Blogger Jonty Pearce concedes he's no spring chicken and boating isn't as easy as it once was


I’m beginning to feel my age. At 58, I feel a little aggrieved at getting arthritis, but I have to remind myself that as a GP I daily see patients who are in worse off medically than me despite being younger in years. But all the same, it is not a happy thought that my flexibility and strength are diminishing. I know I can do something about it – what we call ‘Lifestyle Management’ in the trade – and I am determined to lose weight and get fitter, though I accept that the main thrust of this may be after I retire in 10.5 month’s time (counting the days? Me?).


My main issue is with my shoulder. Wear and tear has set in and my consultant is threatening chopping off the end of the collarbone and doing a keyhole surgery clean-up. It sounds painful to me, and will have to wait till the end of the sailing season anyway. It impinges on my sleep, ability to move around in bed, and lift heavy things and wind winches. I’ve made some adjustments – I now have switched to playing badminton left handed (though I can still play tennis right handed), and have stopped doing silly things on mountain bikes – I limit myself to smooth trails and roads now. Ibuprofen helps too.


This is compounded by intermittent back pain – I’m sure that it is muscular and related to carrying a large abdominal burden. It is mainly set off by strange beds and lifting. Helping our nonagenarian chandler by lifting a large box off her counter was a mistake. I know that losing weight and not lifting are the answers, but that is work in progress. I’m not sure if it is solely the back that is diminishing my flexibility (such as it was) as I seem to have to help pull my feet towards me to put on my socks. And wriggling around in bed to put on my trousers before getting up is more difficult, too. And my knee is playing up – that old skiing injury that necessitated the trimming of a cartilage has raised its head, though currently I’m glad that it has ducked back down below the parapet for now.


Afloat, I notice I am diminished in several ways. Crouching to carry the Indoor Dragon’s breakfast through the low passage to the aft cabin is uncomfortable. The Blake’s seacock in the heads needs adjusting – this involves sitting cross legged in front of the toilet bowl and reaching in through the oval access hatch. I’m leaving that for another day when my back is in a good phase. But I have managed to solve winching problems in the cockpit. Like many boats of her era, Aurial has a huge genoa and small mainsail. Winching in said genoa on her previous 40:1 winches was getting painful right handed – the wonderful new Pontos four speed Trimmer 40:1 winches have increased the gearing to 112:1. I can now wind in the Genoa with my little finger on the winch handle, albeit slowly!


Improvements to winches, windlasses and electrification can keep us all sailing longer. But as one who has always done all his own maintenance, the idea of actually paying someone of a smaller frame and increased flexibility abhors me. I am determined to taste the elixir of youth – I will lose weight, get fit, and have my shoulder modified. And I will learn not to grunt or groan when getting up out of low chairs!


Jonty Pearce