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
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:
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.