A Love Story
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Lexi presented the fob to the lock on the pontoon gate and was relieved when it opened with a satisfying click and once through, allowed it to close behind her with a loud clang. She walked down the short sloping wooden walkway and onto the pontoon which made a sound like wobbling planks. Boats of all shapes and sizes were moored on either side and a few people were carrying out repairs because she could see tools and rags scattered on the pontoon alongside their boats. She turned right and continued to the far end where ‘Majestic’ was moored; she was a beautiful boat.
Rudi’s head popped up from below deck when he heard her approaching. ‘Why didn’t you call me? I could have met you at the gate’ he said, his voice full of concern. He came to the side of the yacht and took her bags from her as she gingerly handed them over making sure to pull the hull towards her with one hand to avoid the gap being too wide and dropping her rucksack or overnight bag into the sea, then she grabbed hold of the shroud as Rudi had taught her and hauled herself up and onto the side of the boat, hitching her legs, scissor style over the guard rail. Safely aboard, he pulled her towards him and kissed her tenderly on the lips.
‘I’ve missed you,’ he said in his suave public school accent.
‘I missed you too,’ she said smiling up at him. They had only been dating for a few weeks and as much as she wanted the relationship to work, she had her doubts about its future. Her track record in relationships was disastrous. She seemed to meet the wrong guy at the wrong time and things hadn’t ever worked out as she had hoped. They had met on Tinder and she was convinced that he had used a film star’s photograph but when they met on their first date, he really was as handsome as his profile pic.
‘If you don’t mind handing those bags down, I can put the wine in the fridge and we can have a glass with our evening meal.’ Rudi disappeared below deck and she passed down several heavy Sainsbury’s carrier bags to him before carefully climbing down the wooden steps herself and saw him busily loading goods into the fridge, which was a hole in the worktop in the galley with an insulated plastic lining and held several bottles of wine, milk, butter, eggs and some orange juice. He passed her two bottles of red wine and asked her to put them in the bar. She looked at him quizzically before realising that he was messing with her. She lifted the neat wooden rectangle in the top of the wooden dining table which had been folded down into a slim length behind her in the saloon, and stashed the bottles carefully into the wooden, bottle-sized holes before replacing the lid. It was a very neat set-up.
She had no idea about stocking up a boat before going to sea and was ignorant about how long it took to get anywhere due to tides and all the other things you had to take into account when sailing. This was her maiden voyage aboard Rudi’s yacht and it had all sounded terribly glamorous when he had told her about his passion for sailing on their first date, but the few times she had been on board, she thought it was rather cramped and not at all as she had imagined. Somebody had once told her that it was like posh camping on water but she wouldn’t have gone that far. She was, however, beginning to think that it was jolly hard work and not all that it was cracked up to be.
Rudi had been sailing since he was a kid when his Dad had taken him out on the Solent as a toddler. He had been around boats all his life and it was second nature to him to sail a forty-foot yacht single-handedly. He told Lexi that he was looking forward to teaching her to sail. She had smiled wanly back at him in the romantically lit restaurant and had been very non-committal.
‘So, are you looking forward to our first trip out on the ocean?’ Rudi broke into her thoughts.
‘Erm, yes and no. I’m looking forward to you taking the helm but I’m nervous about sailing. I haven’t a clue how it all works.’ She was sitting on the navy and lemon upholstered seating in the saloon alongside the galley and ran her hair through her long dark hair.
Rudi’s heart skipped a beat. He thought she was the most beautiful woman inside and out. ‘You don’t have to do anything. I’ll sail the boat. If I give instructions, just carry them out.’
‘You make it sound so simple,’ she said, drawing her knees up to her chest, having been careful to follow the dress code laid out by Rudi some time ago. Boat or deck shoes were to be worn at all times, although barefoot was acceptable when they were moored up and she had been careful to leave her shoes up on deck, no suitcases (due to lack of storage space for non-essential items) and definitely, unequivocally, no heels. That had been a sticking point with Lexi; she loved her high heels and tailored suits but there would be none of that on board. Cotton pedal pushers, tee shirts and warm jumpers were the order of the day, which, quite frankly, she was not looking forward to. She prided herself on dressing smartly for work and was adept at transitioning her outfits to go from office to after work with subtle changes like adding a pretty scarf or removing a tailored jacket and replacing it with a lightweight top over her dress or skirt. She was a classy and elegant dresser and had been complimented on it several times by her colleagues.
