We bought our Swift 18 ‘Swift Decision’ just over two years ago and over this time we have towed her to various inland waterways, Norfolk Broads, Kielder, Loch Erne (NI) Lake District but the only sea trips we had done were the Kyles of Bute, which we had enjoyed so much we wanted to venture further. A look at the charts showed us some beautiful cruising areas north of the Crinan Canal but also some rather worrying fast flowing currents around and between the islands for our ‘wee’ boat as it came to be known. We noticed that we could avoid some of them and remain more sheltered by shortcutting between the Island of Seil and the mainland if we could navigate through Clachan Sound, the only problem was it dries out at low water and the tidal range is only 2.7m at Springs, further reading found dire warnings of rocks, weed, narrow channel and shallow bars and not least the Bridge Over the Atlantic (7m headroom) and two electric cables, which sounded like a good challenge for the Swift!.
So earlier this year we planned a ‘coast to coast’ trip from Craobh Haven on the west to Inverness on the east coast a distance of just under 100 nautical miles.
Timing for HWS we launched our boat at Craobh Haven Marina on Friday 13th July 2018 which was worrying Gina who is rather superstitious but it was all blue skies and a light SW breeze so we headed in great spirits towards Balvicar Bay and on up too our first mooring in Seil Sound just below the bridge arriving at 17.30. HW was at 18.30 and an investigation through the bridge to the North end of the Sound in the dinghy was called for but to our surprise at one hour before HW we met a strong ebb stream flowing south against us. We completed the survey and checked the depth over the bar at the north end with a makeshift lead line before returning at a much greater speed to find despite the ebb stream the water level at the bridge had risen another 6 inches!
Next morning HW was 07.11 so we got up at 05.00 and lowered the mast using the Robin specially fabricated ‘A’ frame and at 05.30 we dropped off the mooring and in the tranquil and calm misty morning we began motoring towards the bridge taking time to admire the brown deer which was running along the shoreline next to us. Again 1hr 20 mins before HW there was an ebb stream flowing fairly strongly against us for the 0.75nm length to the end of the Sound. The depth sounder showed 1m below the boat and with our swing keel wound up we drew 12 inches, even so the rocky bottom was clearly visible not to mention all the long trailing weed. However all went well, nothing caught or grounded and we safely transited the Sound and swung round the headland motoring into Pulladobhrain Bay, one of the most beautiful anchorages on the West Coast of Scotland feeling rather elated. It was only 10.00 so we had breakfast and set a course for Port Appin a distance of 16nm past Oban through the Firth of Lorn, we hoisted full sail and make good time with a F3 SW wind and arrived early afternoon picking up a mooring outside the Pier Hotel where we enjoyed a hot shower and a good meal.
Next morning we awoke to heavy rain and a thick Scottish mist which reduced visibility to less than 400 metres so we decided to switch on the VHF and get a weather report.
After a couple of hours wait per the forecast the rain eased but the mist did not clear so all trust was put into the little yellow portable Garmin Etrex GPS which we have had for donkeys years and Gina put a route in to Corran narrows a distance of 11.5nm with a plan B stop at Kentallen if the weather and visibility worsened. In the event visibility improved to about 2 miles and the south westerly returned F2 so we unfurled the Genoa which added a knot to our motoring speed helping to offset the ebb current and we continued to Corran arriving perfectly timed to pass the ferry and go through the narrows at slack water into.
Our day just got better and better when we were soon joined by a dolphin family who played around the boat for some miles towards Fort William, which caused a great deal of excitement and a multitude of dolphin pictures.
At each locking we chatted to boat crews from many different countries each with fascinating stories like the Swedish financier who ‘burned out’ 3 years ago and bought a 27’ boat and set off to sail around the world and now after 37,000 miles of circumnavigating he is finally returning home, it sort of put our little adventure through Clachan Sound into perspective! The first opportunity to hoist sail was the 7 mile length of Loch Lochy where with a following wind and goose winging we made 6.8 knots with one reef.
Robin and Gina Marsden
Swift Decision July 2018
Personal Log by Bob Crompton
On Tuesday 17th May, with the late Cyril Fitton and Peter Riley flew to San Juan the
capital of Puerto Rico in the United States where we were met by Stuart and Anne Carter for the 40 mile drive to the marina where Orlanda was berthed. Orlanda is a 49 foot Halberg Rassy owned by
Stuart and the intention was to sail her to Europe.
Thursday 19th May, Anne flew home and we victualled the boat for the voyage.
Friday 20th May. Cast off making for the US Virgin Islands 40 miles
distant. We anchored off St. Thomas and enjoyed a happy hour ashore drinking John Smiths draught.
Saturday 21st May. Sailed to St. John, US Virgin Islands, and after a run in with Immigration, had a run ashore and then pressed on to Peters Island where we swam off the exotic palm tree lined white sand beach before entering the marina at Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.
Sunday 22nd May An early start making towards Bermuda, passing the eastern tip of Aregada, a collection of low lying islands and reefs formerly occupied by pirates. Next stop Bermuda 835 miles to the north. Fresh breeze from the S.E. and tramping along.
