The big day arrived sooner than we would have liked, and we spent most of the morning chasing our tails, with the crew and I running around in opposite directions trying to do all the things we needed to do. The plan was to meet at the other three club yachts (Calloo, Joint Venture, and Ramillies) on the east side of the M9, as that’s where the event was due to kick-off. ‘The crew’ made it there, but by the time I tried, the route was locked-down by security staff, so we had no choice other than to wait at the lock.
The flip side of that scenario was actually a really good thing, as the day before ‘the crew’ had mentioned photo-bombing Princess Anne. As the words came out of her mouth I tried to cram them back in, given that the surrounding area was awash with joggers and dog-walkers who all seemed to be terribly interested in repeatedly peering inside bins, and checking that manhole covers were secure. And, if even just one of those uber-curious leisure seekers happened to be a plain-clothed policeman or special agent, then I’m figuring that the word ‘photo‘ could easily have become detached from the phrase “photo-bombing Princess Anne”, and before you could say “eating horse meat sounds like a good idea to me”, we would have found ourselves strapped to a chair, wearing nothing but our pants, with black bags over our heads, and our tethered feet reluctantly bathing in buckets of ice-cold water.
Fortunately that didn’t happen.
After the formal opening ceremony, a small flotilla of six boats (not forty as reported in the press), took HRH Princess Anne up to lock three. We chose to bring up the rear, as we didn’t want to be caught in the middle of a cluster of heavy steel canal boats should something go pear-shaped.
Our Macwester Malin had over a dozen on board as we set-off along what proved to be a welcoming and cheerful ‘gauntlet of sound’. There was lots of applause, cheering, air horns, bugles, and kazoos, which I felt was some sort of acknowledgement for the insanity of taking two masts down, then putting them up, then back down, and back up again for a princess who, with the very best will in the world, had absolutely no chance of spotting (and processing the logistics behind) a yacht five boats behind, having its masts up on the west side of the motorway.
It took a lot of time and effort, and as I mentioned before, teamwork, but looking back on the event, the experience was worth it.
Inevitably we popped some fizzy stuff, and took some time to relax once all the pomp and ceremony died down. Ramillies and Calloo set sail later that day, with Joint Venture staying until the Thursday. Unfortunately we had some damage to a sleeve for one of the bolts on our main mast and so we had to get a replacement made and fitted before we could contemplate putting our masts back up.
With the part made and fitted much quicker than we expected, we had hoped to get the masts back up on our Macwester Malin on the Sunday following the event, but unfortunately the canal team were too short-staffed to man the crane.
With other pressures and un-seasonal gale-force winds the following week, our yacht ended-up being in the Kelpies Basin for a fortnight. The only upside was that the weather wasn’t suitable for us to be sailing, so the delay didn’t negatively impact on our sailing season.