Saturday, January 14, 2006

Turning the corner?

At last! Using my innocent brother-in-law as an excuse - he was visiting from Italy for the weekend and made the mistake of expressing an interest in seeing Arabella - I managed to get down to Arabella this afternoon.

I was dreading the trip, to be honest. After being left for such a long time, I fully expected Arabella to be full of water - and as for the outboard...

What a little star! There she was, bobbing happily at her berth, 32 year-old hull as dry as a bone inside and the outboard started on the first pull!

To my brother-in-law's alarm I suggested, in a moment of euphoric delusion, letting slip the lines and just, y'know, motoring out of the marina to have a little look-see. It was a beautiful, calm day, just right for motoring out and poking around. Mario looked wildly round for some excuse to escape, and I shook the petrol can and realised that we were borderline on fuel anyway...

Back to reality. I took the chance to remove the sails and all the upholstery and brought them home to store in the dry. It also meant that the interior was left clear for the yard to get to work- I had decided Arabella had earned the right to 240v shorepower and a freshwater tank. A reward for not punishing me for ignoring her.

But to be honest, I'd started thinking bigger than that. It was fairly clear that I'd bought Arabella too soon. No buyer's remorse - it's difficult to regret acquiring a clean boat that costs so little that you can pay for her with your Switch card - but a dawning realisation that I couldn't abandon my wife to her fate with the children while I went off sailing at will. Worse, my job had gone from being merely demanding to being ridiculously time-consuming. Not only was Luisa seeing less and less of me all week, but work was eating increasingly into weekends. And so the slippery slide began. It made sense, didn't it, if I couldn't really use Arabella this year, to commit to getting some of the longer-term jobs attended to. Those cushions, for example, in that horrible orange colour. That manky old depth instrument and worn-out compass. The lack of interior lights, assuming you ignored, as I did, the AA powered plastic lamps that dangled forlornly off screws twisted into the half-bulkheads. That flimsy curtain between the saloon and forecabin - in truth, it was all one cabin because of those silly half-bukheads, why it would be no trouble to fit some decent full bulkheads in there...

I blame Mario. If he hadn't stood there with his brow furrowed, staring at poor little Arabella...Where I come from, yachts are large and white and beautiful, and belle donne drape themselves over them. And this? What is this thing he shows me and says it is a 'yacht'?

Financially, the decision was been helped by the fact that I'd managed to walk through the entire London Boat Show for a whole day the weekend before and had left clutching nothing but a £10 book. Absolutely useless show: my wife gave me a five hour head start before arriving to do her customary tour of all the yachts we couldn't afford (that'll be all the yachts on display, then). She enjoys touring them imperiously, annoying the salespeople with lots of questions for no purpose other than her own amusement. Actually, so do I.

After three hours I had given up and was sitting in the bar waiting for her to hurry up and arrive. I had no idea who these people sell to, the stuff they were hawking was quite obviously within the reach only of the filthy rich or those terminally stupid people who thought it made them look good if they mortgaged themselves to the hilt to buy a new yacht and then maxed out their credit cards to kit it out. I could do all of that without even buying a yacht. I'd decided to try Southhampton later in the year, to see if it came any closer to meeting the needs of the 'average', impecunious yottie with a second-hand boat and a budget.

Meanwhile, where was the phone number of that guy from the yard?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Long term frustration

Ahem, four months since my last post - and other than quick inspection and maintenance trips, poor Arabella has seen very little of me.

With a new addition to the famiglia (James, born on 29 September) bringing us firmly into "two under two" territory and more work than I could eat at the office, the last few months have been a bit too intense to allow me to spend any real time on the boat, less still keep my blog up to date. In summary, therefore: at least I got another coat of varnish onto Arabella's companionway washboards and another five coats of Dex onto the handrails, so they're protected for the winter. From which it will be deduced that I still haven't quite got around to actually sailing my pride and joy...

Arabella was craned into the water in November, and the boatyard have been good enough to keep an eye on her for me, so at least I know that she's, well, afloat for a start. They had indeed carried out the surveyor's recommendations, so she boasts a new bilge pump and cockpit drains. They've also quoted me for a water tank and a basic 240v shorepower system, which I am just weighing up at the moment, so I'll report back on that some other time if I decide to go ahead.

Meanwhile, the London boat show has come around again...I can feel my wallet flinching already ;-)