Monday 23rd May Wind holding from the S.E. and broad reaching, crossed the Tropic of Cancer at 20.26, so now out of the tropics. Took noon LAT sextant sights for (the late) Bob Holden who had written a new computer sun, run, sun programme for the sextant to be published in Yachting Monthly. The result was just a mile out against the GPS. No almanac or nautical tables needed, just this programme using my programmable pocket computer (Casio FX-730P). We have sighted just two ships in the last 250 miles.
Tuesday 24th May. Wind blew hard from the east and spinnaker off with a struggle and reef in main, cracking along, at midday no wind and engine on, very hot.
Wednesday 25th May wind light easterly and dawdling along, at 2000 on CH.16 the sloop Camelot, skipper Ron and six crew, made contact. They are Americans bound for Bermuda and a contact call was arranged for 2400.
Thursday 26th May after a heavy squall early on ran under spinnaker all day.
Friday 27th May. Heavy squalls in the morning and then the wind vanished, engine on again, very hot and sunny, ETA Bermuda midday tomorrow.
Saturday 28th May. 1030 arrived in St. Georges harbour after navigating through many reefs and shallow bits. It was raining and we berthed alongside our “buddy” boat and had a little party on the American yacht with Ron and his friend Tim, two daughters, one son and two young friends. They were planning to sail to Europe.
Sunday 29th May. Still raining carried out rigging repairs. St. George’s very pretty and touristy and expensive, but closed on Sundays.
Monday 30th May. Hired mopeds and toured the connected islands. Houses look very English and are an interesting place.
Tuesday 31st May. Moved to another anchorage and victualled the boat. Did a few repairs and had a lazy day.
Wed. 1st June. Up anchor and set off for Horta in the Azores, 2000 miles to the east. Wind generally from the south but piped up later and spinnaker overpowered. Warm during the day but nights are noticeably cooler.
Thursday 2nd June weather pattern similar to yesterday.
Friday 3rd June, Doubled reefed main and furled jib, rain showers.
Saturday 4th June rain wind SW 6/7. Keeping on or south of 35 degrees latitude due to centre of low pressure system to the NW, these met conditions were calculated by observation and barometer as Orlanda carried only VHF radio and therefore out of contact with radio shipping forecasts. The log was meticulously updated every 6 hours and in particular a watchful eye was kept on the barometer readings for pressure changes, discounting the one or two mill bars diurnal pressure fluctuations in sub-tropical and temperate regions.
Sunday 5th June weather front passed through with a 90 degree wind shift which later came in from the ENE on the nose. As we could not lay the course we ran North, later tacking to port so as not to induce too much cross track error.
Monday 6th June wind from ENE all day Only just over 100 miles made good on noon to noon run.
Tuesday 7th June. Wind still from the same useless direction and collapsed altogether.
Wednesday 8th June. Hurrah, at midday the wind veered to the SE. We are over 50 miles north of our intended track. At 1800 wind went SW and spinnaker up. Thanks given to Odin.
Thursday 9th June. Wind SW and creaming along. 160 miles made good to Horta.
Friday 10th June wind holding and 175 miles made good to Horta. When transferred to the Atlantic chart the days run is insignificant with hardly any progress seemingly made. The days fall into a routine with 3 four hour watches kept between 8pm and 8am, a second man only called for reefing or hand steering when the seas become too big for the autopilot to handle. Mealtimes, namely evening dinner, become the highlight of the day with superb meals produced by Stuart or Peter. As the voyage wears on the crew seek their bunks more and more when off watch. It is interesting to note that compass variation rose to a maximum of 19 degrees west during the voyage, the Magnetic Variation Chart of the North Atlantic Ocean being the bible. The GPS is a magnificent boon to the ocean voyager but one has to be mindful of it going on the blink and therefore not neglect the other tools of navigation. A sextant is carried by a surprising number of ocean travellers in yachts despite the difficulty of taking accurate sights from a pitching deck. Changing the ships time west of GMT is also logged. Over 1400 miles completed 500 more to Horta.
Saturday 11th June a mixed bag of wind from S5 to nil. The ocean seems to be empty, no ships or other signs of life apart from an occasional far off sighting of dolphins, though we did spot a couple of whales blowing two or three days ago.
Sunday 12th June. Motor sailing due to lack of wind, but the diesel tank is getting low. 300 miles to Horta and only about 100 miles of motoring left in the tank.
Monday 13th June still headed by very light E winds and conserving fuel.
Tuesday 14th June much more of the same.
Wednesday 15th June still creeping along making only about 4 knots, 34 miles to Horta. 07:30 tied up in Horta harbour, on Ilya Do Faisal, and admired the beautiful town. Harbour busy with yachts of all sizes who all endeavour to leave a painted memento on the harbour wall. We are exactly 14 days out from Bermuda. After victualling and taking on water and diesel, had a few drinks and yarns in Peters Bar and phoned home. 1912 miles logged from Bermuda. Just over 5 ½ knots made good on passage.
Thursday 16th June we hired a car and toured the island which is a volcano and is very green and colourful, Volcano last active in 1959. The island was an important whaling station because it is on the whaling migration route.
