The Cutty Sark – A witch in a short skirt !!

Posted by Chris on February 4th, 2012

I was just watching the tv program about the Cutty Sark which will reopen this year ( in time for the Olympics ! ) which is great, great news. The Cutty Sark – named after a witch called Nannie who wore short skirts, was afraid of water and was disturbed partying with her fellow witches and warlocks by Tam O’Shanter  – has a significant place in my life.

As the tv program stated no one has quite worked out why someone would name a ship after a witch that was afraid of water – short skirt or no !!

Cutty Sark was a ” racing ship ” built to race from China to England with tea and beat another ” tea clipper ship ” called Thermopylae. Her most famous race against Thermopylae started on the 18th June ( my birthday ) in 1872. She lost this race due to losing her rudder.

Later she became a  ” wool clipper ” bringing wool from Australia to England and clocking up a record time of 67 days ( and some hours ) beating the fastest steamship of the time in doing so.

This time of 67 days stood until a yacht that I sailed on, Great Britain II , beat it in 1975/6 in ” The Clipper Race”.—Her-builders-story/90648

GB2 was built for the first Whitbread Round-the-World Race in 1973/4 and was crewed at that time by Royal Marines. In the ” Clipper Race ” she was crewed by a combination of soldiers, sailors and airmen. Interestingly GB2’s main competitor Kriter 2 lost her rudder in the Tasman Sea on the Sydney to London leg of the Clipper Race. I can still remember looking across the stormy sea from GB2 to Kriter as the crew tried to work out what they were going to with no rudder ( which we had actually seen floating away on the waves but could not reach ). We sailed on and they rigged a jury rudder with a spinnaker pole or something. The French have some great sailors. ( was the skipper )

I had joined the Royal Navy in 1975 and managed to get into the crew of GB2 – at 19 the youngest crew member. Although I didn’t think much of it at the time it was quite strange that a boy who learnt to sail and race boats on ” ponds ” in the Midlands got to race one of the most famous yachts in the world in a race against the time set by one of the most famous sailing ships in the world.

Even stranger to think that a year or so earlier I had been sailing on The ” Hellship Captain Scott ” ( now known as the Shabab Oman )

probably the closest thing that you could get to a Tea Clipper in modern days.

My trip around Cape Horn in Great Britain II gained me entry into a rather exclusive club

The International Association of Cape Horners ( I.A.C.H. ).

A club that once consisted mainly of officers and crew of ” tall ships ” or ” windjammers ” that had sailed around the Horn

but has been widened to include yachtsmen who have sailed around the Horn.

The Cape Horners usually had their Annual General Meeting aboard the Cutty Sark until it’s refurbishment began. Owing to the fire that broke out on the Cutty Sark it has been closed to the Cape Horners for the last 6 years and I don’t know if or when they will return to her.

In 2006 I took the family and my old Captain and his wife ( Admiral Geoff and Mary Marsh ) aboard the Cutty Sark for dinner. Amongst my family members was my Uncle Les who had rebuilt a Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter called Marguerite T. See here for more on Les and Marguerite

It’s interesting to wonder if Marguerite ever met the Cutty Sark at sea….

Les Windley of Marguerite T and Nevis dies

Posted by Chris on June 14th, 2011

I have just had an email from my Dad telling me that Uncle Les Windley has died.

Les stayed with us for a couple of years when he came over from Nevis & St Kitts  but we had a bit of a falling out after a while.

I don’t have any details of Les’s death at the moment but I know that he came back to England suffering from cancer and was in a home recently.

A quick google search on Les and a sailing boat that he  was associated with for many years – the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Marguerite T – will reveal that many people regard him as a real character – which he certainly was – and miss him. Particularly he is missed in Oualie Beach, Nevis where he lived for many years.

You could write a book on Les and maybe someone will one day. Perhaps people will post stories about him here.

Les’s association with Marguerite T – a very famous Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter – began when he purchased her whilst in the Hamble and rebuilt her over many years and with the help of many friends.

Builder: E Rowles, Pill, near Bristol

Build Date: 1893

feature pic 6

Length on Deck: 53 ft

Beam: 13ft 10in

Displacement: 43 tonnes

Thames Tonnage: 35

Draught: 8ft 3in

Present Location: River Fal, Cornwall

Current Owners ( 2011 ) : Robert and Anna Brunyee

As I understand it he also learned to sail and navigate aboard Marguerite and also with my father Peter aboard various R.A.F. yachts.

I spent a memorable time as a teenager aboard Marguerite whilst she was in the Medina River, Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Les was working on the J class Endeavour and living on Marguerite – he also played music in The Jolly Sailor.

We came up to the piles in the Medina and Les told me to pass a rope through the pylon and back to a bollard on the deck. What he forgot to tell me was to surge the rope around the bollard as he went astern. I held it fast – the bollard pulled out of the deck and went over the side. Les ran up the deck and when he realised what happened he grabbed me and threw me overboard saying ” and you can get the effing bollard back ” or similar. He had a short temper did Les.

Having rebuilt Marguerite Les sailed her down to South Africa and then to the Caribbean – ending up in St. Kitts and Nevis. This was quite an achievement for a boat of which the surveyor was reputed to have said ” This boat can neither be towed, trailed or sailed anywhere “.

I am going to add more stories about Les over time.

R.I.P. Les.

Les would come to see us in an old Mark 1 capri which he loved

You could not exactly say that he was at home on the motorways of today but he got there – just !

Garden view to Sea Dreamer, Jones Estate

Captain Les Windley, an old sea dog originally from England plays harmonica and blues guitar on Tuesday nights in the Oualie Beach Boys Band. The rest of the time he is usually taking guests out sailing on his charter yacht. Ask him to tell you the yarn about the time he and another foolhardy young fellow lassoed a 13.5 foot hammerhead shark from a 13 foot boston whaler and went waterskiing up the channel behind the thing!

Please Note: I will try and make the information here as accurate as possible and please feel free to point out errors where they occur.

Copyright © 2007 M & A Rainmaker. All rights reserved.