Topsail Tattler

2021/2020 The year that sort of was, and the year that definitely wasn’t…

by | Jan 14, 2022 | Archived News (Live), Skipper's Notes

What a bizarre 18 months! From the anticipation of preparing the boat for her 12th season to a summer spent hiding under the winter cover fixing deck seams, to the planning (and replanning, and replanning, and replanning) of an ever-shrinking 13th year, to finally getting to sea again but with just one major destination available – Skipper Nic looks back on the 2020’s so far…

When I think back over the last 2 years, what comes to mind mostly is a line from the Guy Ritchie film ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’; “It’s been emotional”. It certainly has…

In February 2020 I was busy with Amelie Rose’s usual pre-season refit – watching the news from China with mounting unease but the hope that somehow this new Coronavirus would go the way of SARS and MERS before it – being stamped out before it hit our shores. By March this was looking like a forlorn hope as pictures of locked down Italians serenading each other over empty streets accompanied COVID-19’s arrival in Blighty. As we passed the Ides of March, anger was added to the mix too as our government crucified the leisure sector by deciding that there would be no lock-down but advising the public not to go out or mix with folks outside their own households.

View under the tent – lots of drip catchers in action!

Just one week later and I was into the full gamut of emotions as the Corona-Coaster got into it’s swing. Ups and downs abounded as we entered the isolation of lockdown, were teased by the possibility of government support, and then had those feelings dashed when it transpired that the grants would be linked only to rateable business premises. Hopes that I could use the time to fix our leaky decks offset by the slow crushing realisation of the damage this was doing to the business as one by one I cancelled over £55k of planned adventures. All punctuated by the monotony and discomfort of cleaning out seam after seam under the stifling cover as we enjoyed the warmest and most settled spring for years.

One massive boost was the support that we got from our disappointed guests however. Vanishingly few opted for refunds, so at least the bank account wasn’t emptying too quickly, as Missy and I did our best to live on the tiny amount of furlough money that we did eventually get.

Tools of the caulkers’ trade…

By the time we were allowed to go sailing once more the season was effectively over for us, with not enough time available to run enough trips to cover the costs of refitting the boat to charter standard. And so, to another winter, huddled under the full cover that had never been removed, decks drying out until cracks appeared in seams that had only been payed just months previously. Then the Christmas present that none of us had been looking for – a rising tide of infections and before the New Year had even landed, we were in lockdown once more.

As the anniversary of the erection of the full-deck cover passed, we finally had some sailing to look forward to. Not as much as we’d like – by the time we could book a lift-out and get the boat prepared it would be the end of May – and we were restricted to the South Coast and Scilly, but at least we could get back to doing what we love to do. If only we could find crew to do it with! Our usual pool of fabulous first mates had either had to find “proper” jobs during the year long hiatus, or were desperately working in their “real-life” roles in order to make up their own decimated finances. Yet another puzzle that remained to be solved.

Finally the covers came off!

And still the cycles of joy and disappointment continued. Happiness as the cover came off and Amelie Rose started to look more like a boat and less like a weird trailer-tent. Despair at the discovery of yet more leaks below-deck as a whole year under cover revealed its full toll. Joy as six amazing female skippers (true friends all) stepped forward to fill the crewing roster. Despondency as I realised that even with the bookings system showing 96% full (a truly amazing feat), we still would struggle to cover our costs. And then joy as, after 19 months of enforced shore leave, we finally welcomed our first guests aboard and put to sea once more.

And, diminutive as it was, what a season! No fewer than 6 adventures out to the Isles of Scilly in conditions varying from decidedly moist to blazing sunshine, from flat seas to “slightly disturbing” waves (and that was in an anchorage). Fabulous guest crews who seemed as pleased as us to be adventuring once again and through it all, Amelie Rose being the amazing vessel she truly is. Freed from her lockdown shackles and sailing full and fair she really is a treat to voyage on.

And sailing again!

And then, all too soon, it was over. All that remained was to settle the accounts (as feared, the bank looks no healthier now than it did last year – in fact slightly less so), thank my most amazing friends for stepping up to fill the first mate’s boots, to say “that was fun!” to all of those who shared our adventures last summer, and to start the process of preparing for the season to come. For pity’s sake – let it be a good one.


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