Grim weather and the prospect of boat maintenance forces Jonty Pearce to find other entertainment
“A long time ago in a marina far, far away….” Well, last weekend, actually, in Pembrokeshire. Despite the speedy approach of Spring, we are still held in Winter’s grip. There is little pleasure obtainable during cold, wet, windy marina visits at this time of year apart from the usual delights of maintenance and upgrades. Thus it is not unusual for nautical minds to be tempted by other entertainments. In Wales, particularly during the Six Nations competition, rugby is more of a religion than a sport and matches, especially those against France, come near top of the entertainment tree. The fairy on the treetop, of course, is when Wales are playing England. Wise Englishmen should run away bravely in such circumstances, but I was safe on this occasion. Thus it was, as an honorary Welshman (by marriage), I ended a sociable evening in real style. Unusual style, and with a headache – read on – but style.
It all started with an invitation from Hutch and Norry to join them on Friday night to celebrate Hutch’s birthday. Carol was unable to come, but I was let off the leash. The night began with G&T’s aboard Gwennol before enjoying a Thai Night feast at the Marina Restaurant. Hutch had booked, but for the wrong night. No problem – a bit of negotiation and we were seated and relishing the range of taster dishes on offer. The beer flowed, the wine poured – and we realised that the 8.05pm start of the Wales/France match had passed. We were too happy to be bothered, and completed our repast in a leisurely way before settling the bill and moving on to the promised big screen showing of the match.
I must admit I was not aware of any large screen TV in our marina, though as we wandered down towards Dale Sailing and the boat storage areas Hutch reassured me that the perfect venue was only a few steps away. After opening some large metal gates an industrial unit complete with a steel roller door loomed beyond the boats. Entering through a side door, we were met by a wall of heat and a roar from the crowd inside – a Welsh try! The projector on the roof displayed the match onto a huge screen nearly covering one wall. A pool table occupied a corner next to a log burning stove that threw out a convivial glow, and, most welcomingly, a bar occupied the back corner of the unit.
Not just any bar – this was the Floating Bar. I realised I had seen it once before on the sands of Watwick Bay, up at the mouth of Milford Haven. It had been a glorious still sunny day, and after we had anchored we saw that some nutters were having a beach party – barbecues, nubile young ladies, hunky dark strangers – you know the scene – it always happens when you are not invited. The jollity centred round this same bar, afloat on rafts at the edge of the water. A thatched roof had provided shade from the sun, and the clink of bottles had provided prevention of dehydration. And now it was my turn to stand under the eaves of the same bar roof as Our Host leaned over to welcome us and press the first of many beers into my hand. Introductions complete (“Cheers!”) we turned our attention to the pleasure of watching Wales trash France. The passion flowed as freely as the beers, and a roar raised the roof at the final whistle.
The serious stuff started then – gossip and sailing stories, tall tales of tall masts, navigational woes and passages of genius. You get such talk in any Yacht Club bar towards the tail of any evening – I’m sure that alcohol is heavier than water as it always seems to be the lower half of the glass that does the damage. Or maybe the rum and cokes were more destructive than I realised. Come what may, although by no means a singer, I ended the evening belting out karaoke classics into a shared microphone held by mine host. All good things come to a close, though I am the first to admit that my singing could never be described as good. The 4am cold night air helped to sober us up a little as we staggered back to our respective berths.
We met for breakfast at the Brunel Cafe at 10.30 the next morning. We were all a little quieter and hoarser than the night before, but agreed that it had been a great way to introduce Hutch into his 59th year. He looked a year older too, but improved as the day went on. Boat maintenance? Who needs it when the rugby is on?