THE ADVENTURES OF SMASHEY AND NICEY TWO
Poole Harbour. c.1995
Crew’s – Phil, Mike, Spike and Bob.
Smashey has ‘Dawn Stroller’ painted beautifully on her bow after her owner’s wife.
(Smashey much prefers ‘Dawn Dasher’)
The first three paragraphs are extracts from a yacht’s log found floating in Swanage Bay.
I had been looking forward to the May Bank Holiday for some time, I had arranged to pick up Brigitte and spend a quiet weekend aboard my 40ft yacht which was moored in Swanage Bay. The weather was ideal for lazing about on the yacht teaching Brigitte the rudiments of sailing; she was quite good at picking up things. On the Sunday morning riding gently at anchor, we had just finished our lobster salad on deck and a few glasses of claret when I looked into her eyes and could see that she was yearning for another lesson, she looked into mine and said ‘please teach me the Sheepshank Roger, do you think I'm ready for the Sheepshank?' ‘we went below where I keep the Sheepshank string, and gently put my hands around her waist.
I can tell you I was very excited about teaching her knots. ‘Let me see you do a Bowline first my sweet and then I’ll teach you the Sheepshank’. She had already mastered the Bowline last week ’is that the one where the rabbit comes out of the hole, round the tree and back down the hole darling?’ ‘Yes’ I said and she expertly crafted a wonderful Bowline with her dexterous fingers. The best position for teaching knots is to stand behind the pupil and put your hands around the waist which I did. From this position Brigitte's eye line was on a level with the porthole, ‘Oh!’ She said ‘there is a small dinghy called Dawn Stroller that seems a little too close, darting back and forth’ ‘That’s perfectly OK’ I whispered, ‘those dinghy sailors know exactly what they’re doing, take no notice’.
BANG CRUNCH ‘SOD what did you do that for Phil’.
What the hells that, I rushed on deck just in time to see a couple of idiots trying to pull the sharp end of some dinghy called Dawn Stroller from amidships. What the hell’s going on I shouted, the one with the sunglasses and tache said ‘sorry mate but the helmsman had too many lagers last night and didn’t sleep much, not to worry my insurance will take care of it’.
Dawn Stroller (or Smashey for short) had really lived up to her name this time, she was feeling quite proud of herself as up to now the weekend had been relatively incident free apart from a couple of broken shackles which left her mainsail uncontrollable.
Smashey had joined her old friend Nicey in Poole Harbour for another weekend of sailing. This time Bob had arranged it all ensuring that things would go smoothly. Once again the weather looked promising, a large high pressure area sat over Bournemouth promising 75 degrees and a few sea breezes. This time Spike accompanied by Bob towed Nicey down to Rockley Point arriving a couple of hours ahead of Smashey, Mike and Phil.
Spike and Bob decided to test the water and sail Nicey up to the old chain ferry, which was moored nearby. Apart from scraping the centre board in the mud a few times the exercise went well. An interesting evening was spent on Poole Quay amongst approximately 10,000 other party goers in various stages of inebriation, Spike kept getting lost amongst the generously proportioned young ladies of Poole but eventually emerged smiling.
The plan for the next morning was to sail through the harbour entrance and down to Swanage, the lads launched from Rockley Point at about 10am into a millpond like Poole Harbour. Bob clamped on the outboard and Nicey towed Smashey all the way to Shell Bay with a brief stop on Brownsea Island, Mike desparate for the toilet explained that if we didn't get a move on the Island would live up to its name.
After a brief stop at Shell Bay the lads managing to pick their way through an array of scantily clad bodies soaking up the sun on the beach and set sail in a freshening sea breeze towards Studland Bay. The party duly arrived at Studland Bay managing to avoid the hidden rocks which were clearly marked on the chart just off the Bay, Bob was keen to take the short cut over the rocks but Nicey thought otherwise. The two boats nudged up on the sand in amongst even more scantily clad bodies. Bobs plan of having a cup of tea and snack on the beach was soon abandoned as the queues at the tea shop were half a mile long.
It was decided that there was not enough wind to reach Swanage that day so it was agreed that the best plan would be to explore Poole Harbour. Luckily wind and tide allowed Smashey and Nicey back into the harbour and after another brief stop at Shell Bay the two boats set sail around Furzey Island and back to base. Apart from a few skirmishes with the mud this was achieved with few incidents.
The second evening was more soberly spent in the Red Lion nearby. With a bit more wind forecast for the Sunday our adventurous foursome once again planned to try to reach Swanage. The first leg from Rockley Point to Shell Bay was achieved with the outboard, this time with Smashey towing Nicey. The decision to go the other way round Brownsea Island the writer admits was the wrong one. As the two boats approached the narrow point between Brownsea Castle and Sandbanks the sea began to boil, the rope between the two boats snatched violently as Nicey leapt about behind Smashey, it looked like the transom on Smashey would be ripped out at any moment luckily it held. Lessons were learnt on this leg.
Smashey towed Nicey through the harbour entrance and both boats were beached in Shell Bay, the crews having a coffee and bun in the cafe. Bob declined anything as the previous night’s Celebration Ale, rabbit pie double chips and a greasy breakfast were having a slight effect.
