Captain Roger was probably older than your mommy and daddy when he bought his big sailing boat, and actually he was about old enough to be your grandfather!  Because he came from England, he called his boat Britannia, which is a very famous old name for an English ship. When he first bought her, she was very sad, because she had not been well looked after, but as the years passed Captain Roger spent all his money on making her into a beautiful schooner.

A schooner is a special type of yacht, with two tall masts and lots of white sails.

When Captain Roger had finished his work Britannia even had air conditioning, running hot water, two toilets and two showers, a television, a refrigerator and even a washing machine and a bathtub, just like in your house. Whoever heard of a sailing boat with a washing machine and a bathtub? There was also a big engine, like in your car, for when there was no wind to blow the boat along. Britannia was now a very happy ship, with many new gadgets on board, but which all needed to be tested out on the water.

At last it came time for Britannia to be sailed again, with all its new equipment working properly. There isn’t much point having a beautiful schooner if it never sails anywhere, is there?   Captain Roger’s wife, Miss Kati, went to the supermarket and bought loads of food and drinks, called “vittles” by sailors, that’s a funny name for groceries isn’t it? which she put in the refrigerator and freezer. Yes, Britannia even has a freezer as well. It really sounds more like Britannia was a house, doesn’t it? But Miss Kati wanted to make their first cruise as pleasant as possible for them both.

On the day of departure, the engine was started with a great roar and clouds of black smoke and soot shot out of the exhaust, (like a really really long fart), and it made everyone watching on the dock cough and splutter. This was very naughty of Britannia, but the smell soon blew away in the wind.

This always happens when a diesel engine is not started for a while. Captain Roger made Britannia move forward with the engine, like your daddy drives his car out of the garage. Of course, Britannia was in a marina dock, not a garage. That would be really silly, because it would have to be a very high garage roof to get the tall masts in, wouldn’t it? Then, as Britannia moved slowly forward, she suddenly stopped and would not budge one more inch. It was as though she didn’t ever want to go out of her snug berth. But I expect you’ve guessed it—she was stuck on the bottom! Captain Roger had piled so much food and water and gas in Britannia it had made her float much lower in the water, and she was now stuck in the shallow mud.

Captain Roger had to ask the marina manager to bring his strong motor-boat to the rescue, and after a lot of pulling and tugging Britannia was finally pulled out of the mud. Captain Roger and Miss Kati were then able to set off on their voyage in their posh looking schooner. It was to become a very exciting voyage as well.

Captain Roger steered Britannia into The Intracoastal Waterway, (called the ICW for short), near Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the space rockets are all launched from. The ICW is not actually the sea, like the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. It is a long stretch of water which snakes all the way from Miami in Florida, to Maine in the far north of America. It is not as rough as the oceans, and a good place to test new things on a boat. The ICW has bridges which lift open to let sailboats pass through, and all the cars have to wait until boats have gone under. You can also see amazing sea animals like wild dolphins and manatees, which live in the ICW waters.

One thing that is very different between driving a car and driving a boat is the speed which it can go. A car can go very fast indeed, as you probably know from watching the speedometer when your daddy drives over the speed limit. But a sailing boat will only go along in the water at just about as fast as you can run. That’s quite slow isn’t it, and it takes a very long time to get anywhere. So, the speedometer is a very important instrument to have on a boat, because by using the same math’s as you learn at school, Captain Roger could then work-out how long it would take to get from here to there. The problem was, after only about an hour Britannia’s speedometer just stopped working, oh dear! 

Another important instrument on a boat is called the depth gauge, which also broke a few minutes later! This shows how deep the water is under the boat, and it tells a clever sailor like Captain Roger when his boat might bump into an underwater mud bank, and come to a sudden halt—again! The ICW has many mud banks and narrow channels, some only about as wide as a road, so it was very naughty of Britannia to stop these two important instruments working, so soon after leaving the dock.

Then another important gauge also stopped working. This told Captain Roger how hot Britannia’s engine was, because if an engine gets too hot it might stop altogether. This can be very awkward on a sailing boat, especially if there is no wind to blow the boat along, or if it blows from the wrong direction. You can’t just pull over to the side of the road like in a car, because all you can see is water and there is no side of the road to park.

Captain Roger was beginning to think that Britannia was listening to everything that was said, so he and Miss Kati began to whisper. If Britannia heard them, she might not be very happy with what they were saying about her. Captain Roger thought his boat was being very naughty, with three breakdowns all in a few minutes of each other.

At afternoon tea time, (that’s at 4 o’clock for English people), Captain Roger decided to drop the anchor and stop for the night, but he didn’t know how deep the water was, because the depth gauge had broken, hadn’t it? It is important to know the depth of water below the boat, so you can anchor with the correct length of chain. But being an expert sailor Captain Roger used another method to find how deep the water was. It is called a “lead-line.” This is a heavy weight tied on the end of a long string with knots every six feet, every six feet it called a “fathom” by sailors. Then, with Miss Kati steering very very slowly Captain Roger took his lead-line to the front of Britannia and threw it in the water—yet still keeping hold of the end of the string of course. He then counted how many knots went under water, until the lead weight hit the bottom. Using math Captain Roger then worked out how deep the water was and let out the correct amount of chain, until the anchor hit the bottom. This stopped Britannia floating away during the night. A lead-line is one of the oldest gadgets to be used on boats, going back thousands of years, and the best thing is—they never break down! So, if you have a boat, tell your daddy to make one. Or you could make one for him, it’s really easy, all you need it a heavy weight and a long string. This will definitely come in handy, because your depth gauge will probably break some day, especially if your boat is only half as naughty as Britannia.     The next thing was to switch off the engine and have some peace and quite from the noise, but you might have guessed, Britannia thought otherwise. The engine simply refused to stop, even when the stop button was pressed repeatedly. Captain Roger thought this was very naughty of Britannia and he scolded her with some naughty sailing words of his own which you shouldn’t ever hear. He had to scramble into the small engine room and pull a wire, which finally stopped the engine.

