I stood at the bow of our yacht surveying our small collection of friends standing by the mast and at Baz who was holding the camera and the bell, I felt very privileged to be MC-ing the naming ceremony. Baz had opted in favour of filming which I was glad about, knowing he’d get great footage - and as he had a spare hand, I’d given him the ship’s bell to ring during the ceremony.
You can ring my bell!
The term 'ship’s bell' conjures up images of large bronze affairs that emit strong, booming peels when struck. Ours was a more modest alternative, hailing from a Chinese bazaar along the road between Torrevieja and San Pedro del Pinatar.
It was the day before the ceremony and I was fine-editing an online written version of the ship’s renaming ceremony, when I noticed a few references to “ring the ship’s bell”. Realising we didn’t have one and not having a car to get to the shops, I messaged my new friend Sue who was coming with her family to the ceremony on Saturday, and asked if she could find me a bell – any bell – but not to stress if she couldn’t. I had my Aussie Aboriginal clap sticks in mind as a backup. I figured they would put a very interesting energetic spin on the whole proceedings as they were made near Alice Springs, Australia - a hot red desert location – very juxtaposed to our blue watery maritime traditional boat renaming. I couldn’t quite see how that would work, but left it to the Universe to decide on choice of sound-maker.
Saturday morning arrived and I was up bright and early (I know, “bright and early” isn’t a term you’d hear me put together too often!) I wanted to get all the after-ceremony-party food cut, mixed and organised so it would be quick and easy to put together when we wanted it. Baz popped over to the marina Spanish restaurant and got some olives, so we had a nice mix of tapas and open sandwiches to offer our guests. Baz also ensured we had champagne cooling in the fridge and that we’d have a bottle plus a bottle of red for the ceremony. The red would be for the de-naming as red traditionally signifies washing away wounds and release, while the champagne would be for the toasting to the gods and naming part of the ceremony as it is well known for its use in celebrations.
Baz mic’d me up with a lavalier mic as the wind was picking up and he wanted to ensure the sound quality would be good for the YouTube video. Sue, Dave and their two sons Phill and Lee arrived. Sue proudly gave me not one, but three bells to choose from! All were handheld (which would be easy to ring). She’d got the first one at the first Chinese bazaar, but it was very small, so she’d searched some more and found a larger one in another shop, and that’s the one we used for the ceremony. The other bell was red and had “Ring for Sex” written on it! We had a good laugh at that! She’d remembered we sleep separately because Baz snores loudly, and she thought it would be a fun present. It was - thanks Sue for the bells and also your help on the day!
So now A B Sea has her own bell, Baz has a red one and I have the little silver one in case I need to “ring my bell” (cue the Anita Ward song).
“I name this ship”
Thankfully the ceremony went off without a hitch and I only got one face-full of champagne blown back at me as I flung small glassfuls out to the four winds! At that point, I thanked the gods (literally) that I’d chosen champagne for that part of the ceremony! The service took 16 minutes altogether, and as well as renaming our beautiful yacht to "A B Sea", we were able to thank Jose Ramon (our broker) and his team from Marina Estrella (Murcia) for all their hard work, dedication to detail and excellent service. It took a while to edit, but four minutes of the important parts of the ceremony will feature in this Saturday’s YouTube video.
All the gods were present even before the ceremony started. From calm weather for a few days prior, the winds picked up about two hours before the service and the water got a quite choppy. I reckon the ancient gods were so happy to be remembered and invoked, that they came along for the service! Baz did an excellent job juggling camera, bell and the occasional can of beer for the toasts, I managed to get my words around the Spanish parts of the ceremony where we thanked Jose and team for their help. The hull didn’t seem to be stained by the red wine. The gathering afterwards was great and there was plenty of food and drink to go around. Everyone left with a smile and I babbled my way to Baz all afternoon, on a high that everything had gone so well.
Leaving so suddenly!
During the gathering, Jose mentioned to Baz that he was trying to find somewhere for us to move our boat to, as the owner of our berth would be needing it in a week’s time. Baz realised how hard it would be for Jose to find an alternative berth now it’s the high season. He also knew that all but four jobs had been finalised on the yacht, so he suggested that we leave a week on Saturday. So after months of seemingly endless days rolling by as work took place step by step, we are now rushing to the finish line!
Or should I say starting line?
After two years of dreaming and preparation, the new lifestyle that Barry and I have chosen to bring into being will finally begin on Saturday the 14th of July 2018!
The winds are forecast to be fairly light that day, but better than Sunday when they apparently drop to next to nothing. Of course forecasts are only that, and we will only know on the day exactly what the wind gods bring us.
