A stay in a luxury hotel prompts Jonty Pearce to consider the boating alternatives
The Ancient Mother (her description) was 92 this weekend. She remains a sprightly, bright, and upright example of good preservation, and it has become our habit to celebrate her birthday with a family weekend away to a posh country hotel. Not including her grandchildren, of course – their fast food infested bodies could not appreciate such fine dining and accommodation. To invite them along would be a wasted resource and a poor investment – in other words, we are too mean. This year we stayed at Langford Fivehead, a beautiful Manor House near the Somerset Levels with some parts dating back as far as the 12th Century. The four poster bed in our room was so large it justified a map, and I asked Carol to order me a taxi to the en-suite bathroom. I wrote this sitting by a roaring fire in a grand sitting room while listening to the wind whistling through the gaps in the frames (no hermetic sealing here) and the rain hammering against the glass. The activity of the day consisted of watching the Five Nations rugby, followed by a fine dinner and wines.
This is definitely how the other half live, and the experience made me consider the boating equivalents of such luxury. A Wayfarer with a boom tent could be considered to be on the same level as camping in a two berth tent on a Welsh hillside in a Bank Holiday deluge. Our old 22′ E-Boat would be a trailer tent, though still firmly at the ‘bucket and chucket’ level of facilities. Aurial, our Southerly 105 Ketch, is a floating caravan – warm, with a shower and cooker, and quite adequate to see out a wet weekend. I’m afraid we need to leave the confines of my boating ownership experience to find a craft comparable to our current accommodation. My mind migrates towards the motor boat fraternity, the prime contender being the massive Sunseeker I managed to wrangle my way aboard at one of the boat shows – I must have been wearing a tie at the time. The sheer luxury throughout made my jaw drop, and I admit to having felt uncomfortably out of place. However the most superior craft that we have been honoured to be enjoy has to be the Hebridean Princess – a Caledonian MacBraynes ferry that was lushly converted into a mini cruise ship of such a high standard that Her Majesty the Queen has been known to charter her – possibly as a compensation for the loss of the Royal Yacht Britannia? The combination of top class accommodation, gourmet food and fine wines with superlative service has made the cruises we have attended memorable, though an ocean away from what I would consider leisure yachting.
We each gravitate to the level that suits our purse and lifestyle. In Neyland Marina there is a glorious spread of boats from Drascombe Luggers to Sunseeker style ‘Gin Palaces’, though these do not reach the excesses of those that bob about off Cannes like bees round a honey pot. Yachts in our marina span the breadth of diversity from the toughness and pragmatism of ocean going boats, through coastal cruisers big and small, to the wonderful variety of racers. I see little evidence of ‘Posh Boats’ here in Wales, though I’m sure that the plush examples shown at the boat shows must percolate our shores. Naturally, the South Coast will harbour more than the East Coast swatchways, but I suspect the greatest concentration of the ‘Langford Fivehead’ end of the market will end up in the Mediterranean.
Each to his own – but surely the most important point is to enjoy your yacht, whatever its size, accommodation, or luxury. And just remember – there are only seven weeks to go to Easter and the start of British Summer Time! So stop lazing about in your own personal comfort zone and knuckle down to get that boat ready…