A few tales and memories from my stay at St Katharine Docks

Dutch berthing

I spent some time working from the boat one year. Things start to kick off come Spring, and German, Dutch and French sailors start popping over in their droves to the marina. I used to sit down below tapping away, and if I saw a mast gliding by, or heard the sound of a bow thruster or the bridge alarm going off, I would generally stick my head out to see if anyone wanted a line taken. Offering to take a line can lead to all sorts, friendships, drunken nights on boats, or a snooty reply or snub. The fact is you just don’t know what it can lead to, and I love that.

So one sunny day this boat came in, 36-40ft, cant remember. One big old fella with an amazing grey nautical moustache in his bright yellow salopettes at the helm.  He’s on his own, so I offer to take a line but he motions that all is fine. He lets off the throttle, glides in and makes his way to the bow. It becomes quite evident that his strategy for berthing single handed is to just collide into the pontoon. The boat hits the pontoon, BANG! the mast shudders, and he steps off and ties up. I lift my mug of tea and salute to him and go back to my own business.

His complete and total expressionless response to careering into the pontoon was priceless, something I’ll never forget.

I think his next boat might have to be a steel one if he continues with this berthing strategy.

Lucky Jazzy

Free_Water_Sports_Clipart__Funny_Photographs-1_jpgWhen I had Moonpenny I had neighbours with a cat, embarrassingly I can’t remember their names though I think it was Richard. I’ll call him Richard for now until someone corrects me. Funnily I do remember the cats name, Jazzy. Jazzy was/is a long haired tabby looking boat cat. It’s not uncommon as you might think to have a cat on board a boat. Jazzy would jump down off their boat, and up onto mine, and would peer in to see what I was cooking for dinner from time to time. Should our eyes meet she would skit back to her own boat.

One day I had a friend over for a cuppa after work. As I showed my friend out I could see Richard looking a bit distressed.

“Everything ok Richard?” I said sipping my tea.

“No I’ve lost Jazzy”

So began the search. Richard went off down one end of the pontoon calling for Jazzy, and I started to look around our end of the pontoon. Being more of a dog person than a cat person I didn’t really expect that calling a cat by his name would get any response, but sod it, what else was I gonna do.
“Jazzy?!” I called out.

“Meawo” came a reply

I nearly spat my tea out, it worked!

“Jazzy?” I said again tentatively.

Once again it was answered with a meow. This cat must have been a ventriloquist in its former life, as every time I thought I’d located the meow of jazzy, it seemed to come from another direction.

I called Richard over and watched him rush over to one place, and then to another as Jazzy expertly threw her voice around.

Jazzy had somehow managed to get under the floating pontoon, and up under one of the buoyancy concrete looking blocks. With literally a finger and thumb Richard managed to pinch a couple of hairs and pull Jazzy into the water and up into his arms. Never has a cat look so unimpressed with being rescued, dripping wet and smelling like a muddy pond.

It transpired a clap of thunder must have scared poor Jazzy out of her skin, and into the water. Luckily she had managed to scarper up under the pontoon. Lucky Jazzy!

Long John waddle

Another Moonpenny era story.tumblr_lgbronzpcg1qaslfv

One morning I woke to a snow covered marina in winter. A good white layer of snow covered all the boats and pontoon. Magical, unless you live on a boat and the shower block is a slippery walk along a pontoon with ice cold water to the left and right. I came out of the shower block fresh, possibly steaming and ready to head to work. I carefully walked half way along the pontoon to the gates, when I looked down I realised my trousers were down by my ankles, and I hadn’t felt the cold as my pale blue long johns had kept me cosy and warm. I’m not sure if anyone saw my long john waddle, but with an office of perhaps 300 overlooking the marina I’m sure I made someone smile.

Slip ups

The pontoons over winter can be trecharous to say the least.

When I was still new to the marina I slipped up and fell on my back one morning. Expecting to see a helping hand by one of the passing residents, an old fella in a white dressing gown smoking a cigar looked down at me, puffed a couple of times at his cigar, and then stepped over me on the way to his boat. Charming.

I did a cracking home alone style slip up in the centre basin after a night out once.

Coke and porn

I met a guy who had just bought a brand new motorboat and had it delivered to the marina. He didn’t know how to use his new toy, but the sun was out so he was enjoying a few drinks in the sunshine. I had to go out that evening for some birthday drinks, but I was told to pop over once I was back.

I got back at 4am to find a red carpet leading up to my boat, and a bunch of logs propped up like some kind of makeshift wooden bridge onto the boat.

I’ll have to keep the next few events a little vague, but as I was clearing up the logs and carpet the owner appeared and invited me in. I grabbed a bottle of rum and headed into this spanking new motorboat, it was very James Bond.

scarfaceWhen I got down below, it was clear these guys had been partying hard! The theme of the night was evidently porn and coke. Porn was playing on the widescreen TV, and the biggest bowl of coke was in the middle of a mirrored table.

A guy who looked like superhands from the TV comedy Peep Show was using his phone to order tv porn (I didn’t think anyone actually did that!).

Had there been a couple of uzi’s on the table and a stripper in the corner dancing suggestively I would have thought I was in a remake of Scareface!

I ended up sitting with my bottle of rum between superhands ordering porn for the tv, and the excited owner who was sweating like he’d just run a marathon.

A 1/4 of a bottle of rum later I called it a night, er morning and went to bed and left them to it.

