I felt almost guilty sailing away from my old berth at Grays, in Essex. Leaving behind a band of brothers who have helped with multi-various problems. It was like leaving a faithful wife.
But it was good-bye to Brian Rogers who ranged alongside me in Nieuwpoort, Belgium when my engine had packed up and towed me to a berth. Ta-ra to Max Liebersen, who has donned his diving gear more than once to try and scrub my boat’s bottom; so long to Adrian Madden who knows which way a filter turns.
There are others I will miss: Mick Wood who offered to get me a tyre from a wheely-bin for my un-customised dinghy trolley; Russell the cop who has seen more than his fair share of bad things in life; Lee – always covered in engine oil – who bought a motor-cruiser from a TV actor; and Martin who thinks laterally.
Anyway their faces all flashed before me as I shot off up river to St Katharines’ Dock with a fresh northerly wind soon encouraging me to wrap in three layers.
The old lantern mast of the Gull lightship threw a long shadow across the ooze of the flooding mudbanks. Once the HQ of the Thurrock Yacht Club, and now abandoned, she lies in the mud spewing out shopping trollies: its great sport for locals to hurl Morrison trollies from the decks of the old navigation aid. So many of them frame her bones that my son Richard, 8, used to think she was a wrecked cargo ship laden with such trollies. Reputedly haunted the old ship’s upper works were to look down over my Contessa again, as, little did I know it, I was to return once more to the old mooring bobbing under the industrial skyline of Northfleet Hope.
Read more tomorrow.