It’s all very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time!
I’m paranoid I’ll bash the boat against the berth if I try to drive her out of the marina and have opted for Baz, who has driven her under motor a few times, to be Captain of our First Voyage. I think it is only right and fitting, given this was initially his dream, and I know he’s been itching to set sail for weeks. Even if I wasn’t scared of breaking the boat, I’d still be choosing to be Crew to his Captain for this auspicious day.
I know he’s well ahead of me in terms of getting to know our electronic chart plotter, and that’s something I’ll be turning to once I’ve uploaded this blog. While I know I’m more of a slow learner – as in getting my head around something once I’ve actually done it – I’m determined to be a full member of Team A B Sea. Baz and I do have different abilities which I think complement each other. He is a natural leader. I’m more of a natural follower (or is that an abnegation of responsibility?). Baz can also weigh up situations quickly and make near instant decisions in a crisis, whereas my mind has a tendency to fog over and go blank. However, I do know that with practise and my dogged kinaesthetic style in what will be an all-encompassing learning environment, I will come up to speed reasonably quickly. And once I have an ‘embodied’ memory, it’s there for instant access.
I’ve already begun troubleshooting my weaknesses so I’m as prepared as I can be. For instance, accidental jibes. I’ve had two areas where this particular instance has been making me feel edgy – enough that I’ve wanted to address it before we set sail. If you’re not aware, an accidental jibe can occur if a wave throws you off course and the wind gets behind the mainsail when you’re on a dead run or broad reach. The mainsail, which is out as far as it can go over the guardrail can be blown from one side of the boat to the other, very quickly and very forcefully. I’ve seen the damage that can happen to the gooseneck and mast (not to mention possible crew) if this happens.
The reason I’ve been feeling cautious about this, apart from knowing it can be caused by a wave, is that it can also be caused if you steer the boat in the wrong direction so the wind gets behind the sail. When I was doing the sailing course, I had difficulty getting my head around which way to turn the boat to do a deliberate jibe. It sounds stupid I know, but I felt relieved to know I’m not the only one who can do this after reading Fast Track Cruising by Steve and Doris Colgate. Apparently newbies can steer the boat in the wrong direction when the wind is coming from behind when they’re trying to jibe.
Anyhow, as I saw it, there were two ways I could solve this issue.
Rig a preventer (basically a line that holds the mast in place when on a broad reach/dead run, so it can’t accidentally jibe), and
Find a way to remember which way to steer the boat if I’m at helm and I notice I’m heading towards an accidental jibe.
Firstly Baz and I have now rigged the preventer, and watched a very comprehensive YouTube video on how to use it properly.
Secondly, I spent yesterday afternoon reading the Fast Track Cruising book and have now got it in my head that to prevent accidental jibing, to “Wheel away from the boom, to avoid doom” (thanks to a modification of one of the book's instructor tips).
Just these two things alone have settled my initial qualms about being responsible for the safety of boat and crew while we’re at sea. I know Baz feels the weight of responsibility for being Captain as we depart the marina. I think it is the right choice that he is the one who is at the helm. I like to think he realises he’s not doing this alone, but that we’re a team of two learning to work together in a new environment for the first time. Before we go, we’ll be plotting the chart together. We’ll prep the boat together before we leave. And I’m hoping we’ll have ongoing communication regarding the actual sailing, points of sail, and anchoring as we go. That’s my idea of teamwork anyway.
A celebratory meal
Baz had done an excellent job of servicing the engine and with only four jobs left to do on the boat, we’re pretty much good to go. One other thing we do have to check though is how the lockers are packed.
Everything that’s loose will have to be either stowed or secured and all items in cupboards will have to be made fast to ensure that when we arrive at our first destination everything is where it was when we departed and in one piece.
After that, we’ll enjoy our last evening at Puerto Marina de las Salinas by going to the ‘Hippy Markets’ that will be held for the first time this season on Friday, and follow that up with a celebratory meal at one of the restaurants. Because I reckon we’ve come a long way since our first plans in sunny Queensland, Australia. We’re just about to set out on the next exciting step of our journey. Yes, there’ll be challenges ahead – we’ve got short-handed sailing skills to develop! But before we move to the next phase of being true liveaboard sailors, let’s take a moment to appreciate what we’ve accomplished already. I think it’s a lot and it deserves celebrating!
So enjoy this week, and by the time you read our next week’s blogs, we’ll have some real sailing experience to report! Of course, if you’d like to watch us grow our sailing skills as well as read about them, do head over to our YouTube channel and subscribe!
Until next time, may you have calm seas and fair winds!