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.
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!