Pirates and Wenches at the RNYC Beer festival

Pirates and Winch Handles at the RNYC Beer Festival


Oh glorious summer,

Blue sky and Crystal Sea,

Fair winds blowing,

A Yachtsman’s life for me.


Only, there was no wind, unless you count the wind coming out of Mike Swann’s Didgeridoo.


Mike Swann does a Didgeridoo solo!

Last weekend was indeed glorious summer. A full weekend of sun shine and frivolous activity was enjoyed by many at RNYC.

We had Topper dinghies to play with.

Guest ales in the bar.

A fancy dress Pirate Barbecue

Live music by the Blistering Barnacles

The sail and ale evening with the Tynemouth Rotary Club

The Alnwick Rum Run, yacht race (with real rum!)

It all got going, on Thursday night, when the Tynemouth Rotary Club, joined us for a sail and ale evening. I don’t want to be disparaging, they are a great bunch of guys; but none are in their first flush of youth.

I had Jimmy, Terry and Peter as guests aboard Kandula. Unfortunately Godfrey was not able to join us. Just as well, as the combined age of the crew would have been about 400. Including Mike Swann, whose actual age is unknown, but whose mental age is about 12.

The (Sunshine) minibus arrived shortly after 18:00 (That is 18:00 hrs, as opposed to the year 1800, when some of the guests were born) and the Rotarians descended upon HY Tyne. With much clattering of walking sticks, creaking of old knees and the squeal of hearing aids ‘feeding back’ the crews were assembled. The yacht names were read out, along with the crew for each vessel. No one moved. The yacht names were shouted out loudly and with much muttering, the crews followed their newly appointed skippers.

Any primary school teachers or itinerant cat herders will tell you, getting a group of school children or cats together into a cohesive group is hard work. Try it with slightly boozy pensioners. It is nearly impossible.

After much shouting and cajoling, we managed to get our guest onboard Kandula and we cast off, for our annual sail. Last year there was so much fog that we couldn’t see the piers. There was no wind and it was like sitting inside a giant table tennis ball. This year was ever so different. There was glorious sunshine. Enough to make me wear shorts! There was also wind. Lots of glorious wind. Enough to make me put two reefs in the mainsail!

For the benefit of Mike Wade on ‘Steel Dreamin’ the main sail is the big one that hangs off the back of the mast. I presume that you couldn’t find the halyard for yours?

Even Capt. Hugh ‘Hauxley’ Jackson was out in the bay, onboard Konga. Hugh was sailing along the shore line, as someone had mentioned there were topless sunbathers on the beach. There were. Unfortunately it was Tony Harrison with his dog Tan. When I asked Tony what his dog was called, he told me, ‘Tan’.

I wanted its name, not a bleedin’ description. Never mind. I think his hearing is going too. He will be eligible to join the Rotarians soon.

We had a great sail onboard Kandula. Reefed down, we were still hitting 7.5 kts (GPS Speed) our guests took it in turn to take the helm. There was a mixture of exhilaration, fear, panic and faces full of sea water as the spray was flung into the air and straight into the cockpit. With two reefs, we were still a little over powered at times. We saw 38 kts of wind over the deck. That is nearly a full Gale. It was a most enjoyable white water, white knuckle ride. We had one casualty, as Peter lost his hat overboard, never to be seen again. Oh, and Mike nearly (but not quite) spilled his bottle of beer.

We came back into the pontoons, and despite the ferocious wind, I demanded that Mike put Kandula back into her spot, astern.

I watched as a near disaster slowly revealed itself in front of me. Mike, as calm as ever continued in his task. He never wavered. His concentration was solid. His steering was…..not. After the initial three attempts to get Kandula going in the right direction, Mike gave the throttle, the ‘Balls to the wall’ treatment. We shot off, in full astern propulsion towards the pontoon. Mike was pinned behind the tiller and the throttle was in full reverse. Kandula kept going, fighting the wind, fighting Mike on the helm and with the instincts of a homing Elephant, we arrived at our pontoon. Thankfully Cameron Sharp was at hand to assist the elderly Mahouts, in getting Kandula safely tied up. Thanks guys, that was the most entertaining yacht handling I have seen for a while.

We returned to HY Tyne for a great meal, supplied by John ‘Joker’ Erskine and his girls (Amy, Katie and Cath)

The food was well received, even if it bore no resemblance to what was on the menu.  But with John in the galley, you really have to go with the flow and take pot luck. (That job lot of ‘Apple Betties’ eventually paid off eh John?)

