No other crew had such a comprehensive inability to remember, from one hour to the next, how to coil down a halyard, hang a coil on a belaying pin, or make fast a sheet. One of their number was known as Nigel, and they were keen to learn nautical language in order at approximate moments to shout “ Ready about”, “ Helm’s a-lee”, or “Stand by to gybe”, invariably followed by an “Excuse me, Nigel” as the tiller embedded itself in Nigel’s soft midriff, unfailingly to be found in the least convenient position. From then on, Alpha had a unique sea expression: “ Stand by for an excuse-me-Nigel”.
What Michael remembers most about his ownership of Alpha is the sheer enjoyment that she has gicen to nearly 1,000 people, many of whom had never set foot aboard a sailing ship before. Theirs were true experiences of a lifetime: the thrill and adrenalin of a powerful gaff rigger shouldering a heavy sea in the North Channels; a starlit might at anchor in a remote loch in the Western Isles; a school of dolphins riding the bow wave on crossing the Minch; or a minkie whale breeching off the west coast of Jura.
Alpha’s last charter cruise, in August 2003, was to Skye and the Small Isles, after which she remained at Gloucester Docks.
But in December 2004 the cutter was sold to Willem Scholtes of the Hague, who had a stormy adventure bringing her back to Holland. In the next article, Willem tells of how he came to own this fine pilot cutter, and what he plans to do with her.
Bron: Tim Pratt en BCPCOA.