It is hot. We are sitting in a bar called ‘That 60s Place’ on the High Street in Cowes having a drink. The central feature is a split screen Volkswagen camper that apparently has come all the way from Brazil. Part of the body has been cut away to make the counter for the bar. It is original, at least. Various bits of 1960s memorabilia adorn the walls – psychedelic pictures of Beatles songs, photographs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, an Abbey Road street name plate, a panel of vinyl 45 records. On the large flatscreen TV on the back wall, the Japan-Senegal match in the World Cup is on. Senegal are leading 2-1.
We had left Port Solent Marina in the morning, retracing our route out through Portsmouth Harbour that we had taken on the way in a few days earlier. Entering the Solent, we had raised the sails but there had been little wind to speak of. The tidal flow had been in our favour, so we had drifted along languidly, the sails giving the odd flap now and then. Relaxing, but we hadn’t been going anywhere fast.
We had eventually arrived in Cowes, across the water on the Isle of Wight, and had found an alongside berth in the North Basin of Shepards Wharf marina. Over lunch, we had sat and watched the hustle and bustle of the harbour. Negotiating it is not for the faint-hearted, with boats of all shapes and sizes jostling for space. Huge ferries come and go, disgorging their passengers before taking on more. Noisy powerboats pass, their engines just ticking over to stay within the speed limit. Yachts glide past, their sails down and motors running. Strings of sailing dinghies being towed one after the other by RIBs like a mother duck and her ducklings wend their way through the melee. It’s a wonder that there are not more accidents, but somehow it seems to work. Cowes lives and breathes boating – if you have a boat, it seems you have to see and be seen here at some stage in your life.
Later we had explored the town, just two minutes’ walk from the marina. We had been a little bit disappointed, as being a Sunday most shops were closed. We contented ourselves by walking along the Parade and having an ice-cream, eventually ending up at the Royal Yacht Squadron, probably the most exclusive yacht club in the world with Queen Elizabeth as the patron. While I inspected the row of brass cannons guarding the entrance to Cowes harbour to make sure there were no specks of dust on them, the First Mate enquired of the man on the gate about membership. Surely they would have someone who had made it all the way down from Ipswich? The man on the gate had skilfully avoided the question and started on the history of the club.
A cheer goes up. Keisuki Honda has equalised for Japan. The music in ‘That 60s Place’ is playing the Beatles’ Let it Be. We think about asking them to play Ruby Tuesday, but decide to head back to the boat for something to eat while watching the sunset.