Traditionally, the prestigious Uncle Albert trophy is presented at the annual Laying Up Supper, but even such important events needed to be changed in 2020.  The current holder was still keen to hand the trophy on to a worthy new recipient, so a virtual ceremony was organised.  This would allow all tales of potential contenders to be heard, and any confessions added to the mix.

Often names are withheld from public record to protect the innocent, but here they’ll be withheld to protect the guilty!  2020 may have presented numerous challenges for the club, but there were still enough people trying to win themselves an award, enough fellow club members prepared to dob them in, and a growing use of WhatsApp making communication easier.  Well, communication was easier for all but one member – more of that later.

We began the meeting by hearing about the beginnings of the Uncle Albert, from the first ever recipient.  It was awarded as more a ‘lifetime achievement’ than any single misdemeanour in that year, but the spirit of the award was the same.

For this season, there were two lost propellers, but as one was from the boat of the current Albert holder, it seemed less likely that would be deemed as a serious prospect to be the winner.

When the Notice to Mariners was lifted to allow sailing in the Solent, some didn’t fully understand the exact scope of the new rules, but when they approached Cowes Harbour they were soon corrected and duly retreated.  “Haven’t you heard about Covid?”

People have different approaches to leaving pontoons, but having the owner/skipper of the yacht in question still standing on the pontoon holding one of the lines while the boat moves away is an unusual one.  As with all things, photographic evidence of the event was an added bonus!

Boats in foreign waters aren’t exempt, so the unintended growing of a mussel field underneath one boat, and tales of another ‘hooning’ along while apparently at anchor were also included in the mix.

A couple of ‘pontoon bashing’ courses (close quarters manoeuvring under power, to give them their official title) were successfully organised, despite weather and Lockdown challenges, and seemed an obvious likely source for some more Albert contenders.  In the end, one boat did find itself closer to a fixed pile than ideal, but control had been handed back to the instructor just in time to claim that no club members were involved in the actual incident.  Timing is everything!

One of beauties of AIS is the ability it gives to see what action is happening out on the water.  It also highlights some interesting behaviour, such as a club member’s boat being spotted outside Lulworth Harbour, at a time when live firing was planned, where it was joined by a Range boat, and then diverted into Lulworth Cove.  There was an unusual lack of comment from those aboard, but certainly the AIS trace allowed for much speculation.

In the end, there was only one person who truly earned the right to be the Albert winner.  The distance between boat and pontoon does vary slightly with wind and tide, but it seems at times it’s wide enough for a person to fit between the two.  Fortunately, some quick thinking meant the bottle of wine landed on the pontoon rather than suffering a more watery fate.  A sore leg prevented the involved party partaking in a walk the next day, but he was in fine fettle for singing by the evening.  Reports about the event were slow to be shared, but even if he’d wanted to confess all, it would have been difficult, with his phone residing at the bottom of the harbour.

To round off the virtual meeting, our Club Secretary suggested a sing-a-long would help bring a festive atmosphere, and our ever-tuneful Commodore duly prepared some alternative lyrics for the twelve days of Christmas. The singing was enthusiastic if not entirely sung in time!

On the First Day of Christmas my Skipper gave to me;

  • A Newbury Yacht Club Burgee
  • Two Sailing Gloves
  • Three Deck Shoes
  • Four Almanacs
  • Five Stugeron
  • Six Sheets a Fraying
  • Seven Swans from Swanwick
  • Eight Ropes for Reefing
  • Nine Days in Brixham
  • Ten Crewmen Sleeping
  • Eleven Bits of Piping
  • Twelve Lobsters Leaping

10th December 2020