6) The Urban Seaman part two

by formerharbours


The Aberdour Regatta is a riot of weekend fathers enduring sandcastle competitions and RNLI lifeboats suits humanised with rather chubby Victoria Beckham masks. Presumably post-drowning bloat. Poor Victoria.

We go to the clubhouse and enter Hope into the Boat Race. The skipper has never done this before and I think competition is the devil but it seems pussy not to do it now we’re here.
Aberdour boat people all seem very pleased and talk at us about stuff. I’m not listening. By now part of me has evolved into a rather surly and sarcastic 18 year old Ghanaian yout from Bow, East London – let’s call him Malachi for the sake of having to repeat the above – and Malachi is ripping everyone to shreds.

“Fuck this fuckin town blud, there ain’t no chip shop here, there ain’t no KFC, ain’t even no JD Sports, fuck this fuckin Scotch place man” says Malachi as the guy explains the rules and the course of the race.

“Fuck their fuckin boat race blud”, Malachi says to Paul as we leave the boathouse. “Hope fuckin runs the seas, what fuckin postcode is this anyway? This is fucking E.C.O innit, EC fucking zero blud. If they don’t fuckin give us a fuckin cup for fuckin turnin up, mans’ll break into their fuckin yard at night and fuckin hotwire their fuckin electric blankets so it look like some faulty electric fire innit”

Malachi sits and sulks while Paul puts a reef in the sail. It’s the first time Paul’s ever done it and Malachi doesn’t even ask why.

We set off. Turns out Paul hadn’t been listening either and we don’t even know which way to sail round the opening buoy. “Which way Jim?” “I don’t fuckin know blud” Malachi answers “Mans was thinkin bout gash innit”

Turns out fear is a many fingered hand as it’s a force 8 to 9 gale in the Firth of Forth that we head into. It’s really, really fucking violent and there’s not much I can do in this situation to help except keep out of the way and sit very low down in the cockpit and try not to fall out, and Paul has to do most of the work. I’m not frightened at all – or maybe Malachi isn’t, and I’m just subsumed somewhere like Sybil – but I’m quite enjoying myself. It’s the enjoyment of the ignorant as I have absolutely no idea how dangerous it is until we get back.

We turn back cos it’s fucking hideous out there and neither of us fucking know what we’re doing at all. “Where’s the fucking markers Jim? I can’t see them?” “I don’t FUCKIN know blud, mans have fuckin picked em up to stop us winning innit”.

As we turn back, the jammer on the mainsheet fails and Paul has to sail it like a dinghy, sail it like a dude all the way back into port. I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible.

Turns out we did well only breaking that. Turns out one guy was blown against a fuckin stationary oil tanker and snapped his mast in half, and out of 20 contestant boats – all of whom are local except for us – only 6 manage to finish.
“Bloaw! Mans got fuckin blown right onto a fuckin tanker” says Malachi, all pleased at the drama. “Mans got parred innit”.

We leave Malachi behind on the boat and go to the award ceremony. We get given an award for coming from Kent and for taking part “in horrendous conditions, albeit not for very long”. We pick up two lovely engraved glasses and totter back to the boat, a bit embarrassed by all the attention. It’s really, really sweet of them. Malachi isn’t too impressed.
“Man’s didn’t even fuckin fill up the fuckin cups with whisky innit, fuckin Fife cheapskates” says Malachi. I put him to bed for the night.

There are three types of boat people. There are the beautifully preserved ex-merchant seaman, all clean cut and new teeth; there are fucking horrible agents of privilege with red trousers and there are kinda slightly fusty, bent over guys with untrimmed beards. That’s it, really. There aren’t any women at all. Except the “female”.

It’s all been too exciting and I fall asleep, only to be woken up by one of our fellow boat people who is giving us two bottles of ale because “they’ve been in my bilge for two years and I haven’t drank em.” He invites us over to his boat later as there is a Ceildh in town and we agree to go together. I really like these guys.

We turn up at their boat later. There are six of them on it, and a dog, and a huge bong, and one of them is playing “Babylon’s Burning” by the Ruts on a mandolin. “Ach, we’re children of the 60s” they say, “that was 170 quids worth we just had” and seeing kindred souls, and not wanting permission to board, I usher them to the pub.

Aberdour pub is all 200lb man and drum machine playing AC/DC covers and who needs more than that. These 60s guys really know how to have a good time. They’re too much for me and we leave to visit the Ceildh. Ceildh is all Irish wedding and children and is too much for me. I’ve been living on a boat for a month with only Paul to talk to and am finding life a bit weird. We stagger home to Hope.

My self-loathing rant about fear in the last chapter was triggered by a cashpoint in Aberdour swallowing my card. I hate all that stuff. Malachi’s on the phone to fuckin Lloyds and they’re all like “Ok, can you give us the card number” and he’s like “COURSE I FUCKIN CANT, FUCKIN MACHINE FUCKIN SWALLOWED THE CARD” and then they’re like, well, if you go into the bank and Malachi’s like “I TOLD YOU. I’M IN FUCKING ABERDOUR. I SAILED HERE. HAVE YOU HEARD OF ABERDOUR? NO I DIDN’T THINK SO. IT’S FUCKING NOWHERE. THE BANK IS OPEN TWO DAYS A FUCKING WEEK” and they’re all like, please don’t swear Mr. Hollands.

So anyway after Aberdour joy, we have to sail to fucking Edinburgh so I can go to a bank. Sail. To. Edinburgh. To. Go. To. A. Bank.

In spite of trying to be authentic sailors, you’d be surprised how much you really start to stink after wearing the same clothes for two weeks straight so we hit a launderette – 2 miles away from Granton Harbour! sort that out, please! Granton! – and I have a haircut. I choose the wrong barber – he’s really depressed – just trust me on this, I just tried to write the conversation we had but it seemed cruel – but the guy massacres my hair. Really. A camel could have chewed my hair better. Thanks m8, get some anti-depressants, please? If you hate people that much, go into advertising.

We’re a bit Grantoned out and head for Dysart. Dysart is so special, it gets its own chapter.