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About us

Introduction

Who are these people, John and Mo? It occurred to us that while we know too much about ourselves, you our audience might be left wondering. This page tries to give you a few clues.

John

It has to be said that John is mostly responsible for our situation, but poor chap, he could hardly help it! As far as we know, not only was his father, Frank Walker, passionately fond of sailing, but so was his grandfather, GTW, who died in his 70's when Frank was in his teens. They sailed together on Windermere and the Broads, and there is a photo of Frank in a clinker dinghy on the Broads complete with school cap. One of John's early introductions to sailing was of watching FW assembling model yachts that he had helped GTW build, and then learning to set the sails so that the models would sail across the nearby pond, not go into irons and run aground in the shallows.

FW was at first largely frustrated in his sailing, as working for Brooke Bond in the highlands of East Africa hardly gave him much opportunity. He spent many hours before the war designing and constructing a scale model of the ideal cruising boat that unfortunately did not survive a fire. When home on leave, he would charter a small yacht and go off sailing, while in Kenya a sailing club was formed after the war and 'British Moth' dinghies constructed and sailed on the hydroelectric dam at Kerenga.

On the family's return to the UK from abroad in 1952, the first priority was a house near Lymington in Hampshire so that FW could pursue his passion. The next was to find 'Roamer', built c. 1937 by Woodnuts in the Isle of Wight of pitch pine on oak. She had spent the war years ashore at Elkins Yard in Christchurch. Renamed and registered as 'Roamer of Beaulieu' she was moored off Ginns Farm on the Beaulieu River. The mooring was rented from Farmer Brown for 8 a year. Ron Brookes (of Brookes and Gatehouse) had the next door mooring, while Richard Gatehouse was using a shed behind Agamemnon's yard at Bucklers Hard as a workshop. When in the UK the Hiscocks kept various 'Wanderer's just up river. Roamer was a canoe sterned sloop with bowsprit and bumkin 32 feet LOA: she had no modern conveniences, but was one of the larger and smarter cruising yachts around at that time. FW was very proud of the 'BEME Loop' RDF set that he had bought second hand and which took pride of place during the summer on the shelf beside the chart table. Meanwhile the family home had to manage without the benefit of a radio set! This RDF (with valves and large dry batteries) was the only electronic aid, and depended on the helm maintaining and remembering a steady course while the operator below rotated the loop aerial to obtain a null, so that the approximate bearing could be deduced from the angle off the boat's heading. Down below, there were two bunks in the main cabin, a pipe cot berth that folded down over the Baby Blake sea toilet in the foc'sle. To port of the companionway there was a sink with wet locker behind, while to starboard there was a two burner gas stove in a hinge-down cupboard that formed a small worktop. The Gray petrol engine was under the cockpit floor, and water and petrol tanks were under the cockpit seats. FW built a removable chart table that fitted over the bunk to port, and a folding cabin table that could be secured in the middle of the cabin for meals. Stanchions for guard rails (unthinkable, almost, at that time) he made out of galvanised pipe, and turned top caps out of wood on the lathe. There were no life rafts or life jackets, and our flares were probably out of date. We carried a Walker log and a (rarely used) lead line. In the years we sailed together, John only witnessed FW go aground once, in Newtown River, although we bumped across the bar at Salcombe on one occasion. Sadly Roamer's name was taken after her sale for another boat, and so we have lost touch with her.

John therefore was taken sailing and in Roamer began to overcome his fear of capsize acquired as an interested witness of the Moths sailing on the dam in Kenya. Beaulieu to Cowes, Newtown or Yarmouth was a typical day or weekend trip: we never went into Lymington and only once ventured to Hamble! If the weather was bad, FW would simply potter on board, or we would go up to Bucklers Hard and back under engine, turning soon after the bend there in case we went aground! It was such a pity that he missed out on the upper reaches of the lovely river that with the benefit of echo sounders we have enjoyed without (undue) problems. FW would take Roamer down to the west country, Brixham, Dartmouth, Salcombe, the Yealm, Fowey and Falmouth were favourite haunts. John would accompany his mother by road, or occasionally bus, while sister Gerry would often be enlisted as crew. At other times, FW would take off across the channel with a friend and Gerry as crew and twice got as far as Lezardrieux.

