Bill Mills' room

Bill Mills

Best Laid Plans

by  Bill Mills

Arrangements had been made to meet two boatloads of friends in Rothesay on the Friday night. It was July and the weather was fair so we were expecting the place to be very busy. We knew that we wouldn’t be there till about 21.30, so friends had agreed to book a table for us up in McIntyres restaurant that used to be situated on the pier.
It was almost 23.00 when we arrived and the three of us were bemoaning the almost certain loss of a good dinner. Our friends were watching for us and as we turned the corner of the pier, called out to us “Just come alongside here. We will tie you up and the three of you get up there before it is too late.” A quick chuck of water over our faces and then we were scrabbling over decks, trying to hurry and yet be light footed over other folks decks at the same time.
The McIntyres had been waiting for us and we were told that there were precious few people about that they would have stayed open for. The meal was even more enjoyable after that. I remember that I had Beef Stroganoff. I can taste it again. It had just that hint of mustard that I love. I can’t remember what wine we chose but we filled our glasses and assured each other that we would certainly have it again. I think we probably did.
We returned to the boats with that lovely round, contented feeling. Our friends were waiting for us to join them in a nightcap as they had something of importance to discuss.
Once we were comfortable in the cockpit of one boat we were asked if we had noticed how many Blue Ensigns we were surrounded by. We duly looked about us and right enough, there was a lot of dark blue cloth hanging about. “ What about it? “ we asked. It was explained to us that our friends on the other boat were a bit apprehensive about leaving in the morning with all those terribly nautical types about. They had their two-year-old daughter Sylvia with them. They weren’t very experienced and they did not want to make a mess of leaving, which was going to entail turning around in a pretty restricted space.
We formulated a plan of action that would be fool proof. In the morning our nervous friends would prepare to leave. We would nonchalantly appear at suitable places and get the warps ready for slipping. Their boat would be quietly warped round with her engine ticking over in neutral. Once the boat was turned – as a nice final touch of confident competence, the skipper would call out “ Darling- take the helm and I’ll clear the deck.” He would then move forward to clear fenders etc. His First Mate Maureen would take the tiller, engage gear and they would motor out while the skipper did seamanlike things on deck. We thought that should be pretty impressive.
Another fine morning with the plan working well. With no fuss and the minimum of activity our friends boat was warped round. At one point two of us were actually leaning over the rails and letting the warps run evenly out from under our deck-shoes. It was looking very good indeed. Came the time for the finale.
The skipper called “ Maureen take the tiller – I’ll get the fenders” – stepped onto the side-deck and moved forward. A harassed voice floated up from the cabin- “ I can’t – Sylvia’s on the pottie!” On turning quickly to get back to the cockpit the skipper tripped and nearly decapitated himself on the shrouds. From there it just went all to hell. The engine stopped and the boat started to swing over towards shallow water with rocks. The skipper slipped and fell into the cockpit with a thump.
Acting very quickly someone from another yacht threw a line accurately across to the skipper who just managed to recover enough to grab it and she was pulled nicely back, Unfortunately there was a bit of blue cloth hanging from the stern of the rescuer.
As they eventually motored away our friends spent a worried hour deciding where they could go that night so as not to meet anyone who had seen the debacle.