The Odious Auxiliary

The Odious Auxiliary

[Dedicated to the makers of the Monster of Yore and all
those unfortunate enough to sail with one.]


Now you tell me, you have bought a Classic,
Mahogany on oak, you wouldn't have plastic!
of her extraordinary virtues you'll enthuse -
while making plans for a Round the World cruise.

Invited aboard to admire your new yacht,
while you gloss over patches of gribble and rot,
and show me some sails which are clearly prewar,
a `new' suit, Ratsey and Lapthorn, 1964,
broken frames in the tuck that you are going to ignore,
the little bronze bolts in her rusting steel floors,
and other such things as the experts deplore......

And tell me they don't build boats like this any more!

You concede that one or two things might do with replacing,
a bit of refastening, doubling or bracing,
when, of course, you are not enthralled with tracing,
her illustrious career in both cruising and racing.

I'll hold my tongue, I'm far too polite,
and hate to be accused of cynicism or spite,
so, straight faced, I'll be complimentary...
note both sweep and outboard, in her inventory,
and below the hatch I'll know just what to expect,
the engine's a paragon of age and neglect.

A mahogany coffin, a satanic machine,
once burnished brass and painted green,
triumphant as it contrives to soil,
Blakes best bilge red with rust and oil.

Apparently, all pleasure is related to pain,
here's a bane to drive its owner insane,
into furious rages with feeler gauges,
and profound conversations with boatyard sages.

They regale you with received wisdom,
regard their advice with extreme suspicion,
whether you like it or not, you get their opinion,
on keeping the magneto in the airing cupboard....
ask them why she doesn't have one aboard,
a multitude of spare plugs, a supply of paper wet and dry,
and dubious techniques guaranteed to blow the old girl sky-high.

One day, bent-backed in unnatural confinement,
whilst pursuing the grail of engine alignment,
cylinder-head studs leaving their impression in your stomach,
hands once lily-white, now bloody and black,
you decide that nothing would give you more pleasure,
than watching the torture of the maker, at leisure.

Once mild and prone to Temperance,
now you are wild and considering violence,
a ludicrous manual, priced in shillings, not pence,
cover to cover, stern injunctions and nonsense,
it might as well be in German or Chinese,
and payment with a cat-o'-nine tails made of Ht leads.

Interrogation by impulse magneto ignition,
in the torture cell of a foreign prison,
coursed through by thousands of volts,
demanding, `justify your choice of bolts!'
American, metric and nuts most Imperial,
all made out of quite incompatible materials,
the brass screws that break off when you twist them,
the rings gummed up round an unsuitable piston,
especially the archaic, industrial electrical system.

You abandon altogether the use of your spanners,
reach straight away for blow-torch and hammers,
your only solace is to indulge in such fantasy,
as it plumbs the depths of mechanical depravity,
you are almost beyond help from psychiatry,
and Brussels declares you the measure of profanity.

Its machinations are subverting a once gentle personality.

One balmy night, swinging that starting handle,
kneeling at its altar by the light of a candle,
you will decide in a blaze of glorious reason,
to commit it for trial at the end of the season,
on numerous charges but mainly for treason.

Each time you tested it on the mooring,
the sewing machine rattle was most reassuring,
but with diabolical perversity
when required at sea, invariably,
the swine responded most silently.

More experience at towing by dinghy.....

The first time that sailing clutch jammed,
the correct manoeuvre had not been planned,
rather than circling until its fuel supply ran out,
you tried to use a berth behind a plastic boat,
and left a lasting impression,
on her graphically illustrated transom.

Moreover, you are almost as practiced at sailing,
as the green devil is at failing...

A sentence is passed, more guilty than charged,
at length on its numerous faults you've enlarged,
planned the only conceivable solution,
put into summary, swift execution,

At dead of night she is alongside,
on the full moon of high spring tide,
hanged high from your topped up boom,
unceremoniously dumped on a marina pontoon,
another unclean fiend has met its doom.

(Had I told you all this at the outset,
you would have been rather outraged and upset,
So I couldn't possibly comment, not a word shall I utter,
whilst admiring your little white classical cutter)

Kate Middleton