At about the age of 13, John was taken on his first cross-channel cruise, actually just a long weekend. Mooring bows to at Cherbourg, we had to walk up scaffolding planks to get ashore. This was also his first experience of taking wine, so the return journey was considerably more precarious. We returned via Alderney.

At school, John had the opportunity to avoid Cricket by cycling down to the old Poole Harbour Yacht Club at Liliput, where the Salterns marina now is. There the school maintained a fleet of 'SCOW's (a heavy gunter rigged clinker dinghy that was quite difficult to sail) and Firefly's. Sadly, the Fireflys were reserved for the more competent dinghy sailors, but there was no organised instruction by which to improve. JW's fear of capsize and lack of progress in the SCOWs led him to mark time and he failed to make the transition to the Firefly.

Gradually, John got to go on longer cruises, and took an interest in the navigation. However, in 1963 Roamer was sold in favour of central heating for the house and a replacement for the original Morris Minor that had served as the family car since 1950! In the latter years, FW had probably had a hard time from John's mother, Jan. The costs of commuting daily to London and boarding school education for John must have placed considerable stress on the finances that she meticulously looked after.

When John accompanied his father on a friend's boat, Walwyn, to the West Country, shortly before Roamer was sold, the party made their base at Dartmouth, where we attended the opening of the new marina hotel. They had available one of the first Enterprise dinghies, and John and Sandy Duff (the friend's daughter) did their best to sail this around Dartmouth. With the gusts funnelling down the valleys we did not have much success, but avoided the dreaded capsize by only going out in lighter winds.

FW was an important influence in another way. He had served an engineering apprenticeship as his French was not up to matriculation standards. John at one point took an interest in radio controlled models, and FW fully supported this by making the necessary actuators in the workshop, much of it turned on the lathe including screw threads and later gears. Together they built, and often re-built, increasingly ambitious radio sets. When FW retired he took a keen interest in model boat racing, designing and building his own models, and equipping them. His actuators were always in great demand. In consequence, John now is able to turn his hand to a wide range of boat-related problems.

After leaving school, John went to Marconi at Chelmsford for pre-university training, and there met Chris Smith who lived near the Broads and who was a competent Enterprise sailor. John accepted an invitation to crew, and was thus introduced to the art of balancing and trimming a dinghy, sitting out, and dumping wind. He was equally astonished to be in the front of the fleet on most occasions. John's best attribute was that he now had a Morris Minor of his own, and Chris organised the Marconi workshops to make a tow bar for this. As a result, we were able to take part in the multi-venue North Norfolk regatta, then went to an open meeting on Ullswater, before taking part in the Enterprise Nationals at Hellensburgh on the Clyde. Unfortunately, Chris had also arranged for another colleague, lighter than John, to join us for those lighter airs, and we always read the weather wrong. It poured all week, and living under canvas, we were thoroughly fed up by the end.

It was then some years before John and his wife Ruth had produced their first child, Peter, and visited the 1973 boat show. John's friend Peter Manly had suggested that a Wayfarer dinghy would be a good family boat, and so an order was placed for a 'composite' boat in kit form, a fibre glass hull with deck knees and wooden gunwhale glassed on, and numerous roughly shaped pieces of mahogany and ply, together with extensive instructions. The Wayfarer slowly took shape in the garage over the spring, but when the summer holidays arrived was fully decked but not in any way complete, having no varnish nor fittings. It was towed in this state down to Lymington, where John and FW completed the fitting out, and 'Whisky Galore', W.3436, was towed to Lymington Town Sailing Club and launched. Peter, more privileged than his siblings to follow, got to step aboard and clung nervously to the washboards on the foredeck as his parents learnt to sail. Michael and Jacqui who followed later did not have this option: they were taken in a carry cot and dumped under the thwart where they would be no trouble.

The Wayfarer was towed to all sorts of places for family holidays. We had a caravan, so initially we undertook double journeys, one towing the caravan, then returning for the boat. Subsequently we travelled in convoy. We visited Lyme Regis, Salcombe, Helford River (twice), Abersoch, Windermere as well as sailing extensively around the Solent. We began to race occasionally from Lymington, with an early success when we won a Pursuit race around the Solent with other cruisers and dinghies: all down to the handicap, conditions, and a timely shortening of the course, but good for the ego. It was the pressures of racing and flying the small spinnaker that eventually led to the first capsize! On one occasion we went out from Helford to meet a crazy American who had sailed across in a boat about 10' long: no crazier perhaps than a family of 5 going about 12 miles offshore in an open dinghy? We became involved through the boys with scouting, and John undertook to coach the local troop at Great Moor SC, near Aylesbury, also attending camps at Windermere, in Wales and at Wareham.

