Our three daughters have an innate sense of which way to move a tiller and can shift weight on a dingy expediently. I do not. I came late to sailing, so my skills are hard won and often slowed by a pause for thought. In my defence I was born and raised in Sheffield, my early experience on the water confined to paddle boats on the park boating lake. My husband John was born in Lymington and raised on the south coast, taking the sea for granted. We shared our first experience of sailing in 1982, when we had a week’s holiday on a Thames sailing barge out of Maldon. It was a life changing experience. We are both still held in thrall by the silhouette of a sailing barge. Our first boat was a gaff rigger with red sails, but a rather smaller Cornish Shrimper, we named Brandywine. We had intended buying a bigger and more simple boat and set off to the 1993 London Boat Show full of high hopes and ernest intent. I carried our youngest in a baby sling, we felt we had waited long enough. John had spent the time taking theory and practical courses and pouring over boats in the yachting press. We had a good idea of what we wanted and had ready money. We climbed on and off Rustlers, Malos, Najads and the like. We talked about whether or not all three girls would sleep in the big aft cabin of the Najad or if we could stretch to a three cabin Malo. None of the vendors took us seriously. We had no experience, no previous boat and lived in Sheffield of all places with two small girls, a baby and a poodle. What had we been thinking? Deflated, we set off to leave, but on our way out were halted by the shape of a gaff rig sail drawn in netting above a traditional small boat. Gary from Crabbers took us seriously and we bought his boat, a seventeen foot Cornish Shrimper, took it up to Lake Windermere and became day sailers. Swallows and Amazons forever!
As the girls grew older we upgraded to a Cornish Crabber, Minstrel, a twenty four footer on which we could all sleep, after a fashion, even the poodle. When the older girls were teenagers we started taking sailing holidays in the Mediterranean courtesy of Sunsail. The boats we hired seemed dauntingly huge and we were grateful for my brother Dave coming along to help. The sailing was the easy part, mooring was all hands on deck holding their breath. Those holidays were wonderful.
We gained lots of experience, sailed in the sunshine and had such fun with some lovely people. The girls made many, many friends. Somewhere along the line my brother gave way to Emma’s boyfriend Johnsey. We blinked and they were all grown up, John was set to retire and it was now or never.
At the 2012 Southampton Boat Show we were grizzled enough for everyone to take us seriously. We also looked at the second hand boats for sale. There was the very Malo we had drooled over years before and a Najad of the same 2001 vintage. The years had treated both more kindly than yours truly! We were spoilt for choice, though this time there were just two candidates for the big owners cabin. We bought the Najad 460, christened her Lyra and the rest is becoming history.