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The end      Before then

Dominick bought Schooner Gray in Denmark Christmas 1969, and sold her in America in May 1988, 22 years after Gipping was bought. Gray sank at her moorings six years later in May 1994.

This was our second Tall Ship

Schooner Gray was only slightly longer on deck than Gipping, but there the similarity ended.

She weighed about 200 tons, drew 9 feet (instead of the 3 feet I had gotten used to on Gipping), and when I had finished making the bowsprit, she was 137 feet overall. She lifted 4 tons of diesel fuel (but still not enough to cross the Atlantic), 5 tons of water, a quarter of a ton of wine.

My first job was to build the masts.

Throughout Gray’s life with us, sail design continued to be a matter of trial and error. Consequently, I can only hazard a guess that we never had more than 3,500 square feet of fore and aft sails, and 900 sq ft of square sails (eventually, most stitched by Cecilia). Using conventional rule of thumb measures, this is at the lowest end of the traditional sail area to displacement ratio. She never sailed as well as Gipping, but was, of course, an ocean going vessel which Gipping was not.

It turned out that taking the Gray from Denmark (where I bought her) to France, the Mediterranean, crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean and then to North America would be my career. More than twenty years elapsed between the first days of Gipping and my last day with Schooner Gray.

From knowing virtually nothing about sailing ships, I eventually had to get to grips with the problems of making sails on board (I designed, Cecilia sewed), skipping between sandbanks, dragging anchor, losing a mast, crossing the Atlantic, fixing self steering, avoiding hurricanes, hauling out for repairs, and my major preoccupation: failing to sink.

For 13 years, I had no other home, and for half that period never spent a night ashore. When on dry dock, I felt it was rather like having my underpants repaired while still wearing them.