The Chairman's Letter
John-Henry Bowden reflects upon
the Sailing Season of 2014
Sets the Scene for the February 2015 AGM
I think I should start by apologising for the non-production of the 2014 Year Book. Peter Crook and I have been discussing its production on and off since the very enjoyable AGM in Emsworth last April, and now we have had to face the fact that the next edition will be the 2015 YearBook – I don’t think there’s a word yet for a Bienni-book.
The fact is, the excellent weather this last sailing season has meant that for both of us sailing and boatwork have taken priority over office work– and that’s an excuse none of you can argue with! Or if anyone does, their comment will be gladly received as actively volunteering for the vacant post of Editor. In fact, we are seriously missing Paul Cowman’s services which he gave loyally over many years, thereby earning a well-deserved rest; so one of my tasks as Chairman is to put the bite, or should that be bight, on one of you, to help in this way with the Admin which is the glue that holds our Association together.
Next, I want to thank you for the confidence you’ve placed in me by electing me Chairman for this last year (or was it just because I couldn’t run away fast enough?). It’s proved to be a very interesting year to do the job, and for much the same reason that that AGM was so encouraging, namely, we are blessed with a number of recently-recruited members with fresh youth and enthusiasm (“youth” is in some cases a relative term here).
Two of these, Robert Griffiths with his mate and wife Amanda, have proved to be very worthy successor-owners of Lindy II to dear Ron and Mary Goodhand (who were the two who started the HBA with Joan). (Actually I often wonder whether we own the boats, or do they own us?) He energetically organised an HBA South Coast meet on 12/13th July at Newtown River, Isle of Wight, which was a resounding success, with 9 HB boats in attendance, including two whose new owners signed up to join the HBA then and there. We were blessed with perfect weather for the weekend. Some arrived on Friday, others on Saturday right up to LW – I hadn’t previously known the entrance was navigable at LW –which fell just as most of us were on the Western foreshore enjoying a D-I-Y barbecue and each others’ company and yarns – and so we all had a grandstand view of Vindilis (Ex-THB’s own vessel, now in the competent hands of Richard and Helen Farmer) gracefully entering the harbour to be the ninth boat, just before Mary Gray (skipper Tom Riddell) had to leave to get her crew back to the mainland. We were also relishing the company (in addition to Lindy) of: Askadil with Simon and Penny Richardson, on her first season for 16 years; Craig and Kate Nutter’s Sabrina with her wonderful new interior fit-out and mud slinging junior crew; Little Kingfisher with her proud new owners Dan and Hannah Matthews plus the youngest member present, little Alexandra (3 months), and Caracole with Andy and Terry – who distinguished himself when their dinghy went adrift next day, by stripping off without hesitation and strongly swimming after it –wonderful what an Army training does for your reactions. And our own Cobber, of course.
However, I think all present will agree that the palm went to the stunning and huge presence of Tramontana which, at 36’ LOA, is I believe the largest vessel in the HB fleet. Martin Hansen, who was sailing her on passage from her old berth in Ipswich to her new home in Cardiff, succeeded in passing through the Solent in time to join us for the meet. We were so glad that he was willing to delay his onward passage for a couple of days to be with us, and we all admired Tramontana’s size and strength (of course from a distance she looks exactly like all the HB boats), her comfort down below and her new livery of maroon. Martin, as you’ve seen, has also been rendering us all sterling service with his terrific work on the website, for which I thank him warmly on your behalf. Following the barbecue 10 members came aboard Cobber for cake and a tot of rum to celebrate the 75th birthday of her and all the Z4s (all built in 1938/9), prompting memories of that old joke, “How do you get 4 elephants in a mini?”
Our next HB event was the East Coast Laying-up Supper on 13/14thSeptember, thanks as usual to Bryony Hebson. It was in fact a bit early for laying-up, and that was to take advantage of holding it on the Woodbridge Maritime Weekend. We were 9 HB members, joined for the occasion by 7 friends from the Albert Strange Association who proved to be not strangers at all, but very convivial. Keith and Janet Band had the honour of bringing the only HB boat present, Lady Mary of Woodbridge, and very hospitably invited us all aboard over the two days. It is so interesting and such a pleasure to see all these venerable boats continuing to be loved and sailed into evident immortality! On our way home (by road, alas!) we called in on Andrew and Janice Cocks in Colchester. Much to his delight, (though much against his doctor’sand wife’s advice!) Andrew is still sailing Ostar from her new berth underneath the Orwell bridge.
