From the Marabu Journal, 1986

This is by way of being a promotional article aimed at the new sailor so anyone who knows all there is to know about Marabu can go and do some refitting instead of reading this. 


It seems that Marabu is quite a media star these days, with our good Commodore [John Kapp] becoming the Bob Geldof of the Tall Ships’ Races. Scarce a day passes without the radio featuring an emotional Mr. Kapp waxing lyrical about the joys of sailing. But what is Marabu REALLY like? Read on and you too will know the ways of Marabu and all who sail in her. (Well, almost all, some of them might sue).


Imagine that first sight of Marabu, waiting for you in Brighton Marina. You step lightly aboard and are instantly felled by A ROPE. There are many sorts of rope on Marabu and as you lie prone on the deck trying to repair your shattered dentistry you realise that the object of your downfall was a WARP. The warp is used for tying up the boat and its full title is, ‘Set that bloody warp round something NOW!’ so do not be confused if addressed thus.

Another interesting rope is a SHEET. These come in various pastel shades and are very useful to hang yourself with when you let the Heads overflow (for ‘Heads’ see later). You may also hear references to a TOPPING LIFT. The function of this is unknown, so best ignored along with forestays, backstays, uphauls and downhauls. The plastic rails running all round the boat are called GUARD RAILS and are for hanging washing on.


Now that you know everything about ropes let us pass on to the SAILS. These are a vital part of Marabu and the most important one is the LIGHT GENOA due to its excellent qualities as bedding. Never hoist this sail as somebody may be tired and needing it urgently. All parts of a sail are given names such as clew, luff, leach and head. Do not mistake this for the other Head or the Skipper will have something to say.


The sail at the front of the boat is called a headsail: (No, not THOSE heads!). In hot sunny weather the best headsail is the storm jib, its tiny size ensuring maximum sun for those basking on deck. Other sails are the mizzen and spinnaker STAYSAILS. The main value of these sails is their attractive blue colour, which tends to set off one’s posh new sailing gear rather well.


The SPINNAKER is only used when three quarters of the crew are trying to sleep off the effects of the previous evening’s debauchery. It adds nothing to the speed of the boat but the innocent crew can usually learn some new words while it is being hoisted. The way to lower a spinnaker is to turn the boat into the wind, whereupon the sail will tear itself neatly in half and fall into the sea. These disposable sails are of great value to the busy crew as they eliminate the need to pack the thing away after use.


The sail in the middle is called the MAIN and is the worst tempered piece of material known to mankind. It will resist any attempts to hoist it and once raised will fight any efforts to get it back down again. The first skill when hoisting the main is to know in advance when it is about to be done and go below to make the tea.


At the back of the boat we find the MIZZEN. This simple little sail flaps happily from side to side and the alert crew member can easily master the mizzen technique within the first decade or so.


Next we must turn our attention to the DECKS. The bit at the front is the FOREDECK. This is inhabited by a strange and wild creature known as a Foredeck Guerilla – these are normally wet and cross so best avoided. The deck down the sides is not terribly comfortable and can be damp. Behind this we have the AFT DECK or ‘Dahn the back’. This is also known as the ‘Pegler Deck’ due to the presence of an unusual being of that name. It is usually asleep and smells strongly of whisky, but when awake can be highly entertaining.


Various holes can be found at intervals along the deck, the most interesting of these being the SAIL LOCKER. Whilst safely in port the tired mariner can kip here in peace, but at sea this hellhole should be avoided at all costs. One can too easily be injured by flying sail bags or fenders. A FENDER is a piece of plastic or rubber used for filling holes in the boat left by skirmishes with harbour walls.


The next dent in the deck is called the COCKPIT. This area although rather cramped is ideal for the odd social gathering on a summer evening and is usually a good place to find a reviving can of beer. We now note the WHEEL at the aft end of the cockpit. This is where the inexperienced yachtsman can really score, practising nautical poses and saying, ‘I’m holding my course Skipper’ at regular intervals. This is another pursuit best practised when in port as at sea the reality of holding a course is quite different. The helmsman’s role is to take sole blame far any mishaps such as bad navigation, increase in the wind, missing the weather forecast or the lack of curry powder in
the galley.


