"Four Men in a Boat" story continued. By " Shipmate"

   15 CHAPTER FIFTEEN (Lovely, thank you).                        

Allum Bay is still difficult to get to without the cable car lift.  Hundreds of Thousands of homes around the world have a bit of the place somewhere.  For almost a century, the multicoloured sands have been collected as a unique souvenir.  Often purchased by tourists, the glass tubes would grace many a mantelpiece or sideboard, when the travellers returned home from their holidays.

The bay lies between Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and the Needles, that iconic structure of rocks on the western approaches to the Island.

Troops coming from the Americas, in World War Two, were enthralled by the sight of the series of the gigantic pointed rocks sticking out of the sea.  They knew they had arrived.  They have the statue of Liberty.  The Brit’s have the Needles and coming from the continent, the White Cliffs of Dover.

An adventurous young family of four and their dog ‘Scamp’ enjoyed trekking.  They had negotiated the tricky cliff path to the east of the bay and decided to walk along the beach.  The small boy delighted in throwing a bit of driftwood into the sea for his dog to retrieve.  No matter how many times he brought the wood back, the dripping dog indicated by his wagging tail, that he was enjoying the entertainment.

As the family rounded the headland, they were met with a most unexpected sight.  Several people were sitting together.  Some were in deck chairs whilst others sat on rugs.  The women were serving tea together with plates of delicious cakes and biscuits.  The walkers approached the tea party and their curiosity got the better of them.

“Good afternoon!” the husband said, addressing the ladies.  “You look as though your having fun.  Would you mind telling me where you got the refreshments from?”

A bearded nautical looking chap replied.”  Hello there.  There’s a kiosk just round the corner.”  He pointed to a promontory about a quarter of a mile away.

Thanking them, the family continued on their way, whilst Scamp reluctantly followed, having just been treated to the remainder of one of the young ladies biscuits.

The picnic over, the party packed up and stowed their belongings under the thwarts of their wooden dingy.

Bernard, ever helpful and sometimes put upon, heaved the crowded dingy into deeper water.  Waves wetted his rolled up trousers and as he clambered aboard his peaked cap was knocked awry.

The outboard was started and the Skipper expertly avoided the breakers as they made there way back to the yacht that could be seen at anchor in the distance.

Gunilla was Swedish and hadn’t sailed with them before so was unused to their impish ways.

  She said, “That wasn’t very nice of you John, getting their expectations up.”

She knew, of course, that there was no kiosk.

John wondered whether she was genuinely concerned or if she was still a bit miffed about what happened on their was down the Solent.

 Earlier that morning they had anchored opposite Alum Bay nearly abeam of Hurst Point.  It was just after low water and the tide was still slack, resulting in an unusual calm.

Alan, who was a regular member of their sailing group, had invited his new girlfriend, Gunilla.  He had asked, somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’, if they could share a cabin.

She turned out to be a blonde bombshell!  Her looks were very much in vogue and not dissimilar to ‘Twiggy” the famous model of the sixties.  Fair skinned and petite, her gentle manner penetrated the hearts of even the hardest and most skeptical seaman.  Alan had met her at the Swedish Church in London where she attended most weekends to take part in the service and converse with her fellow countrymen. 

Out to impress, Alan came over as most gallant and gentlemanly.  Even his ragged jeans had been replaced with a smart pair of corduroys.

Her accented English, charmed all the men on board, so when she asked if she could take a swim, her request met little resistance by the sailors.  Their wait was rewarded with a brief glimpse of her bikini-clad body as she expertly dived into the cold deep seawater.

Gentlemanly behavior did not extend to swimming in the freezing sea so she was alone, that is until the rescue.

Bernard, forever attentive noticed that she had gone some distance.  Alan called out, attempting to keep the panic out of his voice and tried to sound in control and manly.

“Swim closer to the boat.”  He cried.

“Lovely, thank you, ” was Gunilla’s response.

 Alan’s treaty was repeated.

“Lovely thank you, ” came the reply.

The Skipper casually told Bernard to get the dingy ready.

