Rats' Tales

Jon & Carol Dutton
Thu 22 Sep 2011 20:13

Deep in the bowels of any ship live often unwanted creatures who skulk in the shadows, known as bilge rats.  They can be encouraged out of hiding and onto the deck only by copious supplies of food and tea. They scurry away when shouted at and are often bad tempered and irritable which is why yacht owners often develop aratnaphobia!  (Sorry guys; but this actually scores pretty near the top on the rat humour scale – Ed).

However, for 2 weeks two grumpy old bilge rats were the company Jon and Carol had on their circumnavigation aboard Arnamentia, on their leg from Plymouth across the Bay of Biscay and down to Vigo.  The trip began promisingly enough but Hurricane Katia had other intentions that resulted in the rats being stirred from their bilges to enjoy the spectacular weather.  For several days they ran around the deck changing sails, putting in reefs and helming the good ship but becoming increasingly irritable, as you might expect, with numerous cuts and bruises and sleep deprivation whilst frequently being shouted out (but, unless shouted at, they claimed ‘gunner ear’ – Ed).  One solace was the irregular sympathetic companionship provided by friendly and curious dolphins. 

Eventually shelter was found at La Coruna where, after further intense work scrubbing and drying sails, washing and cleaning above and below decks and generally clearing up after the storm (that’ll be a rat ‘storm’ – Ed), the rats escaped to engage in landlubberly adventures riding Segways and other forms of rat amusement including sharing the experiences of fellow bilge rats from other craft.

Two nights rest was all they were allowed before setting sail for Portosin in the stunningly beautiful Ria de Muros south of Cape Finisterre.  Rat humour abounded and further entertainment was provided with the capture of a bonito, whilst they were able to share their woes with Reliant Robin who dropped in for a breather before taking a dip.  Rat myths about Cape Finisterre were confounded by still waters, light winds and a beautiful, starry moonlit night.

Portosin yacht club was a welcome watering hole offering rat refreshment and some fabulous views.  Plans to visit Santiago di Compostella were  abandoned in favour of visiting Ria Arousa, the next Ria down en route to Vigo.  Northerly winds encouraged the skipper to rat on his crew and hoist the Parasailor (yeah, yeah; absolutely no encouragement from Bobrat then - Ed).  After a brief struggle, the sail flew well. However the mood changed when the port spinnaker pole broke as we gybed.  In the ensuing fun a line wrapped itself around the sail and the forestay whilst the port spinnaker sheet wrapped itself around the prop.  The rats became quite animated realising that they were up on deck without an escape route!

Much shouting and heaving failed to remove the tangle.  Bobrat was accused of sleeping whilst lying on his back in the pulpit hidden under the sail which he was pulling down.  In fact it was his Herculean strength that enabled the lower part of the sail to be brought under control.  So the rats were delighted to hoist Jon up the forestay with a knife in his teeth where he successfully cleared the tangle enabling the sail to be pulled down.  Jon thought the sail was wrapped round the keel however another tour de rat force was applied and the sail gradually came up.  At least we now had a headsail which we could use!

By this time Arnamentia had drifted about four miles out to sea.  Plans to visit Ria Arousa were abandoned and a course was set for Baiona with which port senior rat (aka Andyrat) was quite familiar.  As the wind picked up, the yacht sailed into the harbour and onto the pontoon very smoothly thanks to the nimble footwork of both rats (wot about the lady owner’s footwork, then? – Dep Ed).  Arnamentia was put to bed and the rats scurried below to their bilge heaven to lick their wounds and tell rat tales to anyone who might be prepared to listen (note; the maximum audience at this stage is 2 – Ed ) whilst polishing off the bottle of Jameson with the help of the skipper and his mate.  A fine example of good teamwork!

The next day, glorious weather tempted the rats out to explore the local delights but not before washing and stowing the Parasailor and watching Jon play with the fish as he cut away the tangled sheet from the prop. The rats eventually found respite in the bar of the imposing parador overlooking the harbour with glorious views of the Ria.  Bobrat aspired to a night in the parador but alas, following an excellent paella, we set sail again to Vigo to enable some repairs to be done.  Andyrat had a wonderful time on the helm with only a Yankee and a F7 well abaft the beam while Bobrat relaxed with his feet in the air making light conversation with Carol and enjoying the glorious sunshine.  Jon took the rats' advice and went into Marina Davila Sport where he was able to find a one stop shop for all his repairs. 

After a jovial evening out and ensuring no Jameson remained, the rats retired.  The following morning they made an early start and said their fond farewells to Jon and Carol as they both expressed their gratitude for all ratwork.   We hope they enjoy having some time to themselves and wish them fair winds and a safe passage.  We suspect the rats will not be forgotten quickly.

Written by Rat-a-Two-i (aka Bob Raley & Andy Anderson)

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