Visitations

This week we had visitors on, and around the boat. They came in a range of shapes and sizes. First of all there was part of my family. Boat life can start to seem normal surprisingly quickly. It becomes ‘just’ life. I’ve heard it said that people often only go to their local sites – museums and so forth – when people come to visit. This week was a bit like that. I had forgotten just how pleasant it is to sit in the cockpit, even in harbour, and enjoy being aboard. So that’s what we did. We sat and nattered and ate nibbles and drank wine. Very pleasant. In these situations conversations often seem to turn to the future, and The Grand Voyage (where we sail Teka around the world) came up. It looks like we have some crew for the Iceland-to-Newfoundland leg!

The second visitor turned up whilst we were in the cockpit. Portishead marina is, as I have mentioned before, pretty good for wildlife of the winged variety. There are, of course, the gulls. They are big and bossy and loud. Interestingly they have learned how to open mussels which grow on the pontoon legs by flying them above the harbour sides and dropping them so they crack. Like a nautical lamergeier. I’ve seen a few people narrowly missed, and I am sure that it’s only a matter of time before I get hit by a plummeting mollusc. There is a pair of buzzards who fly over occasionally, only to get mobbed by the gulls. There was a grey heron which slept by the pontoon entrance, but I haven’t seen it for a while now. It may have finally got fed up with me accidentally waking it up every time I came home from work around midnight. Then there is our favourite, Colin. Colin the cormorant. We were sat in the cockpit admiring Colin, who was drying his wings on the next pontoon over, when he was joined by a second cormorant. We immediately named this one Connie. Not being experts, we are basing their sex on absolutely nothing more than a vague hope for the appearance of smaller cormorants.

Later in the week we exchanged my family for Keith’s. We were visited by his father, step-mother, brother, and dog. Their visit was rather more practical than the earlier one had been. While I was at work almost the entire down rail was sanded and rubbed with teak oil, and two bits of damaged caulking were fixed – one in the companionway hatch, and the other in the deck. The latter had been causing us no end of problems, not least that it had allowed rain in to the galley. It should, hopefully, now be water tight once again.

It was particularly interesting having a dog on board. We are very keen on getting a boat dog, although there are a few practical considerations which are preventing us. Not least the knowledge that boats arriving at the Galapagos are fumigated to prevent foreign spiders and so forth. It’s unlikely that a dog would be allowed on to such a fragile ecosystem. Fergus the Jack Russell hadn’t been on a boat before. Initially he was very nervous indeed. All vibrate-y. However, once he had checked everything out he was very happy, and seemed to pretty much decide that this boat was now his.

fullsizeoutput_9c0This week’s oddities of boat life:

3. Mentally categorising leaks in terms of vertical (i.e. lets rain in): not the end of the world, and horizontal (i.e. lets sea in): panic!

n.b. Horizontal leaks are, thankfully, hypothetical entities.

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.

 

Pontoon Life and Oddities

The rain is absolutely hammering down today, but I promise that it was beautiful for the majority of last week. British weather is famous for being somewhat temperamental so we took advantage of the dry-spell to do some work on Teka. It was mostly sprucing jobs. We swabbed the deck, washed the hull, scrubbed the rib, and tidied the cockpit; I could understand the latter getting covered in leaves when we spent autumn moored under a row of trees but now? In the middle of a marina? In summer? The mind boggles.

Of course we were not the only people out and about. As soon as the sun shines the marina comes alive with people tinkering away on their vessels. Some are doing a few jobs before popping out in to the channel for an afternoon fishing, while others are getting their boats ready for a long summer of sailing. A lovely Moody has recently moored up near us, and the couple who own her were struggling with their mast. While I love our gaff-rigged sails, I had always seen the attraction in the very modern Bermuda rigged boats where the main sail rolls up in to the mast itself. This is how the Eas Mhor is rigged, but something had gone wrong and the sail was getting stuck. By this point we had all said ‘hello’ and admired each others boats while we got on with working on our own. After an hour or two of the four of us cheerfully working alongside, they asked for some help unsticking their sail. Despite being injured at the moment (and not being the greatest fan of heights), Keith happily popped himself in their bosuns chair and up he went! The plan was to hammer a wedge of hard wood into the part of the mast which had narrowed in order to – hopefully – widen it again.

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Keith and I are still relatively new to this way of living, and are still learning the ropes (pun entirely intended). There is one aspect of it which I really enjoy, and that is the camaraderie on the pontoon. It’s not specific to where we are now: there were many similar occurrences in Bristol. There was the time that the electricity went down on the whole pontoon and, once everyone had breathed a sigh of relief that they hadn’t broken their boat, clubbed together to work out how to fix it. There were borrowings and lending of tools and advice. There was a lovely dinner party. The same seems to apply here. When we first arrived several people came over to help us with our lines. A couple who were preparing their boat to spend the summer in Cornwall kindly donated us some rope as they felt that they had a surplus. And Keith went up the mast.

I have heard people – usually older – talking about the loss of community in society. It was never something which had bothered me too much: chance has thrown you next to someone, but that surely doesn’t mean you have to be friends? They might be a total jerk! I wasn’t sure whether it was even ever real. Surely it was just that strange nostalgic thing that people do, saying that everything was better in the ‘good old days’. (I challenge anyone to actually be able to date ‘the good old days’ and show how they were so wonderfully problem free, but that’s another story). But now I get it, and I love it. Perhaps I am being naïve, but it seems to me that the automatic setting is a sort of cheerful vague helpfulness between all sailors.


This week’s oddities of boat life:

  1. Waking up at 3:45am to rush around closing portholes and hatches because weather is happening
  2. Very big splashes = starting to think there might be a kraken in Portishead marina