My first and only experience with sailing boats arrived at the age of twelve in Bognor Regis. It was a school trip and involved myself and some unruly pals sprawling ourselves across a tiny single sailed yacht. The thing with kids is, you tell them something ten times and they don’t listen, what they actually need is the experience of something bad before they know not to do something ever again.
I am lying on a bed in my childhood room in my parent’s house, however this time I am not having a panic attack. My mind fills with memories of warmth, comfort, beauty, adventure, good food, marine life, ancient ruins, vibrant colours, culture, national pride, hard work and above all experience.
It is a sign that no matter what you have in life, there is no substitute for love and as I hug Jamie and Liz before boarding the dolmuş I realise how lucky I am to have family and friends who can provide me the opportunity to live a little.
This of course puts us into emergency mode and the wind soon catches Esper and as the motors off without even so much as an apologetic glance back over his shoulder, we are left trying to steady our boat. We soon find ourselves sideways onto the pontoon, engine on with no wheel to steer ourselves away.
Once again, the sweet farmer’s daughter comes running down to us and apologises that dinner will not be ready for a while as she is milking the cow and off she runs. Though we don’t hear said cow, as we play our game of Rumicub, we are surrounded by bleating goats, hooting owls, braying donkeys, jumping fish and crowing cockerels – life on this island is actually quite noisy!
When I was thirteen, I held my breath for two minutes and fifty five seconds, sitting, very still, in my bedroom. Flapping around under a boat in cold water, stabbing a chisel at 4 months worth of crustaceans tends to tire you out a little and I think the best I managed was about 40 seconds.
Gocek is one of those places that thrives on tourism, particularly boats, to the point where it appears to have taken the soul from the place. The market is local enough and is well worth a visit to stock up on essential fruit and veg. The marina, however, is littered with luxury yachts, coloured lights, a promenade and the usual cafes and restaurants pushing their chairs and tables into your path.
It does, thank Neptune, and when we reach Gocek, we anchor up some 50 yards from the pontoon and board “Tinker”, a dinghy that has seen better days. Why is it though, that when men get into a dinghy or a canoe, they feel as though they have to paddle like the clappers to reach their destination? Everything on water is a race, I call it the “Columbus Effect”.
I only see him move once, and this was to pass us the bill. He limps his huge mass towards us and smiles through toad-like eyes. I imagine he is probably very good friend with James Bond, he seems to know everybody and things seemed to work around him to his satisfaction – whether this is down to wealth, culture or bloody hard work, I do not know, what I do know is it looks like a good life.
Short of trudging through somebody’s garden, we decide to descend, only to be stopped by two traditionally dressed women who insist on giving us directions. It turns out that a set of steps which were guarded by a charming black Labrador were in fact the correct route and we soon find ourselves onwards and upwards. Even the dogs here are friendly.
Seeing Jamie and Liz in their current home was quite emotional for me. For them to come and see my new house in North Essex was a walk in the park, for me to see them six hours from my front door was an achievement only blood can fuel. Touching, smelling, seeing Esper is something I can now carry with me for the rest of my life – now begins my account of Follow the Boat.
Today is my wife’s birthday, but I am not celebrating. I am lying on a bed, in my childhood room, in my parent’s house having a panic attack. My palms are sweating, my neck is tightening, my pulse is racing, I want to run, I want to hide.