This yard at Chertsey was her last port in my ownership and Aquabat was the only yacht amongst stinkboats in various states of disrepair. I have a dubious claim to fame as I saw Simon Le Bon secretly admiring her. You remember him, big hair, mascara and front for an 80’s band called Duran Duran. Of course he wouldn’t speak to a pleb like me because my hair was all on my chin and a natural colour. My yacht probably cost what he spent on hairdressers for a week.
If he had bothered to engage me in conversation, he may have learnt to buy a yacht with a keel that didn’t fall off. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/sailing/volvo-ocean-race/9128778/Top-10-Volvo-Ocean-Race-moments-page-3-girls-arrests-rock-star-sailors-all-female-crews-and-turning-turtle.html
Unlike Drum, Aquabat didn’t need a paid skipper, her owner was quite happy to skipper it himself and never ruined his hairstyle by turning turtle. Admittedly I don’t sing too well but neither did he.
I spotted Aquabat in a yacht mag and as well as an affordable price, she was very photogenic, so much so that a drive to Ipswich seemed worthwhile. I reasoned that even if the boat inspection was disappointing, at least a tour of Suffolk wouldn’t be wasted. It wasn’t, Ipswich had a restaurant called “Noble Romans” with the best pizza I’ve eaten outside Italy.
I clambered on deck and was immediately struck by the width of beam. Two separate cockpits were also an impressive feature, one for helmsman but it could also be steered from the main seating area. The cabin was less impressive having been fitted out by an amateur but everything was there. This is where I have to disagree with the brochure. Without windows the cabin was as dark as a coal shed and not much bigger. 4’ headroom for a 6’ person is not “comfort”.
I then spent a week living on the boat at Woolverstone with my toolbox, ensuring that once launched she’d be ready to sail. It had been ashore for some time and winches needed regreasing along with the hundreds of other jobs to make her seaworthy. April is the beginning of the season and whoever thought that up, didn’t live in Suffolk. The easterly gale blew sleet straight off the North Sea and up the River Orwell as far as my frozen boat.
I lived on pizza from Ipswich and slept on the boat with as much clothing as possible. The biting cold forced me to light the gas stove for warmth and although doctors tell you that smoking kills, in this case it saved my life.
With hatches shut and the stove burning, the cabin was becoming comfortably warm, sleepily I struck a match to light a smoke and it immediately went out. Two matches later, realization dawned and I flung all the hatches open to suck vital oxygen.
We were in the deep water shipping channel and Trinity House provided big steel navigation buoys with pretty flashing lights. One of them was visible through the murk and although the water was too deep to anchor, this buoy was already anchored. Engine was started and our little 7hp Volvo got me close enough to tie a line around it. We drifted back a bit, dropped sails, put the kettle on and started playing travel scrabble. Tying to a buoy isn’t exactly legal but it was a huge buoy and we only had a little boat. My wife must have known every two letter scrabble word with Q’s X’s and Z’s and thrashing me when a ships horn sounded. I popped my head out of the cabin to look up at the bridge deck of a large ship. A ships officer was leaning out and asked if we were ok. Just waiting for the tide to turn I replied and he waved and continued his journey.