I first met Nigel about 20 years ago when I moved into the shed next door to his. He owned the beautiful 16-foot Spitsgatter, Saga, moored on the inner row next to my boat Shemara.
We would spend a lot of time talking boats and poring over the latest issue of Woodenboat, lines plans, and discussing (mostly me listening) the pros and cons of building techniques, hull shapes, and local lore.
I remember his sparkling blue eyes which seemed to see into vistas broad and deep. His manner wasn’t shy or reticent, but sometimes he had a look about him like he had come to you from a great distance and wasn’t quite sure whether he had got there yet. If he had something to say, he could carry on at length. Sometimes too long.
Nigel had had a varied career, which included boatbuilding. When I knew him, he often worked on other’s boats, and the finishes he could get with paint or varnish were really something to behold.
Sometimes I wouldn’t see Nigel for months, and it would turn out that he had gone for a cruise in the Sounds in Saga. He would sail to Island Bay, put the anchor out, and wait for an opportunity to cross the strait. If the tide was against him at Tory heads, he could slip his little boat into the bay south of the entrance – something a bigger boat wouldn’t dare do. So it could take him up to three days to get from Wellington into the Sounds. His seamanship was absolutely sound, and it was always a pleasure to see him sail up to his mooring in the marina with perfect precision, and tuck her in.
Nigel had great attention to detail, patience and persistence. For Nigel, things had to be done right: things took as long as they took.
These traits must have carried over into his more personal life, as he had a reputation among the ladies around the club as being rather good in the sack.
I haven’t seen Nigel around much for a couple of years, but I always enjoyed bumping into him from time to time and having a beer, most recently on the Club’s veteran’s day.