Friday, December 03, 2004

Zest.

When I was growing up I sailed. Along with family and friends I raced sailing dinghys on the Norfolk Broads. This has bred in me a passion for sailing. I thirst for the water and for a 'burn'.
Sailing has taught me stuff and nearly killed me more than once. It has provided me with a collection of salty tales and ripping yarns, it has given me sunburn and backache and, perhaps most importantly it's given me loads of really top friends.
It can be quite an expensive hobby but my Dad didn't let mere economics get in the way. Just as some people look out for cheap flights to the sun or second hand cars my father spent much of the 1980's

My Boat
Originally uploaded by bowles.

scouring the small ads and boat auctions for bargains. Sometimes he'd return home with a wreck, a real heap. He'd tow it up to Tony's shed or Mr Richardson's pig barn and after a few weeks or months and some paint, varnish and love he'd brought back a little bit of dignity to an otherwise squandered boat, ready for one more summer of sailing.
I can't quite remember how or when 'Zest' came into our lives although I would hazard a guess that it was some time around 1986. Having progressed from childlike 'safe' boats my brother and I were ready for a bit of a challenge. That's where 'Zest' came in.
She was an Enterprise class sailing dinghy, about 18 feet long and made of wood. Probably about 35 years old at the time. Years before the internet revolution Enterprises were known as 'e-boxes' as a result of their hollow hull which was kept bouyant wth the use of airbags, theses inevitably deflated but this didnt matter unless you capsized, then the whole boat would sink. And you would be left regretting the fact that you hadn't blown up the bleedin airbags.
Another marvellous aspect of sailing an e-box was the "death-roll".
Not easy to explain but it's essentially thus, The wind is strong and is coming over your stern, you are running downwind when for some reason of design your e-box starts rolling violently from side to side. Instantly requiring vigorous efforts on behalf of the crew to keep the bloody thing upright.
Not many dull moments as any e-box sailor will testify.
So what made 'Zest' special?
A few things, she was a gorgeous looking boat, nice plywood varnished deck (with a "nuclear power?No thanks" sticker placed prominently on the foredeck). She gave my brother and I something in common during those awkward teenage years. She was fast. I mean fast, shit off a shovel fast.
And I loved her. Still do.

Zest represents another time, she was old when we got her so she already had a story and a past, we just added to that in our own slightly dotty (yet pretty fuckin fast) way.
Now i know that the world moves on and I'm glad it does, I'm glad I'm no longer a spotty 14 year old bickering with my brother about boatspeed or pointing. I have the fondest of memories of 'Zest' (look, we didnt choose the name but it fitted anyway, Had we chosen a name it would have been something that wouldon't have stood the test of time like 'Morrissey' or 'HMS Bill Shankley' and I wouldn't have loved the boat as much and I wouldn't be feeling like this or writing this ). Eventually , with time passing we sold her onto a good friend. He assured us that if he ever sold it on we'd get first refusal.


Today I saw this on a sailing website:
Enterprise 5563
Wood,built by Smallcraft Southampton. Danube blue outer hull. Aluminium spars, bax sails, launching trolley, cover. Contact Mark Turner on 01603 7#####. cash offers.


Mark, it's not your fault. You're a good man and you are only doing what's right. But I have to admit that a little bit of my childhood just died. I hope that someone really cool and nice and friendly gets as much fun out of 'Zest' as we did. I hope that whoever sails her has the same sideways view of the world as we have (and as Mark has) and I hope that that fabulously 1980's nuclear power sticker is still stuck to the foredeck!

nb: The picture is not 'Zest' just another boat of the same'e-box' class.

10 comments:

weasel said...

Alas, I don't think I ever sailed in Zest but I feel your pain.

I have some very fond memories (and some very terrible ones too, but that's growing up) of sailing with you sir in our late teenage years, especially on Amabelle.

As the worst of the somewhat experienced sailors of our group (dinghies always did my head in- I'm much to clumsy for such a responsive craft. Give me a RN destroyer and I'm all set) I will always be grateful to the Bowles' family flotilla for a) not allowing me to drown myself; b) pretending not to notice when I dinged the dock or bank; and c)Special Brew and John MaCGregor's "son".

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but... unlike the weasel I have some rather disturbing memories of sailing (if you can really call it that) with you in north norfolk. As I recall the boat -which we labored to launch for you- drifted away from the dock and you, the great white englishman, did a bit of sailing of your own. You didn't really inspire a lot of confidence. maybe it's best to let the dear boat pass on to another "qualified" yachtsman.

Mondale said...

Insubordination towards a senior officer carries severe penalties. I suggest 'anonymous' report my actions to the appropriate authorities or cease such slander.

