Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tamar Night

Title: Tamar Night
Characters: Damien and Nick
Warnings: Well.... apologies. No discipline, no real plot, just something silly for Sunday afternoon. It's the end of the Easter holidays today, which means I'll belt up for a while. Promise!

Tamar Night

Damien was striding down the dock in sunglasses, a white and blue windcheater and shorts, which made him look very tanned, very fit and really rather edible all things considered. I loved his 'escaped from the set of Top Gun' look. I leaned against the cabin stairwell and watched him pull himself aboard, landing lightly on the deck.

"We're cleared, we can go when we're ready. Is that for me?"

I handed him a coffee and he kissed me for a thankyou, propping himself on the side. It was just past seven am and we'd only been up for half an hour, but it was a cool, misty morning, promising to be bright, and the smell and the sound of the sea around us was too much of an incentive to laze in the bunk. I sat at his feet at the top of the stairs and ran a coffee-hot hand over his nearest bare knee. He was cold from the morning chill, his hair still tousled since we'd neither of us done more this morning than shave and dress- there was little point in being tidy in order to go out and sail. He tangled his fingers in my hair and gave me a smile, knocking the coffee back.

"Start that and we won't be going anywhere. Shall we make a move?"

"I thought you wanted breakfast?" I teased him, well aware he was dying to get out of the harbour.

"In half an hour when we're out of here." He retorted, well aware he was being teased. "Come on my boy, do something useful."

"Like what?"

Damien didn't answer but gave me a suggestive look.

I grinned, dodged the pinch aimed for my bum and went to take in the mooring lines. We'd reefed thoroughly yesterday afternoon, after we'd done the several hours of preliminary checks that Damien insists on every single time we sail the Tamar, even if we only took her out a few weekends previously. Every inch of sail, every inch of rigging, block and tackle, every piece of equipment on board. After which we'd set up the sails before we lowered them, prepared for this morning. We'd power out of dock as we always did, being a far more precise and less complicated means of manoeuvering between the other boats and buoys moored around us, and put the sails up once we were well clear of any obstructions. And we were leaving a good hour ahead of the tide this morning too, but we were in no hurry and it was worth the extra effort to be gone before most of the other boats around us began to clear for a day's sailing. Damien behind me, carried on drinking coffee with one hand and started the engines with the other. They purred into life immediately, fresh from their spring service and yesterday's numerous tests and Damien tinkering with them. I stowed away the lines and began to take in the fenders, pausing to watch as Damien turned her gently and began to edge her away backwards from the docks.

This is the part I always make him do- this is invariably where I lose centreline through not being strong enough with the tiller, and jam the rudder. Which more than once has led to Damien having to strip, jump in and kick it free again. It never happens to him though. He backed her without difficulty through the numerous boats moored around us into the clear water further back, turned her slowly and opened the throttle. The breeze picked up instantly as she began to move. I packed away the last of the fenders, retrieved my own coffee and went to sit near him. The docks at Southampton are always busy. Even the marinas like ours at Woolston are packed and although we were west of Southampton's huge and commercial docks where the ferries and heavy ships docked, there was still no shortage of traffic as we came out of the marina and down into the opening mouth of Southampton Waters. For the next half hour we said little. Damien concentrated on keeping our distance from the slow moving ferries and few other boats and ships using the channel even at this hour of the morning, and took us west at a steady pace, as we had to cross the ferry routes as we sailed, judging the fifteen to twenty minute gaps between the giant ships with care, since one was always in sight ahead of us and behind us.

By a quarter to eight we came into sight of Hythe, and after that the waters widened. Damien tucked us into the west coastline and the boat began to pick up the deeper roll as she moved out of more sheltered waters. There he turned off the engines and I got up with him to raise the sails.

There never is anything like the feel of her once she's under sail rather than power. I ducked automatically as her boom swung over, her sails filled and Damien stood for a minute, watching carefully before he nodded. We'd reefed her pretty firmly, since this time of year is always unpredictable and Damien, who comes from a sailing family, was raised with the maxim 'reef deep and reef early'. We loosened her a little, but the wind was strong this morning, the tide was beginning to run with us and there was no need to do anything more now than enjoy the coastline slipping away. Damien had an eye on his charts but he knows her draught, knows the depths and where to avoid beaching her, and on this route which we know well, there's little danger for a light ocean cruiser. Apart from occasionally trimming the sails as the wind lifted and moved, there wasn't much for me to do while he held the tiller, and I went down into the cabin, found a thicker and heavier sweater, and began to make breakfast.

