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Phoenix Feathers is updated on Tuesday and Friday

When I was 8, I wanted a horse. Naturally, I pestered my parents and of course, they said no. I wanted a horse for five years, until I was 13 and we stopped going to riding school. Shortly after that, I started wanting to sail instead (I've always gone for expensive hobbies :), and I read all the Arthur Ransome books, and any others I could get my hands on, just as a few years previously I read the books about Jinny and Shantih, and Jill and her ponies.

I was lucky enough to have a friend whose sister sailed. Sailing is not too expensive if you have a club nearby (or nice people to give you lifts) which has boats you can borrow and/or people who are looking for crews. I learned to sail in Chichester harbour, but I practised for years in Damflask, which lies in a pretty valley near Sheffield, with the Sheffield Viking Sailing Club. Naturally, I pestered my parents to buy me a boat and of course, they refused.

When I was about 15, I started saving. My sister and I shared a paper round, and every week I put the earnings in the building society account. That year I allowed myself five pounds to go on holiday, and when no-one would buy me a chocolate bar at the sailing club I ate sugar lumps instead. I think I used up all my self-control that year - I've never managed anything like that level of restraint since.

Earlier that year, my friend had bought herself a Topper, which is a nice sturdy one-man boat built out of dustbin plastic. Hers was yellow, and she got duly teased about it. In January, one of the kindest men I have ever met drove me to a nearby town where a Mirror sailing dinghy was being sold. Mirrors are supposedly two-man boats, but they really only fit one adult comfortably unless the wind is gusting Force 7. They are normally wooden, and painted whatever colour the owner feels like. This Mirror, which I ended up buying, was yellow too.

I named her Magic and put up with the 'Daffodil' that people added to the name. I sailed her in Sheffield for three years until I went to university. My parents (who, I think, were rather relieved when my 'confession' was that I had bought a boat) kept my boat in their garage, on her side, for 5 years. Last weekend, Moonshadow and I spent four hours towing a 10-foot yellow sailing dinghy down the A1 on a trailer which I had expected to fall apart in a shower of rust when we lowered it from the garage ceiling the day before. Now my little boat is safe in her very own garage, and one day I will get round to re-painting and re-varnishing her, and eventually put her back on the water.

It's a very weird feeling to have her close by and available. I put so much effort, love and care into that little boat that, even though I've not used her for five years, she is still a part of me, of who I think I am. I am so very, very grateful to all the people who helped, especially my parents. And I am really looking forward to sailing her on the Cam  ^.^

- Sun Kitten, 16th September '03

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