I read this little bitter sweet story while on the boat
I am an avid follower of your KTL site, really enjoy it.
In regards to your Westerly Centaur piece about old sailors I just wanted to tell you about something that happened to me in September this year.
I’ve owned boats before, mainly fishing boats but recently I’ve wanted to learn to sail. So been out in a Wayfarer a couple of times.
I was at Dell Quay in the summer and saw and advert from someone who wanted to sail to France or around the West Country.
Well I emailed him and to say I could not really take the time off work to go to France but would be very happy to sail at weekends or just help him out in general. Anyway, he found another candidate to go, but they let him down and then another, who also let him down on the day of departure.
So inevitably he contacted me. After just splitting up with my girlfriend, I decided to go as I was feeling sorry for myself and in need of adventure.
So one morning I went over to meet him. He lived in a real 1970’s house in Sidlesham. His wife answered the door. She was 80 years old. I then met Richard.
He was 93 years old.
I was a bit concerned about this because if something happened to him I’m not sure I would be able to sail the boat on my own. He had hearing aids in both ears that wailed with feedback all the time, but mentally was pin sharp and as fit as a fiddle.
He was a great guy. Very interesting, a former barrister. He had fought in the Second World War.
So off we went to Itchenor to set said. He had a Westerly Centaur called Opus iv. Built in 1974. Recently replaced Yanmar engine. Apparently it was a rare interior design with a table set the other way around so you could sit bow to stern against it. He loved his boat.
We set off and anchored at East Head for the night. I was a bit worried as he has no VHF radio (expect a old handheld), two very old 1970’s lifeackets and his safety line was a rope he looped around his neck. His anchor light was a proper paraffin lantern which he rigged up.
I spent a great evening listening to his stories and learning about sailing. He had sailed all over the world and knew every tide in the Channel.
He told me the west coast of France has the best sailing in the world (perhaps another KTL adventure one day??).
Although I was a bit concerned, his enthusiasm and knowledge gave me confidence.
He told he if he had told me his age, I wouldn’t have come. So he didn’t!
He had no fear, he anchored and just went to bed. I said but what if we drag?, he just said, but where would be go? Fair enough.
Anyway. The following morning we awoke early to depart into the Solent and found the newly fitted toilet seacock was leaking and then, upon checking the bilge, we also discovered a substantial diesel leak from the engine. He hadn’t sailed the boat since the previous year and should have really done a few runs to sort these issues out.
Not knowing the extent of the problems was a worry.
He told me previously the boat had flooded due to a keel bolt failure.
But it was obvious we were going nowhere.
I will never forget the look of disappointment on his face. The proud old sailor knowing that this may have been his last time he was going to sail away in his beloved Centaur. It was heart breaking but the two problems could have been major issues out at sea and the weather was not really in our favour if we delayed.
So we returned home.
It was an amazing experience and I was left wondering what if???
Below I have attached some pictures taken at East Head from on board in the morning.
And a picture also of Richard, a fine gentleman, a wise man and a cool dude!
I hope you find that boat.
so lads…. sail now…..think about the future later
time is short…. it is a big planet… lots to see… lots to do