The next part of my history in yachting may well evolve into more than one blog entry as so much happened… but I’ll start and see where I end up.
The 105′ Schooner rigged trimaran ‘Cuan Law’ is a legendary name in the world of liveaboard diving and family charters in the British Virgin Islands. Her designers, builders, owners and operators , Annie and Duncan Muirhead can be credited with being major players in the beginnings of liveaboard diving holidays in the region and the whole concept worldwide. Cuan Law is the third vessel that they built, Misty Law and Lammer Law coming before her 1989 launch.
She was for many years the largest trimaran in the World, loosing this only recently to some of the modern racing tri’s, but these are fundamentally different vessels with their outer hulls being non-displacement floats, rather than displacement hulls as with the Muirhead designs.
As for diving, well, Duncan and Annie explored the Caribbean thoroughly during the 70’s with the ‘Misty Law’ . So many of the favorite diving spots that are regular dive sites today bear the names given to them during these explorations… the story of ‘Brown Pants’ on Norman Island will remain a secret in this article!
Back in 2002 I was working full time for a large defence contractor, BAE Systems, in the UK as a Design Engineer and Project Manager for Underwater Weapon Systems. I’d been doing this since 1998 after completing my time as research assistant at Leeds University. The Sea School business was a weekend and holidays part time venture at this time. The summer in 2002 was a particularly nice one, by UK standards, and I was fortunate enough to be off work (from the office) on sick leave owing to a minor operation that I’d had. This op didn’t impede my life at all, but health and safety rules forbade my return to work… so out teaching sailing I went!!
A client throughout the summer, Chas Ashby, was a diving instructor on board a large trimaran in the BVI, and he wanted to take his Yachtmaster ticket so that he could be elevated to the mate’s job, and possibly become captain down the line. He sailed with me and my friend James Fawcett for a considerable number of miles, before passing his Yachtmaster exam and then heading back to the islands at the end of the summer.
In February 2004, I was still in the same job at BAE, and slowly becoming more and more frustrated with the corporate World. Engineering is about solving practical problems with real World solutions… not politics and accountancy, but this was what I was doing every day… defending my every move. I had become tired of this, and was contemplating taking a sabbatical for 12-18 months to sail my own yacht ‘Cartman’ across the Atlantic to the Caribbean for a season, then to the Med for the summer, before returning to work. I was well into planning this, and was close to advertising the trip to prospective clients who would buy sections of it as I moved around….
Then, one February evening I returned from the office to my house in Portsmouth. As was usual, I switched on my home computer and downloaded my email… and there was one from Chas Ashby… entitled… ‘Wanna Job??’ He wrote that he planned to move on from Cuan but had to find his own replacement, and knowing that diving is a hobby of mine, and my general demeanor, he felt that I was suitable for the job… was I interested?!
I thought briefly… Career, House, Car, Girlfriend…. pfaff… and replied… “No… it would be too complex to just get up and go”. Then I got ready and went out to meet with some of my office colleagues. During the evening’s beer drinking in Southsea (I think it was a Friday night) I happened to mention this email and my reply to my friends… their response… “YOU SAID WHAATTT!!!???”. That got me thinking again, and that night, I returned home after several beers and the usual half a Donner Kebab on the way home (the rest would be breakfast).. I sent another email… “Disregard the previous message… tell me more!”
To cut a long story short, emails went back and forth between me and the Muirheads, and then in July I traveled to the BVI to meet them and see the boat. I was sure that we would all get along and they indeed offered me the position. I accepted and returned to the UK, resigning from BAE the next day… and never have I felt better!
It was unbelievably easy to clear up my life in the UK… Cars can be sold (even when it’s your pride and joy Subaru Impreza Turbo), houses can be rented out, career’s can be changed and girlfriends.. well they are still more complicated, but the split was amicable and we remain good friends to this day. I booked my flights for November the 4th 2004… to the Island of Saba, where I was to meet the boat mid charter…
An interesting side story here… in booking my flights, I used Expedia’s website and searched for a ticket from London to Saba… the site chewed on this for a few moments and came back up saying… Flights from ‘London to WHERE????’, or words to that effect. I’d been told that I had to go via St Maarten, so revised the search to that and sure enough found a ticket with KLM there. Now I search for flights from St Maarten to Saba on Google… hit… http://www.dangerousairports.com (I notice this site no longer exists.. shame).. and it listed Saba as number 3 (behind the old Hong Kong airport and St Barts I think)… anyway, I followed the link to the Winair flight and booked a ticket. Then I wrote to Duncan, with my travel details… adding that I was a little concerned about flying into the third most dangerous airport in the World. The reply I got was priceless… and I remember it word for word…
“What are you worrying about… the runway is 400m long with a 50m cliff at each end and a 1000m high volcano to the side. It’s like landing on an aircraft carrier without any arrester wires… we’ll be anchored and one end and will watch the plane come in. If there’s anything worth scraping off the tarmac, I’ll send somebody to come and meet you.”
I knew at this point that Duncan and I would get on just fine… as indeed we did!
Details of Cuan Law can be found at www.cuanlaw.com