The Birth Of Anú-4 – Boat Ahoy!

‘Twas on a sunny evening on my decking on The Island two summers ago, that my long -cherished idea to live on a boat one day, finally came to be a definite plan.

My friend Barnaby ( who knows about boats )  and I sat sipping ice-cold cocktails I had made, ( well- it was six o’clock, and as my Dad says, it is always six o’ clock somewhere, )

As we enjoyed them, I told him they were called ‘ Gimlets.’

I love making cocktails and have always looked forward to The Cocktail Hour, as sunset is my favourite time of the day, giving us a chance to kick back and draw a line under the working hours.

One of the things I enjoy, is that they very often have Naval or ‘ boating ‘ connotations,  having come from this little isle of England’s long and distinguished Naval history ( ‘ Down The Hatch!’ )

‘ Did you know that this was thought to be invented by a Naval surgeon, Thomas Gimlette, as a scurvy remedy on board ship? ‘ I said to Barnaby.

A Gimlet is made with Gin and lime, and apparently Thomas  added the gin to the lime juice in order to persuade the sailors to swallow their ‘ medication’. ( see recipe below)

Of course, sailors soon became known as ‘ Limeys.’

There hadn’t been many reported cases of  scurvy on Thames Ditton Island of late, but Barnaby and I felt that it was a good idea to sip Gimlets in the summer just as a precaution.

My love of, and interest in, all things Nautical ( not just Cocktails )  and my fascination with how many of the words and phrases we use in everyday language come from this long and rich tradition, gave me the idea to write this next post about some of the ‘ Boating Terms’ which we may- or may not- have heard of. Some will be very well – known by the more experienced sailors amongst you, but I hope will be a welcome reminder all the same.

I’m hoping they will also prove useful to me- and to my family, friends and guests-  as we prepare to climb aboard ANÚ!

LINE- Rope

On a boat, the ropes used to tie up, etc are known as ‘ Lines.’

Here, I quote Mark Twain : ‘ So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.’

Which brings me on to…

BOW and STERN- Front and Back

The front of the boat is called the BOW ( pronounced like ‘ wow’ not like ‘ woe’ ) and the back is called the STERN. So when I ask you to ‘ throw me the bowline, ‘ I shall be hoping you will carefully toss me the rope at the front of Anú so we can sail off!

THE HEAD

On a boat, this is the loo, or bathroom.

The story goes that the crew always used to go to the ‘ head’ or bow of the boat to do their thing…but, as with most nautical stories, the exact history is somewhat hazy.

GALLEY – Kitchen

Usually quite small, as I am trying to bear in mind whilst unpacking my boxes from the current move.

Apparently, ancient Mariners cooked their meals on a ‘ galley’ of heated stones.

I shall be having a nice gas oven instead.

PORT and STARBOARD – Left and Right

Ever wondered where the word: ‘Posh ‘ comes from?

Well, it is short for : ‘ Port out, Starboard home.’

The ‘ Port’ side of a boat is the left side from the perspective of the captain ( looking forward ) and the ‘ Starboard’ is the right. Aren’t they lovely words?

I always imagine myself lying on the deck of a big ship, hands behind my head and a smile on my lips, a bit like Leonardo in ‘ Titanic,’ as I look up at a clear and starry night sky when I hear ‘ Starboard’.

I’m not sure, but I like to think that sailors of old may have called it this because they felt the same…such is the romance of being on the water, for me…

Anyway, back to POSH ( do try to drag me back, dear reader, I’m of Irish descent, and tend to suffer from making any short story long.)

So, the legend goes that when passengers were travelling between England and India during the days of The Raj, the well – heeled sought to have their cabins in the shadiest part of the vessel.

As Britain and India are both in the northern hemisphere, the berths on the left – hand side of the ship ( so, PORT ) were shadier when travelling out ( easterly )  and the berths on the right, ( STARBOARD ) were cooler coming back.

