Our Maximum Leader notes that he will shortly be off on a cruise.   Not that I think he won’t enjoy himself padding about the Lido deck, discoing the night away, sipping adult beverages with little umbrellas in them and hitting on Julie the Cruise Director, but I’ve got to say – this is a real cruise!

I was having an out-of-body experience. There I was, 100ft in the air, clinging like a rat to the rigging of a tall ship. “What are you doing?” I asked myself.

The rigging I was climbing – or, to use the proper term, the shrouds – was on the mast of the Stavros S Niarchos, a handsome tall ship docked in the port of Southampton. The Stavros is a brig, a type of double-masted vessel that was popular during the Age of Sail, the 16th century to mid 19th century, because of its manoeuvrability. She is one of just 200 functioning tall ships in the world, which are used for racing, education and pleasure, and are still operated almost exactly as they were 300 years ago. Which includes climbing the shrouds to release the sails.

From time to time Mrs. R and I discuss the possibility of a cruise ourselves.  I almost inevitably say that, were I to go out on the water, I’d much prefer to do so as a hand on a sailing ship than as a guest of one of those floating hotel-cum-casinos.   (Although how I’d get up the shrouds with my fear of heights is a problem I’ve not untangled yet.)  And if I could find a berth on a ship that carried, say, a row of 12 or 18 pounders?  So much the better!

Mrs. R thinks I’m daft.  (Well, she thinks that anyway, but this is one more prosecutor’s exhibit.)