Confession: Treasure hunt distracts forgetful skipper

In this month’s Confession, one owner gets so caught up in piratical fantasy that he forgets about reality

It was a beautiful morning in May. My wife and I had checked the weather and tides the previous day and decided we would take our two boys on a treasure hunt up the river.

Our sons aged four and six are fascinated by pirates, so we made a pirate map, drawing the outline of the River Fal and marked a red X next to the jetty at the Smugglers Cottage. We then dabbed it with wet tea bags, burned the corners and dried it in the oven to give it the semblance of age.

The night before our voyage, we read the boys ‘Captain Jack and the Jelly Baby Treasure’ as a bedtime story, making sure at its end to tell them that Jack would be hiding his map that night, posting it through the postbox of whichever little boys went to sleep straight away and dreamed of treasure.

The sunrise that morning was fantastic. The boys jumped out of bed, ran to the porch and shouted “The map! The map! Captain Jack has given us the map!”

They were so excited that they would be able to find Captain Jack’s Jelly Baby Treasure.

We packed our lifejackets and a picnic and headed for the boatyard. On arrival we checked the boat over, hooked her up and headed for the slipway.

Once the boat was in the water and loaded up with the safety grab bag, picnic and the boys, we headed for Smugglers Cottage, which is about half an hour upriver.

I insisted that my boys navigated using the treasure map that had mysteriously appeared on our porch floor. They used their compass to guide us and were very good at pointing me in the right direction without any assistance.

When we arrived at Smugglers Cottage, we tied up to the downstream side of the jetty. My job was to keep the boys occupied by getting their spades and taking their lifejackets off while my wife buried the box of jelly babies on the beach, then covered the location with some old seaweed as a marker just in case.

The boys jumped off the boat, dashed along the pontoon and headed for the beach. They paced back and forth, north to south, east to west for about 20 minutes.

Eventually my wife assisted by helping with the pacing out, pointing them in the right direction of the seaweed-covered treasure. They dug and dug until we heard a cry of joy.

“The treasure, the treasure, we’ve found Captain Jack’s Jelly Baby treasure!” All that digging made us feel peckish.

“Let’s celebrate with lunch at the Pandora,” I cried. We climbed aboard and off we went.

About 10 minutes into our journey, the engine started to cough and splutter, eventually cutting out. Initially suspecting a fuel issue, I pumped the fuel bulb and the engine restarted.

But 30 seconds later it died. I checked the plugs, which had a good spark, and pulled the cord again with no joy.

Reverting to the auxiliary we decided to abort lunch at the Pandora and head back to the boatyard.

Within a couple of minutes, the auxiliary motor cut out as well, by this time we had started to drift and I was getting ready to drop anchor and call for help if my repairs were not successful.

Luckily the harbourmaster was passing close by and we managed to get his attention. He pulled alongside and offered us a tow. We were discussing the issue with the harbourmaster, when my four-year-old interrupted, “Daddy you haven’t undone the air thingy on the fuel tank!”

Very embarrassed I loosened the breather screw on the tank and the engine fired into life. I was so excited about the treasure hunt and seeing the look on my boys’ faces when they found it, I had forgotten to undo both breathers.

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


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