Akaru-Hime: First Sail

And another excerpt:

“I know Nigel and I am sorry. You do know that it was me that alerted the authorities about your personal challenges, especially after the death of your father.  I was also able to convince the naval brass at Dartmouth to take you on. Better than some of those schools for wayward boys I might add.”

That it was I thought. That it was. I had heard of the Fairbridge Society[1] and wanted no part of that.

“I am going to bring her out next Saturday. I want you and Ruth to help me. Are you on for it Nigel.”

“Yes Sir. I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Thank you so much.”

That we did and what a beautiful remarkable sight to behold as we graced the Dart with Lillian’s fine looking lines. Her sails were of lilly white sailcloth: white canvass, bulbous when filled and bright in the noon day sunlight. Not a fleeting luff was seen between the main and mizzen. The foresail was cut perfectly and not a ripple, or a fluttering luff or a backing bulge was detected.  The beautiful synergy of the sails was matched only by the clean lines of the white hull. You could detect each and every planked seam. Lillian’s clinker design, a design made famous by the Viking shipbuilders and sea goers, was considered a classic and for a gaff rig sailboat like “Lillian,” appropriately classic. Like the beautiful woman that she was she was oh so elegant on the water. She turned heads.

The bright-work of her caramel coloured teak decks and mahogany uppers almost blinded one with their deep rich hues, especially with a high noon sun that was unobstructed by clouds. Her tall mast, her gaffs; the running rigging that was almost devoid of winches; and her long projection of a bowsprit enhanced Lillian’s lines and curves and waterline perspectives as she sliced through the water effortlessly as a sharp knife or saw would cut through butter or wood. The slight heel to port in this light breeze underlined her righteousness and with an arrogance to all who saw her that she was meant to be on the water. The tiller and rudder was well balanced and only required the slightest touch by Mr Sommers to keep her course true. The rigging was well tuned. Lillian seemed to have a mind of her own as she appeared to sail herself.

Coming about, beating up as far as we could go with a gaff rig; gybing, running before the wind was child’s work for Lillian, especially under the guidance and expertise of Mr Sommers. He did this slowly and painstakingly at first as Ruth and I were novices to a boat of this size, shape and structure. Yes I did have experience with the Royal Navy’s sail training vessel Mercury but Mercury was a standard sloop. She was a lot less complicated than Lillian’s gaff rigged ketch configuration. Indeed it took almost the entire afternoon of course changes, sail tuning and the odd bit of cursing on Mr Sommers’ part before we became comfortable with the running of Lillian.

Ruth and I worked hard managing the array of lines, blocks and tackles. I would take the foredeck while Ruth worked the main, or vice versa. Mr Sommers always took care of the mizzen. Lillian’s running rigging was also of a classic design and comprised almost entirely of manila cordage. Blocks and tackles managed the strain and pressures of the topping lift, outhaul, downhaul, sheets, halyards, Cunningham and boom vang. Just about every aspect of the running rigging that made Lillian dance, was of rope. The only exception to all of this was the two winches situated just below the main companionway, port and starboard, which controlled the port and starboard sheets of the foresail. Once everything was set by Ruth and I on the orders of Mr Sommers was the management and control of the sails through the sheets. One could equate the sheets to a transmission in an automobile whereas the power and aspect of the wind dictated the pressure of the sheets on the sails.

It became obvious to me that Mr Sommers had had a great deal of experience sailing although he was very reticent about this or anything else to do with his past.

[1] Fairbridge Society: In 1909, South African-born Kingsley Fairbridge founded the “Society for the Furtherance of Child Emigration to the Colonies.” The purpose of the society was to educate orphaned and neglected children and train them in farming practices at farm schools located throughout the British Empire: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa. As they say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”



Two of my books. Good reads: