Nautical Nicola

Nautical Nicola is quite a happy go lucky type of girl. Nicola or Nicky to her friends, had a passion for the sea. All she wanted to be was a good sailor. The problem was she seemed always prone to calamities. So many in fact, that she had become well known to all seafarers off the coast of South Devon.

Some years back she purchased a little cabin cruiser called the “Happy Spring”.  She used her home port of Plymouth to venture out on many a trip. No matter how hard she tried, she always ended up causing mayhem. Not once, but twice she hit the Mewstone Rock off Wembury, while plotting a course to the Yealm Estuary. Other sailors changed their course to avoid her. Many did not go to sea at all anymore, fearing the risk of collision with her. The Happy Spring had more scratches on her hull than the Plymouth to Paddington Railway Line. Her fame and reputation as being a nuisance had spread far and wide. This however did not put her off; all she wanted to be was a mariner.

One Sunday morning, the Happy Spring headed out across Plymouth Sound on a passage to “somewhere”. Somewhere, always being the destination as Nicky never knew where she was going. No other boats were around as word was spread that she was on the move. Her long blond hair was tied up under a baseball cap. She truly looked a picture of a Master at the Helm. But then as usual, that was as near as it went. Leaving the Breakwater behind, the Happy Spring headed out across the channel. She had not ventured this far before and her course somewhat circular, was due to a combination of erratic steering and not knowing where she was going. But, life felt good. After a couple of hours or so, Nicky stopped the engine and just floated around for a while.

Time was going on, so she decided to start up the engine and make her way back to port. She tried once – nothing, she tried again and still nothing. Whatever I must do she thought I must not panic. She opened the hatch to the engine and to her alarm, she noticed the Happy Spring had sprung a leak and was taking in water. “Oh heck” she thought to herself, “I must have done some damage when I hit the jetty last time out”.  It was clear from the amount of water she could see that help was required. She got on her radio and asked for assistance.

“Not you again” came a reply. “What’s the problem?” “I’m sinking” she replied. “Are you sure?” the voice on the radio asked. “Yes, definitely” she replied, “I’m taking on water”. “Ok” came the reply, “leave it with me”. After a few moments the voice returned. “Can you see a tanker near you”? Nicky looked around. Being busy with the leak, she had not noticed the tanker approaching from the South West. “Yes, I can” she replied. “That’s good” replied the voice, “The Master has spotted you and is heading over to assist you”. “Many thanks”, replied Nicky. She packed up her belongings in a little carrier bag and awaited the arrival of the ship.

The “Oily Olive” came alongside. The crew lowered a rope ladder and Nicky climbed aboard. The Ships’ Master, a Greek stood on the deck to welcome her aboard. “Thank you Captain” said Nicky, “That was a closed call”. “No Problem”, he replied in broken English. “You are welcome, you can freshen up and eat with us” Nicky smiled, “That would be good”. That night at dinner, the Captain advised her that the Oily Olive was heading for the port of Southampton and that they were to arrive there the following morning. He also said that the Happy Spring would no doubt sink in time. In the meanwhile, a cabin had been made for Nicky to get some sleep.

The following morning, the tanker arrived at Southampton. Nicky thanked the Captain again for his help and hospitality and made her way down the gangway to shore. Well, here she was in Southampton. Luckily, she had some money in her purse and decided to head up to the main street to grab a cup of coffee. She found a quiet little café run by an Italian named Aldo. She purchased a coffee and some toast and settled down to read the local newspaper, content that all was well. The ship had informed the coastguard of her whereabouts, so everyone was happy. Aldo noticed that she did not have a local accent, and enquired where she had come from. Nicky told him all that had happened, which had left Aldo totally amazed. “What are you going to do now?” he asked. “I am going to make my way back to Plymouth later”, she replied. Aldo thought for a while. “You say you have lost your boat”.  “Yes”. “What are you going to do”? Aldo further enquired. “Not really sure, but I think I will be on the lookout for another boat I suppose” replied Nicky.  Aldo made a suggestion, “My brother Franco has a boat to sell”. Nicky had not known many Italians back home, but the ones she did know of, always seemed to have a brother who wanted to sell something. Oh why not she thought. I came this far I may as well have a look.