Gunnila was used to swimming in the Fjords, which is why the cold didn’t bother her but she was unaware of the current that due to the change in tide, had just stated to run.

Alan was well built and an accomplished swimmer, so he carefully removed his new trousers and jumper and dived over the side to go to the aid of his damsel in distress.  In the meantime Bernard, following his instructions, started the outboard and took off to help Gunnila.  The swimmer was no match for the outboard and Bernard soon had Gunilla aboard the tender and safely back onto the teak deck of the yacht.

Bernard returned to help Alan, who was suffering from mild exposure and exhaustion due to the cold.  No matter how hard he tried, Alan was unable to hoist himself into the dingy.  Eventually, he was towed alongside the yacht but the crew struggled in vane to get him aboard.

By this time Gunilla was becoming a little concerned about her boy friend but she need not have worried, as it turned out, because John, the skipper, was a competent and capable seaman.

The davits were still dangling empty in readiness to retrieve the tender, so John had conceived the idea to winch Alan aboard using a davit.  A stout rope strop was placed round Alan’s ample waist and without further ado the hoisting began.  The obliging Bernard, set about winding in with gusto.  Fortunately, the gearing slowed the process down, so to prevent Alan being rubbed against the yacht’s side, John tightened the forestay on the davit.  This resulted in Alan’s not inconsiderable weight causing the boat to heel over leaving him dangling in space rather like a large fish out of water.  His fatigue took away all thought of keeping his posture so his belly protruded, somewhat obscenely, over the rope strop.

Nevertheless when they finally lowered him spluttering on deck, he was gratified to discover that he remained a hero in Gunilla’s eyes.

They clambered aboard having arrived from the beach.  The Skies started to look menacing with great dark clouds building up on the western horizon.  As soon as they were aboard, John left the others to stow the gear while he fiddled with the radio set to get a local forecast.  He knew that they had plenty of time to reach the sheltered Harbour of Yarmouth, which was barely half an hour away.  The anchorage in Allum Bay soon became deserted as the other boats returned to their homeports and berths, ahead of the imminent storm.

John eventually managed to get a meteorological report that indicated a worsening of the weather with a cold front approaching from the southwest.  Storm force eight on the Beaufort scale was predicted before midnight.

Bernard was instructed to get the anchor in.  They had an electric windlass so to preserve the batteries, the engines were started and put on tick over.

As John passed Alan a beer to help him ‘warm him up’ the rattle of the chain stopped.

Instantly on deck, John looked a question at Bernard.

“Seems jammed,” said Bernard, rather timidly.

John felt the cable forward of the windlass.  It was bar-tight.

The next hour or so was spent circling the anchor chain in an attempt to free it, but to no avail.  It seemed firmly caught on something.

The swells were steadily increasing in size and John knew that when the tide turned with wind against sea and an approaching gale, that their plight would become quite dangerous.

He decided to ditch the anchor.  They motored into the wind and took the strain off the cable and paid out all of the chain.  Bernard reported from the chain locker that it was all gone bar for a large rusty shackle securing the end.  No amount of effort could move the pin so they heaved the chain back up to take stock.  Unluckily, the activities had not freed up the cable that still remained firmly stuck.

It’s relatively easy cutting through half an inch of steel bar.  That’s if you’ve got a vice and an electric angle grinder.  It’s a very different matter when you’re being thrown about on the fore deck of a yacht and using a junior hacksaw.

They took decided to take turns, each at first, applying two hundred strokes and later as they grew tired, only one hundred.  Care had to be taken as nobody could find spare blades but on the plus side a little used aerosol of cutting oil had been discovered.

John’s seamanship experience, though tainted by the lack of a decent saw or metal cutters, proved invaluable.

  The sawing took place between the windlass and the hawse pipe and a fender was lashed on to the anchor side of the chain to facilitate later recovery.

The girls, who were feeling seasick due to the irregular motion, were advised to lie down and John deliberately left the tender on a long line, to bounce about in the water, in case it was needed.

At dusk they still had about three millimeters to go and the weather had deteriorated to a force five, gusting six.  Occasional waves crashed over the stern and it became difficult to hold on and saw at the same time.  The wind shrieked in the rigging.

