04 July 2011

Testosterone fun

If you want to have some politically incorrect, petrol-smelling fun on the water, then make sure you date a bloke who has a brother who has a powerful boat! Neil's brother in question had invited us for some blasting around, but when the day approached he realised he had no time to join us. So quite unwisely he kindly delivered his 150hp boat into the hands of Neil, his daughter and me. And after some instructions on how it actually works we were off, into the estuary, and we wouldn't be back for a while; only in a 4hr window around high tide can you get far enough into the estuary to deliver it back...

John gets the boat

We calmly sailed down the estuary, and when we hit open water the accelerator got busy. Neil likes fast machines and tested its maximum speed. Which is very fast! Being the emancipated/irresponsible bloke he is he gave us a go as well, but somehow that never lead to maximum speeds. But it was fun! Trying to stay in the nose of the craft at high speeds when it jumped and dashed and sometimes got airborne, without hurting yourself, is an interesting challenge.

 Treehugger outside her natural habitat

We sped around a bit, taking pictures of cliffs we had never seen from this side, and then found ourselves a beach to have a picnic and some waterside frivolity. Neil initially wanted to just beach the boat, and leave after the incoming tide would release it, but after I gave an impromptu lecture on the time scales involved we decided to moor it where it wouldn't run aground very soon. However, beach fun can get quite distractive, especially with a hyperactive seven-year-old involved, and before we knew it the boat got beached anyway. And it's a heavy thing! We were lucky to be stumbled upon by two lads looking for someone, who were willing to help push. And in the same spirit of spontaneous kindness we gave two other beach visitors a small taste of what that boat can do. They loved it!

How to get a seven-year-old into a boat without a gangway?

We raced past the breakwater, with lighthouse and fort and all, and past the intercontinental ferry, and past the Hoe and Drake Island, and then the boat lost power. Quelle surprise! Time to get some fuel. We seemed to have gotten through the best part of 60 litres of petrol already. That boat makes my coughing old car look like the most fuel-efficient vehicle ever! Fuelling could also have been a chance to pick up one of Katy’s friends, but that plan fell through.

 The Plymouth waterfront seen from the water

Refuelled we went up the Tamar to admire the bridges. That way we also got a nice view of Royal William Yard. And the boating got sillier. Why let your daughter steer unhindered if you can instead tickle her and jocularly pretend to throw her overboard? We did some more racing past the breakwater, but then the boat started to lose power more and more often. We had just gotten a full tank! That couldn’t be it. After some considerations we decided to head back, even though we would be back too early to drive all the way up the estuary. Better to have to wait a while than to drift helplessly onto the Atlantic Ocean.

When we phoned John he told us to meet him at a mooring place some distance down the river. We then had a crew shift; Neil took Katy to the pub where we had started, and I joined John in the quest for the engine problem. It probably was a classical one; we had burnt all the oil. Easy to do something about! So we made it to shore where John would get some oil and his little daughter. He suggested he and Neil would drive the re-oiled boat back to where we had met, and where John’s bike still was, so Neil could ride the bike home while John would go back to open sea and test if there was anything else wrong with that boat aside from the oil issue. Neil saw the flaw in that plan: that would leave me with two little girls! And, I may add, away from a bicycle. So I swapped places with Neil, which meant Neil got the kids and I got the bike, and John got the chance to find out his vessel was fine (which it was), so everybody was happy. But then it had been a long day, and we decided to go back to Plymouth. I would later find out I had made the classic mistake of not protecting myself from the sun, lured into a false sense of safety by the cooling wind, and I would still feel boiled 24 hours later, but it had been worth it!

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