Then, not content with his Newtown River triumph, Robert Griffiths organised another South Coast meet for end-of-season, in the Haslar Marina in Portsmouth Harbour, also well attended by many crews as before, and their guests, though engine trouble prevented the Caracoles from coming by sea. We very much hope that these tales will inspire all you West Country members to organise your own meet in the 2015 season, and we promise to attend (D.V. and weather permitting).
Since laying up Cobber for the Winter I’ve been active on your behalf in shore-work. Earlier in the summer we were honoured to be the guests of our Vice-President Colin and Karin Jardine Brown in their very hospitable home in Hampshire. We had a wonderful evening with an excellent supper and rich memories of Colin’s Grandfather THB, enlivened with stories of his own life in medicine, in Afghanistan, GB, and elsewhere. We discussed, and he readily gave his agreement (subject to his brother Tim’s assent of which he assured us) to the project discussed at the AGM, to digitise the HB drawings which he currently holds, before offering them to a Maritime Museum to be preserved for the nation. I have now been in touch with several digitising bureaux and obtained a satisfactory quotation, and also with the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall, in Falmouth, through our own distinguished member George Hogg (Capt.R.N.Ret’d), who, I discovered, was a founder member of that Museum, has served on its board for 20 years, and is still Chairman of its Acquisitions Committee. He has since confirmed to Colin the Museum’s agreement to receive the HB archive, and I am optimistic that we may be able to report to the AGM on 15th Feb 2015, that that project has been completed. As agreed at our last AGM, and very much in accordance with our past President Joan’s wishes, the cost will be amply covered by her own generous legacy to the HBA which came through earlier this year, thanks to Colin and Tim. So, as you see, the HBA is alive and flourishing once more. We have properly mourned the loss of Joan, and now we are proving the truth of the Christian faith, that death is followed by Resurrection! (Well, you would elect a clergyman for your chairman, so you have to expect his input).
Which brings me to our Obituaries: Earlier this year we heard of the death of Geoff Taylor, the intrepid member who used to sail Watermaiden to and fro across the Atlantic each year, and through his letters to Joan regaled us all with (very brief and matter-of-fact) tales of his adventures. A great loss to the HBA. Another great loss was of our good friend and former Chairman Patrick Gibson, who died in October. I had the privilege of representing you at his Memorial Service at their local parish church in Sussex, near us. The church was crammed with some 200 people who came to pay their respects and re-live their memories of Patrick, who was obviously much loved in many walks of life, not just sailing. Lesley and her family gave a splendid lunch afterwards at which the conversation was very lively. We recently heard of the death of Mark Miller who with his wife Priscilla was a staunch Member of the Association for many years. Mark was a former editor of the Newsletter and was also responsible forthe Design Catalogue which contains details of all of THB's designs that had been built. He regularly travelled from Cornwall to Theale for theAssociation's AGMs and Priscilla’s meringues for Joan's bring-and-share lunches at The Crag were always eagerly awaited. Mark was also a member of the OGA and of the Albert StrangeAssociation and, with Jamie Clay, researched and co-wrote the definitive book Albert Strange: Yacht Design, Construction & Cruising. There was a Service of Thanksgiving on Tuesday 20th January at 2pm at St. Feock Methodist Church, near Truro, at which members of the Association were welcomed.
I’d like to end this with a text from Patrick’s Memorial service adapted from Psalm 23, as it speaks so well for all of us seafarers: The Lord is my pilot: I shall not drift. He lights me across the dark waters: he steers me in deep channels. He keeps my log: he guides me by the star of holiness for his name’s sake. Even though I sail ’mid the thunders and tempests of life, I will dread no danger: for you are near me, your sheet and tiller guide me. You prepare a harbour before me in the homeland of eternity: you anoint the waves with oil; my ship rides calmly. Surely sunlight and starlight shall favour me in the voyage I take: and I will rest in the port of my God for ever.
With best wishes for Good Sailing!
And for a very Happy New Year, and looking forward to seeing many of you at our forthcoming AGM.
From your chairman,