gaze can quell even the most tempestuous wave - surely they are part of the intrepid crew?"
"Ah, Haemish, word from doon the coast has it that they have jumped ship, probably as the result of the abusive character of Broontroosers, who is well known to attack all aboot him at the sight of the merest wavelet."
"Janusek, me 'ol pal! The long-awaited moment is here - 'Deneys Reitz' and her famous crew are amongst us! Light the beacon and send the signal for the Ardfern prize-winning girls' pipe fife and drum band to strike up. Set off the feux de joie, 'tis a fine moment for oor community............"
But we get ahead of ourselves. We must take you back to the Woodbridge Tide Mill yacht harbour, passing gently over the Thames Estuary as being too boring to mention.
The date is June 17 2006, the harbour is tranquil, if a trifle turgid, resulting from the fact that it is only washed out two hours either side of high tide and the boating residents obviously do not hold back in harbour. Evidence of this is the size of the soft-lipped mullet and the odour - familiar to all those who have experienced the fragrant delights of Boulogne Port de Plaisance at low tide on a hot day.
A quality crew consisting of Totty, Broontroosers, Princess Sha Sha, Alfie the supposedly- grey - and- small- but - actually- black- and- large Lurcher and his friend Curly Jane have gathered waiting for the tide. A considerable crowd of well-wishers has gathered, some of whom obviously believe that they will never see their loved ones again. Broontroosers takes a photo momento of the occasion and is then reminded that he is not seeing the crew off, but joining it. Then, at the appointed hour, with 1.4 meters of water over the cill, 'Deneys Reitz' glides out of harbour, the only sounds being the rumble of the mighty engines at low power and the keening of well-wishers. Oh, and also in the background is the voice of Broontroosers, "I tell you 1.4 meters isn't enough, on your head be it if we get stuck and rip the bottom out, etc etc."
But all is well and the old boat heads down the river Deben through shoals of racing dinghies ("Get out of the bloody way, blast you"), past large fishing boats (“after you, sir”) and out to sea over the dreaded Deben Bar. Three hours later, the crew and dog sit in the capacious bar of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, Lowestoft, pints and large gins and tonic in hand and bowl of water by paws, with the delightful prospect of much more stretching out into oblivion.
The great odyssey has begun! Ahead lies the daunting prospect of 800 miles of North Sea, (its really the North Atlantic - Broontroosers) Caledonian canal, including Lough Ness and a bit of the West between us and the goal of Ardfern Yacht harbour, near Oban, gateway to the Outer Hebrides.
The immediate challenge is the 120 miles to the bleak River Humber, a trip across the Wash, nemesis of King John, to the dubious shelter of a lonely anchorage just inside Spurn Point.
A `quick briefing and planning meeting the following day results in a delayed start owing to hangovers.
The saga commences to-morrow!
(To be continued, hangovers permitting).
D&C, Sha Sha, Jane and Alfie, (No hangover,arf, arf!)