‘Twas a dark and stormy night in Langstone Harbour on Friday, the Friday night before the Christmas Fast Cruise. Storm Petrel’s crew had decided that due to their advancing years, (well actually the advancing years of their crew), they would arrive at the marina on Friday afternoon, put the boat out on the waiting pontoon and get out the whisky bottle.
Now a night on Southsea Marina waiting pontoon can be a harrowing experience, fenders squashed flat, lapping water, fishing boats re-fuelling and howling rigging. The whisky dealt with those problems, however, and we all slept well.
Saturday morning dawned dark and very windy and to make matters worse Azanti appeared out of the lock with some pretty serious looking crew and some very pretty faces popping their heads over the spray hood, all eager with anticipation. Indeed could that be the editor of our magazine in there somewhere, looking absolutely radiant in some very trendy red oilies and headgear that she probably picked up at Harrods?
Anyway, the appointed hour arrived and Azanti shot off down the channel and out to the open sea. Having, as she does, an enormously deep keel she did not want to be embarrassed by spending all morning on the mud and thereby missing the party.
Our crew decided that they had better put the shower gel and the coffee pot away, make up on for the ladies and sun screen for the men and we were off. It took a while to get off the pontoon but thereafter we soon found ourselves hanging around the start with no one else in sight. Had dangerous Don changed the start back to East Ryde Middle or Bembridge Ledge? No, all was well and the starters began to trickle in one by one.
11 o’clock soon came and went and we were off, a couple of reefs (aged crew again), and down and round Warner with a trail of other boats behind us. Well without wishing to stretch the pathos too far, that was about the last we saw of everyone. We were dead in the water and going nowhere. Storm Petrel does not like being reefed due to the age of her large jib so we pottered along with plenty of advice flowing from such eminent and experienced company. The skipper eventually decided to lock himself in his cabin and let them get on with it. Well that is not actually true, he is a very easy going kindly man who is always prepared to learn new tricks, even if they do take us to Cowes around the back of the Wight.
The day wore on, the weather improved, dangerous Don called up on 77 to shorten course but we were listening on 16, so eventually gave up with the watery sun dropping ever lower behind Cowes. We don’t have quartz halogen headlights and the Medina, so it is said, is very dangerous in the dark.
The excitement was over and we were happy to moor up and settle down for tea accompanied by Emmy’s delicious fruit cake. In due course we prepared ourselves for a great evening at the Folly and at the end of a long and happy day we slept the sleep of the dead.
Sunday dawned much more peaceful and we hoisted our main, broke out the coffee pot and wallowed gently back to Langstone where we put our trusty steed to bed and bade farewell to our crew. The December Fast Cruise is always a little poignant because it signals the end of another year of sailing, but what a good way to round it all off.
Well done again to Graham and his team as we happily close our log book on another happy sailing year mostly in the good company that the Little Ship Club offers us.