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  • Writer's pictureGillyB

Boat life

I have been asked some questions lately that have got me pondering about life on a boat and why I am where I am.

Family holidays were often spent in Poole in Dorset where my cousins lived. We spent a lot of time on the beaches and I distinctly remember watching the sails of boats on the horizon and knowing that I wanted to do that, then pondering how I could do that.

it looked like a world that would be inaccessible to me, from a north London suburb with no connections to the glamorous (as they appeared to me) yachties.

At school I wanted to be one of the wild rebellious kids, but, I was shy and lacked confidence, I became a sullen goth instead, because you could hide your lack of sociability under died hair and lots of make up. I was bored and frustrated.

My sister by contrast, was having a brilliant time taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh's award, although camping and walking would play havoc with my hair and make up routine I gave it a try. I discovered the outdoors, it changed everything, I found the place and the people where it didn't matter what you looked like, where we climbed mountains and swam in rivers and camped in pitch black and pouring rain.

Still shy, but, knowing that outdoor experiences made me happy, I saved up money from my weekend chambermaid job and took myself up to Scotland and stepped aboard Taikoo, one of The Ocean Youth Club (it is now Ocean Youth Trust) sailing boats, where I spent the week in the company of complete strangers sailing around the Hebrides.

Sailing was an escape from everything that was dull and safe and predictable and a future that scared me if I didn't push myself to get away.

After college and a 3 month expedition with Operation Raleigh in the States, I was back in the north London suburbs, living at home again and temping in insurance company offices, where my only task seemed to be photocopying reams of paper and filing it, I was desperate to get away and then spotted an advert in an Operation Raleigh newsletter for crew needed for a company called Square Sail who operated from Bristol.

I got the job, we were paid £20 per week and lived aboard.

Her name was Kaskelot, she was a 3 masted barque.

I lived and worked on Kaskelot for nearly two years, sometimes we were sailing, sometimes we were hosting surprising parties, sometimes we were in storms, sometimes we were in shorts the rest of the time we were maintaining the boat and getting pissed.

I haven't thought about her for a long time, but, I owe so much to her and those experiences. She is where I met my husband and where my 3 children came from.

She came back into my life in a strange way a few years ago.

Me and my husband were on holiday in Orkney, we were in a bad, sad way with our marriage the way marriages can go when you have been together a long time. We were walking along the coastline of Orkney and our son rang.

He was on a job in Bristol and remembered that that was where Kaskelot had been based and he had never seen her, but, knew that she had been instrumental to his existence, so he thought he would take a wander along the docks to see if she happened to be there.

She was and he got chatting to the people on board and blagged his way on for a look around.

That phone call from our son from that boat at that time had some kind of poetry about it.

She is no longer called Kaskelot and she is no longer part of the Square Sail fleet, that is part of the magic of ships, they have long lives and travel on to have many stories told in them.

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20 ott 2020

Hi Gillian, well it's a small world after all. For some strange reason your story of life onboard Kaskelot poped up on my ipad and there you were! remember me ? Roddy Allan, (with the motorbike), Square Sail, Bristol, 1989-90ish.

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