#28 ‘MERICUUUUUH! ..and an english expedition

Surprisingly, the USA turned out to be much like anywhere else in the world. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – perhaps some kind of Hollywood world, with car chases and cheesy catchphrases at every corner, but the reality was slightly anticlimactic. Nobody shot at me; nothing exploded spontaneously. Passers by sounded like B-movie actors, were far too friendly, and seemed to have trouble with sarcasm and cynicism – which more or less meant that everything I said was misunderstood, until I got the hang of being sincere.

Newport Shipyard (in Newport, Rhode Island) was our new home for a while. The town itself is known as the ‘yachting capital of the states’, which basically means it’s expensive as hell and everybody casually wears Musto gear out to the pub. It’s also known for the opulent mansions that line the coast, mainly on the (apparently) iconic ‘Ocean Drive’. The scenery is temperate and vivid and rocky, and for some reason, many of the houses look like castles. Basically, it’s like Scotland but with more money and more sun – and less scowling at foreigners.

The Newport bridge by sunset

After just a few days in the US, however, I had to fly back to the UK for a bit. On the way, I spent a couple of days in New York, where I wandered around like a lost child, looking up at all the big huge massive tall skyscrapers, and getting in the way of people with far more important things to be doing.

the highlight of my visit to New York
model sailing yachts in Central Park

The reason for my visit home was to move my own boat – I had shipped Lorema from Antigua to Southampton, while we were on passage with Adix… It made me very sad not to make the passage back to the UK under sail, but it would have taken me at least 2 months to get back, and I wouldn’t have been able to keep my job if I had taken that long off. Although in general I don’t think jobs should get in the way of fun stuff, I was rather enjoying this new job of mine. The other option was to keep the boat in Antigua for a while longer before sailing her back, but she had already been there for one summer, and had started to suffer for it. One more summer in the Caribbean heat would have done her serious damage – and so I bit the bullet, and arranged her to sit on the deck of a big ship.

Having flown back to the UK, I hitch-hiked down to Southampton to offload Lorema from the ship. It was extremely bizarre to see her back in the UK. I put her in the marina for a few days, and then when a good Easterly came around, set off down the Solent with the tide, headed for Falmouth, where I would store her.

I wasn’t expecting to have to beat out of the river, but there was a fairly fresh southerly in the local area, and so to windward I went, dipping the rail. I nervously looked at my watch, knowing that if I didn’t get to the Needles before the tide turned, I could be in trouble, and at the very least would have to wait another set of tides before I could get out, which would mean passing through them at night – not a particularly nice prospect (The Needles channel is a treacherous piece of water to the west of the Isle of Wight, where the tide is extremely strong and the narrow channel is bordered by unseen dangerous banks and rocks.)

As I came nearer to the Isle of Wight and turned to head west, the wind came round to the east, and suddenly dropped right off. With a couple of knots of tide, the apparent wind became almost nothing. Of course, the water was flat, so I hoisted my big spinnaker and, using the pole that had been given to me that day by the security guard at the marina, drifted slowly towards the needles. It was a beautiful evening, and although I was still a little nervous about navigating the channel with so little wind (and the risk of no steerage if it dropped off any more), I was thoroughly enjoying the scenery, and had some rather nice caramel waffles from Lidl and a can of Carlsberg to keep me company. It felt really great to be going somewhere in my own boat again.

The Needles, in person

A day and a night passed, and another day, I think. It took about 34 hours to get to Falmouth, which isn’t too bad. The wind was right behind all the way, and strong enough to keep a good speed up. I didn’t get much sleep, with all the shipping about, and got a bit chilly (it was May, at 50 degrees North!), but it was a magical little trip. I eventually tied up in Ashley Butler’s new yard in Penpol, which is a wonderful little spot, and we sailed his dinghy straight to the nearest pub with his girlfriend Holly, while Lorema dried out against a wall. The next day, we lifted my boat onto the hard.

This isn’t a picture of a boat, but it’s a small festival I visited in Somerset, and it looks nice

After driving around England for a little longer, playing the old catching-up-drinking-beer game, I flew back to Newport. I rejoined the crew and we spent a few weeks working on Adix, riding cheap bicycles around, delighting in the strange sweet taste of American life. There were plenty of big sailboats in Newport, and we had friends from all over the world there, so time slipped by pretty easily in the blurry midst of dock parties, barbecues, and other unconvincing excuses for drinking too much.

Adix’s very own boy band
usual dockside shenanigans

Although it heralded hard work, it was almost a relief when the owner of the boat arrived and we sailed off for a ten-day trip of sobriety around Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod. Every day we hoisted nine sails; every day we flaked nine sails. Every day we uncoiled thousands of feet of line; every day we re-coiled thousands of feet of line. The chefs cooked and cooked and cooked, and the stewardesses did their silver service thing, and we all grabbed little bits of sleep wherever we could. For people who work on yachts, every “boss-trip” is a strange kind of rehab, where you sail and sail and stand watch and sweat yourself into a hypnotic routine. The scenery was terribly, terribly pretty though.

big effin’ flag
Guest mode
“Should somebody be steering this thing?”

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