So the best and most expensive berths were POSH, which is what the upper classes had written on their trunks as they boarded.

Yes, I realise this story may be apocryphal, but I love it, so like to think it is true.

And isn’t it fun, this ‘ boating ‘ terminology? An absolute joy for me, as it satisfies my love of romance, the water, words and history all at the same time.

It seems to me that sailors, who were isolated for months on end, must have developed their own language between themselves, and it grew from there, since I  believe that language is always a living and evolving thing.

On to the next!

SALOON- Sitting / Living Room

The ‘ social ‘ area of a larger boat  is called ‘ The Saloon’ but is pronounced ‘ salon’ ( In sailing, as in the English language, many words are said very differently from how  they are written.)

‘ Of course. How silly of me. On Thursdays they always serve me in the small saloon.’

(  Tony Curtis as ‘ Junior ‘ to Marilyn Monroe as ‘ Sugar ‘ in ‘ Some Like It Hot,’ – which is my favourite film of all – time, and now that I think of it, features quite a few scenes on a yacht.)

STATEROOM- Bedroom

Sometimes also called a Berth, if it is a fixed bunk.

They are thought to be called Staterooms because originally, only officers or important  people of ‘ state’ had private sleeping quarters on a ship. Mine has beautiful built- in wardrobes  ( thank you Kieran and Keith ) and incidentally, the pole the chaps have used  as a hanging rail for my clothes, comes from the same people who supply Pole – Dancing poles…which I like to think adds a small,  slightly racy note.

KNOTS PER HOUR- Miles per hour.

On a boat or ship, speed is measured in knots. Knots measure nautical miles per hour.

I should imagine that when I first take the Helm ( steering area ) on Anú, that my knots per hour will be very low indeed.

I should like to finish with two stories.

The first one is courtesy of Barnaby.

He told me ( over our Gimlets )  that the term: ‘ Son Of A Gun’ has a nautical derivation.

Apparently, sometimes on very long voyages, ‘ young ladies’ would be smuggled onboard to keep the sailors erm…’ happy’.

Of course, Mother Nature intervenes on board ship too, and one of the young ladies would inevitably become pregnant.

The naval surgeon would then  curtain off a section of the boat near the guns for the birth.

As sailors would be required to pay for this service, sometimes, I regret to say, they did not own up to being the father!

Any male -child born on board who had uncertain paternity, would therefore be listed in the ship’s log as ‘ son of a gun.’

This story may well be a true one, since The Royal Navy Museum confirms that women did sometimes travel on vessels during the age of sail.

The last bit of boating knowledge for you in this blog, comes of course, from my boat – builder- Keith.

USE OF YOUR HORN: ( see pic! )

If turning right when on your boat- toot your horn once.

If turning left- toot it twice.

If you intend to go backwards- toot the horn three times.

For a U-turn to the right- do  four quick toots and then one longer one.

For a U- turn to the left – four quick toots and TWO longer ones  ( toot toot toot toot tooooot tooooot )

Five toots of your horn means : ‘ I am unsure of your intentions.’

 

I have a feeling, that this will prove to be the most useful one of all.

Captain Amanda

 

GIMLET COCKTAIL RECIPE – ( Makes 1 large one, double up for two people sipping on the roof of a boat or for parties )

Mix 1 shot of good Gin ( I like Plymouth London Dry Gin ) with 1/2 shot of Rose’s Lime Cordial, 1/4 shot of freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1/4 shot of still water.

Shake shake shake over ice in a Boston Cocktail Shaker, until your hand is so cold it feels like it might drop off.

Pour into a Martini glass, garnish with a slice of fresh lime, and sip with great pleasure, knowing you have most certainly kept yourself safe from Scurvy.

NB: These are so damn good, I’ve just had to mix one as I write!

‘Some Like It Hot.’  1959- Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L Diamond

Copyright Amanda Hills 2017, All Rights Reserved

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Life Afloat- The Birth Of Anu

 

I think I have always wanted to live on a boat.

