Goodbye to Lulu
There may be some longstanding inmates here on the WB Forum who remember the good ship “Lulu”, and her heroic voyages from Sunny Corner on the river Fal in Cornwall. Who remember how her crew, John the Skipper and Kate the First Mate, battled heroically against mud and tide to take her (and “Doris” the dinghy) on famous exploits up narrow and winding creeks, with only the herons and curlews for company. How we struggled on the beach to stem the ravages of time and rot, to keep the old girl seaworthy. And how you good folks on the forum were with us every step of the way, helping out with sound advice and, when all else failed, a shoulder to cry on. Well, just in case there are still some of the old gang here, I thought it only fair to post and let you know that we have sold “Lulu” and we shall sail her no more.
In 2005 (our sixth season) “Lulu” was in pretty good shape. We had fixed most of the major problems, including taking the topsides back to bare wood, she had a new companionway hatch and all the brightwork was varnished and gleaming. But, although we didn’t want to admit it, the seasonal grind of scrubbing, scraping and painting was beginning to wear us down. It still seemed as if we spent more time (far more time) working on the boat than we did taking it out on the water. In 2006 I made what subsequently proved to be a big mistake. This year, we thought, we will just do the minimum, enjoy using the boat for once, and catch up with the maintenance next season. And we did get out, and have good times, and take our friends out too on several sun-soaked and curlew-haunted voyages down the bosky Fal.
The next year, 2007, we paid the price. Kate had injured her shoulder badly on our canal holiday the previous autumn and could do nothing to help with the boat. My ever-nagging back decided to escalate into serious trouble mode, and I could barely bend down, let alone scrub off the bottom and anti-foul. Everything needed doing on “Lulu” after a year of neglect, and I could do very little on my own. She sat on the mooring all summer, and on my weekly visits to pump out, start the engine and charge the battery I could only watch her varnish flake, decks go green and ropes harden through lack of use.
This winter we took stock. Neither Kate nor I were getting any fitter (or younger). “Lulu”, though we loved her dearly, was just too old and too big a boat for us to cope with anymore. And so we decided to sell her. Just writing these bare words feels strangely like an act of betrayal, because (of course, as you all know) a wooden boat is not just a boat. She gets under your skin, whispers to you of your dreams, becomes a reflection of your hopes and fears, and in the end is a mirror of your own mortality.
So it was that this Saturday just gone, we went down to “Lulu” for the last time. I handed the Bill of Sale to the new owner, he gave me the cash. We spent the morning clearing the ship of all our gear – the lifejackets, my binoculars, pots and pans, spare clothing, paints and tools, the charts. After eight years, it was almost as bad as moving house, and by the end our little car was stuffed to the roof rails. We went to the nearby supermarket café for lunch, and ate in miserable silence, neither of us with any appetite for food. After lunch we boarded “Lulu” again and waited for the incoming tide, just like old times. Once again the ripples lapped around the old girl’s stern, once again the mast swayed and her keel lifted softly off the mud. Battery on, sea-cock open - come on, please start! (she did, first time), and Kate and I slipped easily into the old routine. We came off the mooring, eased her a couple of hundred yards up-river, and with “Lulu” having a little last-minute struggle against the wind and tide, brought her safely home onto her new berth. Finished with engines! – and the crew left the ship.
We still have our WB hats.
Best wishes to you all from John and Kate.