On Christmas eve I was over at Bloodaxe Boats on the Isle of Wight at their workshop overlooking the Solent just outside Cowes. I suddenly became aware of an old boy standing next to me. He seemed strangely familiar for some reason, with somewhat unruly wavy hair and an air of knowing exactly what he thought and not being afraid of expressing it. I gained the impression that he had lunched well, and at length. Although I hadn't heard anything, he seemed to have arrived on a horse, and an extremely lively looking mare was tied up close by.
"Well", he said, "What are they up to with Sailboats now?"
Without waiting for an answer he picked up a piece of paper.
"Bloodaxe Boats? Named after a Viking?"
He laughed, seeming to find that amusing for some reason that
escaped me. He looked around.
"Not much wood here. What's this, Epoxy resin, carbon fibre?"
"Yes", I said, "its all oil products these days"
"Black gold, eh. I once had a dream about a better material for building boats. A new sort of lightweight gold it was..."
We looked out over the Solent where a couple of big racers were beating out in a near gale.
"Good solid rigs out there. None of your maidenly rigs that come down in a decent breeze. I like that. Like to see longer ends on a boat though, much better in a seaway. Still, we have to design the best boat we can within the rules"
"Do you know the area sir". For some reason it seemed natural to call him sir.
"Oh I used to, but I haven't been round for what, twenty eight years now. But I used to build boats down there , and I've sailed all round here. Raced too, although I was always a cruising man, not a racing man."
There was a definite twinkle in his eye when he said this, and I felt quite sure that he'd won at least his fair share of races.
"What did you sail"
"Oh this and that. 14 footers, Canoes; I always liked Canoes, the dry fly of sailing. I sailed one across the Channel once, small keelboats, bigger boats as I got older. You should have one foot of waterline length for every year of your life you know."
He turned towards Andy's Cherub.
"How much does this one weigh?"
"Around 90lbs I guess" I said, looking at the boat
"Damn good. I always said weight was only of use to the designer of a steamroller"
With that quote I jumped and looked around, but both man and horse had vanished. All I could see were sparks flying off the road as if a horse were being galloped flat out into the distance, but there was no sound of hooves nor anything visible in the streetlights.
© Jim Champ, 2001, 2008