Porthpean Sailing Club  

Three Men in a Boat up the Percuil

Recently Pete Barnes & Tony Dunn spent a weekend on Mike Trise's boat, which is moored at Percuil. Below is an account written by Pete of their trials and tribulations.

It was ill found optimism which drove us, for I had witnessed the dawn and seen the grey sky break streaked montbretia-orange; a sure harbinger of weather to come. Yet each of us had our private reasons to listen only with our hearts, and sometimes when life kicks you in the pants, reason needs a disregard. Thus it was we chose the weather forecast on the internet with the most favourable outlook and chose to disregard the rapid descent of the barometer. Matters such as the curry are cooked and the beer packed held sway, and although sensible words were spoken by the cabin boy, Captain Trise and his First Mate Dunny had caught a whiff of the curry and the dye was cast.

The expedition began with photographs in the customary way with the three posers posing in what is best described as expressions of intrepid fortitude, whilst sheltering under Mrs Trise’s front porch A quick inventory check showed first aid kit and sun cream missing. Fortunately this afforded more space for beer which was quickly stowed. Captain Trise, with his usual munificence, allowed the Cabin Boy to drive. With a merry toot sad wives were left in a tearful, melancholic vacuum awaiting their return. It must have been tough for them, but a good woman knows that when her man feels the call of the wild she is powerless to avert it

The Percuil River, even draped in soft drizzle, holds a charm; the urgent call of the avocet, the incessant tinny song of halyard on mast, the ebb and flow of tides that wash the sins and the trappings of mankind, and bury them in the mud from which they came. It’s a beautiful place to take stock, and a beautiful place to touch the daftness of boyhood again.

The White Swan at anchor As with all expeditions, logistics can be daunting, but the beer and the sleeping bags, the curry and breakfast victuals were manhandled to staging post one on the shingle beach. The White Swan beckoned. She rode at mooring waiting to spread her wings and fly. That is at least how Captain Trise, her creator, envisaged her, but First Mate Dunny and the Cabin Boy were more concerned with how they could get to the White Swan and Captain Trise was sharply awakened from his T Rex-style reverie when the absence of a tender was pointed out. Yam Yam the tender is a triumph of design. It’s like an upturned coffin without a lid. She is two sheets of Totem timber 8’ x 4’ ply and a little Trice magic which somebody else had thought to commandeer. Luckily the commandeerer had just returned to his mooring and was swayed by the Cabin Boy’s entreaties shouted across the river to him. If it’s possible to paddle sheepishly, his was a sheepish paddling, much to the relief of the Cabin Boy, who from present form knew it would fall to him to have to swim out and recommandeer the vessel. Much apologising ensued and it was due only to the thief’s innocent and embarrassed cargo that the First Mate didn’t cuff him. It also at this moment dawned upon the First Mate the cognisance of an earlier phone call from Mrs Dunn, via Mrs Trise and Mrs Barnes, which the First Mate thought charming but misplaced. Why would they be so concerned that Captain Trice had forgotten his Rolex? And how could the said Captain afford a Rolex? Necessity being the mother invention saw rope binding act as oar hinges and Captain Trise again in his munificence allowed the Cabin Boy to row them and the provisions to the Swam. Embarkation brought further complications and the organised mind of our Captain proved infallible as usual. The Cabin Boy was impressed with the Captain’s foresight in keeping his cabin keys with his rowlocks. Luckily the White Swam gave herself freely and entry was gained with only a little coaxing. Our good Captain proved his worthiness again, by allowing the Cabin Boy to cook his, and the First Mate’s supper.

