Bucket List: Gibraltar

I have been researching Teka‘s history. I think I am really starting to get somewhere, which is quite exciting., although there are still gaps. Decades long gaps. You can see what I’ve come up with so far by clicking here or navigating your way to the ‘About: Teka’ page. I will update that page as I find out more.

Looking in to all the places she has been works wonders as inspiration of places we want to go. Sometimes, when it’s cramped and damp it’s easy to forget that. Keith summed it up nicely the other day: We need to take her out. Living in a tiny house isn’t worth it, unless we use the sails! At this point we are very much at the local, costal, day sail stage. We are still learning. But the reason I want to do this (Keith’s reasons are overlapping, but not quite the same) is because I want to go places. Many, many, places.

One of mine is Gibraltar. It’s pretty much a given, really. Before the grand adventure we are intending to spend a season in the Mediterranean, and it would be tricky to get there from the UK without passing Gibraltar. It’s a somewhat less controversial destination request than, say, Madagascar. I have similar reasons for wanting to visit them both, though. When I am not Annie-with-a-boat, or Annie-the-bartender, I am Annie-who-is-interested-in-evolution. Specifically primate evolution. Madagascar is home to lemurs, and Gibraltar used to be home to Neanderthals.

Gibraltar are very proud of their Neanderthals, and have some rather amazing sites. Gorham’s cave, for example, has some intentional Neanderthal etching. Very exciting stuff, if you are me. That is another benefit of travelling by boat, when that boat is your home. There is less of a rush. Fewer compromises need to be made. We are intending to go everywhere that we want to go, so long as it isn’t too dangerous. The spot I want to visit in South Africa might have to be achieved by more conventional means, as the roaring forties are, well, roaring. But generally, the world is (will be) our mollusc. We can go somewhere, and, if we like it, stay for a while. If it’s rubbish we can leave on the next tide. At this point we have got a rough idea of our routes, but at this stage it is constantly evolving. Now we just need to do it…

(Caveat: that’s not all we need to do)

Lemurs at Bristol zoo. Because they’re cute. Photo credit: me.

Books on Board

As with any small home, space is an issue on a boat. This is confounded by the ‘extra’ things which are necessary for the nautical aspects of boat life: safety equipment, charts, radio, sails being kept inside during winter… Don’t get me wrong – Teka is incredibly well designed for storage. She is a deep sea boat through and through. Everything is a cupboard. But space still feels short sometimes. Add to this the fact that we are both rather bookish people, and there is a bit of a problem. Becoming a boat owner can feel all encompassing sometimes, but it doesn’t erase other interests. Keith is an avid historian, and therefore has an extensive selection of books on the life of Napoleon, for example. I am interested in even older things. Having just finished my degree I have accumulated a great deal of books on prehistory and evolution, as well as evidence of my love of a good story. It is probably unsurprising then that, since buying Teka, we have accumulated a few sailing books as well.

We were gifted a few. ‘Brave of Stupid’ by Tracey Christiansen is particularly good, although I can’t help feeling that perhaps the gifter was trying to make a point. It is a really witty account of a couple of friends sailing around the world, almost by accident. It’s packed with fun stories, but doesn’t pretend everything was, erm, plain sailing. It’s a really inspiring and entertaining read. Then there are the practical books. Unusually for myself, a great believer in the knowledge to be found in books, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that the best way to learn about boats and sailing is to do it (under the guidance of someone who knows the ropes already, of course). How-to books aren’t worthless though. ‘Hand, Reef and Steer’ by Tom Cunliffe is a personal favourite. Teka is gaff-rigged. While this is arguably the most beautiful of all sailing set ups, it has been out of fashion for a couple of years (i.e. since WW2). Cunliffe states that “by the 1950s anyone ordering a new yacht with a gaff rig would be considered eccentric”. This is particularly interesting as it immediately tells us something about Teka‘s history and the sort of person/people who commissioned her, as she was built in 1954. The popularity of the Bermudan rig can make information about gaffers a little hard to come by, which makes this book – lent to us by Teka‘s previous owner – a life saver. Cunliffe’s discussion of the pros and cons of a gaff ketch are particularly heartening, when it comes to the practicality of sailing with a small crew.

