Roach sailors don't wear goretex


The wind was soughing through still leafless ash trees as I crunched across the unmade road to the ancient timbers of the Punchbowl pub in Paglesham, Essex, on Saturday. The night was cold, starlit and bleak.

But once through the door I was amazed to find 60 members of my sailing fraternity, sleeves rolled up, already tucking into a hearty launching supper. I have to say, as one who has never been clubby, the Roach Sailing Association is a joy to be a member of.

Here are real sailors. There are no latest sailing gear fashion contests – you could be among chimney-sweepers, IT engineers or benefit claimers – but once scratched there are some serious passage-makers among them including two circumnavigators, a clutch of Atlantic-crossers, at least one regular Jester Challangist, Baltic goers-to, not to mention those who, like me, hop to Holland or just enjoy the East Coast.

No one tries to climb into themselves via their back passage. It might have something to do with being clubless: there are no empire-builders, rogue-wave lounge lizards, or sailing schaudenfraudsters here.

All we have is a painted corrugated iron hut on legs to store the oars and a six pounds sterling annual fee. Long may the RSA flourish.