Captain Hugh and the Reluctant Navigator
The Voyage of Vega

Part 1 Departure from Bristol

Sunday June 14th.

In the early afternoon family and friends started to gather on the visitors pontoon outside the Arnolfini. At 2pm the Ambling Band triumphantly arrived bearing a pink Union Jack standard and played for us, almost sinking the pontoon. We drank fizz, chatted and made merry until it was time for the Band to catch the blue and yellow ferry boat through the harbour, past the SS Great Britain to the The Pump House, with Vega following and picking up a stray Ambler on the way. Eventually the smaller Junction Lock bridge swung to let us into the Cumberland Basin where the Band played Can-Can and we danced on boat and shore. Finally the larger Plimsoll Bridge swung (stopping the traffic on the flyover.. power!) so we could motor into the lock. Time for family and friends to climb off Vega onto the side of the lock and for farewell hugs and kisses. So hard to say goodbye, especially to family, children and grandchildren. Stan played Aaran Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and we stood in silence. It was a moving and emotional moment as the clear, pure sounds of the trumpet rang out. A final ‘Fiesta’ from the Ambling Band, the lock gates opened and we were off down the Avon and under the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

It was a peaceful motor down the river (made more peaceful by the Portway being closed to traffic for the Bristol Triathlon earlier in the day). It felt an anticlimax after the noise and fun of the earlier celebrations.

Unfortunately the crew was not paying proper attention to steering the boat and got distracted by a large fly-ridden cobweb hanging from the transom. Whilst I was trying to clear it off Vega decided to drive herself into the mud in the river bank. And there we were, stuck fast, feeling rather foolish. There was still an hour left before high tide and so we waited, whilst Hugh started to devise a way of throwing an anchor overboard and pulling ourselves off against it. But after 20 minutes the water level had risen sufficiently to lift Vega up a foot or so, and we reversed off and out of the mud.

We turned left out of the Avon into the Bristol Channel and left again into Portishead Marina. And there we will stay until we have sorted the leaking shower back at home and finished preparing Vega for the Voyage proper.

Thank you to all our lovely family and friends for coming to make our departure such a very joyous and memorable occasion. And to the very wonderful Ambling Band and to Stan for playing for us. We love you all and are going to miss you so much. But don’t worry. We’ll be back before you’ve even noticed we’ve gone.

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