Pirates ahoy!

The night before a sail I saw a bloke wearing a head scarf like the ones pirates wear passed out on a bench. A little later I came down and saw this big old boy, drunk as skunk with two of the Ghurka security guards slowly frog marching him down the pontoon. He was about 6ft something, and the guards were about 5ft nothing. I wandered over and enquired as to what was going on. Turned out this Jack the lad was drunk as skunk and couldn’t find the boat he was staying on. I tried to help but all I got was a slurred “How the bloody hell should I know” when I tried to help. I was no help so went to bed.

The next morning we were called up to make our way into the lock, approaching slowly into the center basin a small motorboat dropped a fender on the way into the lock. They made a right cock and balls retrieving the fender and mooring up in the lock, possibly because they were all still steaming drunk. Pirate jack the lad had found his boat it transpired. With a big carton of wine on the table it was clear the party hadn’t stopped. For the rest of the journey up the Thames you could hear London VTS contacting them on the radio “Slow down”, “You’re on the wrong side of the river” and other nautical misdemeanors.

Other mentions

Meeting Larry and Mary Anne on Traversay III. I’ve never met a couple with a full size pull out piano built into their yacht, and I suspect  I never will. Extremely welcoming couple who have been sailing around the world since retirement. I hope one day to pull up next to them in a remote bay half way around the world to hear another piano rendition.

Oliver and Carlotta, who I’ve mentioned many times before. I can’t think of many stories right now, but there must be countless stories. One morning I awoke startled by the most ear piercing sound of a woman’s scream. I didn’t think anything of it and went back to sleep, as this wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary berthed next to Troskala haha. Later that day I got home after work and had my daily catchup tea with Oliver. Turned out Carlotta was trying to get past him in the morning whilst he was ironing his shirt, and touched the iron as she squeezed past. At least for the purpose of this blog we’ll say that’s what happened 😀  If you ever have the fortune to have Oliver and Carlotta as neighbours, the one piece of Spanish you’ll pick up in no time is “para tai” = stop it or what the hell I think that translates to. Don’t quote me on the spelling.

 

Gus and Helen on Wings have been in the marina since I arrived, and have always been a source of inspiration and a fountain of knowledge.

I’ll also have fond memories of music nights on the boat from last year, when I had some friends I met on a folk course over once a week.

10343480_10152486535317570_4613517120274858322_nDave also deserves a mention! We were neighbours for many months, and know each other intimately shall we say. We were so close we could climb from one boat to another to catch up on the days events over tea and DC (diet coke). One of the first mornings as neighbours I was locking up and heading to work when I heard a voice. Looking around I eventually spotted Dave’s face peering out through a tiny side window “Good morning to ya!”. Something wasn’t quite right, then I realised he was in the heads and taking a wee whilst saying good morning! Legend!

I love to cook and entertain, so when I sent a mass invite out I didn’t expect everyone to say yes. I ended up cooking for 10 girls and Ben, as chance would have it only the girls were free and it must have looked like a carefully orchestrated night, but it all happened by accident. Promise! The cereal box game is now a stock party game on the boat.

Poker nights with the guys from the Guardian have gone down in history. Especially when one of the guys stayed over, and threw up spectacularly whilst I was asleep 😀 yuk!

Coming back at 2am one night slightly inebriated, to find my boats been shifted, scratching my head I see its behind 2  6ft ice sculptures of a Christmas tree and Santa.

12311176_10153697896032570_9010286173246316330_nMy 8ft blow up light up snowman swaying away in the cockpit always brought a smile to me as I came home on winter nights.

Gigantic floating hippo’s and military navel boats in the marina.

 

Oliver firing flares on New Years Eve in celebration.

A big group of brummies standing outside their gigantic huuge motorboat, waiting for the police to turn up to arrest a guy who had been emptying their boat of belongings all day. They came home to spot him just as he ran back in to hide.

Walking past a set of steps in the marina and spot a naked girl having her picture taken.

Coming home one Christmas night drunk, and seeing a neighbour Will just about to get into his boat. Offer up the prospect of a nightcap, which turns into full blown drinking session on the boat. Shouting nonsense with Christmas tunes playing full blast.4239077_f40f3366

The owner of M T Pocket (from memory) singing Frank Sinatra tunes to passers by with gin and tonic in hand one summer. Inviting randoms over to sing karaoke on his boat entertained the whole marina that day.

Watching the London Marathon was always a real buzz, and walking along the pontoon whilst the London riots were going on, and seeing everyone in their boats watching the news at it unfolded was quite a tense time.

Richard and Alice from Neried, Ian from Hirot and Dan who have been great company in the marina and in the pub, and will have the unfortunate 10253952_10153967454425234_5666650309007843300_npleasure of having me swinging by like a pining dog scratching at the back door to be let in from time to time.

Coming back one bank holiday with Fran and Jim only to find the marina staff had gone home. So we moored up outside on the Thames overlooking Tower Bridge and sipped Champagne. Once the clippers stopped, the peacefulness and tranquillity was just awesome!

 

And countless visits from mum and dad, who just liked to sit on the boat and enjoy the sunny weather. I still remember overlooking the marina with dad the year before I bought the boat, and dad saying “Wow imagine living here, woooweeee”. I had no idea!

Finally, the hammock fail.

 

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Author: Tim Butler

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