We passed Calshot castle around midmorning and we were moving slowly enough that I lay where I was on the desk and sketched it. Round, grey and solid, it guarded the mouth to the Solent and the open sea lay beyond us. This was exactly why we sailed and why we loved it. Damien was half sitting, half lounging at the tiller, watching the coastline as much as the water. I shut my sketch pad and rolled over, watching the open and blue grey water for a while, and the outline of the Isle of Wight far in the distance, then picked up my book once more. We were alone out here, undisturbed and uninterrupted, it was the most peace either of us had had in weeks, and we had no intention of docking anywhere today. When I got bored I got up and went across to him, and he shifted over, leaving the tiller to me and wrapping both arms around me from behind. The wind had made hay with his hair, it was on end and he was already darkly tanned around his sunglasses just from the steady pressure of the wind in his face. He chewed on my neck and I leaned against him, breathing the last faint traces of his cologne and shampoo.

"We'd better think about radioing across to Poole," he said eventually into my ear. "Book a berth for the night."

It was our usual night stop on this route, but it was too nice a day, too calm water and I hesitated, then twisted to look up at him.

"Let's keep going. See if we can get round to Lyme bay."

"In one go?" Damien demanded. I looked at him hopefully. He shook his head at me at last, grinning.

"And this is the man who will NOT go out of British waters."

"I don't want to sail to Greece or anywhere else, just Lyme bay." I pointed out. "You were all for us practising night sailing and we've got plenty of fuel on board if we want to drop the sails and do it on power."

"And what about tides?" Damien inquired, yanking me closer. I turned around and put both arms around his neck, letting him worry about the tiller.

"Well you're the one with the charts. You're supposed to be able to figure this stuff out."

"You cheeky little bugger, I ought to make you go and do it."

I squirmed under his fingers, not trying very hard to get away. "I can't even read charts, that's your problem."

"That means sailing in shifts," Damien warned. "Especially if we're sailing all night, one of us sleeping and one of us sailing. That's how we'd have to do it if we went on a four or five day voyage."

"I can follow a course once you've charted it."

He was wavering, I could tell. Given the choice between settling in the marina at Poole, with the noise and lights and chatter of other boat crews and families around us, and the open water, he wasn't going to struggle much. If we went into Poole we'd do what we usually did- wander into town, find a restaurant, fall asleep in the subdued rocking of the marina berth- Lyme bay offered far more possibilities. I took the tiller from him, giving him a clear hint, and he swatted me gently, already moving past me for the cabin and the chart table.

"Ok. But you're sailing the first shift."


We were past Poole and on our way to Bournemouth by early evening. Damien had taken us further out from the coast to deeper waters to avoid being affected too much by the currently slack tide. So far we were still running on sail, and running well. Damien came up from the cabin with bacon sandwiches and tea around seven pm and an anorak which I was happy to put on. The Easter weather was bright but it wasn't yet any too warm. We put the radio on and Damien tuned into the news and the weather forecast before we switched back to a music channel. The night ahead was predicted as calm, with low winds and clear skies. Perfect sailing weather.

Damien had changed into jeans and a heavy sweater himself, and he moved quietly around the boat checking the lights as he put them on. The Tamar was designed for ocean cruising; she'd done more than one Mediterranean run before we'd bought her, and two Atlantic crossings. She was quick for a little 39 footer, with a sloop rig and a 6'6 foot draught, a little out of date now as she'd been built in the seventies as a cruiser and racer, but we loved her and she was designed to be a powerful, long distance boat. She would be happy to run all night if we wanted to. When he was done, Damien brought my two monitors and inhalers up on deck and I gave them perfunctory attention- out here where I was unstressed, where there was little dust, I was with him all day and being forcefed oxygen from the sea breeze, I never had much problem. The figures indicated nothing more needed than the usual inhalers, for the first time in weeks. Damien read the figures over my shoulder and pulled me around to kiss me, taking his time.

