Monday 10am – I found Burnham on Crouch marina, a funny little place tucked away behind a small Essex town. One would never have found the marina without specific directions, yet the river Crouch turned out to be extremely busy.
The boat itself, a Northwinds drop-keel, is almost exactly what Liz and I were looking for. It’s ideal in terms of its size and layout, especially its 41ft length. Unfortunately I was made to sleep in the saloon, which was odd since there was a spare bunk at the back of the boat. It didn’t really bother me until I realised I hadn’t brought any sleeping gear with me! Ooops – school boy error. The one pain in the ass feature with the drop keel is the big column that sticks up in the middle of the saloon – the drop keel. And when I say pain the ass I mean it. The first time I eased myself down the steps backwards into the saloon I dropped straight onto the steel column, smashing my coccyx. Another school boy error!
After some quick introductions to the other crew we made our way out of Burnham marina and east towards the open sea. The weather was with us to start with and we were happy sailing for a few hours before the sea state changed. A swell appeared from nowhere, inexplicably. We later learnt about the freak wave hitting Boscastle in Devon and wondered whether it had anything to do with that. Anyway, the remainder of the crossing became rather unpleasant for the next six hours, but I had no problems falling asleep!
The average age on this trip was probably around 60. I was the youngest on the boat by a generation and I did question why I was on the trip. I was recruited via the Cruising Association crewing service but with the plan to pick up respective wives in Holland I started to feel like I had gate crashed an annual Saga holiday. Rather than talk about hip hop they talked about hip replacements. Did you know there are over 240 different types if hip replacements? I learnt that and many other amazing facts with this crew but with all due respect I hope I’m as fit as these guys when I’m their age!