Meanwhile, in about 1973, Mike Harris, (John's wife's brother's wife's brother) had just acquired a Nicholson 38 ketch that he had called 'Good News'. Mike had heard that John was interested in sailing, so shortly after launching John was invited down. Mike introduced John to a more robust form of sailing than that to which he had been used with his father. The boat was of course up to it, with some electronics, bigger and better built. To Mike, an intricate passage was a challenge, and a strong wind meant a good fast sail! John was pleased to make himself useful, and soon became a regular crew for delivery trips and even on one early occasion a family holiday, leaving Ruth to cope with our tribe in the caravan in the New Forest. There was one memorable trip on a friend's Hurley 22 from Parkstone to Cherbourg: 34 hours on the crossing going over (don't ask - on John's 10th? wedding anniversary), just 11 hours coming back. This was all excellent experience, and so from about 1980 the family were invited to join friends, David and Diana Holliday, on their Moody 42 Kealoha. We enjoyed holidays with them in southern Brittany and in the North West of Scotland. Delivery trips added to the miles: Kealoha and Good News to and from Brittany several times, Kealoha to Gibralter and Scotland, and Mike Harris's new Oyster 46 'Lady of Avalon' from Ipswich south, from Bayonna to Lymington and from Fuengerola on the Costa del Sol to Gran Canaria.

Inevitably, the pressure of the growing family called for a different solution, and the opportunity came to acquire a third share in Golondrina together with Peter Manly and Peter Gilchrist late in 1985. Golondrina is a Gibsea 106, 37 foot LOA, and was ideally set up for multiple occupancy, with upto 10 berths. Initially she was kept at Ginn's Farm on the Beaulieu River, but soon transferred to Lymington when a berth became available at the Yacht Haven there. Peter Gilchrist was soon to opt out, but Peter Manly and John shared Golondrina until Peter was persuaded in 2001 to buy John out. In 1993 we moved her to Haslar Marina to cut costs, and since the early days she has had a loyal band of charterers. We have sailed her to the West Country and Scilly Isles, Northern and Southern Brittany, Normandy, as well as numerous trips across the channel and to the Channel Islands. Peter and John are both of an engineering bent, and have undertaken much of the maintenance and many improvement projects themselves. We learnt quite early on that boat yards in general could not be trusted to give value for money and good advice, unless closely supervised.

With the acquisition of Golondrina, the caravan scenario became largely redundant, except for walking holidays and the occasional weekend away. The Wayfarer was moved to Wraysbury Lake Sailing Club, a family club with a club house on a flooded gravel pit adjacent to the Thames, near Staines. We raced the Wayfarer within the restricted fleet, and the family began to acquire a fleet of boats. Peter first had a Topper, then Mike acquired an Optimist. This was later passed on to Jacqui, while Mike acquired another Topper. In a fit of madness, John acquired a half share in a Laser, but this was unsuccessful, as he was more often capsizing backwards due to his inability to keep up with the wind shifts amongst the trees bordering the lake. On one occasion, both Toppers were car-topped to Brittany, where they were taken aboard Kealoha for the kids to use when anchored.

John spent his working life in the computer industry, starting with English Electric/Marconi, moving quickly to Honeywell, then had an eclectic collection of jobs including working with Peter Manly selling microcomputers when they were new on the market, consulting on accounting systems both self employed and otherwise, working for software houses, and managing IT operations for two different accountants 10 years apart.

John's son Peter still looks after the Wayfarer, having equipped it with more bits of rope which are supposed to make it go faster. He and his wife Debbie belong to Upper Thames Sailing Club. He also races an OK, and they have just sold their Merlin Rocket. Tom (born March 2002) has already been sailing and no doubt Emma will be soon.

His other son Mike and his wife Lisa are settled in New Zealand, and are presently house bound. Mike sold the flat he had re-furbished in 1999, and bought the Contessa 32 Jemmana. After re-fitting the boat over the summer, he and Lisa set sail for New Zealand, via Panama, in September 1999. They returned with Jemmana to the UK via the Indian Ocean and Suez during 2001.