Now dear reader, you may find all this a little awe-inspiring and you may feel that deckwork is not for you. Never fear – there is always BELOW. This is the proper name for downstairs – stairs in fact are seldom used on boats. The correct method of descent is to slip on a three-day-old Mars Bar and plunge wildly into the stinking depths, cursing in the approved manner as you go.


At the beginning of you flight you will pass through the DOGHOUSE – an inaptly named spot as dogs are seldom seen on Marabu. This is not on account of the mess or the rabies regulations, but because any canine chum venturing aboard stands a good chance of being curried and served with pilau rice. The doghouse is the place where navigating is done. There will usually be a moth-eaten navigator curled up in one of the corners so don’t worry if you can’t bring your own. Navigation is a very useful skill to acquire and is generally reckoned to be the best job on the boat. The skilled navigator need never emerge throughout the voyage and will often ensure his safety by leaving his oilies at home.

The first thing we come to when below is the GALLEY. Sadly, the old Marabu galley is no more having been exported to Russia where it met a sad fate earlier this year when the cooker finally exploded. The cover story about the nuclear accident didn’t fool any of the Marabu Syndicate. Still, some of the old favourites are still in place such as the mugs, which always produce that unique Oxo flavoured tea. Sadly the three-toed sloth that used to be the ship’s cook is now redundant as it is now possible for a human to produce a meal without spending the next few months in traction. The new crew will still avoid the galley until caught and chained to the sink to shave the dishes.


Moving forward from the galley, we find the beer lockers which reach to the front of the boat, with a few gaps in between known as bunks. Try and reserve for yourself the one with the six dozen charts directly under the mattress to ensure that you are always awake for your watch. In a rare display of justice, the skipper's bunk is more soggy than most, although sadly the mate no longer has to sleep with his head in an overflowing bag of rubbish.


Should your merry band of Tars include a woodlouse, that insect will find stylish, though cramped accommodation in THE LETTERBOX. It can be an advantage for the human crew to jam themselves into this tiny bunk, due to the fact that they will be forced to remain trapped there throughout the voyage.


Now let us move along to the finer joys of life below decks. When safely in port the appetite you bade farewell to at the outset of the trip will return and you will want to eat. When preparing the meal accept any task offered, except that of PUTTING UP THE TABLE. The risk of blood poisoning involved in this operation is very great and if you escape unscathed from the sharpened bolts on the table legs the rusty hinges will get you for sure. As you work on your impression of the just murdered King Duncan, the cook will call for you to come and hold your bloodied digits over the cooking pot to improve the flavour of the braised kidneys.


So, eventually you are seated to await your meal. The premium dining place is at the head of the table on the plank across the forecabin entrance. From this position it is an easy matter to pass out quietly at the end of the meal and fall backwards thus disappearing from view and avoiding the washing up. It is advisable to make your swoon a genuine one, as falling into a drink induced sleep before anyone else will ensure that you miss the chorus of snores and grunts shortly to begin. If you can’t quite manage to be asleep first then be sure to arm yourself with an array of shoes to hurl at the noisy sleeper.


During the night your slumber will be disturbed by an increasing need to visit THE HEADS. Eventually it can be put off no longer and you will climb out of you bunk, ensuring that you step on the snorer as you go. Climb into your wellies, shaking them first to check for fish heads or the ginger biscuit you put there yesterday in case of emergency then wade over to the heads. Taking a deep breath, enter and fracture your fingers trying to find the light. As the bulb flickers into life you become aware that the person before you has done what you had hoped to get away with and not flushed the thing. I cannot bear to talk of what happens next, of the frantic pumping and the gradual asphyxiation. It is too painful and you must know the heads for yourself to understand this. So, burst forth into the fresh air and back to your pit to lie and dream of the next day’s adventures...


Well, reader there it is, a little introduction to Marabu. There is much I have not said and I hope to cover more topics in the next edition, such as how to choose who to sail with, how to navigate, cookery on board and how not to behave on a Tall Ships’ Race. If it all seems wonderful to you see a doctor at once and if you can’t imagine why anyone does it, get aboard a classic yacht and have
a go!

By Hannah Hetherington