“Eureka!” they were through.

With both engines running at half speed, the yacht was brought up head to wind.

John, who was at the helm, had primed Bernard to wait until the boat was in a trough and then pull the chain and fender, free from the windlass.  Without a moment’s hesitation, both the chain and attached fender were thrown clear into the heaving sea.  Plenty of rope lanyard had been provided to allow the chain to sink and the yacht engines were immediately changed to full astern to avoid the propellers from becoming entangled.

They managed to turn into the wind and head towards Castle point.  Once in mid channel, the skipper brought the boat round to starboard and headed in an easterly direction, making for safety at Yarmouth harbour on the Isle of Wight. 

 The motion became a little easier in the shelter of the Island but their progress was slow now that the tide had turned and was against them at a rate of over three knots.  Astern of them in the west, the cold front continued to build with ever darkening skies and winds increasing to a force six or seven before reaching the anticipated, gale force nine that was the revised prediction by the local weather forecaster.

The relief at being in the shelter of the harbor was almost overwhelming.  Seasickness was soon forgotten and the companions

called the water taxi to take them ashore.  Once ashore they decided to have dinner at the ‘Bugle,’ a well-known local Inn.

After a few drinks in the public bar, the skipper reserved a table and asked the barman what the ‘specials’ of the day were.  The barman was an old friend and indicating a local fisherman playing darts, he said,

“Nelson brought quite a few fresh lobsters and crabs in today – we’ve still got some left.”

Nelson overhearing, finished his throw and came over to elaborate.

“Hi skipper.  Had a good day?”

John replied that they had been picnicking in Allum Bay but had to leave the anchor and chain behind.

“That’s where the crabs and lobsters were caught just before dawn.  There are a lot of uncharted rocks on the bottom.  You probably snagged one,” Nelson offered.

Their meal was magnificent and they all enjoyed the liquid refreshment and the seafood, especially Gunilla who, being Swedish, was brought up to appreciate all sea food particularly the crustacean variety. 

A family on a table near the fireplace kept looking over and they supposed it was envy at the sumptuous food being served.  Perhaps having substantially imbibed they were also being a little noisy as sailors often are but it wasn’t until they left and Alan noticed the tethered dog.  The proverbial ‘penny dropped.’  It was Scamp!

Some say it’s lucky but Bernard would not agree.  They left the Bugle full of goodwill and ale, turning right to walk down the short cobbled alleyway towards the picturesque harbour.  Bernard was ahead of the others, anxious to commandeer the last water taxi.  Just as he passed the ferry terminal, he slipped and ended up banging into a road-crossing beacon.  To his dismay, he had discovered a present left by the friendly dog; Scamp.

When returning to Allum Bay the following morning to retrieve the abandoned anchor, they were alarmed to find that there was little evidence of their presence the previous day.  The only part of the chain that remained was the rusty tail end that had slipped back into the chain locker.  The weather had calmed but there was no sign of the fender or the long length of the chain that had disappeared with it.

John silently thought to himself – perhaps Nelson had beaten them to it!

 Abandoning their searches, they once again, turned hard to starboard and motored back towards Cowes where they altered course to port and headed up into Southampton Water before entering the river Hamble where their home berth was situated.

Bernard was the buyer for a large engineering company and several weeks later he presented the Skipper with a souvenir of the event.

He had arranged for his works manager, to carry our certain procedures and modifications and excitedly passed over the present.

He hoped it would somehow make up for the expensive anchor and chain, being lost.

John opened the box with a mixture of anticipation and curiosity.

Reclining on a maroon satin cloth, were two uneven halves of the sawn link.  They had been brightly polished and beautifully silver-plated.  The saw marks were still distinguishable.

John was delighted with the unusual gift, which did much to soften the dismay and expense at loosing the anchor.  Even so it turned out to be the most costly Lobster he was ever to have.

On the plus side, the Swedish beauty had married her gallant sailor and they still live in England although their two sons who are now both grown up and have got homes of their own. 

She was asked fifty years later what she thought of her adoptive country. 

“ Lovely thank you!”  She replied.

all comments welcome!

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