“Now, what would you do if you were in mid Channel and one of your crew is taken ill, he’s in a lot of pain, can’t move, has difficulty breathing and his face is very red?” She asks
“I’d send out a ‘Mayday’ on the VHF,” I promptly reply, looking smug.
“Your electrics are down and it won’t work,” she replies
Ah, now that’s a bit of a bugger ... let’s see.
“Well, um ... I’d ask one of the other crew if they were a doctor?” I hazard.
“Don’t be facetious, on a boat this size you might have two other people and you’d know them well enough to know they weren’t”
If, I think, they ask silly bloody questions like this on Yachtmaster examinations, then I’m not going to do very well. But of course this isn’t an exam, it’s just a day out with my friend Jenny who has agreed to give me some coaching. And it isn’t going too well. The main problem is that there isn’t any wind and we have borrowed a very nice boat for the day, from a friend of Jenny’s - her friends tend to be wealthier than mine because she is a doctor and, whatever they claim, better paid than an unsold artist who does gardening and odd bits of building to eke out a living. My friends, on the other hand, tend to drink beer. So why are Jenny and I friends? Well, that’s because of the lovely artistic things that I do in her garden. No, to her garden, the summer house and the planting and things, we really are just good friends, or at least we were...
But ... well, yes I do own a boat, but it’s only a fifteen foot sailing cruiser, although it does sleep two, very close together actually, but there is the matter of the casing for the drop keel between them, which means of course, that you would be quite happy to lend it to your daughter and her boy friend. I do, of course, aspire to greater things, like the boat we are on today. She’s a thirty six foot Bermudan sloop, which, for those of you who don’t sail means she has two triangular sails, one in front of the mast and one, slightly larger, behind. These sails will make the journey to the mast head today, but more in hope than anger, because without wind you have to use the iron topsail ... oh that’s the engine, sort of nautical euphemism, twenty horse power diesel, best when it’s switched off, except on a day like today. Today it is unseasonably warm, overcast, and almost flat calm, which, for March is just plain ridiculous.
We left the marina in the inner harbour this morning at nine, gently motored down to the lifting bridge, stooged around until it lifted at nine thirty, avoided the morons in their fishing boats and a couple of airheads in gin palaces, and then made our way past the town quay and round to the ferry terminal.
It really is such a pleasant day, but, alas, not a lot of good for sailing.
“I’ll just bring her head to wind,” says Jenny, “and then you can hoist the main.”
“How are you going to turn head to wind if there isn’t any?” I ask.
“Well, sweetie,” she always calls me that when she is exasperated with me - and I could probably exasperate for England, “ The weather forecast said south west, that’s 225 degrees true, and,” ominously, “if you look over there,” pointing, “you too will see the cat’s paw on the surface, which should indicate that a soupcon of wind will be arriving shortly.”
Game set and match to Mrs Clever then.
“That’s Dr,” she says, reading my mind.
I remove the sail ties and start hauling.
Well, the wind is a bit fitful, but like all sailors we are optimists and we head off towards the harbour entrance at a lively one and a half knots, at least one and a quarter of which is the ebb tide, but at least the engine is off. If this boat had a spinnaker, which it hasn’t, we might make a whole half knot over the tide, but considering the effort and bother of that particular item of the sail wardrobe I am quite glad we don’t have one.
What we are aiming to do today, is navigate our way - no, I should rephrase that, I am going to navigate my way around the bay by using the depth sounder and tide height calculations. If that sounds fiendishly difficult I can only say yes it is. And by lunchtime I have had enough. So we head for a sheltered anchorage, drop the hook and put our feet up and get lunch, or rather we get lunch and then put our feet up. And it is at this point that I am being quizzed with the sort of questions that Yachtmaster Examiners are, apparently, likely to ask aspiring Yachtmasters. Bloody silly ones. Questions that is, of course it goes without saying that you have to be bloody silly to want to drive a small boat around the English Channel in the first place.
As she is posing the question I am sitting gazing into Jenny’s eyes, because good friends ‘though we may be, I, with red blood in my veins and testosterone soaked brain, fancy her madly. And, to be honest, have done since I first met her. Madly? Well, perhaps an overstatement, but not too much, and I have a shrewd suspicion that the lady finds me not unattractive too. We find ourselves kissing. My, but this is nice. How we got from a couple of feet apart to kissing I have no idea, and if this has never happened to you, and it has only happened to me a few times, then you will probably have no concept of how it could happen. Hell, I don’t know how it happens, and it has happened to me. I am sure that some form of hypnosis must be involved, but whatever, it is a great sensation, as, it must be admitted, is the kiss in which I am now involved. I don’t even know how long this kiss lasted before I wake up to the fact that it is happening. Nanoseconds, minutes, hours or forever. I can’t tell. It is the sort of kiss you can get lost in. It is gentle and pleasurable, it is a getting to know you kiss which can lead into the exploration of other areas of sensual pleasure. Yes, sensual, a kiss to be savoured, slowly and at length. Not the lip mashing mouth to mouth resuscitation type kiss much loved by story writers, but the sort of kiss that seems to stimulate every single nerve ending. Separately.
The kiss ends. Not dramatically, not abruptly, it just peters out, it runs its full course, and having run, it ends. But not before I have worked out how I think I can ensure that this is not a single, one off, stand alone event, but the prelude to much, much more.
We separate slightly.
Just before she wakes up from this spell, let me tell you a little more about the object of my lecherous intentions. I met Jenny through friends a couple of years ago and during the course of conversation it transpired that she had a garden that would benefit from my attentions, and she had the wherewithal and inclination for it so to do. At fifty eight she is a little older than me - ok, so when did people stop being attractive just because they passed thirty? And anyway this one could give many thirty year olds a run for their money. She is slim, lithe, fit, has waist length grey hair and can pass for gorgeous and sexy even in full daylight. You can’t say that about a lot of the younger ones. She is also, as I said, a doctor, has no domestic partner, drives a BMW convertible and rides a Harley-Davidson - yes, honestly.
Her eyes open, she is looking straight at me. She is not smiling. This can go either way. It might be ‘thankyou that was lovely but if you think it’s going any further... ‘ or...
I say, “That was breathtaking.” Which is not entirely untrue, because I suffer from enlarged thingies in my nasal passages and don’t breathe too well. So a long kiss can be, well, breathtaking. But in this case I mean it.
She smiles. It’s a rather ‘little girl lost’ sort of smile and I detect a millimetre of movement in my direction. I move slightly towards her, and at the same time use my right hand that, during the previous kiss went around her back, to magnify her movement towards me. Again, I don’t remember my hand getting there, but if it is there then use it,. Our lips meet again with a definite tingle like static electricity and I slide my left hand into her open jacket, brush past her breast and complete a firm embrace. Get out of this one Dr Clever!
After a few minutes we surface for a few life giving breaths and, by mutual and unspoken consent, move towards the open companionway. This gives access to the dark varnished mahogany, rather womb-like saloon of this traditionally styled yacht. Being ever the gentleman, I enter this intimate space first and hand my lady down the steps. I reach up and slide the hatch over - don’t want to get draughts in any out of the way places, do we?
Turning around I am in time to assist her in removing her jacket, enjoying another kiss at the same time, and as she takes the jacket to hang it up I turn my attention to the saloon settee. My guess is that the front pulls out and a couple of cushions drop in to make a double bed. A small double, but we aren’t going to be too far apart for the next while. I hope.
“Do you always know how these things work?” she asks