The CADS Summer Lunch Cruise left Port Wyndham at 12:15 sharp. By 12:45 we were told to “Abandon ship!”.
Few things ruffle the elegant feathers of the seamen and sea ladies from CADS. Which is presumably why the sudden loss of the rudder, rendering us unable to steer, and subsequently to float aimlessly in the middle of the Prinsengracht like a dazed duck, went relatively unnoticed. This serene atmosphere barely rippled when our female captain, with cool understatement, then announced: “We have a tiny, tiny problem….we have lost all control. Rescue is impossible in these conditions, so please call to say your last words to your loved ones.” (I added that last bit to artificially spice up the story in the hope that they may make a blockbuster film out of it).
My barnacled beached whale of a brain suggested I go into a mode of ‘carefree abandonment in the face of a crisis’. This was much helped by lashings of lunchtime wine, which had started to rush through my major faculties, leaving me unable to care. The calm CADS candour soon changed, however, when Mike Waters announced “Unlimited Wine” as compensation while they sent us a new boat. Naturally, we erupted into spontaneous appreciation. Some of us misheard Captain Mike and proceeded, until corrected, to produce ‘unlimited whining’. Cunningly disguised as a sensible plan, we were instructed by the crew to keep calm and carry on emptying the barrels of free Chardonnay.
The chefs had also thoughtfully engineered a stunningly imaginative distraction in the form of an appetizer of sliced chicken floating on a sea of salad. We had great difficulty on our table to try and work out exactly which part of the chicken it came from. My guest Andy suggested it was like that Dolly Parton song: “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”. The Dolly Parton chicken was quickly followed by a ravishingly resplendent ravioli. It looked not unlike like a lost herd of green sheep that had taken a wrong turn and were now sinking helplessly, out of reach from the shore, into a small green lake of creamy spinach sauce.
We were then instructed to “Abandon Ship!” Courteous and gallant, especially towards the ladies, the chivalrous CADS men insisted on staying behind until our better halves were safely aboard the rescue vessel, the good ship Rembrandt. This refined CADS gallantry had, of course, nothing to do with the unfounded fear that we may have to leave all the free wine behind. Ex CADS chairman Mike Carn OBE was the last man to leave the wounded ship, and we had to coax him over with the empty promise of red wine. Once he was safely on the Rembrandt, we told him there was no red wine to be found. He was not amused.
Once seated more or less in similar positions on the Rembrandt, we were presented with the chef’s culinary pièce de résistance: a tousled trifle dessert. This homage (presumably to our predicament, and perhaps to Rembrandt’s own rumpled life) had the abandoned look of a discarded pink sofa with its innards disgorged over the plate. It was a masterpiece of culinary graffiti not seen since the days of scrimshaw created by whalers.
The ships’ owners added 30 minutes onto this epic adventure around the canals of Amsterdam, so we returned safely at 14:45 instead of the original 14:15. Many of us stayed behind at the Port Wyndham hotel bar to reminisce about our marvellous adventure, and to sink more joie de vivre. It was good to see Mike and Jean again. Hopefully, they may return from the UK for the CADS cricket lunch.