Monday, July 23, 2012

Duke of Wellington

Just back from jolly old England! We traveled to Chichester on the southern coast to attend a friends’ wedding. Abigail & Charles make up the foredeck and mid-deck part of our Rushmore J24 racing crew. They were married in the tiny village of Bosham (pronounced Bosum). Charles had arranged an opportunity to sail on 100 year old wooden Solent boats at the local yacht club where a strict dress code is in place and pre-race tea is mandatory. Unfortunately due to the characteristically British weather, sailing was cancelled (it was pretty nasty out). Actually, it turns out the weather had been uncharacteristically wet all summer with record rainfall. All this water flooded the wedding reception tent set-up on the bride’s parents’ waterfront lawn. There was about 2 inches of water above the installed burlap floor. All the local guests seemed to be prepared for this but we had not packed appropriate footwear (I was in dress shoes and Cassy in 5 inch heels). I ended up borrowing a bicycle and cycling, in my suit, on the left, round round-abouts about 10km through the English country side to find a local garden. There was obviously a rush on Wellington rubber boots (“Wellies” as they’re commonly known) because there were only two pairs left on the shelf, luckily in our sizes! The girls ditched their high heels and we partied all night in our Wellies. We had a wonderful time!

The bay in Bosham completely empties at low tide. All boats moored in the bay end up on the bottom twice a day. A multitude of sailboat lying over on their hull; it’s certainly not a sight we are used to. There is a road with parking that runs along the bay at low tide and apparently it’s a favourite local past time to sit on a nearby bench and watch the tourists panic to move their parked cars as the tide comes in. There was much signage in all the local pubs warning of tidal times but I guess after a few pints it might slip one’s mind.

While in Chichester we “couchsurfed” with Anda and her two adorable children. It was great meeting and spending time with them, which just re-enforces my love of the couchsurfing concept (being hosted or hosting with visiting travellers). I’ve hosted at home and surfed many times around the world, always had great experiences.

After the wedding we travelled by train and tube to London to visit with some of Cassy’s friend’s. We had both been in London before but we still did a bunch of fun tourist stuff; a Thames cruise, Les Miserables, changing of the guard, Oxford street shopping, etc. One thing I had really wanted to visit was the Royal Maritime Museum; I was especially interested in seeing Suhaili, the sailboat that carried Sir Robert Knox-Johnston on the first single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe. This was all part of the famous Sunday Times Golden Globe Race of which there are so many exceedingly remarkable tales. One astonishing story is of competitor Donald Crowhurst who, with very little sailing experience, bet his family’s meagre assets on building a trimaran to join the race. Long story short, Crowhurst continuously falsified his positions over the next 8 months alone at sea but ultimately went insane from bearing the guilt and likely committed suicide (his boat was found empty). During his final days he wrote blithering log entries the last line of which reads “It is the mercy”. This line is discreetly inscribed on the mezzanine railing overlooking the winning boat Suhaili. I highly recommend the book “A Voyage for Madmen” if you’d like to learn more about this extraordinary race. Unfortunately, in my research just before departing across the pond I discovered that apparently the environmental conditions in the museum were causing Suhaili’s hull planks to separate and, that soon after she was recently in the water as part of the Thames flotilla honouring Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, Sir Robert Knox-Johnston had decided to reclaim her for a re-fit to make her seaworthy again.

While our trip was a wonderful experience we are very happy to be back in Montreal with Topanga who waited so patiently for us.