An operation, boat repairs and a good deed

Over the August Bank Holiday I went sailing with the Sarah and Lee. They had practised their boating skills over a very pleasant but balmy summer and were feeling confident on the water, but on this occasion the wind was up and they felt that they needed dad around to show them how to cope when conditions were a bit more challenging. Things went well at first, but a small accident where Lee ricked his wrist while lowering the keel at the jetty prior to raising the sails proved to have unforeseen consequences.

Up until lunch the sailing went really well. The sails were full and Annie proved to be very responsive to the conditions, heeling over quite nicely and zipping along at quite a pace. It took Lee and Sarah a bit of time to adjust to conditions that they had not up until now experienced, but after a few panic situations they settled down into a routine that ensured that they could begin to enjoy finding out what their Catalina 22 was capable of. After a couple of hours or so on the water we returned to the shore for a very pleasant picnic lunch.

The afternoon sailing session did not go well. It is their way to motor out of the small bay where the craft are launched and then raise the sails when they are clear of other water users (canoeists, windsurfers etc.). This strategy works well when there is very little wind, but today was different! Sarah and I struggled greatly to raise the mainsail, finding it impossible to haul a large area of canvas against a wind that was increasing rapidly. Annie was speedily being blown towards the dam wall and confusingly we had no control over the yacht, she wouldn’t come around into the wind despite Lee turning the tiller. Eventually, I realised that the motor was still on and we were blithely being propelled to imminent doom. With the motor switched off, Annie turned into the wind, and while Sarah gave it everything hauling on the mainsail sheet, I fed the canvass into the mast then took over and sailed her away from danger.

For the next hour and a half, Sarah and Lee took control of their yacht and practised in conditions that had now become quite challenging. I could see that they were beginning to work as a team and now understood that sailing requires 100% concentration and lots of preplanning/discussion of what you are going to do next. With lots of lessons learned and confident that Annie wasn’t going to founder in anything shorter than a hurricane we set sail for the jetty and Annie’s trailer.

As with leaving the mooring, it is their routine to drop the sails as they enter the small bay and cruise in on the electric motor. However, on this occasion, with the sails down the motor stopped some 100m from the jetty (flat battery). As we drifted slowly towards the shore, we had to call for a tow from the rescue craft on duty. There wasn’t enough time to raise the sails and make our own way before we grounded.

Tied up along side the pier, we called for the tractor to haul Annie out on her trailer. That is when we discovered that the keel was still down (we thought it had been raised) and as she was pulled onto the trailer, the two rear supporting hull pads snapped off. We eventually worked out that when Lee had ricked his wrist at the beginning of the day, that was when the keel cable had snapped and we were no longer able to raise it. It was a serious dilemma, we couldn’t get Annie out of the water with the keel down or put her on the trailer with two of the supporting pads missing. She was towed once again to a less used pier and made fast alongside, to remain there until we could think of a solution. As we left, I took one of the broken pads with me.

The trailer repair was a pretty straight forward task, but the raising the keel required a lot of thought. I returned a couple of days later with Peter. I had made two new pads using the one I had taken away with me as a template and I replaced them, while I did this Peter smartened up the trailer by painting it a very fetching grey. I returned a few days later with Mia and replaced the front two supporting pads as they were in poor condition and it seemed sensible to replace them all.

That weekend while Annie was still in the water, Sarah and Lee took some friends for a quiet and incident free sail.

It isn’t possible to replace the keel cable while in the water, so we had to find a way to raise it in order to get it onto the trailer. Lee bought a long length of strapping and a ratchet connector to do the job, he dropped it off in Harborough for Peter and I to attempt it. It worked! By running the strapping under the hull until it caught on the dropped keel, we allowed it to sink a little way down the keel, then by pulling back we managed to tilt it to around 45 degrees. Keeping it under tension we brought the strapping vertical to the boat then connected the ratchet to the two ends and tightened further until the keel was squeezed fully up. The gods were smiling on us, I had expected to be there all day, endlessly repeating and refining the process until we either completed the task or gave up!

The tractor arrived with the trailer and she was soon back on dry land ensconced with her other chums in the boat park. How we replace the cable is a problem that requires further thought.

The beginning of September was a busy one for the Rothwells. The 2nd was Charlotte’s birthday, the 3rd was Charlotte’s and Suraj’s wedding anniversary, the 4th was Suraj’s birthday and Charlotte’s spine operation and the 5th was Lucas’s first day at secondary school and Ellis was in Year 4. They all went to the seaside and Wells-next-the-Sea for Charlotte’s birthday, it was a gorgeously warm day and besides being a break for them all, it was a chance for Charlotte to get out before she becomes house-bound after her imminent operation.

Suraj had booked in quite a lot of time off work to ensure that he could look after Charlotte after the operation and on the day before, Sue and I had Ellis and Lucas to stay, so that she could hopefully get a decent night’s sleep. I took the boys that evening to Sarah and Lee’s for a fish and chip tea then we went to see the speedway at Leicester Lions. None of us had been before and I was probably the most excited, it turned out to be a brilliant night. Luckily, it just happened to be the last meeting of the year, and their 90th year celebration. They hadn’t won a single meet and were bottom of the league and were taking on the champions, Somerset. And they beat them, even though they were up against the world champion, New Zealander Jason Doyle.


