To Sea in Carpet Slippers - Chapter 11:
The Thalassa Way of Life

    In addition to talking and dominoes – infuriating to the cook as the games invariably started just as a meal was about to be served – there were other diversions. One that occupied a lot of time was organising novel and exciting adventures for the Owner. The following example, which gave pleasure to all concerned and which was brilliantly executed, was inspired by Alan Baker’s constant preoccupation with improving the sailing performance of Thalassa – a subject on which he was always grateful for helpful suggestions. On this occasion, he had been propounding a theory that the mast was too tall and that a reduction by three feet would be beneficial. We discussed his theory from every angle and one sunny afternoon in easy sailing conditions decided, while he was asleep below, to take the necessary steps. Properties for this operation, the ship’s broom, two empty orange crates and the rest of the crew were silently assembled on deck and the drills were explained. Two crew were quietly rehearsed in sawing noises “Ziss-Snore, Ziss-Snore,’ etc.; two more stood on the cockpit seat ready to jump on the empty crates below them, and one was posted on deck immediately above the Owner’s bunk, with broom held on high. On the given signal the sawing team started up, working from “piano” through ”forte” to “fortissimo”, stopping suddenly for the briefest of pauses before the climax – a loud splintering noise as the two leapt on to the crates followed by the terrific bang of the broom being whacked down hard on the deck. The effect below was instantaneous. Loud poundings and shouts of “What was that?” heralded Alan’s anxious face in the companion hatch. “Nothing Alan, nothing,’ remarked the Mate on watch calmly, “You were dead right. We’ve just taken three feet off the mast and she’s going all the better for it!”

To Sea in Carpet Slippers - Chapter 12

    Another incident during this series of races – Dover to Kiel via Kristiansand, Arendal and Copenhagen – occurred at Arendal. The crew arrived on deck rather late one morning, owing to jollification the night before, to find the neighbouring British yachts dressed over all and looking very gay in honour of the festival, widely observed in Norway, of the Eve of Midsummer. Hastily the flag-bag was sought to get Thalassa appropriately festooned; but the Owner said a firm “No” At considerable pains and expense of time he had put the flag-bag in apple pie order and was not going to have it messed about for any caper like that. Pensively we went ashore to do the shopping. Foreign multiple stores are usually good fun and the one in Arendal was no exception, but enjoyment turned to glee at the sight of a static cloud of coloured balloons of all shapes and sizes. It took quite a while to choose the best ones for our purpose but eventually five were bought, four enormous round ones and a very long multi-coloured sausage-shaped one with a pinched waist. Elation at this unexpected success obliterated any latent feelings of embarrassment at towing the balloons through the crowded shopping centre. Sending a scout ahead to see if the coast was clear, we got his affirmative signal, galloped on board and tethered the balloons – two high up in the port shrouds, two similarly to starboard and the multi-coloured articulated job well beyond arm’s length on the main forestay. Local appreciation of these efforts was soon forthcoming and from the behaviour of the large crowd on the quay, enjoying every minute of the spectacle, it was obvious that Thalassa was deemed to have stolen a march on the other boats and was being singled out for special ovations. The Owner was delighted and, from the jovial way in which he acknowledged the plaudits, one would have thought that it had been his own idea. Sleep came easily that night, as indeed it should to those who battle against rebuffs and win the day. But next morning the onlookers were obviously in a different mood judged by the shrill whistles, catcalls and other derisive sounds. Investigation on deck proved this to be so and for the good reason that the condition of the decorations had deteriorated sadly during the night. The imperial globes to port and starboard were now in size and appearance like shrunken heads drunkenly wobbling about in the breeze, while the one on the forestay no longer vaunted its proud length on high, because the top half had collapsed completely leaving an obscene looking little stump that seemed to be shivering with cold. An old paid hand on a neighbouring yacht quizzing it remarked “Lawks gen’l’men doan ‘ee traamble!” The Owner had one look and tersely ordered them all to be cut down.