The first Mariadz, Dufour 455

We started sailing in 2009 when Maria booked a trial sailing weekend in Ipswich on a Bavaria with a number of other strangers.  We loved it!  At the end of the weekend, we went straight to Burton Waters in Ipswich and picked up brochures knowing that one day we would buy ourselves a boat.

Our lack of experience has meant that we have been keen to learn the theory and also to practice this whenever we got the opportunity.

Step one was to continue our introduction to sailing by becoming competent crew.  This can be achieved over a week or three weekends and since we had one of the weekends under our belt we decided to continue on that route.  Our second weekend in 2009, was on the same Bavaria but we were increasingly getting frustrated with some of the people who were on the course.  These seemed to fit into categories:

  • the old sailing bore, who has been sailing for years but has never actually learnt anything.  You would hate to see this person in unfamiliar surroundings outside of their comfort zone.
  • the fair weather sailors, who like the idea of sailing as long as you “don’t spill the champers darling!”
  • normal people who are trying sailing
  • the know-it-all, been there and done that, think they know better than the instructor
  • the master mariner in a week, going through some kind of crash course and expects to be captaining a cruise ship by the end of the month- the first one to try anything and monopolises the instructors time
  • the over excited puppies, oops that will be us then!

Anyway, it soon became clear that we were loving sailing but not enjoying being around people who were being quite rude.  We finalised our competent crew by going to a completely different area to broaden our experience, the Solent.  We did this final course with our good friend, Kevin Carrick. The weather wasn’t great fort his weekend but that didn’t deter us as we popped over to the Isle of Wight.  That night the wind picked up and it was blowing over force 8 (in excess of 40mph).  Maria wasn’t happy. We were duly informed that if the wind didn’t die down she would not be going back in the boat the next day.  At that stage she realised that she was now on an island and the only way out was by boat! Fortunately overnight the wind eased and we had a pleasant rest of our course and got our certificate to say we were competent….

Our love of sailing and ambition didn’t stop there and we decided we wanted to learn more.  However, we didn’t want to be forced to spend time with people who ruined our enjoyment – not you Kev!

We spoke to a number of people about the possibility of buying a boat and continuing our education on our own boat.  The overwhelming view was that this was a great idea. I then received a friendly phone call from Burton Waters…..when we had looked at the Dufour range, we had seen some beautiful boats.  We had learnt on a 42ft Bavaria so a reasonable size didn’t hold too much fear but we had decided that 40 feet had to be the limit although that 45ft Dufour was gorgeous it was just too big so stop looking at it!  Then we went to the Southampton Boat Show, suddenly the plan changed and we were looking at an Oceanis 43. We returned from Southampton sure that we knew the boat that we wanted eventually and trying to think when would be the right time to buy one.

We are now late in 2009, it is approximately six months until our wedding, as you will see from another post we were heavily into the process of looking in Italy for a future home.  This is not the time to even be thinking of buying a boat!

Then our friends at Burton Waters called me to tell me that a three year old Dufour 455 was arriving and this would give us a view of what they were like to help us choose a smaller Dufour in the future.  I was at pains to point out that despite it being a great boat, we had discounted this one because it was just too big….for a first boat…for a couple that had been sailing barely a year…… Giles Houlston was still happy for us to take a look and so shortly before my birthday in March 2010 we popped along to Ipswich to take a look at a Dufour.

When we arrived, it was not a pretty sight. She was a boat that had been neglected for three years, delivery from France to Wales was the only time her engine had been started (2.5 hours on the clock), the mast was down, the interior was a mess with cushions everywhere and dirty. imageTo say she wasn’t looking her best would be an understatement. But like Emily and Bagpus (for the older readers), as soon as Maria stepped on board she loved her.  Maria could see through the dirt to the girl underneath and declared that what she needed was some love! It took a little time for the sale to go through but by the end of April 2010 she was ours.  dufour sailing

As part of the agreement with the insurance company, I had stated that we would never take our boat out without a qualified skipper.  We both were also keen to progress with our own qualifications.

Finding someone to help us learn the boat (and how to sail!) has a few false starts but eventually we found Martin Hubbard.  Martin helped us learn the boat and develop our skills but possibly the best thing he taught us was to listen to people to further our knowledge.  Martin also got to sample some of our hospitality but for anyone with cream upholstery you may like to think about where the red wine gets left….:)

dufour interior

We now have a boat, an excellent teacher who helped us to learn everything we needed to become Day Skippers and to be comfortable to take our boat out on our own.

The first Mariadz went far wide including Ramsgate, Burnham, Ostend and Dunkirk.  She was a fantastic boat to sail with a large cockpit made exceptionally comfortable by the cushions that Maria designed.  She was also quite fast, even in light winds.  dufour cushions

We vividly remember one trip up the Orwell with a similar sized boat chasing us as we breezed along at nearly nine knots.  She was always safe and we had many wonderful adventures with her.  We hope that one day she is lucky enough to find another owner that loves her as much as we did.

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