Saturday dawned very hot. There were clear skies and a gentle sailing breeze. It dawned very early for Karen, who set her alarm (new iPhone) for 07:30 to make a start in the galley. Unfortunately there is also an alarm on my watch (which I can’t turn off, having lost the instructions) which goes off at 05:30

Karen heard the alarm (mine) and got up, washed, dressed, make-up on and ready to start work. She was quite early. Very sorry Karen, I will find the instructions…or get a new watch.

food 2

Karen’s Pirate Party food

Karen worked all day, preparing and setting up the galley, pontoons etc for the Pirate Barbecue. I would like to offer my sincerest thanks for the hard work that you put in. (I am sure that your skills will shine through, and someone will come along and offer you a job on the back of it!)

I would like to say that I worked extremely hard too. Those yachts just refuse to sail themselves!

Brian Thornton was down at the club to officially hand over ownership of Yacht ‘Honey Bee’ to Shaun Steward.  Shaun, has finally seen the light. He is selling his stink pot motor boat and is joining the rag and stick brigade. ‘Fair Winds’ Shaun, welcome to the club. People may start to talk to you now.

Brian was almost in tears, as his beloved ‘Honey Bee’ left the family Thornton.

Steve Meakin, being the considerate soul that he is, eased the pain, by telling Brian that he had overhears Shaun’s plans to paint ‘Honey Bee’ gloss green and rename her ‘Moonpig Makem Lass’

Oh how we laughed!

Brian and I went sailing with Shaun in ‘MML’ to show him the ropes. It was perfect yachting weather. There was a nice westerly wind, flat sea and blue sky. It was one of those days where we could have sailed over the horizon and kept going. This in fact was a distinct possibility, as Shaun had never tacked a yacht before.

(In the following paragraph, I have used pseudonyms, to save any embarrassment. Sorry, I didn’t do this for Mike Swann, but I couldn’t think of a suitable name for him.)

We returned once more to RNYC, where Brian, Shaun and ‘Moonpig’ continued their training session, with a bit of pontoon bashing. This is not the same pontoon bashing as  ‘Not Peter Tayler’, or  ‘Not Tony Harrison’ do, it was a little more controlled and there was less shouting involved.

(For those whom I have named in this blog, please note that no offence is intended or inferred.)

I was then summoned by ‘Mummy’ Karen Blenkinsop, who in her charge to be the first female Commodore of RNYC, ordered me about for the rest of the afternoon. I really enjoyed getting the chairs, barbecues and gazebo’s from various sheds and containers strewn around Garry Robson’s empire. It has to be his empire, because he has all of the keys and any time I asked the location of anything, I was told, ‘Ask Garry, he will know’. And do you know what…..he does. Thanks Garry. Also thanks must go to Tony Harrison, who took time off replacing his 15th engine to help me with fetching and carrying.

Iain Robertson was dispatched to buy a ‘pop up’ gazebo. When we took it out of the box, it dawned on us that Iain has no concept of what is meant by ‘pop up’ (insert own innuendo here!).

We were faced with some monstrous construction, which took me back to the days when I decided that  ‘Scouting’ was just another name for torture by canvas and metal poles.

The gazebo came with handy instructions and little metal poles that were numbered for easy identification. Of course, being men, we didn’t need the instructions, so we threw them away. We then stood in a huddle of 5 men (imagine a council work party…..got the idea?) and proceeded to watch Ashleigh, as she put the gazebo together. Good effort men.

After all of this hard work, it was decided to have a little light exercise, to cool the blood. Me, Ian Peddie, Jamie Sheperd and Geoff McDonough, took the Toppers for a quick spin around the dock.

We sailed back and forth for a little while. Ian then decided to practice his capsize technique. By the 25th time, he was getting really good at it. He was also, getting rather close to the North pier. Geoff had managed to flood his Topper, which would only sail backwards (apparently) and Jamie retired to the bar. He was supposed to go and get the RIB, but got distracted by a pint of lager on the way.

I gave up trying to tow Ian back to the pontoons, because I had run out of hands to both sail my boat and hang on to his painter. I was in danger of losing my teeth, which I discovered, are not a good alternative to hands, whilst sailing!

I dropped Ian like a hot potato and cast him adrift, leaving him to his fate. I sailed off to get the RIB (and possibly a pint of lager).  I was relieved to see that Ian was not going to be by himself, as shortly afterwards, Geoff sailed past me, backwards, to join Ian on the pier wall.