After Miss Kati cooked a nice dinner and night fell, Captain Roger decided to start a different engine. It is called a generator, and it makes electricity the same as you have in your house. Then the air conditioning could be switched on to cool the inside of the boat, from the hot Florida air outside. But Britannia decided to even be naughty again, and the generator would not start—even though Captain Roger had started it many times before leaving for their cruise. Captain Roger and Miss Kati were very hot and sticky in bed all night, even with all the windows wide open.

Captain Roger was now beginning to get very annoyed with Britannia, because of all the break-downs. She must have really heard him talking about her, and decided she better not to be so naughty, (for the moment anyway), because in the morning the engine started up straight away, and they were able to continue on their way along the ICW.

Britannia loves to show-off her nice big square sail. Even though he was also a good engineer, Captain Roger could not find out why the generator would not work, and inside the boat became very hot indeed during the day. Luckily, the wind had changed to the right direction, so three lovely white sails were set on the tall masts, which blew Britannia along even faster, and a lot quieter than with the noisy engine.

Many people with noisy motor boats still whizzed passed Britannia and waved, and some even took pictures of the fine schooner under her billowing sails. This made Captain Roger and Miss Kati very proud, and they began to forget how naughty Britannia had been the day before—but as you can probably guess, that didn’t last long.

After they anchored again for tea in the afternoon, Captain Roger decided to find out if he could make the generator work, so they could put the air conditioning on and be cool inside. He decided to unscrew a filter bowl which he thought might have become clogged-up when Britannia was pulled thought the mud, when they first started. But in trying to unscrew the tight bowl with a big wrench it broke off completely, and water gushed into the boat with a great spout as long as your arm! Oh gosh! we’re going to sink thought Miss Kati! But being an experienced sailor Captain Roger immediately knew what to do, and he did not jump into the dinghy, like some people might have done. He found a specially shaped wooden plug, which fitted into the broken hole perfectly and that stopped the water rushing in. Britannia also must have been relieved that the Captain knew just what to do, because she didn’t want to sink to the bottom either. This would have been a great disaster wouldn’t it? But at least it would have stopped her being so naughty, don’t you think? Upps--

Captain Roger then connected another water pipe to the generator, and after a lot of fiddling about it finally decided to start up. Then the AC was switched on, blowing nice cold air all through the boat. What a relief that was!

In the morning the engine started straight away and Captain Roger went to the front of the boat to bring in the anchor, so they could continue their journey. However, Britannia decided once more to be naughty and the machine which would normally wind the chain and anchor up, called a “windlass,” refused to work! Captain Roger had to pull all the chain and the heavy anchor in by hand, which left him worn-out and with his back and arms aching. He was also very angry with his naughty boat.

Miss Kati discovered something else which didn’t work properly as well. When the engine is running it is supposed to make hot water for washing dishes and showers, but now that didn’t work either! Captain Roger and his wife don’t like cold showers—who does? So they became a little smelly through not showering for nearly three days. Aren’t you glad you were not invited on this cruise, without any hot water to wash yourself?

All these break-downs had upset Captain Roger and his wife, and they decided to take Britannia back to the marina and leave her on her own for a while. It was a bit like your parents might make you stand in a corner on your own, when you have been very naughty.

The journey back to the marina took three days, and Britannia must have known she was in disgrace, because nothing else broke down on the return trip. This time, when they arrived back at the marina Britannia slid easily over the mud bank straight into her dock, and everyone was very pleased to be back home—including Britannia. Can you guess why she didn’t get stuck in the mud like when they left? It was because Captain Roger and Miss Kati had eaten all their food and drink, and used up a lot of water and engine fuel from the tanks, so this time Britannia floated higher in the water than before, skimming right over the mud bank, what a relief!

It was late in the evening when Captain Roger had tied all the ropes back on Britannia to stop her floating away from the dock. So Captain Roger and Miss Kati decided to spend one more night on Britannia, before leaving for their home. During the night it became very warm inside the boat and Captain Roger got up and discovered that the air conditioning was not blowing cold air any more. Oh dear, another breakdown! All the windows in the boat had to be opened to let a breeze blow though.

In the morning, after breakfast, when everything was packed in their car, Captain Roger decided to give Britannia a jolly good talking to! I think you will agree, she had been very naughty indeed, but just like your mommy and daddy scold you when you have been naughty, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you any more. It just means they wished you behaved yourselves a bit more sometimes.

After a few days rest in his house, Captain Roger went back to Britannia and looked at all the breakdowns. He found out it was not always Britannia’s fault for everything breaking down, but that she was trying to tell him she was not a happy boat. She definitely didn’t like being dragged through all that dirty black mud at the start of the cruise, nobody would, would they? It also wasn’t Britannia’s fault she was loaded with so much water and stuff, was it?

It’s a bit like if you take your dog for a walk, (if you have one that is), and it just sits down on the sidewalk and won’t budge one inch. You tug and tug on the leash, and then you find out it has a thorn in a paw and it hurts to walk. A dog and a boat can’t actually talk, can they? So they have to tell their owners in other ways, that they are not very happy.

Captain Roger and Miss Kati still love Britannia, and after he had fixed all the breakdowns—which took ages and cost plenty, Britannia was as happy as any boat could ever be.


A children’s story

Cartoons by Jake Kavanaugh

This is NOT a fair portrait of the author.