IMG_3308Then there are books about the beauty of the sea. We managed to get hold of an anthology of poetry about the sea, from 1887. It’s a lovely little book. My personal favourite is by Sir Walter Scott:

The helm, to his strong arm consign’d,

Gave the reef’d sail to meet the wind,

And on her altered way,

Fierce bounding, forward sprung the ship,

Like greyhound starting from the ship

To seize his flying prey.

Awaked before the rushing prow

The mimic fires of ocean glow,

Those lightnings of the wave;

Wild sparkles crest the broken tides

And, flashing round, the vessel’s sides

With elfish lustre lave.

While, far behind, their livid light

To the dark billows of the night

A gloomy splendour gave,

It seems as if old Ocean shakes

From his dark brow the lucid flakes

In envious pageantry,

To match the meteor-light that streaks

Grim Hecla’s midnight sky.

What’s in a name?

There are a lot of superstitions surrounding the names of boats. Naming is often done with a certain amount of pomp and ceremony, and it is considered deeply unlucky to change the name of the boat. Before our nautical dreams were made flesh we had contemplated various names. My personal favourite had been Annie’s Revenge – riffing on Black Beard’s famous ship, the Queen Annes Revenge. But now the idea of renaming Teka feels totally wrong. Like renaming a person. She was given her name in Norway in 1954. Who would want to change their name at that sort of age? However, we have absolutely no idea why she is called Teka. What does it mean? Given her Norwegian heritage we originally thought it most likely to be a Norwegian word. Google translate doesn’t recognise it as a Norwegian word, though. Or, in fact, any other language. ‘Teka’ is a German company who manufacture kitchen appliances, a band, a company who make concrete mixing machines, a character in Doctor Who…

A deeper etymological search found that a plausible meaning might come from the Javanese usage; it is the verb to come, or to arrive. This seems like a fairly boaty name, but I can’t really see how she could have ended up with a Javanese. In Lithuanian ‘teka’ is the third person present tense of tekėti, which can mean to rise (like the sun), to flow (like a river), or, when applied to a woman, to marry. Again, there is a certain poetic attraction to these, and Lithuania is a little closer to Norway than Java, but the oddity of the tense seems to make this unlikely. And ‘closer’ is a rather relative term! In Greek it is a colloquial term for notebook, which is interesting, but unlikely to bear relevance here. Finally, it appears that ‘teka’ is an accepted alternative spelling of the Spanish and Portuguese word ‘teca’, which means teak. And boy is there a lot of teak in Teka. Saying that, this still feels a little tenuous. I don’t know of any connection with Spain or Portugal, and that it is an unusual spelling makes me unsure of a legitimate connection.

IMG_3137We are not the only boat in the pontoon with an interesting name. Our former neighbours sailed Eas Mhor away a couple of days ago. Apparently this is Gaelic for ‘bright water’ – a lovely name for a boat. The most common and noticeable type of boat name, at least in Portishead marina, seems to be puns. Visible between Teka and the pontoon gate are Add Morality, Nauti Buoy, and Y Knot (complete with a picture of a knot). Some of the large, white, motorboats have quite fitting names too. Viking is at the end of our pontoon, and we locked in alongside Excalibur. My all time favourite has a rather less intimidating name, however. It’s a tiny little motor boat near the pontoon entrance. The sort one might spend a lovely afternoon bombing about and fishing in the channel. The Crazy Gran.


In my opinion, the greatest ship and boat designer of them all was, and still is…

A lovely write up on the chap who designed our ‘Teka’

Have We Had Help?

colinarcherColin Archer (22 July 1832 – 8 February 1921). He was a Norwegian naval architect and shipbuilder from Larvik, Norway. His parents had immigrated from Scotland in 1825. He was known for building safe and durable ships including possibly the most famous of all the ships he ever built, the Fram, specifically designed to get the polar expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen, and later Roald Amundsen, safely through the treacherous ice fields surrounding both the Arctic and Antarctic. Because of her strengthened multi skinned rounded hull, and with no keel protruding, she was deliberately designed in that way so as not to be trapped whenever the ice threatened to crush her. Instead she would merely be pushed up out of harm’s way.

When I was a good deal younger while still serving in the merchant marine, at the end of one particularly long voyage I had the great good fortune to…

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