For many it’s often far too easy to see nautical dreams founder on the rocks of family commitment and/or financial constraint. Like so many other aspirant armchair mariners of this island nation; I often get my particular nautical fix from visiting the Harbour of Desire, found in the written word and visual media…
Despite the ill winds and stiff off-shore squalls we navigate through life in search of a safe haven, ones often strong enough to tongue-tie the most eloquent of Shipping Forecast announcers, some people actually manage to match their nautical dreams with reality. Oh that we could all sail off into the sunset of our mind’s ocean, but enough of the metaphors.
As children, most of us visit the seaside at sometime, unless we were already lucky enough to live in a coastal area that is. It’s probably from that point we are drawn to the sea and the wonders it beholds. Childhood is where it all started, no interest in sand castles, donkey rides, or amusement arcades for me. I was the child grubbing around in rock pools and fishing. I say fishing, it was more a case of scooping up whatever came to frequent that little red net on the end of a thin bamboo stick. Scoop, clear the debris, then examine whatever small creatures had fallen foul of my ‘skill’ with glee. Not really fishing but it was to an inquisitive child.
It wasn’t until later life that my fishing became a far more professional and technical looking operation, at least in my eyes. Proper rods and reels casting baits out into the swell from a pier, harbour wall or rocky shoreline. Subsequently I also became an avid boat fisherman for a while, participating in both pleasure trips and angling competitions. The boat angling probably drove my desire to see and understand what was going on under the surface. That desire, compounded by a youthful fixation with the wonderous undersea adventures of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was also responsible for me qualifying as a scuba diver.
There is also a literary quotation, which I first read as a child and that struck a personal chord for life. One that has been in the background of my mind since those formative years and was probably, the laying down of the keel for my nautical desire…
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover…(Mark Twain)
Apart from the drivers alluded to above, there is one other issue which has had a bearing upon my boating aspirations somewhat, I refer to Mal de Mer. Without making some effort to control the problem and minimise the effects, my sea-legs sometimes aren’t as capable as I would like them to be. But it never stopped me from dreaming, neither has it prevented me from climbing aboard boats at every infrequent opportunity. Thankfully, it can’t stop me from sailing my imaginary ship, the Modicum of Jealousy, whilst watching the nautical enjoyment of others.
Because of all this, and a life-long love affair with food and cooking, I’ve recently been drawn to my television. Lured as if by the sirens of Greek mythology, this aspirant mariner has been ‘doomed’ to enjoy the recent and excellent ITV series – The Hungry Sailors.
Ex-Masterchef winner Dick Strawbridge and his son James also have two passions – sailing and great food. In The Hungry Sailors, they set off on a journey to explore the best of both of these. Living on board the beautiful pilot cutter Amelie Rose, they sail from Fowey in Cornwall right along the south coast of Britain, ending their journey at the mouth of the river Thames…(ITV.com)
Irrespective of the wonderful food and produce, the places, the people and the businesses being visited, I for one would have liked a little more sailing however; the jovial nature of the hosts verbally illustrated the historical and geographical aspects of the voyage. Dick’s infectious bouts of laughter and the obvious culinary rivalry between father and son was infectious. I suppose more can be learned about the boat and sailing by booking a trip!
Dick’s Heath Robinson engineering skills, used to construct various artisan machines and cooking appliances during the series has been amusing, even if his fieldcraft ‘survival skills’ where somewhat flawed. But, despite sailing per se being almost ancillary to the main content of the show i.e. provisioning, food, cookery and the South Coast voyage, it has served to provide a powerful advertising platform for Amelie Rose and Topsail Adventures, as well as providing the transport of choice for Dick and James.
Throughout the series, Nick & Melisa who own the company operating Amelie Rose from her base in North Dorset, have engaged with their viewers in social media forums via Twitter and Facebook. Not only has that served to provide additional enjoyment of the project, for them as much as their viewers, I suspect it will also provide a steady flow of prospective future customers to boot.
All in all a great piece of entertaining and informative television, only marred by the late afternoon viewing spot. Several viewers (myself included) believe, the show could have easily attracted higher viewing figures if it had been aired in a more prime-time slot. Although the series has now drawn to a close (sadly), it will be subsequent feedback from the viewing public impacting upon the possibility of another series. There is still so much scope for the voyage to continue.
Good sailing and great food is available in abundance around the coastline of our island nation. All there for the discovery of Amelie Rose and her crew as they continue voyaging even further north from the Thames Estuary. Sailing onwards, up the east coast towards Scotland, continuing around our northernmost Highlands and Islands then finally, cruising south towards home along our nation’s western seaboard, could provide so much new material for further episodes.
Who knows what nautical joys they will experience, which picturesque safe havens they will sail into and what culinary delights they will discover to wet our appetites? The tasty delights of the Whitby catch, Craster Kippers and Abroath Smokies await them. The quality of Highland Cattle or Aberdeen Angus beef and Scottish Venison is legendary but don’t forget some magnificent Loch Fyne Seafood or not least, the historic Macsween Haggis, all washed down with a wee dram or two of Malt Whiskey.
I could go on but I won’t, although like many others, I hope they actually do. With the myriad of edible fayre awaiting our Hungry Sailors, along with the scope for accompanying books and DVDs to follow perhaps, it’s perfectly feasible for the show to challenge the popularity of The Hairy Bikers!
The material is there for a culinary UK circumnavigation but perhaps the viewing figures and financial expenditure don’t support that dream? If not, the crew but more importantly their viewers), are going to miss out big style!