Finally, after two years of COVID delays, our ARC Portugal moment has arrived. Arkyla has been in Mayflower Marina since we splashed her in early April, and (almost) all works and snagging have been completed ready for the off – she is a boat with a mission!
The wife, 1st Mate Jenny, will not be on the first leg; reluctant to abandon our ageing cats for too long, she will join the boat in sunny Bayona - conveniently after the slog of the Biscay crossing! As such I had to scour my list of friends to recruit a fun, enthusiastic, and professional team of seasoned mariners with whom I’m happy to share 45’ of confinement for 4-5 days… obviously an ask too far, I’ve settled for a motley mix of old university rugby and RAF mates. Arkyla is, for the coming week, a boat of outcasts united mostly in their love for beer, curry, and dubious life decisions – at least no one remains on the Home Office watch list.
First to join the crew is Rich; a veteran of the RAF Offshore Sailing Team, he has completed a Fastnet and previously sailed Biscay. At 55, he is the baby of the crew and will, I’m sure, be volunteering to take many extra watches from us older men at nap time. First Mate for the crossing is Mark; an RYA yacht-master, ex-prop forward and retired Army officer, he will hopefully bring sailing strategy, grinding strength, and organisational wisdom to the boat – though I suspect that’s like hoping for a good weather forecast! Completing the line-up, aged 59, is Magic Mike. A gin palace owner, he thinks he has been invited for his ability to mix a good cocktail, though the reality of his selection lies in his back-row physique; with height and sturdiness, I plan to use him as a jury-rig spar if Arkyla is dis-masted mid-Biscay – according to Mrs Coombes he comes complete with ‘boom’, but we won’t go into that! And that just leaves me, James, owner, skipper, and international man of mystery; it is unproven that, in my former military days, men followed me purely out of curiosity.
So there we have it… the boat is ready, the crew is not yet mutinous, and the skipper has a secret plan to sneak into the life raft with the rum rations if things all go horribly wrong! Let part 1 one of Arkyla’s rally, “The BURFC 80’s Legends & RAF Heroes Invitation Crew ‘Rucking Good Time Afloat’ tour”, commence! Hopefully see you in Bayona Jenny!