The wind now seemed to be a steady force 3 from the east which everybody agreed would make the trip to Swanage a possibility. Spike and Bob set off in Nicey while Mike and Phil followed in Smashey, needless to say Smashey gradually overhauled Nicey off Studland Bay and disappeared slowly over the horizon.
The two boats cleared Old Harry by a generous margin both crews enjoying the experience of really being at sea. Spike and Bob swopped the helm at frequent intervals each thinking the other wasn't doing it right. Progress was painfully slow clearing Old Harry's Wife and Bob suggested that if they were to make land before nightfall they had better clamp on the outboard; Spike disagreed violently and went into an involuntary gybe. Spike also complained about having nothing to point the sharp end at so Bob clamped on the compass and ordered a course of 160 degrees. Spike preferred to look at the horizon.
Slowly but surely Nicey edged closer to Swanage Bay, Smashey had long since disappeared, Bob and Spike were sure that by now Mike and Phil were enjoying an ice cream on the beach. A few final tacks and Nicey kissed the beach on the sands beside a gloating Smashey, Mike and Phil greeted Nicey and her crew with a tale of woe. Phil of all people had failed to stop Smashey getting up to her old tricks, she had successfully rammed a 40ft yacht moored in the bay, Phil bravely accepted responsibility of not being able to tame the beast. The incident was quickly forgotten in the hast to find a sandwich and a drink on Swanage sea front not to mention yet another beach full of scantily clad bodies.
After a brief respite enjoying the views on the beach the four once again set sail for the run back to Poole, this time Spike went with Mike and Phil jumped aboard Nicey with Bob. Once more Nicey was well out to sea before Smashey set sail, her mainsail was not sliding as it should and usually needed a few expletives to run it fully up the mast.
With hindsight this trip in a couple of dinghies with rooky crews was a touch foolhardy, not a lot of homework had been done on weather or tides although we did know that there was something called a "race" that appeared off Old Harry on the ebb tide. Also the rocks around Old Harry are not to be messed with. Nicey should have been worried but Smashey convinced her that there was nothing to worry about.
Smashey being the faster boat sailed way out to sea around ‘the race’ but for one reason or another Nicey opted to cut the corner and sail right through the middle of it and jostled alarmingly in the boiling sea – fortunately she coped very well.
With a strengthening wind both boats joined the ever increasing number of yachts, boats, ferries, dinghies, cruisers, barges, windsurfers, jet-skis, water skiers, catamarans and inflatables all heading back to the narrow inlet to Poole Harbour. The M25 in rush hour was comparatively a tame experience.
Smashey and her crew got crowded out in the melee and nearly leapt aboard the new chain ferry, Nicey fared somewhat better and beached for a rest once again in Shell Bay although not without Phil trying once again to nail a catamaran with Nicey's bow.
By now, after some five hours at the tiller both crews were somewhat tired and Mike was heard to say that he would prefer to catch the bus home. The last leg back to Rockley Point was a 4 1/2 mile tack for Nicey with Bob at the helm. Bob and Phil chose the direct route instead of following the channel markers only scraping the bottom a couple of times. Mike and Spike opted for the long way round and for a long time disappeared from Bob and Phil's view. Speculation grew that some disaster had befallen Smashey as it was a long time before she returned to the slipway at Rockley Point.
Apparently a shackle had snapped aboard Smashey which allowed the main sail to wallow in the breeze, this emergency was expertly dealt with by Mike and Spike as Mike was only slightly annoyed when he realised he only had 5 minutes to bed Smashey down for the night in the boat park as the gatekeepers dinner was getting cold.
A few beers back at the Red Lion were followed by an enjoyable Italian meal in downtown Poole. The final day dawned promising an even stiffer breeze from the west. The plan for the Monday was to sail up the river to Wareham. The leg across Poole harbour was a spirited tack against the wind by both boats, although the wind wasn't enough to negotiate the twisting river; after the first bend Bob and Phil decided to use the anchor for the first time, haul down the sail and clamp on the outboard. All went to plan and Nicey threw a line to Smashey and towed her up to Wareham passing lines of yachts festooned with bunting in celebration of VE Day.
Both dinghies were beached on the river bank opposite Wareham church, the crews enjoying a beer and Ploughmans on the River wharf in the warm/hot sunshine. Mike nipped off to pick up details of the local Priory Hotel as he thought it would be a nice place to bring the wife, the brochure got binned as soon as he read the price.
The final leg back to Rockley Point was achieved using the outboards for the river stretch and hoisting the sails for the run across Poole Harbour. Bob and Spike cocked up the exercise to change from motor to sail resulting in a pirouette around a mooring pole, the prop trying to dredge a new channel in the mud and Spike collecting a mighty clout from Nicey's boom, help was offered from passing seafarers but declined. A lively reach back to Rockley Point concluded the weekend’s adventures, both crews agreeing that all objectives had been achieved; a few lessons learnt and agreed to meet again for yet more excitement.
Thinks - I might get another Cornish Cormorant.
Above Smashey with Phil, Mike and Bob. Tragically Phil was killed along with 10 other passengers and crew aboard a helicopter returning from a gas rig off the Norfolk Coast back in July 2002. And if Christine or Rebecca are reading this Phil is not forgotten.
And Nicey doing her best to impress - as usual.