‘Like most things in life, if you know what you’re doing, it’s fairly straightforward. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,’ Rudi reassured her.
‘If you say so,’ she muttered under her breath.
‘Why don’t you go and relax on the front of the boat and I’ll bring you a drink? I’ve still got a few things to do so I’ll join you later.’
Lexi smiled. He always made her feel welcome and comfortable and she didn’t feel under any pressure to get involved with boaty things. She liked the way he spoke about the elegant yacht in terms she could understand: front instead of stern, and although he was slowly teaching her the various parts of the boat and their proper names, he didn’t push her.
Lying on her brightly coloured beach towel in her bikini on the pointy bit of the yacht, Lexi felt slightly self-conscious as they were still moored up, but apart from a few people working on their boats, there was hardly anybody around. In the distance, she could see dog walkers with their hounds in tow and people wandering around on the marina while across the other side, bars and restaurants with huge parasols set up outside were starting to fill up with lunchtime patrons. It was the perfect day to eat alfresco.
With the scent of coconut in the air from Lexi’s suncream, Rudi’s hand appeared through a perspex hatch a few feet from her head.
‘A drink for the lady.’
Lexi couldn’t help smiling. Rudi had delivered her drink from the stern cabin and presented her with a Pimms, complete with a sprig of fresh mint and half a strawberry.
‘I could get used to this,’ she said, taking the highball glass from him. ‘Are you going to join me?’
‘Yes, I won’t be long. I’ve just got a few more things to prepare before our journey in the morning.’ And then he disappeared again.
Lexi could feel the heat of the warm July sun on her back as she sipped the deliciously refreshing drink. She felt very decadent drinking alcohol at lunchtime and thought about rustling up a sandwich but then decided against it because she didn’t want to get in Rudi’s way. Despite having been aboard a few times, she had never sailed on ‘Majestic’ and had always been spoiled by Rudi’s attentiveness; he was the perfect host.
Rudi was a widower and didn’t talk much about what had happened, other than his wife had died suddenly in tragic circumstances. They had only been married for three years.
As if Rudi had read her mind, about twenty minutes later, he arrived carrying a small wooden tray containing another glass of Pimms and two plastic picnic plates, on top of which was a selection of triangular sandwiches with two serviettes tucked underneath. He was wearing shorts and nothing else.
‘Cucumber or ham?’ he asked, offering her the tray. She took the tray from him and placed it on the towel alongside her, leaving plenty of room for him to sit next to her. They chinked glasses and tucked into the delicious sandwiches, which really hit the spot. After Rudi refreshed their glasses and Lexi enjoyed him sensually rubbing more suncream into her back, he suggested they go down to the back cabin. Lexi knew this was code for some afternoon delight and feeling slightly squiffy after the rather strong Pimms, she could think of no better way to spend an afternoon than with Rudi in bed aboard his yacht.
After a delicious afternoon in the sack (and Lexi had absolutely no complaints in that department whatsoever) Rudi suggested they book a table at the rather fancy brasserie on the quay aptly named Quayside.
Lexi and Rudi were from very different backgrounds. He had had everything handed to him on a silver platter, including a top job in his dad’s boat-making company. She, on the other hand, had had to fight every step of the way to get what she had. Raised on a council estate, Lexi had worked her way up Chance Hogarth, a PR company, and was in senior management. Although she loved her job she had always hankered after starting her own business but had no idea of what type of business she wanted to go into. Her parents were from very humble backgrounds and her upbringing was a far cry from Rudi’s; she had never encountered anybody receiving an inheritance or heard the term Trustafarian and public schools were something she read about in the press. It was a whole new world and secretly, she resented the fact that he had had it so easy. That was why she had serious concerns about the future of their relationship; they were from very different backgrounds, oceans apart, and she wondered if they could make it.
After a romantic evening at the Quayside brasserie, they walked slowly back to the yacht, Rudi checked the mooring ropes thoroughly and locked the hatch as they were swallowed up into the belly of the boat, just the two of them. Despite having enjoyed delicious sex earlier, they made love again. If nothing else, Lexi reflected in a haze of post-coital bliss in the small cabin subtly lit by the light of the moon, the sex was amazing, but she knew that this was only one small part of the many different facets that make up a successful relationship.
