Here is the story of how I bought a three masted schooner
Get in touch with me if you are interested in reading the book from which this is excerpted.
This was the second ship. Jump to the beginning of the story, or read on to get the hang of it and then jump.
Or, pickup the synopsis where you left off right now.
"Sven, thank you for taking all this trouble, but I don't think there's one we could afford to buy," I told the agent's son at the end of the first day of searching for a ship. I didn't want to say they were rotten, too. He began to review the list with us, and concluded that it was time to go back and see his father.
When Sven's father was finally ready for us, he turned to me and asked: "Mr Jones, how much is your hotel per night?" I was taken by surprise, hesitated, then remembered: "51 kroner... and that includes breakfast."
He already knew, carried straight on with: "I have had your bags taken out of your hotel room - I have cancelled it, of course - and they are being put on the ferry to Börnholm. It costs 25 kroner, so you can go there and back for less than one night in the hotel here. There is one final ship I want you to see. She is not pretty, but she is cheap and she is strong. I will see you back in Copenhagen in two days time." He rose. The interview was over.
"You don't have much luck with that kind of man, do you?" Claire commented cheerfully. "Didn't we make some kind of disastrous raid on Börnholm during the War? I believe it's a pretty island. I'm looking forward to it."
The agent in Copenhagen had been smaller and more impressive than either of us had expected. He must have been in his 60s, maybe older. His son, taller and more sensitive, showed us rotting Baltic Trader after rotting Baltic Trader, pretty as a picture if we didn't look close, and offered at prices which we knew not to be serious. I was relieved. Did I want another huge wooden sailing vessel? I didn't really know, but if I couldn't have one, it took the responsibility away from me.
It might seem a rococo solution to buy a Tall Ship for summer vacations for the children, but there were now six of them, my own having been added to Claire's five. That meant nine for a family holiday since an au pair girl had to be included, too. For a few years, we had used another wooden ship, but it had settled quietly into a muddy grave, and we needed this replacement.
That is, Claire needed a replacement.
Had I still been employed, as I was when Claire bought the first ship, the choice of a second ship would probably have continued to be more Claire's responsibility than mine. But I had resigned from my journalist job, failed to find another, and was therefore vulnerable to suggestions of what I should do instead.
Hence, Claire's decision to go to Copenhagen where she understood there were many Baltic Traders available for sale.
The ferry arrived in Rönne on Börnholm early in the morning and didn't leave until that evening. We had no alternative but to spend the day on the latest Baltic Trader, whose name was GRAY. She was exactly as Mr Thorshaven had said: a solid ship, but not at all pretty, partly because she had lost her sheer, partly because her bluff bow was even bluffer than usual. The owner, Captain Larsen, had made no attempt to make her more than serviceable. There wasn't even much of a deck to speak of, just a pair of gaping cargo hatches. Two of the three masts had gone, and the foremast had been reduced to a stick of sorts just sufficient to operate the derrick and carry a steadying sail.
If you want to sell something, get the buyer to touch it. I had heard that maxim and so, having crawled around GRAY all day, we had more or less promised to buy her by the time the ferry left in the evening. All 160 tons of her, the displacement shown on the agents' list.
In our relationship, I always saw myself either as led by Claire, or as relying on her for a sense of direction. I'm not sure she would see it that way since her leadership was so instinctive she probably didn't even notice it. And her leadership consisted in seeing things very clearly - even if occasionally wrong. In this case, she had come to Copenhagen for a ship for the children, a suitable ship had presented itself, and I was going to buy it - for this time I was to be the owner, not she. Privately, I thought it would only cost us the ten per cent deposit right now. We could go back and think about it - and maybe we could even get the deposit back one way or the other. Besides, it was a lovely September day. Glancing back on our way to the return ferry, we saw the owner and his wife, their hands crossed behind their backs, dancing a jig on the deck. They knew something we didn't?