About Me

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I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tale of Two Canary Island Winters - Part Four: Charterers

Charterers who are still friends.
A yacht, however roomy, demands a certain amount of tolerance from people who are flung together in such a small space. It says a lot for the essential good nature of sailors that most of the people who chartered Simba were pleasant and interesting. The quartet of people on the left (that's me in the very middle with the gigantic sunglasses) became - and remained - friends, especially the couple on the right, Frank and Anne Mapes of Millport. If you've ever had the good fortune to visit the lovely little isle of Cumbrae, off the west coast of Scotland, and cycle round it, there's a fair chance that you'll have hired your bike from 'Mapes of Millport' - a wonderful cycle hire and old fashioned toy shop in the middle of the town. The couple on the left (with Barbara's head obscured by the boom) are their friends, potter Barbara Davidson and her husband Brian, of Larbert pottery fame.

They spent a fortnight aboard Simba and we divided the time between sightseeing on Tenerife, and sailing to La Palma and La Gomera. Sometimes they would eat out - often inviting us to join them - sometimes we would cater for them aboard the boat - with quite a lot of the cooking done by yours truly, a fact which still amazes me in retrospect. Of late, I've tended to subscribe to the Deborah Meaden school of catering. She once said on the television programme, Dragons Den, and much to the amazed disbelief of the other dragons, that she 'didn't cook.' And I thought, yes, I could live with that. But back then, I was young and energetic and didn't much mind catering. Or not in the Canaries with its abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and wonderful seafood, anyway!

San Sebastian, La Gomera. The governor's tower, where Beatriz de Bobadilla lived, on the right. 
Two incidents helped to cement our friendship. The two couples had paid for a skippered, catered charter which meant that we were to sail wherever they wanted to go within reason and on the advice of the skipper who always has the last word, for reasons of safety. But a day or two before they arrived, we realized to our horror that the boat's account, which was meant to be topped up by the company in Scotland, hadn't received any money for a long time. Frantic phone calls ensued and money was promised. It didn't come. The reasons why were too complicated to go into here but it's always a hazard for yacht skippers working a long way from the parent company. The fact remained that we had four people arriving for a two week holiday, and we had nothing but the boat and - given that Alan wasn't exactly handsomely paid and I wasn't paid at all - a tiny amount of our own cash in the bank.

Panic.

Alan did the only thing possible, took Frank to one side, and explained the situation. To his eternal credit, Frank reassured us that it wasn't our fault, financed the whole thing, and said, 'Don't worry about it. I'll make sure I get my money when I get back to Scotland. And believe me, I'll make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen to you again.' He was as good as his word.

The second incident involved our first proper visit to the beautiful island of La Gomera, although Alan had sailed there before to top up with their excellent water. High on the hill above San Sebastian, the port and main town of La Gomera, you can just make out that there is a large statue standing on a hill. Alan's boss back in Scotland, who had spent a little time in the Canaries, assured us that this was a statue of Christopher Columbus, pointing west. Now Columbus did visit La Gomera, and is even reputed to have had an affair with the wife of the governor, the Princess Beatriz de Bobadilla, of savage repute, before heading off to the Americas. So it seemed perfectly feasible that a statue would have been erected to him.

Alarming cactuses and starry tabaiba bushes.

Feeling energetic one day, we and our four charterers decided that we would hike up the hill to pay our respects to Columbus. It was a longish climb up a steep hill. We managed to find our way out of town and passed by small houses, asking various people who were sitting outside in the sun, watching the world - and the visitors - go by, if this was the right way to the statue of Cristobal Colon. This is, of course, the Spanish name for Columbus and we were quite pleased with ourselves for knowing it.

Now the inhabitants of La Gomera are deeply, instinctively polite and kindly. So they all smiled at us, and nodded vigorously. Although we were aware of a certain puzzlement, nevertheless. You know what it's like when you think somebody's a bit odd, but don't really want them to know you think so, because it would seem rude? Well, that. We soon left the houses behind and hauled ourselves up the hill, past prickly pears and monumental cactuses and starry tabaiba bushes, closer and closer to the big statue, looking west.

Except that it wasn't Christopher Columbus at all. It was Jesus Christ, with a crown of light bulbs for stars, blessing the harbour. Some of his fingers had been damaged, which made it look - from a distance - as though he might well be pointing west. Not only had Alan's boss been just a little remiss in the matter of payments into the boat's account - he had also told a few porky pies about climbing to the top of this hill. We did the only thing possible, laughed a lot, sat in the sun for a while enjoying the stunning views, and then headed back to the boat for a few beers.


Not Columbus after all.















1 comment:

cronus said...

Thanks Catherine my friend Heather McBay comes from Millport. I know the Mapes lady. Heather was a lab assistant at the Marine biology station the one under threat of closure.Heather's dad Bud Finlayson got his OBE for services rendered there. Thanks again the photos are lovely. Sandy M