Charlotte was due to have her operation early in the morning and she was first on the list, however they couldn’t find a suitable vein for a cannula (she hadn’t slept and was exhausted) and she didn’t go into surgery until late in the afternoon. The procedure should have lasted around 1.5 hours but ended up being 4.5 hours. A very long stressful day! The surgeon was pleased with the outcome and when we went to see her the following day, though very sore and still in pain when she moved, she was able to lift her right leg and rub her feet together, something she has not been able to do. She looked very tired but was feeling quite positive.

Suraj had the duty of seeing the boys off for their first day in the new school year and did a pretty good job, though Charlotte had prepared them well for school without her.

On the 7th Sept. we had Mia to stay for a few days while Lee and Sarah jetted off to Geneva for a break. They stayed in a lovely Airbnb property and appeared to max out on this sight-seeing and culture opportunity. I do believe that they were so impressed with the city, lake and life style that they wouldn’t mind relocating there (we’ll keep Mia then?)

On the 9th Sue and I took Lucas and Ellis to the Lubenham Scarecrow Festival. We go most years (weather deciding) but on this occasion I do believe there appeared to be more scarecrows, more attractions and more visitors than previous. Good news for the village funds and associated charities.

On the 11th Charlotte’s car was collected for its annual service from our driveway where it has been parked since last February. Annoyingly, the garage messed up the paperwork on the manufacturer’s warranty and later that day it was returned without its service. It is now booked in again for a date in November, on the positive side it did get driven and quite a distance, something that has not happened for nearly 8 months. The following day my Fiesta went in for its MOT and passed again with flying colours, probably due to the fact that I had cleaned its inside for the first time in a year!

On the 14th I went for my last eye injection. I recently read an interesting article concerning the NHS and Lucentis (my medication) and was stunned to learn that it is £582 per injection! Thank you Aneurin Bevin, without your vision (not a pun) I and many more would either be very poor or just plain blind.

On the 20th Mia arrived again for a few days. This time Lee and Charlotte are away with Lee’s extended family to celebrate his stepfather’s 60th birthday. There is 18 of them and they are staying in a cottage in Lincoln.

Despite Charlotte’s present predicament, she has always thought of others before herself, and no greater testament to that is the coming to fruition of a thoughtful and kind-hearted initiative she has been working on through the horrendous trials of the last year. Close to where she lives is a road bridge over the A14. It is a suicide hotspot and despite her own problems she determined to make a difference and set about doing something about it. Enlisting the help of friends, family and social media she proposed that sympathetic messages be displayed on the bridge in an effort to encourage the desperate and forgotten to think again. The week before she went into hospital, she, with friends and family displayed the messages that she had created on the bridge.

Unwisely, six days later the Road Authority removed the messages, worried that they would be a distraction to drivers. This happened at the same time that Charlotte was in hospital and it created a media storm that the authorities couldn’t ignore. With flack coming from the MP, local and national radio and newspapers. On leaving hospital she was interviewed by the press and radio on the issue and eventually the authorities had to bend to the feelings of the public and common sense. There is now going to be 8 professionally designed messages displayed on the bridge and a possibility that this may be repeated on others with similar problems in the area. That’s my girl!!!!

Charlotte-Bridge

Other news:

Jamie has sold his apartment (subject to contract) and he and Ashton have put in an offer on a semi-detached property in Desborough. Strangely this is the same property that Charlotte and Suraj were looking at when they first decided to move closer to the grandparents.

Sarah and Lee are going to Iceland in May for her birthday.

God bless the NHS. Sue and I have our Flu jab booked in for next week. We learned our lesson the hard way last Christmas and do not want to repeat that!

I had an email from Joan and Phil (Italy) a week or so ago mentioning that they were woken up by an earthquake. No damage done, but on checking the Earthquake website locator the epi-centre appeared to be in their garden. Now that is a claim to fame you wouldn’t want.

A reminisce:

Quite a while ago as a Year 3 teacher I was teaching in Wigston when a had a child transfer into the class from an inner-city school. He couldn’t read, didn’t know even the basic phonetics. It soon became obvious that he was just as bright as the other children in the class and though shy, he had a pleasant nature that you just warmed to. Determined to get his reading up to scratch I kept him in at lunchtimes, three time s week and gave him 1:1 tuition throughout the rest of the year. He never complained about his loss of lunchtime freedom and I used to enjoy chatting to him. When I met his parents they seemed supportive and asked if they could do anything to improve his reading. Besides ensuring that he had half an hour each night with his class reader I suggested that they subscribe to the Beano comic and sit and read it with him so that they would get some enjoyment from his reading too. At the end of the year he read as well as any of the children in the class.

On the final school day, it is customary and hugely gratifying that the children often bring a small present for the class teacher as a thank you (from the parents). That year, the children had just left the classroom to start their summer holidays and I was helping stack the chairs in the classroom with the caretaker and headteacher, when the lad returned clutching a little parcel. I guess his parents had bought a little present as an after thought when they saw what the other children had done. As I thanked him, he asked me if I knew what was the best thing about this year. Thinking I was about to get some praise, and with witnesses, I fished and said that I couldn’t think what. “Reading the Beano,” he said, “The Beano taught me how to read, without the Beano I wouldn’t have been able to read.” Deflated, I told him that I was pleased and wished him well in the future.

“There you are boss,” said the caretaker to the headteacher, ” Lots of money to be saved there, get rid of the teachers and subscribe the kids to the Beano.”

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