Together with Jamie, we took the RIB and went to the rescue. We managed to tow the two Toppers back into the Dock. On the way back to the pontoons, we cast Geoff adrift once more. The momentum helped him to master the art of forward sailing. Meanwhile, the second Topper, skipper less now that Ian had jumped aboard the RIB, decided to capsize without Ian’s assistance. Unfortunately, it could not right itself. Jamie had it in hand. He expertly stood up, and threw Ian into the dock.

Topper sailing! Who thought it could be so much fun?

As the day wore on, we prepared ourselves for the barbecue. We had a drink and got dressed up in Pirate costumes.  Jonny Depp has a lot to answer for. I have not seen so much eye makeup in one spot. That was just the men! (me included….I looked like Keith Richards on a bad hair day!)


Ian and Christine, party on!

The barbecues were lit, the food was prepared (Thanks again Karen) and the drink flowed.


The Barbecues

Tug o war

Tug of War…WE WON!

We played games (Water tug-of-war) and threw water bombs. We chatted, joked and even had time to play a little music. It looked like our own (budget) tribute to Gilbert and Sullivan. As the sun set, the music mellowed and out came the one and only ‘Joker’ Erskine with his Sinatra / Buble / Elvis tribute act. A special mention must be made of his fantastic assistant, Mike ‘Dick Van Dyke’ Swann, who kept us entertained.

tha band

Pirates of Penzance?

 I cannot describe it, but imagine watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with a Sinatra backing track, whilst stoned. Add a little LSD and you are getting there!


The party pontoon

Massive thanks to ‘Joker’ and Amy for keeping the beer flowing. You guys did a great job.


Karen entertains Ian Peddie!

On Sunday morning, the annual Alnwick Rum Run took place. The weather was hot and clammy. There was very little wind.

The racing fleet, consisting of-

‘White Sails’

Kandula (retired 5 hours)

Steel Dreamin’ (retired 4 hours and 45 minutes)

Emigre (Runner up)

Silk Purse

Chaos (Winners in class and overall winner of the Trophy)

Konga (retired after 2 minutes)




Shotgun 6 (Class winners)

Honour Bound

The two classes, ‘White Sail’ cruiser class and the ‘Spinnaker’ class, shared a start line and were to start 10 minutes apart. However there was so little wind, the two starts were indistinguishable from each other. ‘Steel Dreamin’ managed to upset the ‘Spinnaker’ start by ‘luffing up’ Shotgun 6, who then made contact with the committee boat and was close to giving ‘Honour Bound’ a nudge too.  Incredible, given the fact that there was only about 2kts of wind.

The only reason I got ‘Kandula’ over the line at all was the fact that I drifted over backwards, 6 minutes after the start of the race!

After 5 hours, we retired ‘Kandula’ from the race. We had managed to round 3 racing marks. Little was I to know that the race had been shortened, and we had retired with only ½ a mile to go! There is always next year, I suppose. We had enjoyed a number of cups of tea; warm pasties and some ‘mug shot’ noodles. The ‘Kandula’ crew know how to race. (Slowly)


And…they’re off!

The’Spinnaker’ class was won by Shotgun 6.

The ‘White Sail’ class, which in this event was the premier class, was won by ‘Chaos’. The runners up were ‘Emigre’.

Well done to all those who finished the race. Thanks to Jez Watson, who was race officer and set a great sailing course. (Shame there was not enough wind to complete it)

Congratulations to the winners (who got a trophy and a bottle of Rum).

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank David Ainsley of ‘Spirit of Northumberland’ and ‘Alnwick Rum’ who sponsored the event.

David attended the club in order to present the winners with their trophy and bottles of the fabulous Alnwick Rum.

I would like to finish by thanking all of those who attended the events, (not in name though)

Thanks to all of the RNYC staff for your hard work. Thanks to the various RNYC sub committees for your assistance in making the events possible. My special thanks go, of course, to Karen Blenkinsop (my lovely wife) who worked like a Trojan for the entire weekend.

If I have missed anyone out, it is not by deliberate omission (unless it’s you Mike Swann; yours is deliberate!) Thanks.

If I have offended anyone, it is not intentional (unless it’s you Mike Swann….bla bla..usual clauses etc)

Some or all of the above events may, or may not actually have happened. Some of this blog is made up by me after the event.

Any comments are welcome, but may not be published.