Aldo’s smile broadened. “OK! I will give Franco a call”. He lifted the receiver, and dialed a number. He spoke to his brother in Italian explaining Nicky’s’ situation. After replacing the receiver, Aldo came back to Nicky. “He say OK” he will be over soon. Nicky peered out of the window of the café, and, in what seemed only a second, a Mercedes convertible pulled up outside. The car contained a guy in a smart suit and a smile which captured all imaginations. Franco came through the door. “Hi Nicky, I’m Franco, how do you do”. He sat down next to Nicky. “You are looking for a boat” said Franco, “Well just looking” replied Nicky. Franco continued, “ I normally sell used cars” his accent quite pronounced “But I also have this little boat, it is in Chichester harbour about half an hour from here. I can take you to see, yes”? Nicky gave a look, “hmmm, how much do you want for it” she enquired, “ Come have a look, I take you”. Nicky thought again, “OK, let’s go”. Nicky and Franco left the coffee shop, as Aldo waved them goodbye.

The drive to Chichester along the M27 did not take long and shortly after arriving in the town, they found their way to the harbour. Franco stopped the car. “Please come this way”. Franco and Nicky walked along the quay, and there in front of them was a little cabin cruiser. “Here it is”, said Franco, “You Like”? Nicky did not hesitate, “Yes, I like it very much”. It was just right; everything just fitted the bill for a replacement for the Happy Spring. “How much do you want for it”? asked Nicky. Franco quoted a good price that Nicky could afford and the sale was agreed.

“You are welcome to stay on board tonight” offered Franco, “This boat is seaworthy and you can take it home”. Nicky was excited, “Yes, thank you, all this in a couple of days, I cannot believe it”. Franco said goodbye and drove away.

Nicky felt at home on the boat that night and when Franco returned the next morning, the purchase was arranged at a local bank. “There we are Nicky; the Dippy Dora is all yours; all fuelled up and ready to go”. Nicky smiled and with the start of the engine moved away from the quay side.


The Solent seemed quite quiet as she headed west. The only other traffic appeared to be the Isle of Wight Ferry making its usual crossing from Southampton. Nicky felt quite proud of her purchase. No matter what people thought of her, she was positive she would make it back to Plymouth. The Dippy Dora manoeuvred well and she made good time along the South Coast.

The next day the Dippy Dora entered Devon territorial waters. Nicky contacted Brixham Coastguard to announce her arrival. The Coastguard put out a warning that Nicky was in the area. Three ships at anchor in Torbay up and left, and the Brixham fishing fleet decided that it was not a good day to go fishing and stayed in port. Of course Nicky was not aware of the panic she had caused, but after all she had made it this far in the Dippy Dora. She continued her passage along the Devon coast without mishap.

Derek and Gerald had decided to do a spot of fishing that day. They loaded up their fishing boat, the “Flora Flo” and headed out of Plymouth to the Eddystone Rock. The day’s fishing had gone well and after drifting for a few hours fishing, it was time to start up the engine and make their way home. The engine just would not start. After several tries, Derek turned to Gerald and said, “Looks like we need a tow, I will get on the radio to see if anyone can assist. A voice on the radio came back, “Guys, the only boat in the area is the Dippy Dora, do you want me to contact her?” “The who”? replied Derek, “Never heard of it”. “No” said the voice on the radio, ”But you know the skipper, she’s “Nautical Nicky”! Derek said to Gerald, “Did you hear that”. A look of panic came across Gerald’s’ face, he did not have to say anything. Derek got on the radio again, “I know we have a problem, but surely there has to be someone else around”. “Sorry, that’s it” came the reply. The two men looked at each other. “This will be interesting, looks like we have no option”.

The voice on the radio contacted Nicky, and gave her the position to the Flora Flo. It seemed only a short while when the two fishermen spotted Nicky heading their way. “Look out, here she comes” said Derek, “Hold on tight Gerald”. With some anticipation, the two men awaited some sort of collision, but to their amazement, Nicky handled the Dippy Dora brilliantly. “Ok Guys” shouted Nicky, “Grab the rope”. With a spot on throw, Gerald caught the rope, and tied the bow of the Flora Flo, “OK Nicky, slowly does it”. With the precision of an expert, Nicky took the Flora Flo under tow and headed toward port.

Nicky was brilliant, and as the two boats neared the quayside, a crowd of onlookers applauded Nicky’s seamanship. As the two boats gradually edged their way close to the quay, a shout of “Look out” was heard from the quay.

Too late, the Dippy Dora had hit the jetty.

By Ray Steed


Edited by

Sandi McConnell. Canada

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