The following morning she awoke to the sound of an engine and what sounded like running water. Climbing across Rudi’s empty side of the bed, she pulled on an oversized jumper and opened the door out into the galley. The main hatch was open and a fresh breeze filled the saloon and she could hear Rudi busy up on deck. She was desperate for a shower but didn’t know how to operate it; Rudi had shown her the pump action loo which was fine, and she decided to have a strip wash in the basin in the tiny heads. After cleaning her teeth and brushing her hair she dressed in some shorts and a warm jumper and felt ready to face the big day ahead for her first full sail to Padstow.
Slipping on her new boat shoes, she poked her head out up on deck and saw Rudi tying fenders to the guard rails and working through an obviously familiar routine of getting the yacht ready to sail. She didn’t know whether to go back down below or make herself useful on deck and before she could make a decision, Rudi had already spotted her.
‘Morning! Can you open that hatch on the back and get me another fender, please?’
‘Sure.’ She climbed up on the cockpit seat, careful not to use the huge steering wheel (or helm as Rudi insisted on calling it) to steady herself, and stepped up onto the wooden deck, locating the locker, she pulled out a navy blue fender and closed the hatch before carefully making her way along the side of the boat holding onto the shrouds as Rudi had taught her before handing it across to him.
‘Thanks. Now, can you make sure everything is stowed away properly down below for when we set sail?’
By the time all the pre-sailing checks had been carried out and the harbour master was informed by Rudi over the radio of their intended journey, Lexi began to feel very anxious. They had to go through a lock and she was dreading it. Suddenly she wished she could bail and tell Rudi that she had changed her mind. She really wasn’t comfortable with what lay ahead.
‘Lexi! Come on, it’s time to leave. Can you untie that rope from the cleat and make sure you don’t drop it in the water.’
Clicking onto autopilot, she did as she was instructed and decided that she had no choice in the matter. She would try to enjoy the trip and if she didn’t like it, that would be the end of her and Rudi. She was very trepidatious about the whole thing because she was convinced that she would fall overboard at some point; the guard rails were very flimsy and one wrong step could be disastrous.
‘We have to go and fuel up first,’ Rudi announced.
‘Oh, great,’ Lexi thought, full of unease. Her stomach was churning and she realised that she hadn’t even had a cup of tea for breakfast.
‘If you don’t feel comfortable doing anything, Lexi, just say so. Sit there and I’ll get us through the lock.’
Lexi sat obediently on the bench seat in the cockpit huddled up wondering why the hell she had agreed to this trip. Rudi had folded the hood back exposing the working part of the boat, much like the hood on a soft top car and with effortless expertise, steered the yacht from its mooring on the pontoon out and round, activating the bow thruster which caused the boat to turn sharply and they were off.
Rudi had taken the Yacht Master’s qualification and was hot on keeping his skills up to date and often did refresher courses in various aspects of sailing, including first aid, sea rescue and a marine radio course and exam. It was all part and parcel of who he was and it showed in his handling of the boat single-handedly and Lexi had a new found admiration for him. His lean, tanned body was taut and after re-fuelling, filling the holder tank with fresh water and navigating the lock, they were finally on their way and out on the ocean. It was seven-thirty and the coastline slowly came into focus as an early morning sea mist lifted and the day felt full of promise as the sun pierced through the low cloud casting shafts of light onto the inky blue water ahead of them.
Rudi looked very accomplished behind the helm and fed the gigantic suede wheel expertly through his hands, a few inches this way and that, keeping the boat on course all the while checking the fixed compass in front of him. He was wearing a white tee shirt underneath a smart grey Musto jumper, which matched his shorts, and grey Musto deck shoes. He looked incredibly handsome and very sexy.
It was early evening when they eventually reached Padstow and Rudi had pre-booked a pontoon inside the harbour which meant that they wouldn’t have to use the dinghy to get ashore. No wonder high heels were banned; they would have been so impractical and Lexi, although not one to dress down, accepted that boating was synonymous with comfortable, practical clothing.
A corkscrew motion on the way down had almost had her throwing up and when she went below deck to make some cuppa soups for lunch, she had banged her head so hard she saw stars. To top it all, she had slipped going down the wooden ladder into the saloon and hurt her ankle. Hours and hours of a relentless rocking motion, a brisk breeze that played havoc with her hair and only seabirds for company along the way, she really couldn’t see what all the fuss was about; they could have driven down in half the time.
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