One can only bestow so much honour upon a young and impressionable mind before ideas beyond that young mind escape its imagination. So it was Cabin Boy Barnes demanded after all the Boy Scout camping at sea nonsense, to have the honour to up the anchor and set the White Swan free to ply the silver waters of the Carrick Roads. The crew regarded his simplistic logic with disdain, and knowing the folly of using a sailing boat for sailing, started the engine. St Mawes can be a daunting place to land when ribald comments are shouted from the seafront drinking emporiums, and the village youth throw themselves from the heights of the sea wall in an attempt to ruffle the Swan’s feathers. Exposing her large white aft to St Mawes, the Swan haughtily scuttled back along the Percuil to her mooring.

An alternative plan was quickly hatched and the warmth of the Royal Standard in Portscatho proved worthy to the needs of the expeditionaries. Good ale is conducive to song, and detrimental to listening. In the way Pavarotti lives in the shower with every stout-lunged man, so Bill Sharp releases the pop star in every pub singer. Captain Trise is of the stout-lunged ilk, and when Bill stole his usual reserve, the Captain gave vent to his personal interpretations of Lindisfarne’s Dream Seller. He was the seller of dreams; he had dreams to share. Unfortunately the local clientele felt anything but somnambulance. Theirs was a different agenda, theirs a crushing of a bygone era, a cruel interaction of characters. In a way that Phil Mitchell might mock Denzel Pemberthy, so the local Londoner in his designer surf gear kept a barrage of sarcasm headed at the local snuff-sniffing biker. The nicotine had aged his face and he looked as tired as the BSA badge sown to his leather jacket. Yet despite the offer of a rolled ten pound note from Phil to better aid his snuffing, the biker sang along with the pub singers with a quiet confidence. Everyone knew, because there is a language beyond words between ex lovers that the aging strawberry blonde on Phil’s arm spoke silently. She spoke of a history beyond Phil; she spoke of helter skelter rides down Cornish lanes thrilled by the BSA lightning whilst clutching the back of that leather jacket. And the songs went on and on until just a memory and Don MacLean had left us singing our own dirges in the dark.

To say the Swan’s accommodation is palatial is an overstatement; nay a blatant lie, in fact park benches have the upper hand in as much as they don’t move. Yet the Cabin Boy was grateful for his hutch in the prow. He was also deeply pleased our worthy Captain had arranged a plank across the companionway for the First Mate, whose cheery disposition seemed to belie all adversity. “Good night Tone.” “Goodnight Mike.” “Goodnight Pete.” “Yeah goodnight, night Mike.” “Goodnight Tone.” “Aww shut up and go to sleep.”

So it was the weary companions fell into the downy raptures of sleep within the heart of the Swan; but the Swan knew gas in her bowels. She bucked and tore at her mooring. As the pressure grew below, she rode her chain and lashed frenziedly until her Captain, confused between the surreal and the real, woke his crew. The underpants-clad crew made much water whilst our brave Captain secured a roped strop to the mooring chain to quieten the Swan. He regained the safety of the cabin looking a tad dishevelled and claimed it was pretty rough on the peak and that he had ridden the White Swan and was nearly sick all down his jumper, but in the morning it would be alright. The First Mate assumed the Captain still hadn’t separated the real from the surreal and the spirit of Mark Bolan lived within his madness.

The Cabin Boy awoke to another grey dawn and plaintive calls from the companionway “Is anyone awake yet?” The First Mate’s cheery demeanour had waned a little, to the point that his huddled figure might be seen as dejected. “My sleeping bag’s soaked.” The Cabin Boy felt he ought to cheer him with the warmth of sympathy, for he knew that age, like infancy has those shameful moments. It was not until the waterproof hatch was proved to be anything other than waterproof that the Cabin Boy could be convinced to the contrary.

The White Swan under sail The weather had turned from squally showers to a persistently squally downpour and over coffee and eggs a strategic withdrawal was agreed upon. The First Mate quickly regained his happy demeanour and came out with some tosh about smiling in the face of adversity. The Captain regained his equilibrium, aided by a visit to the little room in the woods only bears use. And the Cabin Boy rowed them home safe in the knowledge that though the world be full of genius and visionaries, it’s the donkey that changed the world.

Pete Barnes

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