Jenny and I have just returned from a weekend on the Solent. Not sailing; we drove down to Lymington in order to drop Karisma’s sails off with our sailmaker, Peter Sanders, for a wash and check over before the new season begins. Anyway, we decided to make a weekend of it, so after spending Friday night in Lymington, we stayed last night in the historic shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard.

One of my sailing heroes is the sainted Tom Cunliffe. He’s more or less ‘Mr Yachting’- an RYA Yachtmaster examiner for yonks, author of most of the popular ‘how-to’ guides to seamanship and navigation, and a frequent contributor to the boaty magazines, including Yachting Monthly. We also share a sailmaker, as Peter makes his sails, too.

I knew that Tom keeps his own boat- called ‘Constance’, and frequently featured in his magazine articles- in Buckler’s Hard, but there’s quite a large marina there, so as I sat drinking a pint of Doom Bar and reading Tom’s latest Yachting Monthly article about perfect gybing in the bar of the Master Builder’s hotel, I thought it unlikely that we’d catch sight of her.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we strolled out of the hotel this morning and down to the water’s edge, to find Constance tied up on the pontoon immediately next to the pub. And, as you would expect, she was the most shipshape of yachts- every gasket coil perfectly coiled, one rope for each job, lines made off on board and not the pontoons; perfectly managed. Despite it being a sunny sailing day we didn’t catch sight of Tom and the boat seemed tucked up for winter; but I can report that his boat is as beautiful, and as beautifully kept, as his fans would expect it to be.


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