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Old 09 April 2003, 05:13   #1
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Country: UK - Scotland
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Engine: Mariner 15hp
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Thanks Brian

Drysuits donned the crew climb onboard the sleek Scorpion. The Yanmar diesel purrs into life and the sleek RIB effortlessly slips out from the calm of Torquay Marina into the confusion of lumps, bumps, crests, holes, waves, breakers, dips and drops, that the Easterly wind has whipped up in a normally benign Torbay.

Lift...pause...drop...crash. Lift...pause...drop...crash. Lift...pause...drop...crash. No pattern. No reason. A big hole here, a huge hole there. A breaking wave here, a crashing wave there. From the left, from the right, ahead, behind the waves snap at the boat like sea monsters trying to devour us.

A deep groan comes from the engine at the rear as the throttle is opened and the prop effortlessly pushes 3 ton of boat up the incline of a huge wave. Throttle-back and down the other side. The next one hits from the right. Up she goes, throttle open as we follow the crest in a curve. Then back on the throttle and we slide down into an enormous hole.

Oh yes, and then there are the fishermen's buoys! Difficult enough to see on a calm day they are little fluorescent patches representing danger for our prop. Eyes straining through the spray. ‘One dead ahead now’, shouts the navigator. The Scorpion changes direction slightly to avoid the buoy. The eyes remain on alert.

The sky is a beautiful clear blue. The cliffs and headland in the distance are bright and sharp. We are just about the only boat to venture out. Moderate to Rough, the sign at the marina said. ‘I don’t know where the moderate bit is’, I find myself thinking.

Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash.

This is exactly when you find out just why serious ribs have jockey seats.

Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash.

The biting cold wind, whips up the spray, which when the boat is hit from the side lash at you like hundreds of small frozen razor blades.

This is exactly when you find out why serious ribbers wear drysuits.

Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash.

The 9.5m Scorpion takes all the punishment. It shrugs off the big waves. It laughs at the huge holes. Despite the pounding, it feels safe. It feels as if the boat itself is enjoying the pounding. It feels as if this is exactly what this boat was made for.

This is exactly when you find out why serious ribbers buy serious ribs.

The facial expressions of the crew tell all. Grins from ear to ear and thumbs up all round as the skipper checks we are all okay. Okay! Okay! No, no. Much more than okay. We are excited, thrilled, exhilarated. We feel alive!

Today, right now, there is nowhere else we would rather be. Today, right now, there is nothing else we would rather be doing.

This is exactly when you find out why serious ribbers go ribbing.

We turn back towards land and slip into Dartmouth, our speed is cut to just 5 kts. In the shelter of the estuary the sea is now calm and flat.

We feel as though we are entering a model village set upon the seaside. Pretty painted houses perched all over the cliffs and looking down on our arrival. It looks as though they are smiling at us with a gleam in their eyes as the brilliant sun catches their windows. Houses on the seafront with their own ‘boat garages’. The ferries clanking and hissing as they ply their short routes across the estuary. Boats old and new, large and small, wood hulled, metal hulled, fibreglass hulled and the occasional RIB. They all jostle each other like contented livestock tethered by a stream. A gentle hustle and bustle with the wonderful smells of diesel, fishing boats and fresh fresh air mingling together to make the distinctive smells and sounds of a seaside town and harbour.

We pass SIB city. There are several dozen SIBs standing on end in rows, noses poking up to the sky. Are they chatting? Mating? No it’s the yacht club and these poor little sibs are destined to a life of slavery, doomed to act as tenders for the big yachts anchored on their swinging moorings. We contemplate a raid to free them. Rescue them and send them to owners who will give them the exciting life they deserve. Well, maybe one day, but today we have other business.

Our engine purrs like a giant cat lying contented in the sun. We slowly glide towards the refuelling barge.

Once tied alongside our huge cat falls silent. Now we hear the whirl and clicking of the diesel pump as our great beasts fuel supply is replenished. Over 400 litres of diesel slip into the tanks.

This is when you find out why serious ribbers look for cheap fuel!

Having been well fed the cat purrs into life again and we slip out into the estuary again. The little ‘Harbour Patrol’ boat potters along behind us for a while. It looks small and awkward alongside the Scorpion. One quick burst of our throttle and the Harbour Patrol would soon be a dot in the distance. But we refrain. We can wait for our real challenge outside of the estuary, back amidst the wild, wild seas. This is the challenge our boat was made to face.

We feel the swell gather as we approach the mouth of the Dart. Then….

Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash

The grins return. Thumbs up from the crew. The cat roars and away we go.

Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash. Lift…pause…drop…crash

Pausing only for a genteel foray into Brixham Harbour, we make our way back towards Torquay Marina. The crew take turns at the helm. We practice driving up the waves and throttling back on the way down. We follow the crests and seem to tower above the dips and holes, then slide down again.

The skipper takes over again to take the boat into the marina and to park it up. We go through the switching off and bedding down drill. The boat is washed and put to sleep. The cat now lies silent under the engine cover. The hull and tubes gleam in the sun. Our trolley is packed with kit and we trundle away. Happy to have been and sad to leave.

This is when you find out why serious ribbers rib. This is when you find out why serious ribbers keep coming back to the sea.

So, the first full gathering of the Cyanide crew for the UK Circumnavigation and ‘Great Orkney SIB Expedition 2003’ went well.

I was looking forward to the trip anyway, but now! Now I can hardly dare to wait at all. Hard work? Yes, but the rewards?

Well this is when you find out just who the serious ribbers are, because YOU will not need me to tell YOU about that.

Thanks Brian. Thanks for being a great host. Thanks for giving us a great day out. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to circumnavigate the UK. Thanks for being…well…Brian.
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Old 09 April 2003, 05:55   #2
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Country: UK - Isle of Man
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Very good Keith, your journalistic talent clearly knows no bounds - but I'm not sure that I've ever heard a Yanmar "purr in to life" and I enjoyed the revealing description of the "deep grown coming from the engine".

Could this explain why Brian breaks so many gearboxes?
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Old 09 April 2003, 07:24   #3
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Hey Keith, next time you should take Manos with you, then he would find out why quality costs!
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Old 09 April 2003, 08:26   #4
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//Printed and posted on the wall!!!

A lovely re-collection Keith, truly brings tears to ones eyes.

Glad you enjoyed the day, and heres to many more
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Old 09 April 2003, 13:58   #5
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Blimey Keith. And I thought we had just popped round the corner to pick up some fuel.
I come back and find you have turned into Omar Khayam !

Anyway, glad you enjoyed yourselves. You are welcome anytime.
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Old 09 April 2003, 14:10   #6
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Brian

Would that be the Omar Khayam who had a 'Ruby Yacht'?

Keith (think about it) Hart
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