A BIT OF BOATING! (Part 1)
Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats, (The Wind in the Willows,)
Kenneth Graham (1859-1932)
We were both ready for a holiday. William had been settling into his job with BISRA and I had been getting established in the modelling world. Two weeks with no housework, no make-up and no pressure for either of us. Bliss!
We picked up the boat from Maldon (in Essex not New Maldon in Surrey) Judy was a lovely wooden two berth sailing boat – as they were in the fifties. I loved those boats. Somehow one’s rear would meld safely to the wood; unlike years later when I sailed in a fibre glass boat for the first time and sitting on the edge of the boat – as was my wont I slipped backwards a—e over tit into the Greek sea. I sank into the blue green depths, panicked myself upwards and spotted the dinghy about thirty yards away. That’s when I discovered I could swim if sufficiently terrified.
As usual William became happy as Larry once on the boat and as the weather was kind I slung a mattress in the pram dinghy that we trailed behind us and read and sunbathed, enjoying the plop- plopping in William’s wake. Judy had to be anchored in deep water- she didn’t have a flat bottom - to maintain stability, and the pram was needed to row ashore.
One day round about West Mersea Island we dropped anchor and rowed ashore to get some shopping. We hadn’t realised the strength of the tide and were rapidly swept past our boat and out to sea. Some chaps anchored in a large sailing boat saw our plight and managed to catch us before we were swept past them. They pulled us aboard and we spent a jolly day with them until the tide took us safely back to Judy.
They kept us amused with anecdotes, one of which was about when they were becalmed for days in the Doldrums and suddenly were delighted to hear the swish of water and thought at last they could get under way – only to discover it was Trudy – the only female member of the crew - washing her smalls.
Things were going terribly well and then William had the brilliant idea of inviting Wallace and Fleur – his brother and sister in law down for the week-end.
‘But William it’s a two berth – how are we going to sleep four people?’
‘No problem! You and I will share one berth, Fleur can have the other and there is a pipe cot forward near the anchor chain. Wally will be quite happy there.’
To my amazement they accepted and said they would bring some stores and we would meet in the pub. We had also made friends with another sailing couple Harry and Jean so we looked forward to a jolly party. I have never knowingly been under –dressed and this night was no exception. I wore a halter necked Horrocks cotton in black, white and green with a bouffant skirt boosted by a scratchy buckram petticoat. With my pale honey tan I felt like the Queen of Sheba perched in the dinghy as William rowed us to the shore.
True to form Wallace and Fleur arrived on the dot, we introduced everybody and settled down to a lovely boozy evening. The pub was full of handsome sailing types and I was having a ball. At about seven thirty Fleur started to get twitchy. It was almost supper time she said, and we needed to get on doing potatoes and so forth. My jaw hit the floor – we were having such a splendid time – the tales were getting wilder and wilder; why did we have to stop and think about potatoes? The men solved the problem. They would row Fleur out to Judy with most of the stores ( it wasn’t all food, Fleur had brought herself three soft fluffy blankets and a hot water bottle – quite wisely – the blankets on the boat were congenitally damp and so rough one was left with a red chafing rash round the chin.)
After a short while we would follow on with the rest of the stores and have supper. That was the plan. I can’t remember what it was that prompted one of us to suggest maybe it was time to make tracks and my goodness, the call,
‘Time Gentlemen Puleeze!’ confirmed this.
Outside the pub the five of us looked out to our respective boats, ours and Harry’s bobbing in the moonlight. Between us and the boats was a sea of black soft squelchy mud - the tide had gone out! I find at times like these it is politic to say nothing. It was decided that I with my bouffant ensemble, should sit in the dinghy guarding the rest of the stores and the men’s trousers and Jean’s skirt (They had all stripped off with unusual alacrity) and William, Wallace, Harry and Jean would push the boat through the thigh high mud until we reached our respective boats.
Once ensconced in the boat I have to confess that the sight of the four of them in their Y fronts (Jean had big pants encasing her quite large thighs) caused me to giggle so hard I got hiccups. It was ‘The African Queen ‘all over again - without the leeches. I laughed so hard – well after all that drink you can guess what happened. Unfortunately I was sitting on Fleur’s lemon – meringue pie at the time.