I have an adventurous spirit, and for those of you who have read my previous blogs, you may remember that one of my very first was about my love of the water- being beside it, in it or on it (  amandahlondon Just Keep Swimming ).

Having been blessed to live on a beautiful private island here on The River Thames for the last 10 years ( amandahlondon Island Life  for more on this! ) I have experienced first – hand the wonders of being so close to nature on a daily basis.

A friend told me, years ago, when I first bought this house, that once I’d lived on the water, there would be no going back.

Richard- you were absolutely right!

We have loved living here, but the time has come for a change of scenery and a new adventure, and recently, I decided that new horizons were beckoning.

I started to look at smaller houses and flats elsewhere ( this was to be a downsize – my eldest son, Rob, and his  girlfriend Marley, live in America and I want to be able to go over and see them on a regular basis ).

But I very quickly became despondent.

Even the nicest of the houses had one vital ingredient missing: water.

Where was the water?

My house here on The Island has a mooring, and amongst the boatyard friends I have made whilst living here, I am well known for being out there, in all weathers.Wrapped up in winter, sunbathing in the summer.

The sight of geese water -skiing up to greet me in the morning, or a baby coot following its mother, or the laughing of the ducks ( yes, they laugh ) fills my soul with deep joy.

And I’m a writer, so I find the peace and tranquillity of the river very inspiring, it allows me space to breathe and create, away from the bustle of London, where I often work.

I began to think I could not bear to leave. I love my house, and will be sad to move on, but it is so much more about my love of being so close to nature, and to water in particular.

But what to do? I needed to simplify and make life less expensive, and anyway, had itchy feet.

My friend Barnaby, who works at the aforementioned boatyard, had spoken to me before about the possibilities of buying a boat to live on.

We had talked at length about it, over a Gimlet or two, and I had listened very carefully.

Barnaby is himself building a boat, which he plans to live on one day.

And so, after much thought, and as I always do whenever I need the soundest advice, particularly in matters financial, I called my friend Zed Lorgat ( JM Financial, for any of you who need a top finance wizard ).

Zed had been advising me on my house move anyway, and knew my plans to downsize, plus my love of the water.

‘ Zed, ‘ I said to him, ‘ I don’t think I can leave the river. Do you think it would be absolutely crazy of me to consider buying a boat to live on?’

Now, Zed knows me well, but is also not afraid of being quite forthright in his opinions …he is a Yorkshireman after all. I knew I would get an honest answer from him.

‘ No,’ he said, ‘ I actually think it’s a really good idea.’

I thought so too.

As always, when I decide on something, The Universe seems to conspire to help me along, for the very next thing that happened was that Barnaby called me.

I had begun to look at some boats that were for sale locally, and I have to admit, I’d seen a couple of very unsuitable vessels ( ok-  they were stinkers.)

Here, I have to thank Steve, who along with his wife, Mel, is a friend of mine who also just happens to be the lock – keeper at the next lock along – East Molesey.

Steve steered me away from a couple of potentially dire purchases- as I say, I am very blessed, I have friends here on the river.

One though, was beautiful, but far too big for me.

She was a Dutch Barge, fully navigable, and my mind began to fill with possibilities.

By now, I had decided against a houseboat. I wanted a boat I could not only live on, but learn to sail. To meander upstream with my family or a friend, drinks in hand, and moor up under a weeping willow for the night…with always a good pub close by- what could be better?

And the delicious prospect of deciding on a new horizon and changing view as often as desired…yes, the sailing life was beckoning me.

‘ Amanda, ‘ said Barnaby, ‘ Don’t buy that one, she’s far too big and expensive and I’ve got a better idea. Come down to the yard and I will introduce you to Keith. He builds boats.’

Reader, I did.

I had always somehow thought that you had to be some kind of oligarch to commission a boat to be built for you.It seemed so…rockstarinsouthoffrance.

I never dreamed that I would be in a position to sit down with a boat builder and describe my perfect boat to him, yet that is exactly what happened.

