Monday, October 23, 2006

The Apple market water feature

We had such fun with this years attractive water feature in Kingston today and spent much more time here than we did buying the school shoes, the sole purpose of our trip into town.

No doubt many would criticize the cost of installment and the waste of water but I saw all ages running the gauntlet, and the elderly sat and chuckled, sharing in the pleasure of others. More use than the leaning telephone boxes, which are only for looking at.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Island Barn Reservoir

It was a drizzly day today so no painting outside possible, instead I visited the Island Barn Reservoir Sailing Club in West Molesey, just a 15 minute drive away, knowing that rain would not stop the die-hards from getting out there for a race or two.

In the clubhouse I introduced myself to a woman, (Ann) who was on her forth visit crewing for another member in an Albacore. She took a level 1 & 2 course during the summer down at Brighton and wants somewhere local to get some winter practice in.

A good selection of boats were out in the 10-15 kts of breeze, a couple of RS 600s, lots of Lasers, a Topper or two, a couple of Enterprises, a Fireball, and a few others I couldn't name.

There are a few club boats available for use at a nominal rate, including Toppers, Lasers and Enterprises, which would be great for me because I don't want to buy a boat now, due to our plans for Canada.

The reservoir itself has quite a history, as Graham, a veteran member explained, being one of the old style granite and clay ones. They tend to all be concrete nowadays. Apparently the contents of the 122 acre site (and 80 ft depth), would keep Londoners with water supply for just one day, so it isn't in use as a source of water supply, just down the reserve list by quite a long way. Good news as far as the club is concerned because it means that the water levels remain fairly static, though it is topped up once a year.

Yes, this club would suit my needs better than any other at the moment. The costs are low, the members are friendly, club boats are available and it's just so close to home. I would like to get Gadgeteen involved too, just to see if I can change his opinion of dinghy sailing as being too slow and boring for his liking.

We'll see how it goes.....

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Local sailing club

During our visit to the 'Emigrate' show the other weekend we took a break outside on the grandstand at Sandown, which faces west.

In the distance airplanes landed and left heathrow airport, but my eyes were drawn to a much closer more attractive sight.

White and blue sails of dinghies zoomed across a stretch of water surrounded by greenery and trees a mere couple of miles away. A white clubhouse stood proud on the edge of the reservoir facing us in the sunlight.

Last night I finally got around to locating this club.

In my ideal world, priorities would be different and I would have time to go sailing as well as everything else going on for us.

One day I will, but for now I can dream.

Borrowed Sunfish fun circa 1974. Graham relaxes at the bow, Pete sits next to me. Very little wind helps us along.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

'Kim' under sail

At long last I have a couple of photos of 'Kim' under sail scanned in, so that I can show just what she looked like. In the first one, Graham is at the bow, I am sitting just forward of the main mast, and Mum is also on the coachroof. This is also the sail that we took JC on, and he is standing next to the helm facing the camera.

Ahem, yes, well obviously the mainsail and mizzen had seen better days but Dad was a dab hand at repairs and didn't see why we needed to replace sails if they could be made good. We always used the storm jib because it was more comfortable for our day-charter guests, easier to keep her on an even keel and saved on rum punch spillages on the teak decks, which were a pain to scrub off.

'Kim' would fly along at 10 kts on a beam reach and to windward could still plough through the sea at 8 kts, though the automatic bilge pumps had to work harder when we had a good wind due to the downward pressure on the mast step, which was of course, below the waterline.

Occasionally when there was very little wind, we entertained our guests by lowering a long line over the side that trailed behind by 50' or so, and jumped into the sea, much to the consternation of our guests, who would assume that we had fallen overboard. Then we would swim like hell for the trailing line and get towed behind just for fun. Dad didn't like it much when we missed the line and he had to go about and come back and get us though.

When the time came for lowering the sails we had a system, I looked after the jib, and the boys did the mizzen, both sails lowered at the same time for style. Then Dad would lower the main and we three and mum would stow it tidily, whilst Dad returned to the helm to hold the course.

Tending to the anchor was my job. We had a 56 lb CQR on rope, and no anchor winch so I had to haul it up by hand, which was no mean feat. Graham would deal with the dinghy, (which unlike the rubber dinghy shown behind 'Kim' in one of the photos above, was a large cumbersome aluminium one with sharp edges, useful for ferrying our guests to and from the shore), to prevent it from denting the topsides as we went astern. If the topsides did get dented then it was one of our jobs as kids to fill the dents, sand them down and repaint, to keep the topsides looking as smooth as a fiberglass hull. We were proud of our handiwork and therefore extra careful with the dinghy.

So many memories come flooding back as I gaze at these photos, but I shall finish here with my favourite photo of Dad at the helm during our day-chartering days.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The 'Emigrate' show and painting progress

After a day at the show yesterday, what we established was that Gman needs to get a job offer.
We need to complete his CV, send it over to my sister-in-law to play around with, and network with local companies in the area that we want to move to, as much as possible.
Obviously we are a long way off anything happening at the moment but as a family, are all just so keen to find a way to make it happen.
We could employ the services of an immigration expert, who would charge us anywhere from £1,500-£7,000 to find Gman a job and get us in, but are loathe to do that if we can do the legwork and paperwork ourselves successfully.
First step is to get the CV done.

In other news, 2 coats of white on the front of the house so far is progress, though it's slow going....