Daughter Jacqui never quite caught the bug as badly as her brothers, and preferred to read rather than compete with them. Left to herself, she enjoys sailing and particularly enjoys occasional holidays on the boat. She is now hoping to emigrate with Rowan and sons Oscar and Fergus to New Zealand.

At the time of writing, John's only paper qualification is a long range radio certificate. He attended night school on a shore-based Yachtmaster course in the late 70's, but became disenchanted, particularly when it came to learning morse (having achieved 12 w.p.m. while in the CCF at school) and dropped out.

Mo

Mo was introduced to sailing by John in 1995, when they were working together at a customer's site in Hampshire, as a way of passing a summer evening other than in an hotel bar. To this day she maintains she does not like sailing, boats or water. This applies equally to ferries and pontoons! She will tell you that she is new to sailing..doesn't really like it, but enjoys arriving!

When Mo and John finally got together on April Fool's day 1997, she realised that sailing was a pre-condition to a successful relationship, and that on holiday in Golondrina, Peter Manly would usually come too! Mo had by this time acquired some experience! Mo's first cross-channel trip, she insisted in spending the overnight crossing in her bunk, and refused to emerge until we had berthed. By her second foray, Mo agreed to stand the first night watch. John plied her with Boots sea-sick pills, thinking that the dose would be as with Stugeron, i.e. 2 pills to start. She landed up seeing double and so John stood her watch instead! That summer, we cruised Normandy from St. Vaast to Le Havre with Peter Manly, who then returned by ferry. John and Mo sailed to Guernsey via Cherbourg and returned via Alderney, (where Mo learnt the importance of getting the tide through the race right as a result of a delay in the planned departure for shopping).

In January 1998 we enjoyed 3 weeks sailing from Trinidad to Antigua on Kealoha, made more interesting by problems getting under way with flat batteries, autopilot failure, engine injection pump failure, and more joys of sailing. Mo, who alone on Golondrina at that time had been to night school and held an RYA qualification, now understood the instruments, and could tell that the skippers on board (always two!) had not done their homework most of the time.

For our summer holiday we cruised down as far as Plymouth with crew, then Mo and John continued to Fowey, Falmouth and Helford River. On the return from Helford to Salcombe, the weather turned, and we found ourselves running under a Force 7 SW, and were pleased to come under the lee of Bolt Head as we turned into Salcombe. We were gale-bound for several days in Salcombe, before we finally set out, only to receive another gale warning. Passing outside Portland, John decided to press on for the Solent, but as we crossed Christchurch Bay the wind did indeed get up. By the time we reached the Lymington river at 0100, the marshes were flooded and it was impossible to pick up a bouy, so we were forced to berth on a hammerhead at the Berthon under the lee of the town. Mo performed with great credit throughout these trips.

In 1999, we took Jacqui and Rowan with us to the Channel Islands and back without major incident (or none that we can recall). Following our marriage in August, our honeymoon was spent on Golondrina, mostly walking in the wet around Lymington and Beaulieu. Mo would have preferred the Canadian Rockies, but had to settle for second best as we were still fairly skint at this time.

In 2000, we travelled to Tahiti, and thence to Manihi atoll to meet up with Mike and Lisa who arrived on cue en route from the Marquesas. We were delighted to meet some of the friends that they had made since leaving the West Indies, and sailed on Jemmana to Tahiti, and then on to Moorea. Mo particularly enjoyed meeting other cruising people, amongst whom there seemed to be a marvellous camaraderie based on shared experiences and mutual support.

By 2001, Mo's opportunities to sail were limited, as we were by now working on our escape plans, specifically buying and doing up a property that we could profitably let out.

In 2005, Mo attended a day skipper's course with Haslar sailing school. She is now better qualified than John on paper, and boasts our only international certificate of competence!

Our Ways and Means

We planned our exit over a number of years, and as a result were able to remortgage our house in 2001 to buy another property in Oxford. There followed a summer working at alterations and re-decorations, but let out it has proved to be a steady and reliable earner. We also acquired another small house on a buy to let basis in 2002. On giving up work, we sold the house we lived in, our cars etc. and put most of our effects into store. Currently our only income is from rental as we are not yet drawing pensions. In practice, we overspent our budget on buying the boat in the first place, then spent last winter fitting her out and blew that budget too! Our experience during the first year indicated that some more changes were desirable, and we have been raiding our savings to carry these out.

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