Sunday 26 March
At 0400, just after the clocks had sprung forward to British Summer Time, Skipper was awoken by the howling wind and put on wet weather gear to go and check I was still safe and securely tied up. He spent some time hauling extra fenders out of my sail locker, on a bow bucking more than it often does at sea, and tying them securely along the pontoon to protect my hull.
The crew had just about settled back down by 0500 when a series of huge crashes at their heads propelled them straight back into outdoor clothing and up on deck in double-quick time to see what had happened. Both the mooring lines of the little motor boat in front of me had broken – completely come apart, not chafed through, obviously not adequate for the task – one of its fenders had popped back into the cockpit and the other had broken free of its line and was floating between my bow and the edge of the pontoon. Waves were breaking frequently over the pontoon and these had lifted the boat and surged it into my stem.
Skipper grabbed one of my spare lines and managed to tie it onto the stern of the other boat, securing it to a cleat much further away down the pontoon. He then reached again across the black frothing water, the splashes regularly soaking him as the boat seemed to be trying to mount the pontoon atop the waves, to retie the boat’s own bow warp into a pair of joined bowlines to fasten it to a forward cleat. It was obvious, even in the pitch dark, that the little ship was sustaining considerable damage as it slammed repeatedly into the pontoon, with no protection left.
Grateful for daybreak, my crew surveyed the apparent damage to my bow, took some preliminary photos once the light was strong enough, and made their weary way to the ‘Welcome Booth’ of the harbour, at the top of the gangway from the marina. Lovely Anne was on duty that morning, she of a wealth of local knowledge, an empathetic manner and oodles of common sense. She listened calmly to our sorry tale, took a full report, and went straight down to the pontoon with camera and mobile phone. She surveyed both vessels and recorded the immediately visible damage to both with a series of photos. Usually I love to pose, but on this occasion, I wasn’t feeling my best.
She was able to identify the motorboat and a swift succession of phone calls soon pinpointed the owner, who was duly summoned. As it happened, this was out of something of a hangover-slumber: it was his 30th birthday, and he’d decided the evening before that a boat was a preferable means of transport home to the car that he was in no fit state to drive…It transpired later that he had built this boat, he’s the son of one of the oyster fisherman, and has grown up around boats and the sea. One can’t help hoping that this will be a life lesson hard learned. At least he’s unlikely ever to forget this particular ‘special’ birthday.
Meanwhile, Skipper made the initial call to the insurance company, having obtained the young man’s particulars along with a humble apology. A metal-working acquaintance he’d brought with him gave a rough assessment of a couple of hundred pounds’ worth of repair work, following a lift out in a boatyard.
The weather remained windy, so willing hands were gratefully accepted to help me move into a more sheltered berth on the landward side of the marina [shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?]. Plans for a day out having long since been aborted, my tired crew retired to my warm and comfortable saloon to lick their emotional wounds.