Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mum's story part 2

For Mum's Story Part 1 click here

The chandler came along and took them to see the folkboat, but again they were disappointed, but as they came back Sim admired the yacht they had been looking at once again and was told “She’s for sale.” However before making the final decision to he once again asked me if I wanted to change my mind as once the boat was purchased the course was set and I would not be able to change my mind then. Once again I rejected the offer and this was something I was to regret many a time during the next year or so.

The name of the yacht was “Stella-Mira”. She was a 26ft sailing sloop, built at Burnham on Crouch, and although several of these craft have crossed the Atlantic, I think the Stella Mira is the first to cross the Pacific. She was to prove a sturdy little craft, but when I first saw her my heart sank down to my boots, she seemed such a small yacht in which to face all those thousands of miles of sea. I looked at her as she lay at anchor and I began to wish I had never even heard of Australia. We took her sailing in the Solent and Sim was pleased with the way she handled, but now the boat was purchased the real work had to be started.

The Stella Mira did not have a self draining cockpit, and as this is a necessity for long voyaging this was the first job to be tackled. When this had been done the boat had to be brought from the Isle of Wight to Bristol. Sim and Penny wanted to sail her around, even though it was getting rather late in the year, especially for sailing around the Lizard. However, they set off for Bristol one fine day in October thinking they would be back with the Stella Mira in a week or so, but this was not to be. Although they left the Solent in good weather they had not gone many miles along the South Coast before terrific gales were blowing. They had to take down all sails and throw out a sea anchor, Consisting I believe of a bucket attached to a length of rope, and just hope for the best.

After several hours they drifted back to Weymouth and finally managed to anchor there hoping that the weather would change during the course of the next few days, but after waiting around for a fortnight for the weather to improve and it not doing so, they decided that it was too late in the year to attempt the journey by sea, so they came back to Bristol and arranged for the Stella Mira to be transported overland.

So the Stella Mira came to Bristol and was finally tied up close to Bristol Bridge and near an empty warehouse where Sim was able to do a lot of work on it that needed to be done before it was ready to sail. Several of our friends who knew that he intended to sail to Australia came to look at the Stella and thought he was raving mad. However he had asked them all to not advertise this trip as he wanted to get to work in peace and quiet.

So began the pattern for the next few months of our lives. Now the shop would only occupy a minimum amount of Sim’s day, the rest of the time would be taken up by all the work and organisation that was needed for the trip. The cockpit had to practically be rebuilt for the voyage, shelves and storage space had to be put into the cabins, the mast encased in fibreglass in order that it would only need a minimum amount of attention during the voyage and all the food and stores had to be listed and purchased, and still the books were being read and referred to.

Most of the winter passed in this manner and the suddenly it was March the shop was being sold and we agreed for the new owners to take over early chattels with as and so all of this also had to be sold or given away. Here again it was like parting with old friends, and so the final phase of this great upheaval began.

We said goodbye to all our friends and customers and temporarily we went to live with tony in his bachelor flat. As this was rather on the small side of life at times became a little hectic, especially as the flat also had to house a considerable amount of stores that had to be purchased for the voyage and could not be put onboard until the last few days before leaving. Lesley and I booked our passage on the Himalaya which was due to leave England on the 19th of June. Sim and penny were hoping to leave early may so they could be in Las Palmas when we arrived on the Himalaya, but there was still a lot of work to be done.

Sim had ordered a self steering gear which had to be fitted and all the food that was in tins or packets had to be sealed in plastic bags with a warm iron, to counteract rusting up, eggs had to be sealed with Vaseline and special containers had to be bought for the journey and a doctor consulted as to the beast supplies to take, also injections and vaccinations to be had. In this way the weeks flew by and now it was mid may and almost time for them to leave.

The last jobs to be done were the fitting of the self steering gear, which in the manner of things arrived very late and the packing of all the food and water on board for the journey, and this proved to be a long arduous task.

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