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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The perfect boat

Have you ever been to the Southampton boat show? This was our first  boat show and we picked the biggy. We hit the queue of cars at 1pm and crawled our way to a car park by 1415. We were given a choice of car parks on illuminated road signs and eventually chose one, only to find that it was a multi storey with a height restriction that was too restricted for our van. Then we got lost in a shopping experience. Welcome to Southampton retail park, the sign read, parking for customers only. We retrace our tracks to the main road and head back to the Leisure complex, which we almost chose half an hour earlier, about half a mile back down the road. It's eight quid for all day, even though its now 2pm, but at least we've got a berth. Then the heavens open just as we're about to head for the show.

By now it was 2.30 and we wondered whether it was even worth going in at such a late hour but as it didn't close till 6.30 we decided that four hours would be enough time. It was and it wasn't, but we paid the girl and entered the site. By this time we were starving and in need of sustenance, bugger the boats I needed a burger.

 We weaved our way between hundreds of nautical paraphernalia stalls, over bridges and eventually found what we were looking for, food. The gourmet burger stall had tables and chairs so we sat down to eat, but within seconds of our arrival the heavens opened again and we sat under the brolly munching our food as the downpour rained down harder and harder until we eventually had to admit defeat and took shelter under the awning.

The shower passed and we headed off for the pontoons to take in the cornucopia of exhibits. We stepped aboard a number of boats that were well beyond our price range, pretending to be millionaires who just might buy this boat or that, and dodged the torrential showers that marched on through the afternoon.

In the end we bought a couple of life jackets and at 6.30pm headed for a town nearby called Hamble to find a B+B for the night. Unfortunately there were no B+Bs in Hamble but we did find a camp site. Hamble sounded like a good idea as Jackie reckoned she had seen boats for sale in a place called Hamble, and how right she was, as the next day we discovered this creek was filled with wall to wall boats.

We pitched our minuscule tent in the dark, drank wine, played back gammon and went to sleep. It was cold and miserable, the tent was inadequate, wet with condensation, and we spent a fitfull night being uncomfortable.

The next day, tired and unrested we found Hamble marina and an expensive waterfront cafe for breakfast. After breakfast we checked out some of the brokerages windows and picked a couple of boats to go and have a look at. We chose a couple of the cheapest we could find, a Contessa 32 and an Island Packet 350. The Contessa was a nice boat but too small and at 45,000 out of our price range but we're only looking and every look brings you closer to knowing what you want.

And then we ran into our dream boat. She is a beauty and  we want this boat. It took about ten seconds aboard to know it. She's way beyond our budget, at £80,000  but she hit all our buttons. Maybe in America, where they are built we could find one in our price range, but if we had anywhere close to this money we would have sailed her away there and then.

So even though we didn't find it at the boat show the trip has been very fruitful, and although by the time we get back to Ulverston were knackered to say the least, we have perhaps homed in on our perfect boat. A quick surf of the net produces at least one that's the same price in dollars, and the same year, but in the USA.
We'll keep looking of course, but our search is narrowing down, and by the time we come to buy, and have the money, in 2012 the Island Packet just may still be top of our list.

Whistle stop grand kids visit

Thankful for not having to camp in the van, and now rested we hit the road at about 7.30am and head for Ports mouth. We're going to visit my son and his wifes' family who we very rarely see as they're at the other end of the country. They have just had a new arrival, Logan, who is all of three weeks old, as well as Aurora and Lennon, three and five respectively. I wonder what happened to proper names like John Mary and Jack, and what on earth we should bring as a gift for the kids. Sweets, maybe, toys, maybe, they've probably got enough of both, and then there's the e numbers to consider. I'm such a hopeless granddad, so out of touch with this sort of stuff and filled with just a might of trepidation at making a good impression. In the end we just arrive with ourselves.

For two hours we chat and interact with them. The kids are so full of energy and I play throw the soft toys at each other in their bedroom, get to hold the tiny Logan, pass him to Jackie, have a cup of tea and try to have conversations with their mum and dad. By noon I'm worn out and as they have a christening to get ready for we say our goodbyes and get back in the van and head out to Southampton. Maybe we should have stayed longer but for me it was enough. Were they round the corner we would make frequent visits, but at this distance leaving as soon as we did feels a bit odd. But it was always going to be like this and to be quite honest two hours was enough. Anyway I'ld wound them up so much it was time to move on.


The long and winding road

Without a doubt doing just short of nine hundred miles stuck in the cab of a transit van is not my idea of fun anymore, or was it ever. Back in the 70's, in my other life as a rock n roll musician we would head out of London on a Friday afternoon and do a gig half way up the country, then head on up to Scotland where we would do another on Saturday, then high tail it back to London after the gig getting home at maybe 7am Sunday. Those were the days my friend, but now in my early sixties, it wasn't a prospect neither of us was looking forward to, but it had to be done. The only cherry on this cake was going to be a visit to the Southampton boat show, oh, and the chance to catch up with my sons family and new arrival Logan who live in Portsmouth.

We set off at 8am in typical Cumbrian weather, it was throwing it down, and it didn't stop throwing it down until we were miles south of Manchester. Jackie elected to do this part of the drive, whilst I read the paper and Cat nodded off. We don't do any motorway driving round here so being thrust into the madness of driving rain and madcap would be formula one maniacs was not the best of starts to our journey to Canterbury.

Eventually the weather cheered up and without incident we arrived at our destination, and Cats accommodation for the next year at about 4pm. We off loaded enough stuff to fill Cathys' small room and went in search of a shop but we found planet Tesco instead, in the middle of Canterbury. The chaos of Tesco is enough to make me run for the hills at any time but after an eight hour drive its pure hell. We stayed as long as it takes to buy the basics for Cats initial larder and a couple of bottles of vino for the grown ups.

Back at Cats student digs we said our short as possible emotional goodbyes and headed in the direction of the M25 and the road to Portsmouth. It was dusk and the plan was to camp in the back of the van. We would get a few miles under our wheels before pulling in somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be a service station but the sign said you couldn't stay overnight, and at that moment we didn't relish the idea of a hard floor in the back of the van. Especially as there was a hotel beckoning us. Lets do that we decided, even though it was a squeeze on our purse strings. Sorry we're full, said the receptionist, our plan had been thwarted, so we decided to get back on the road. We were on the wrong road anyway, going east instead of west as you do on these long trips to strange places. We head back the way we came and find the right road which led us to the next services where they had a room, only one left. We'll take it, we said. We're about 2 hours out of Portsmouth and it's about 9pm.

At a picnic table outside the motel we set up the backgammon, crack open the wine and light up. England is now a no smoking anywhere indoors country, soon to be outdoors too I would guess, but for now we're safe from the fag police here, wrapped up against the chill of the autumn night air we play out three games, that I loose 2 to 1, almost polish off two bottles and flop into bed in our soulless room for a well deserved sleep. Tomorrow we'll make Portsmouth and see my sons family, we should be there about 10am.