I sat there, at Harts Boatyard and Stewart Marine with Keith and Barnaby,  and I decided  to commission a boat…built for me,  to my very own spec.

Amazing!

We looked over a couple-  Widebeam Barges, the type I would be having- and Barnaby told me the right questions to ask.

I knew I should be asking about the engine, and how smoothly she steered, but I was already out on the bow, entranced with the panoramic, 360 degree view over the most stunning stretch of river, with a faraway smile in my eyes, planning the name and colours. Imagining myself, up on the roof, enjoying a sunrise or sunset, chilled wine never far away. 

I was a goner. It was a foregone conclusion.

Even my Dad, who as a Shipwright, was involved with boats his whole career, approved the engine spec and design.

But how could this be done? I hadn’t yet sold my house, and a deposit needed to be paid to seal the deal.

Zed,  yet again, came to the rescue, pulling the rabbit out of the hat, managing to put together a finance package for me which would allow me to pay said deposit whilst awaiting my house sale ( thank you Zed, and Jane, PA extraordinaire at JM Financial ).

The impossible had suddenly become possible – I was on my way.

So Keith and I sat down again, this time with Ossie Stewart, who owns the boat – building company and the Marine,  and together we drafted the layout of what was to be my boat ( see pic for final version ) .

Keith must be praised here, for immediately ‘ getting ‘ me ( and for bearing with me during several changes of mind on where the main berth would go …thanks Keith).

He had incorporated plenty of wardrobe and shoe space ( I love clothes ), a bath as well as a shower,  as I cannot do without one, particularly in the winter, a log – burning fire,  bookshelves for my many books, and – most importantly- a special wine cooler in the galley kitchen.

We had even built in some steps leading up to the roof, for ease of access when admiring the view or sunbathing.

As I always say, I can do very well without essentials, but I must have my luxuries…and creating warmth and cosiness wherever I am is very important to me, as my family and friends will testify.

And in the meantime, a hot July afternoon spent dreaming in a deckchair,( always so vital for inspiration, doing nothing much ) with a beloved book of mine, ‘ Anam Cara’ by John O’ Donohue, an Irish poet and philosopher, had resulted in me finding a name for her- ‘ ANU’ , which is Celtic, and means  Goddess of the earth, rivers, sea and abundance.

Having always had  a very strong affinity with my Irish heritage on my mother’s side, and a deep love of Ireland, ( my daughter’s name, Molly, was chosen for this reason also )  I wanted Anu to be painted in traditional Irish colours, and Keith suggested Shannon Green and Cream ( again, see pic ).

I chose the harp as my logo, inspired by that traditional and most nutritious Irish beverage- Guinness, and because the harp is, for me, a mythical and beautiful instrument which I have always associated with the sea and water.

As a further nice connection, my son Fred plays drums in the Ellie Ford Band, where Ellie herself writes the songs and plays the harp.

It was all beginning to come together.

And so, the journey begins.

Keith has already been to Great Yarmouth, to oversee the start of the build.

I shall go with him next time, and will post some photos of the hull as it takes shape.

Ossie has a son, Cameron,who is involved in the building of Anu, and in another  twist, went to infant school with Molly…funny how life comes full circle.

It is SO exciting!

And a new talking point at parties, where quite a few people ( the chaps especially, I have to say) are expressing a huge interest, along with a desire to know more, and be invited on board when she is built.

‘ Oh, how wonderful, I’ve always wanted to live on a boat, ‘ they tell me. ‘ Can you fish?’

It is not for everyone, but as Zed says-  it suits me.

So, I look forward to sharing my adventures with you, as they happen, in this blog.

Both as ‘ ANU’  is born, and once I finally step aboard and start sailing her around the rivers and canals.

Bon Voyage, and I do hope you will enjoy the trip!

Captain Amanda

‘ Anam Cara’ by John O’ Donohue

copyright Amanda Hills 2016, All Rights Reserved