We had the extension built 2 years ago, the porch was built last year, then the money ran out and we've been waiting for a friend to render the outside of the porch. He has now done this so I can finally finish the painting of the house. The above photo only shows the first coat.
I do have a slight problem though as far as painting the next colour on...How do I access the part above the porch without sliding down the porch roof?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

S/Y 'Kim' and family

1975 in St. Lucia.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

JC and the loss of ‘Kim’

We called him JC because he lived in a long white robe. He would stand on the shore and wave his arms out-stretched from his side to above his head and back again to attract our attention. The long sleeves of his robe would hang down to triangular points like a wizards robe. Noone else looked like him. He was unique amongst even the most eccentric inhabitants of Grenada, let alone in the boating community.

He came to Grenada looking for a boat to buy. He arrived with his two daughters, who were 13 and 7. He spoke no English but his older daughter spoke a little. She was just a couple of years younger than me but seemed to be a surrogate mother to her younger sister and distanced herself from any normal teenage interests.

Apparently his wife had been murdered in front of the younger daughter when she was about 4. We never heard the details and after revealing that little piece of information, the subject was not spoken about again for fear of further traumatising the little girl.

He wanted to buy ‘Kim’ and spent lots of time talking in French with Mum and Dad.
We thought that he was really strange and once I saw him kissing his ‘daughter’ in a way that fathers don’t. As kids we were not privy to these discussions about the sale of ‘Kim’, but we just knew that he was strange and he gave me the creeps.

We took him sailing and my parents finalised the deal with him with a promissory note for the final payment.
Off he sailed on our beloved boat with his kids and a local crewmember to help him.

Then Dad realised that JC had conned him. If memory serves me right, the wads of cash that were counted together contained a number of notes that were folded in half. $8,000 worth. I can’t fill in the gaps but as a result Dad went off up Islands on a friends boat to find him.

We heard through the grapevine that JC did not have a clue about sailing. We heard that he had tightened the leeward stays because he saw that they were loose when sailing hard to windward. We heard that he nearly sank ‘Kim’ as a result and had put out a mayday call whilst enroute to Martinique. He got towed in and ran up a bill for repairs, then left in the middle of the night without paying his bills.

Dad caught up with him in Dominica and employed the services of a local lawyer to slap a writ on the mast preventing JC and ‘Kim’ from leaving the Island. (The local lawyer was Mary Eugenia Charles, who a year later became the prime minister of the Island until her death last year).

Then disaster struck.

It was hurricane season, and Hurricane David was building to be a big one out in the Atlantic.

Dominica had a lack of ‘hurricane holes’, which are natural safe havens for yachts in the path of hurricanes. When it was obvious that Dominica was in the path of ‘David’, Dad asked the authorities if he could move ‘Kim’ to a safe place, to protect her from the fury of wind and sea. The authorities refused, citing that the writ on the mast did not allow for any movement. Dad lay as many anchors as he could, but he knew then that for ‘Kim’ the chances of surviving such a hurricane, the likes of which Dominica had not seen since the fifties, were slim. As the hurricane approached and increased in strength and fury, he warned the hotels along the shoreline to board their windows and to protect their guests. Complacency reigned and the hoteliers ignored the ramblings of just a sailor.

Dad later described the experience as the most frightening and traumatising one that he had ever lived through. He hid in a stand-up refrigerator, (switched off), with the door slammed shut. The winds flung it around and tore off the door. He was lucky to survive.
Afterwards he made his way through the rubble to the shore, noticing that all the hotels were completely ruined. Devastation was evident wherever he looked. The corrugated iron roofs of houses had been ripped off and sliced through anything in their path, including palm trees.

He wandered along the beach in a daze. Of course there was no sign of any boat afloat in the anchorage. As he stumbled through the wreckage along the shore he recognised pieces of ‘Kim’. Mahogany planks that he had shaped himself, lay splintered and piled up amongst other debris. A bit of the ‘Baby Blake’ toilet that had been his and Mums loo next to the aft cabin on ‘Kim’ lay with jagged edges amongst the rubble. He even found the 7ton piece of lead from her keel washed up on that shore. I can only imagine the grief that he must have felt, amongst all the other emotions of loss and regret.

Meanwhile we were staying in an old house in Grenada that belonged to an artist friend. Communication was difficult in those days, and after not hearing from Dad for a few weeks prior to the hurricane, Mum decided to leave us in the old house, and sail up Islands with a dear friend of ours on his small boat. As the hurricane approached us kids were very worried that either one of our parents could be caught up in it and killed. It was a real possibility.

We were caught in the periphery of the force of the hurricane, with strong winds and torrential rain.

Apparently Mum was on her way back from Dominica when the hurricane struck and was in fact holed up in Carriacou, the island just to the North of Grenada.

We did not know that at the time and for a couple of days after the hurricane we heard nothing at all. We could only carry on fending for ourselves and quite capably I may add, Mum had left us sufficient funds to provide for our needs, and we were quite independent by then anyway.

We hung around the marina and yacht club, anxiously asking arriving yachtsmen for any news of our parents.

Then Mum arrived at last. What a relief it was to see her again, though tempered with yet more anxiety for news of Dad, who we knew was in Dominica when the hurricane struck. For all we knew he could have been killed.

We did not hear from him for another week. Apparently it took him that long to gather his belongings and walk to the airport and await the repair of the communication systems. The walk to the airport was a trial in itself.

It may be difficult for anyone other than a cruising sailor to understand the sense of loss that even now, our family feels when we talk of what happened and about the loss of ‘Kim’ in such a way. We had hoped that she would sail for many years, and be lovingly looked after and appreciated by anyone who owned her after us, as we had done during our 9 years aboard her. We were so proud to have had the time we did on her. She was so elegant and graceful under sail and every labour was carried out with pride.

R.I.P Kim……..