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the owl and pussycat to magical technicolour adventures or at least a working boat, honest and hopefully watertight. So, we doubted that the personification of sailing beauty that floated before us could really be the advertised craft. But a phone call dismissed our fears and the owner invited us for a test sail. The next day, a pretty dark haired


eighteen year old rowed us out smartly in a small green tender. It was obvious that Susan Haigh knew a thing or two about boats. I stepped aboard the sloop. It hardly moved. Stiff was an understatement. Massive ballast or a powerful hull I thought. It proved to be the latter. Susan bent on ancient sails while


I poked about and found a small portable gas tank, an empty beer can, rusty guitar strings, an old bathing suit and other happy evidence of teenage summer days on the water. A few wisps of wind wandered into the bay and the boat responded. I grabbed the varnished ash tiller just behind the Turk’s head knot. Gretha approved of me, quickened her pace and I was under her spell forever.


With the mainsail spilling


wind, Jeffrey and I sat out holding on for dear life, merely going along for the ride. “Gretha” lurched on to a plane. Spray was flying, our bow wave was enormous, her speed fantastic. “Gretha” was strutting her stuff.


“I’ll buy her”, I announced abruptly.


Susan looked a bit sad, but agreed. Her parents, Val and Ernest Haigh were just about to leave on their second round the world circumnavigation in their large trimaran, this time without Susan. She was going to University. ‘I’ll give her the best care”, I promised afraid that Susan or Gretha might change their minds. We collected her the next weekend


just in time for our holiday on Thetis Island. Our two boys were then six and ten years old, the same age as


I had been when I began sailing in England. I recalled cold wet days in East Anglia, my brother, sister and I acting out Swallow and Amazons, old clinker built International 14’s, leaky Enterprises, chapped knees, Uffa Fox, endless mud and various uncles who claimed to have taken their craft to Dunkirk. An almost forgotten weekend on


an Essex Fishing Smack constituted my gaff rig experience. Fourteen tons of two inch planking and pig iron ballast, flush decked with inset prisms and a coal fire below that the fisherman’s wife assured me had never been out in forty years. Even in thirty knots with the rain moving sideways ‘below’ was a quiet place to be. The gaff sail had large steam bent hoops that served as mast steps. Not so on Gretha. Her gaff is laced


to the mast Dutch style and ‘below’ is just six inches of bilge. She is one of those legendary BM16 class boats built in Holland before the war. Flawless, close-grained mahogany, virtually unobtainable today, was used to strip plank her classic, rounded hull. An iron shoe bolted through the keelson


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