Debbie said...

Mutiny!!!!!

weasel said...

The proper authorities being The Silver Fox in the public bar of The Feathers.

I'll have a word with her for you sir; she can be quite tenacious in her bitterness....

Mondale said...

Hey, this is starting to sound like the swift boat conspiracy. Cool.

zestonian said...

Oh y-e o y-e o y-e. Well fancy that, just seeing if smallcraft were still in business and this link came up.... hang on that's my (and Bowles&Co's) old boat.

2003 was a terrible year, I lost my fiance, home, cats... but worst of all had to sell 'Zest' in a hurry. 12 gloriuos years came to a close. I can still remember receiving a phone call from Wymondham to inform me that the Bowles fleet was being rationalised and did I want to buy Z? Course I did, price was right, she sailed right and broad water was still flowing in my by now midland Brew XI student blood. Price agreed, she'd be delivered (hole and all) to Hickling that season.

She spent that summer under the willow trees on the site of the former Norwich Brewery Sailing club on the grounds of the Pleasure Boat Inn.

That winter she received the Turner makeover. Hole in bow repaired. Damaged aft gunnel replaced, leaking centreboard case refitted. New green canvas cover. Whisper stick.

And wow could I mop up on a wednesday night racing on Hickling in light airs, her hull entry was perfect. The rig Chris had sourced (1986 holt/ storrar & bax) was excellent - simple, stiff and FAST!

Many people cut their teeth on her jibsheets (Andy rip).

Alex - please accept my apologies, I just couldn't let her go to rack and ruin outside for the winter, she found a good home in Worstead. Sorry Rich Steele, Trevor Bladwin & co. if only I'd known you were looking, the modern placrap has tainted my view of what people want these days...

If it eases the grief you will be delighted to know that the new owner was briefed on the significance of Nuclear Power No Thanks and warned that removal could result in being lost at sea crew and all... and making a mess of the superb brazilian veneered decks.

I'll scan a photo and post soon!

Mark Turner, Yarmouth Road Thorpe St Andrew (overlooking Whitlingham Broad).

zestonian said...

Oh y-e o y-e o y-e. Well fancy that, just seeing if smallcraft were still in business and this link came up.... hang on that's my (and Bowles&Co's) old boat.

2003 was a terrible year, I lost my fiance, home, cats... but worst of all had to sell 'Zest' in a hurry. 12 gloriuos years came to a close. I can still remember receiving a phone call from Wymondham to inform me that the Bowles fleet was being rationalised and did I want to buy Z? Course I did, price was right, she sailed right and broad water was still flowing in my by now midland Brew XI student blood. Price agreed, she'd be delivered (hole and all) to Hickling that season.

She spent that summer under the willow trees on the site of the former Norwich Brewery Sailing club on the grounds of the Pleasure Boat Inn.

That winter she received the Turner makeover. Hole in bow repaired. Damaged aft gunnel replaced, leaking centreboard case refitted. New green canvas cover. Whisper stick.

And wow could I mop up on a wednesday night racing on Hickling in light airs, her hull entry was perfect. The rig Chris had sourced (1986 holt/ storrar & bax) was excellent - simple, stiff and FAST!

Many people cut their teeth on her jibsheets (Andy rip).

Alex - please accept my apologies, I just couldn't let her go to rack and ruin outside for the winter, she found a good home in Worstead. Sorry Rich Steele, Trevor Bladwin & co. if only I'd known you were looking, the modern placrap has tainted my view of what people want these days...

If it eases the grief you will be delighted to know that the new owner was briefed on the significance of Nuclear Power No Thanks and warned that removal could result in being lost at sea crew and all... and making a mess of the superb brazilian veneered decks.

I'll scan a photo and post soon!

Mark Turner, Yarmouth Road Thorpe St Andrew (overlooking Whitlingham Broad).

Tim said...

My regards to your Dad for rescuing old boats! Hats off to him!
I hate to see perfectly good boats rotting away because of a lack of love for the old girls. I have owned a coupleof old Girls and have just sold one to my daughter. I don't have time for another just yet but in due course I shall be looking out for some abandoned damsel to rescue and refit.

P.s. I love sailing Enterprises too. 14 ft of fun! An the quickest way to stop a death role is swing the centerplate right down and yank on as much kicker as possible. The last thing you want to do is leap all over the boat trying to stabiliser her, it only make it worse!
Then once it is stabilised just let the kicker off a bit and ease up the plate half way.

Mondale said...

Thanks for the tip about death rolls, We used to use a combination of the correct approach (as outlined in your comment) and the other (as mentioned in the post).