John Laing

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OYT South bulletin 11th June 2004

There comes a moment in the life of every novice ice-skater when you just have to let go of the barrier and strike out on your own. Some of us were beginning to wonder whether JOHN LAING was suffering a similar crisis of confidence: ever since the winter refit, she has been clinging to the south coast of England – not exactly teetering along the edge in spangles and a tutu, but certainly displaying every reluctance to abandon the security of the shore. But we all knew that this was merely the fault of the weather, and that as soon as she had a decent forecast, she’d be off across the Channel. This week, JOHN LAING finally got the chance to skate south.

It all started in Southampton, with a crew including several old friends from Bourne College and Stanbridge Earls school. The problem of the lack of a first mate for the trip (see previous bulletin) had been resolved by a sequence of several first mates doing a few days each. It was a bit like those episodes of Dr Who where Jon Pertwee is regenerated as Tom Baker who later becomes Peter Davison…..Anyway, we started the trip with two Time Lords, Dougie Walker and Helen Acton, who helped Wolf get from Gosport to Cowes in not much more time than the Tardis would have taken, but with rather less creaking and groaning. There they regenerated as John Clack, and did a short hop to Poole. The final reincarnation turned out to be Graeme Cole, and the intergalactic travel began with a trip across to Alderney.

Here the boat spent a full day, and the crew did an expedition ashore to explore the island. Skipper Wolf kidnapped Princess Craig; but fortunately for the crew, they left a long trail of clues, and after patient and skilful tracking across several miles, they were at last discovered. The princess was rescued, the wolf’s life was spared, and they all went on to see the Second World War exhibition at the museum.

At the start of the war, the local population of Alderney was told that if the church bells rang, it meant the Germans were coming and they must evacuate the island at once. Barely 24 hours later, they heard the signal. They succeeded in reaching England, and it was more than five years before they were able to return. This meant that they avoided living under German occupation, as the people of Jersey and Guernsey had to do. But part of Alderney became a concentration camp, where many slave workers from eastern Europe died from malnutrition or exhaustion while building the island’s fortifications.

The museum provided some sobering moments; but the day in Alderney was greatly enjoyed by all. Wolf and Craig saw some sharks; and the crew made friends with a local girl called Olive, who apparently showed them up by being miles better than them at absolutely everything.

On the next day, JOHN LAING had a foggy passage to Cherbourg, where one of the highlights was a game of football. Wolf played in goal and had so many scored against him by the sea staff that he tried asserting his skipper’s authority by ordering them not to score any more. Graeme Cole turned out to be so good that he is now to be known as “Becks”, and we are actively seeking Posh Spice look-alikes to sail with him in future and complete the illusion.

They had a good sail back across the Channel. Wolf says that the crew were a boisterous bunch with never a dull moment, while some of the sea staff excelled themselves. Dinghy Boy completed his second mate’s assessment, while Phoebe became OYT South’s one and only New Zealand-based third mate. Congratulations to both of them on passing their assessments – a well-deserved success after all the efforts they have both put into the boat in recent months and years.

Thanks also to all the Time Lords (aka first mates), and to Andy Royse, who had his first practice trip as a trainee Time Lord – answers on a postcard as to what sort of qualities should be added to him if he shows signs of regenerating…..

This weekend there are marketing days on board JOHN LAING in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, and next week’s voyage is for crew members chosen by our Isle of Wight support group – thanks for your efforts too.

There are still three berths available on voyage 27: 20th-25th June, Southampton to Poole, £125. Call the office on 0870 241 2252 for details.





“This has been one of the best experiences of my life and I will never forget it.” Sam, aged 16

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