I opened the cardboard tube sent by Duncan Walter and spread out the copy of Eva's original plan, neatly drawn with a quill, in 1903 by William Fife III.
There was no doubt about it; that old hull stored in a warehouse on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Malaga, covered in dust, without mast, abandoned and mistreated, but in spite of this it still displayed an elegant flair. It had indeed once been an elegant cutter, perhaps the most well-balanced and beautiful that I had ever seen; being the last one built under the 2nd Linear Rule and accumulating all the knowledge of a bygone age, bringing forward the impending international Metric Rule.
My eyes, incapable of absorbing her in her entirety at first sight, examined her thoroughly, taking in every detail - from the main mast to the top mast, then to the bowsprit, then to the enormous boom ending behind the stern, then on to the gaff main sail, trinquet jib, flying jib, to the flare above the stern, to the bow protruding from the water with determination, to the lines of the hull that would glide over the sea as delicately as a dolphin; leaning slightly sternwards as if ready to suddenly surge forward at the slightest breeze.
I sat back in the armchair to peruse the plan in detail. It seemed incredible to me to be holding it in my hands, whilst contemplating the enormous geometry of the sails; everything else around me disappeared from view - the table, everyday noise. I felt the tiller in my left hand, the wind on the quarter, the boom open skimming the waves, the sound of the water skimming along the side, the long smooth wave rising from the bow and swirling around behind me to finally transform into the wake, the light effortless pressure on the rudder, dreaming…, living…, dreaming...
I had no way of escape, Eva had captivated me and I wouldn't stop until I had managed to enable her to sail again. An adventure was about to start in which I would be passionately involved, feeling certain that she would fulfil my desire to unite my family in a sporting challenge aboard this incredibly beautiful boat.
As it was stipulated in Eva's purchasing contract that the restoration work should be carried out by Juan Sanchez from Astilleros Mediterráneo (Málaga), of whom I only knew about through his restoration work on a Dragon and for constructing runabouts similar to the Riva, I asked Juan Belliure for help and he agreed to take charge of the project management.
We flew to Málaga together in order to see the shipyard and meet Juan Sánchez and to examine in detail his restoration project. We discovered that he had a true passion for classic boats and at that time he was restoring a Camper Nicholson from 1923. We carefully examined the hull and the deck of Eva, from the bow to the stern, deciding on all that could be salvaged and all that had to be replaced. Once we had checked out Sanchez' ability and his facilities and saw his dedication to succeed, we asked him to prepare a detailed estimate that would include work on the hull, deck, interior, bronze-fittings on engine, spars and rigging and labour-charges.
After a few days of changes and additions to the estimate, on 20th June 2001 I flew to Malaga to finalize the purchase of Eva and to commission it's restoration. It is difficult to describe how I felt when I began to turn my dream, which I had had for so long, into reality; but it is even more difficult to convey to your family that this joy is due to the acquisition of a load of splinters! (which, by the way, you don't show to your family for risk of being considered insane!).
After a period of 16 months, Eva was launched, without mast, in Benalmadena Port, in order to carry out the stability tests. With the help of Juan Belliure, I assisted in dismantling the ribs, beams, planking, deck, the construction of the mast, boom, peak and bowsprit and also the engine-fitting. One of the most complicated things was trying to agree on the mast-fittings, deck-fittings and on the choice of blocks which in the end, was a decision which we entrusted to Christian Terreaux from Dryade (Besançon, France).
When the stability tests were over in October 2002, Eva was hoisted onto a truck together with the spars and was taken to the Puerto Deportivo (marina) in Denia where it was docked until Juan Belliure's team of carpenters, electricians and other workers finished the interior to near perfection. At this point I took my wife and children to show them Eva; immaculate, freshly-painted and varnished, I could now show it to them with confidence, knowing that they would understand the reason why I had invested so much of my time on her. The attraction that they felt towards Eva was immediate and their support from that moment on was constant.
After antifouling and with the bowsprit in place Eva was re-launched, for the mast to be fitted with the help of Juan Sanchez from Málaga.
Juan Belliure's team rigged her, fixed the sheet leads, cleats, pin rails, installed wind-equipment, log, echo-sounder, radio, started and tuned the engine, rigged-up the halyards and sheets as well as the sails which were made by Hood, Spain.
Finally on 28th February 2003, 20 months and 8 days after starting works, we set sail to it's final mooring place in Puerto Deportivo Luis Campomanes, almost 30 miles to the south.
With the wind from the port quarter under main, top trinquet jib and flying jib sails, initially with great prudence and little by little gaining more confidence, 7 people who hadn't any prior experience with gaffs, experimented a long-forgotten way of sailing - just as it was done a hundred years ago.
We moored with a feeling that we had experienced a magical time - it is a lasting, recurrent sensation; each time after having sail Eva you find yourself dreamily gazing into the distance filling the water skiming under the hull and a dreamy smile appears from ear to ear.
Between March and July, Eva had to be returned to dry dock to repair leaks. This was perfectly and professionally done by the Vicente Belliure shipyard in Puerto Campomanes, Altea, Alicante, under the management of Jose Andres León.
Paul Meeson, in charge of maintenance, worked non-stop, finishing off a thousand last-minute details, during the time that we allowed him. We were never satisfied during the time when we were unable to sail because Paul "Bricolage" needed to be on board to do work on the boat; neither was he content because we didn't allow him enough time to carry out the necessary work at ease - all because of our impatience to sail!
Little by little the sailing progressed and we arrived in Palma de Mallorca with Alejandro de Maria in charge of the sporting project. At last we were there, the whole family united on the project. Nothing has ever satisfied me more than seeing my children get up at 8.30, have breakfast and then dedicate a couple of hours to washing down the boat, polishing the bronze work and bracing the sails. During the regatta the three of them worked together as a team, pulling the sheets in the absence of winches.
All that remains for me to say is; mission accomplished, dream come true, everyone is with Eva and me sailing again, ready to reach her 100th birthday in 2006. Looking ahead to the next season, new sails, some other modifications and waiting for February to come round, to finish the work on Eva and to be able to sail again.