Cotswold voice: That sinking feeling
PUBLISHED: 11:14 04 August 2014
After years of accepting and then regretting invitations to join jolly sailing parties on the ocean wave, I have decided to come out of the locker. I don’t like boating
I was idling in Chipping Camden last week when I spotted a pretty girl sporting a blue fleece with the words ‘Cotswold Yacht Club’ emblazoned on the back. It must have been a joke, I thought, and a good ironic joke at that because one reason for living in the Cotswolds is that one never has to go ‘Yo Ho Ho’ over a bottle of rum.
The internet has no record of the Cotswold Yacht Club, although I note there is a Chipping Norton Yacht Club but then I suppose there would be, as anybody who is anybody in that exclusive favela is nobody without a fibreglass Sunseeker to complement the black Evoque and blue Everhot. Otherwise, except for those salty dogs messing about on the Cotswold Water Park, we are mercifully free of anything to do with boating. The charm of the Cotswolds is that there are no lifebelts cluttering up our villages, no marinas selling matelot t-shirts, no whelk stalls, no port and starboard copper lamps in our saloon bars and no driftwood sculptures in our sitting rooms.
I have until now held my tongue on this matter after years of accepting and then regretting invitations to join jolly sailing parties on the ocean wave. Now I have decided to come out of the locker. I don’t like boating. As Dr Samuel Johnson noted “When a man comes to like sea life he is not fit to live on land.”
My aversion to a watery life came to fruition last August when I was invited on holiday to Greece. My host, a bon viveur and an all-round good egg, owns a 32-foot Boston Whaler, which he describes as the Land Rover Series 11 of boats, and onto which he regularly invites guests. One perfect Mediterranean day we met up with two other Cotswold chums also holidaying in the Ionic sun and also both boat-owners. The party proposed that instead of lunching at the much-loved local taverna, sited in a cove only 15 minutes gentle putt-putting away, we should cross the sea to another cafe.
It was an hour-and-a-half of bang, bang banging across the ocean, when it was too noisy to speak and too bumpy to stand, before we arrived at our anchorage to be greeted by a menu of grilled meze, fried calamari and lamb kleftiko - the identical grub to that of the local taverna we had abandoned. Then it was 90 minutes of bang, bang, bang back across the water. Afterwards nobody, excluding the captains of course, dared mention the whale in the room - that we could have had an even more enjoyable day if we had forgone the bang, bang, banging.
It was on that return journey that I wondered why anybody had ever thought boating was fun. I remembered mackerel fishing as a child on holiday; bobbing about all day, bored stupid after the first few fish had been caught but still not allowed to return to harbour until sunset. I recalled being on a sailing boat and being shouted at to pull ropes and getting hit on the head several times by the boom. I was yelled at to take my shoes off when I was invited onto on a superyacht and when on a canal boat I was ordered to cheese down a rope (I still don’t know what that means). But mostly I remembered writing an article about the XSR48, a million-dollar floating silver shark that looked like Concorde’s waterborne offspring and was the fastest and most exclusive diesel-powered production boat in the world. It could reach speeds of well over 100 mph, turn on a ship’s biscuit and stop dead at a flick of its racing trim tabs. I took it for an extraordinarily uncomfortable spin around the Needles and after five minutes knew it to be an utterly absurd machine. Its only point seemed to be the conceit of owning it.
And that seems to me true of most boats. The swank of owning a boat is the justification for the corrosion and the cost and the grasping harbour masters; for the cold, the wet, the crooked boatyards, the inflated fuel costs, and the endless wintering. It is a masochistic pleasure.
But more baffling is why anybody agrees to step on a boat when they do not own it. We fool ourselves into thinking it is going to be fun when in fact as we know in our hearts we will be captive deckhands. Civilised creatures lounge in elegant cafés looking at the sea. It is the philistine who sits under the midday sun in an uncomfortable, over-sized plastic washing-up bowl staring at on-shore ribbon development. Mind you if one is sensible and hunkers down in the Cotswolds for the summer one doesn’t have to stare at either.
This article by Adam Edwards is from the August 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.