A little Centaur adventure – from the inbox

I read this little bitter sweet story while on the boat

Dear Dylan,

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

 image0 image 1 image 3 image7 image 6

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6 Responses to “A little Centaur adventure – from the inbox”

  1. 27 November, 2013 at 3:37 pmwillie cameron says:

    fantastic story martin ,the club i am a member is full of old guys who have a lot of stories as well ,i am a newbie myself and amazed at the guys in the club ,1 is 82 and sails solo and wins races also.
    regards willie cameron

  2. 27 November, 2013 at 6:20 pmdylan winter says:

    I was immensely inspired by the blokes at Winteringham on the Humber. Every time I meet some-one in their eighties and still beebling around anfd sailing. It makes me happy every time I meet an old bloke still sailing – it makes me realise that I might have 25 more years afloat – happy thought

  3. 28 November, 2013 at 2:21 amDave H says:

    Perhaps you could lease this Centaur for a year Dylan? Richard could help you sail her up to Scotland; no holes to cut; no lives risked on DIY engineering; steady Yanmar; no rattly outboard; sounds like win/win . . . . .

  4. 28 November, 2013 at 9:06 amdylan winter says:

    I have no qualifications

    and I fear that to lease a Centaur would mean that it would need a lot of certificates

    how much would it cost to lease a boat for a year

    £1,000 a month – I have no idea

    and…. those scottish harbour walls are awfully aggressive on topsides

    I would not lease one to me if I had a decent one

    as for the DIY engineering….. it is just a few sheets of ply and a big hole

    I have looked at lots of outbaord wells now – far simpler than any engine could ever be


  5. 2 December, 2013 at 1:50 amDave H says:

    You are probably right, even with appropriate insurance, borrow/hire/lease may bring a lot of issues. . . and I’m sure the risks on the project build can be minimised. . . positive flotation would be nice. . . not sure you can do that on a centaur. . . .good luck and take care. . . .

  6. 2 December, 2013 at 10:27 amdylan winter says:

    I hope that there are not many risks – the well might part company from the hull – although I assume it will not happen all in one go and down we go.

    I assume it is no more vulnerable than all the through skin fittings the average boat has.


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