The Captain of Carina

It’s just three weeks shy of ten years since I walked into the Machar Bar in Old Aberdeen one Friday evening to meet my friend Alice Baker. When Alice arrived I asked her if she knew the hunk standing at the bar with her colleagues. He was the new guy in her department. ‘Introduce me to him’, I insisted. The hunk and I have been together ever since.

On our first date I discovered he was a sailor and a diver. I was a diver who dreamed of being a sailor, so it was meant to be. My first proper sailing experience (an afternoon in the Whitsundays in 1996 doesn’t count) came a year later when I sailed with him, his dad and uncle from The Hamble to Cherbourg. I was hooked on sailing the moment I stepped on board.

Oh Captain, my Captain

Oh Captain, my Captain

Since taking ownership of Carina in late 2011 he has kept our dream of this live-aboard life afloat. All that first winter he worked tirelessly through every cold miserable weekend, the boat cold and moldy, with no water in the tank and the heater broken. He went through the boat, bit by painstaking bit, fixing the things he knew how to fix, and teaching himself how to fix the rest. He was electrician, plumber, mechanic, painter and decorator, cleaner and general dog’s body all rolled into one. He would return home to our flat on Sunday evenings smelling of engine oil and fuel, with cuts to his hands, and bone weary from his exertions.

In six months of weekends, he had transformed Carina, and we were ready to move on board. Since then his efforts have continued, and thanks to him our boat is safe and seaworthy, and warm and comfortable to live in.

Despite the sailing courses I have taken over the years, I still consider myself a novice sailor. The captain, on the other hand, has been sailing dinghies since he was five and yachts since he was seventeen. He knows the subtle adjustments to sails or heading to get the most out of the boat, and he has a sound knowledge of lights and buoys and the rules of the road.

I’m in awe of the ease with which he navigates. Given time, silence and a calm sea, I can read a chart, plan a passage, work out tide heights and streams. But if I was to plan every trip, it would take a week of planning, double checking, and doubting myself before we embarked on a nervous half-day sail. The captain works it all out with ease, and retains all the numbers and navigation data in his head that I would have to return to and read every five seconds.

When he’s not sailing the boat, or maintaining and fixing her, he’s out foraging for wild food. These days he brings home wild spinach, ramsons, marsh samphire, alexanders, wild fennel and other lovely greens, which one or other of us cooks. This past year he’s taken to baking bread, making his own sourdough starter and uttering such immortal lines as ‘Sourdough is a really interesting topic’. His sourdoughs, pitta breads, naans, and wraps are insanely tasty.

Don’t get me wrong – he’s far from perfect. He’s curmudgeonly, stubborn, an insufferable show-off, he’s ALWAYS right, and he claims never to read my blog. But I’m very glad I spotted him at the Machar Bar ten years ago!


4 thoughts on “The Captain of Carina

  1. It is truly wonderful that you found each other, and that, as well as diving and sailing, you both had interest and experience in polar regions! I am so happy that I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a few days aboard Carina with you, Julian, Lily and Katy last July, and to be able to spend a glorious hot sunny day with Julian hiking on the coast trail, swimming in the brisk English Channel, and rambling back to the marina along country lanes, through fields of sheep and cattle, and under shady tree-lined paths. I hope you will enjoy some super sailing excursions this summer! Remember you have many friends along the shores of Hudson Bay, and we hope one day to see Carina sailing over our horizon with Julian at the helm!

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      The weather here is glorious at the moment. I was thinking of you yesterday and our adventures last year. The woods are full of bluebells and a other brightly coloured wild flowers right now, and Julian’s in full flight foraging for wild food!! Would be lovely to sail into Hudson Bay some day, but I think I’d be very scared of any ice that might be drifting around in the Bay in summer. Some day we’ll get back to Arviat, by one mode of transport or another.

    • I’m not sure he knew quite what he was letting himself in for when we decided three years ago that we would both apply for jobs and whoever got a job first would take it, and the other stay home with the kids. I don’t think he imagined he’d still be the stay-at-home parent three years later – but he’s done a great job of it!!

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