"I keep telling you we ought to run away to sea." I informed him when I had the breath to speak. Damien gave me his wolf grin and kissed me again, briefly and hard.

"Don't tempt me. Put those away darling."

The idea was actually rather nice. I poured two brandies and found a large bar of chocolate in the galley, musing on the ins and outs of it. Although we'd have to endlessly circle the English coast which limited the options of potential piracy: he could talk all he wanted about the Greek islands, we weren't going.

We cuddled peaceably at the tiller and drank brandy and ate chocolate to late night radio, and the stars overhead were amazingly bright, undimmed out here by the electric light on land. Late night radio played softly and a heavy cruise ship passed us about a mile away. About eleven pm Damien leaned over to kiss me, still tasting of brandy, and got up.

"She's all yours then. Come and wake me about two. And whatever you do Nicholas, DON'T fall asleep."

I looked at him in outrage. He grinned but shook his head at me.

"You were all for night sailing, this is how it works. Stick to the course and shout if you want a hand."

He is a heartless so and so. Although once he'd gone below I admit, there was something incredibly peaceful about being there, alone in the silence and with the soft lights reflecting off the silver sea. The light was actually pretty good. It was a clear night, the moon was bright and it wasn't much harder to see than dawn or twilight. It wasn't at all difficult to follow the course Damien had set or to be confident in doing so. I turned the radio down and hummed along with it, digging my free hand in my pocket against the cold.

The radio station announced two am with the news and I hesitated, ready to call Damien, then changed my mind. I wasn't in the least sleepy, nor keen right now to relinquish the tiller and go down below to bed. It was too beautiful a night. Some time after four I heard him moving around in the galley and he came up a few minutes later with a mug of tea in each hand, still heavy eyed. I took the tea with frozen fingers and he swatted me, a little too efficiently, before he slipped an arm around my waist.

"I thought I said two?"

"You were sleeping."

"Hmm." He sipped tea, leaning beside me. The first changes in light were coming, indicating morning. "Anything happen?"

"Nothing at all. We're just coming up on Weymouth."

And the complicated bit, which was circling Portland and crossing the ferry routes before we turned into the safety and the sandbanks of Lyme bay. Damien took the tiller from me and nudged me with his hip.

"Go on. Get undressed and into bed, you're cold. And finish that tea."

We swapped a brief kiss goodnight and I left him turning the radio up, singing quietly along with something about breakfast at Tiffany's. The bunk was rumpled below and still warm. I pulled off my anorak, sweater and jeans, heeled off my trainers and curled up. The rocking of the boat was soothing and felt slighter down here than it had on deck where I was standing to move with it. I remember the radio moving onto something soft by Billy Joel as I fell asleep, and Damien tapping the boat siren a few times in greeting to a fishing craft which hailed us as it passed.


I knew as soon as I woke that we were at anchor. The Tamar was moving, but only in the gentle lift and swell of a bay tide. I lay for a moment, blinking, listening to the blessed sound of nothing except air and sea, then rolled over and found my watch. It was just coming up for eight am. I pulled my jeans on, a sweater over the top of the crumpled t shirt I was wearing, and headed barefoot up the stairs to the deck. Damien was reefing down the last of the sails. We were a couple of hundred yards off the shore, a long expanse of golden beach that stretched in both directions as far as the eye could see. Cliffs and sand and nothing more.

"Charmouth." I said with satisfaction. Damien smiled as he saw me.

"I thought this was what you had in mind. Good morning."

"Good morning." I paused to give him a hug and as soon as he touched me I was aware of the change in his mood. We knew the privacy of this bay and we'd been sailing all night, something which obviously had had a strong effect on him. He was past wanting to tease or play around. His hug rapidly become something a lot more serious and I freed myself with some effort.

"What do you want for breakfast?"

He caught me by the waistband of my jeans before I made it a step away and pulled me back.


"You must be starving." I ducked his arm and wriggled free. "Bacon? Eggs?"

"Ok." He looked at me, levelly. "But be quick."

I hid my grin and vanished into the galley.

Bacon, eggs, toast and tea were quick enough to knock up. I took the tray back up on deck and found Damien sitting on the companionway, eyes closed, listening to the news on the radio. It was reassuringly tedious: always a good sign that nothing dreadful was happening in the world. I passed him a plate and a mug of tea and settled crosslegged out of his reach to eat, starving hungry.

