Mattering

Mattering

Six months ago - in fact, three months ago - if someone had suggested that I would end up owning a Westerly, I would have laughed; and if they had then told me that this was not just a possibility, but a settled fact, then I would almost certainly have cried. But now I am the - extremely - proud owner of a 1983 Westerly Discus ketch, and I am ecstatically happy. I am not an habitual masochist, but every time I see something else that needs updating or changing, the more deeply I am falling in love with the boat, and this has forced me to come to terms with the slightly unexpected realisation that what is important to me at this stage of my (sailing) life is comfort, rather than luxury. Yes, I could have afforded a boat twice, five or maybe even ten times as expensive, but I am absolutely certain that such an investment would neither have made me a more capable sailor, nor would I have enjoyed life on board any more (perhaps significantly less).

So, what do I mean by "mattering"? Why not have both Comfort and Luxury? I am not sure that these concepts are in any way antithetical, but I am convinced that it all comes down to priorities and - in an obscure "why am I doing this?" kind of way - to a very profound philosophical question of why I am on a boat, and who I am when I am on a boat. It's not important to me to bask in the reflected glory of a shiny new toy, but it is important to me that I feel confidence in the vessel, and that I can trust and rely on her to look after me. The Westerly promises to do that, and I am minded to believe she probably will.....

So, what's right, and what's wrong with the boat? Well, it's a Westerly, so that means that all of the headlinings need to come out. However, despite being gifted from birth with two left hands, I have been deeply impressed by Mads' ******* channel over at Sailing Life, and I therefore have a clear idea of what the new improved interior is going to look like, and how I am going to achieve it. One day.

As if it matters. Why should it matter? It's a vanity project, and whilst we can all handle a little vanity in our lives, it's not (key phrase:) "a priority". Ditto the kitsch 1980's ceramic tiling behind the cabin heater (I've already bought the replacements, which I will fit - one day). Ditto the truly awful, nausea-inducing cornflower blue anti-slip deck covering which seems to adorn just about every British-built boat from the 1980's. And the running rigging looks a bit grubby. And one of the hatches has some crazing in it. And I don't especially like the colour of the upholstery. All critically important, life-or-death stuff, I'm sure you'll agree :-)

And that, surely, is the point. If the whole purpose of retiring and sailing off into the wide blue yonder is to escape from things that matter, how better to go about it than by buying a boat on which nothing really matters? The survey found absolutely nothing that needed attention. The engine is still under warranty. Everything works, and there are plenty of "nice to have" toys to keep me occupied on those long, dark Winter crossings (probably no more long or dark than the hop, skip & jump between Bembridge and Chichester Harbour!) From here on, it's not about the boat, it's about me and what I have heard described as "everything that is not me" i.e. the Sea. I sense that a 30-something year old Westerly will allow me to concentrate on that in a way that a swanky new 34ft Beneteau perhaps never would. Maybe Hemingway was onto something after all...... It's all about the level of expectations - and an old Westerly sets the bar reassuringly low ~ neither the boat nor I have anything to prove, nothing to live up to. Just get on with life.....

So, no more romantic fantasies about a French boat named Madame Fifi. No bimini, just a mizzen. No in-mast furling, just a soon-to-be-repainted deck. And tomorrow morning, rather than a refined, elegant and ever-so-slightly-slinky Lady Admiral reclining on the foredeck with little more than a Bellini and an alluring glint in her eye, there will just be me and two of my Old Buffer mates sailing around the corner from Portsmouth to Chichester, doing Old Buffer things on an Old Buffer's boat. What's not to like about that? (Apart from the Bellini)

Because, after all, in the immortal final words of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody -

"Nothing really matters / Anyone can see / Nothing really matters / Nothing really matters to me" ..... (any way the wind blows...)