"Heard the weather forecast?"

"Warm, dry, low winds."

Perfect weather.

I bolted tea, watching Damien who was watching me, unsmiling.

"There was this thing on the radio last night."


"This report about a shipping broadcast between the Canadians and the Americans."


I finished the last of my toast, stretching out full length on the companionway.

"The Canadians radio the Americans at sea and say, you need to sail 15 degrees south to avoid collision with us. The Americans radio back in outrage and say no, YOU need to sail 15 degrees north. The Canadians radio right back and say, you MUST sail 15 degrees south to avoid collision."

"Mmn." Damien snapped the last piece of toast in half and flung it over the side. A seagull promptly dived on it and snapped it up.

"So this goes on for a while." I went on calmly, propping my chin on my arms. "Then the Americans radio and say "LOOK. We are a flotilla of warships, battle ships, submarines and an aircraft carrier. We demand YOU move or we'll be forced to take action against you." The Canadians radio back, "Fine. We're a lighthouse. Your call."

Damien looked at me. I shrugged, trying to keep the smile off my face.

"Well I thought it was funny. I suppose we ought to do the washing up- "

"Damn the washing up." Damien said impatiently, grabbing for me. I rolled out of his way and got up, reaching for the tray.

"Well someone's got to do it. You're the one who always says don't leave it sitting around when-"

"Come here."

"In a minute." I said patiently, "There's the bed to make and we ought to check the bilges-"

"BRAT." Damien lunged for me and this time he got his weight behind the grab. I crashed to the deck on top of him and he rolled us over, pinning me beneath him. "Get your kit off Hayes."

"It's freezing out here." I protested reasonably. Damien growled and I lost the battle with containing my laughter, shifting to let him help me out of my jeans before he took them off with his teeth. "Allright, allright, EASY boy. Anyone would think you were deprived."

"I am, you've been sodding about all morning. C'mere." He shifted his weight, got his mouth over mine and I rapidly turned my attention to his jeans, finding the fastenings on autopilot.

We didn't waste any time that morning. The beauty of knowing someone well, as well as we do, is the perfection of technique. Well practised, well understood, we knew exactly what the other liked and how, and we did it well.

The sun was well up over the bay by the time we were done, and in all truth it was anything but cold. We were in no state to notice anyway. We lay for some time on the deck, sprawled together in a tangle in the sunshine and dozing while the tide went out around us. We'd settled at anchor in this bay before- the beach was often deserted for miles apart from the occasional hiker, it was some miles from the popular tourist beaches, and it was an hour's gentle sail to Lyme Regis where several excellent pubs and restaurants offered diversion if we wanted it. At the moment we'd be happy enough living out of the fridge and spending our time on the beach. Damien had anchored us carefully, the tides here went out for miles on the gently sloping sands- we were out deep enough not to be beached, but in easy reach of the sand in an hour or two.

I rolled over and ran a finger down his spine, watching his shoulders ripple and twitch before I leaned over and kissed them. We were both wearing whisker burns, neither of us had got around to shaving this morning.

"You're tired. Why don't you go back to bed for an hour or two?"

"Only if you come too." Damien said without opening his eyes. I shrugged, still tracing lines on his back.

"I was going to bring a book up here and read, it's too hot to be down in the cabin."


He was more or less asleep. I got up without disturbing him and went down into the cabin, pulling on shorts and finding my current book before I grabbed a pillow and went back on desk. The deck was warm from the sunshine. I put the pillow between my back and the side, settled myself and pulled Damien's dark head over into my lap. I'm not sure he even woke. He always did need more sleep than me.

I leaned back in the sunshine, tangling my fingers softly in his thick, dark hair, and read in the gentle, rocking rhythm of the tide. The sun was well up now, the sky was clear and blue. It was going to be a beautiful day.

~ The End ~

Copyright Ranger 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was fun to re-read. I used a map and now since I've been to some of the places you mentioned it was fun to imagine N and D sailing by in their boat. Such a peaceful scene, unlike what I hear that it has been like lately with the St Jude storm.

Most of the artwork on the blog is by Canadian artist Steve Walker.

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