Friday 17th June. Did some shopping and departed Horta in NE winds, making good progress down the St. George Channel, the whale migration track, but we did not spot any making for the port of Ponta Delgada on the Ilya De So Miguel, a 150 mile hop.
Saturday 18th June Arrived Ponta Delgada at 1500 in thick sea mist we went for a walk
in the grand old town which was quite busy. The harbour is large with plenty of commercial shipping but not many yachts.
Sunday 19th June. San Miguel is the largest island in the Azores group and would merit a few days to explore. After some supermarket shopping we departed in a fresh NW wind for the 1000 mile leg to Gibraltar.
Monday 20th June running under spinnaker in light W wind, but as usual the wind died and engine on.
Tuesday 21st June still motoring we caught and passed a South African yacht also heading to Gib. A French girl called Sue chatted to us on the VHF (in English). At the present the pattern is to sail in the daytime and motor at night. The barometric pressure is building. This is mid summers day, very hot and a glassy sea. In the evening the wind came in from the NE clocking round the assumed building Azores high pressure system, homemade carrot and treacle cakes on the menu. Cyril’s baking was finally improving; his early efforts were pitched overboard. We tend to overeat in this lazy weather. Battered florets from Stuart were a treat. Cauliflower done in flour, eggs, salt and beer He is an accomplished chef and I’m his washer up. Boredom is a problem on long ocean passages when everything is going smoothly.
Wednesday 22nd June spoke to soon, wind freshening from the NE, cloudy and cool. Long swells from the north at 8 second intervals for the past two days indicating big winds up there. In N winds Orlanda is crashing along our intended track. We have used a lot of diesel so it’s good to have wind power? Another fry up at happy hour from master chef Stuart. The seas are now very lumpy and it is not possible to sleep in my forward cabin. Levitating like a magicians assistant. Cyril was catapulted over the saloon table and broke a couple of ribs, but he still kept his watches, in pain.
Thursday 23rd June, still bouncing along sleepless, big lumpy seas. On the VHF we heard a cargo vessel talking to a yacht, neither of which we could see, saying that low pressure is to out NW at 45 deg.N, 14 deg.W. off Cape Finisterre in northwest Spain. Charging along to Cape St. Vincent, SW Later we picked up a weather forecast from a coast radio station, possibly Lisbon, in English. It seemed favourable. Off the west coasts of Spain and Portugal the prevailing trade wind is from a northerly direction and this is the pattern we are now in. Sighted dozens of Dolphins in a feeding frenzy they are not interested in the yacht when chasing their food.
Friday 24th June another wild night of 30 knot beam winds. The barometer has dropped 8mb, approaching Cape St. Vincent in a gale. Cargo ships sighted making heavy weather northbound rounding the Cape. The seas flattened dramatically under the lea of the southern Portuguese coast and we anchored off Lagos in the early hours in calm waters. Goodbye Atlantic Ocean, it had the last laugh.
Saturday 25th June we were ashore at mid-day to the crowded fishing harbour and somewhat touristy town.
Sunday 26th June departed Lagos for Vila Moura to book in with the authorities; all three sets of them had a good run ashore in the busy marina.
Monday 27th June departed Vila Moura on a header for Tangier, North Africa. Wind persistently strengthening from the east, on the nose. Slow progress made.
Tuesday 28th June motoring into a gale heavy sea which reached a screaming 50 knots off Cabo Espatel at the south west corner of the Gibraltar Straits. Tied up in Tangier harbour late evening and met by very officious police, everyone knackered.
Wednesday 29th June went to the Kasbah, of course, which is a rip off for carpets and kaftans. Whilst in the packed food market Cyril felt his wallet being knicked. We grabbed the thief and after rolling round on the deck recovered it. The perpetrator was a young lad and after surprisingly warm applause from the locals we let him run off, our reasoning being that if the authorities became involved we might be stuck there for weeks. It was a dirty smelly place anyway.
Thursday 30th June after a frustrating 4 hours trying to recover our passports and ships papers retained by the hostile harbour police, we departed with relief for the 30 mile trip across the Straits to Gibraltar. It is no wonder that Tangier was almost empty of yachts. They are not welcome. At 1800 tied up in Marina Bay, Gibraltar. Distance logged in total was 4016 nautical miles. End of the delivery trip, job done.
Friday 1st July Time spent enjoying the delights of the Rock.
Saturday 2nd July collected Anne from Malaga airport after she was completely fooled by Stuart dressed in full Arab costume complete with Fez and sunshades. Enjoyed a crew dinner in Gib.
Sunday 3rd July flew from Malaga to Uk. The voyage was a great experience covering 41 days sailing over 4000 miles. The crew worked well together and we all enjoyed the companionship, Orlanda performed well in some trying conditions. It was good to do it once.
Personal Log by Bob Crompton
Without fail, over the past 20 years that we have looked after Claymore – there has been a decent list of jobs for the winter.
The same can be said about the house and so Claymore’s jobs seem to get shepherded into the following categories
Well – 2017 proved a fairly testing year for boat and crew. We spent 31 days/nights aboard and it rained on 27
We seem to have a bit of an oil leak and we seem to be topping up the fresh water in the heat exchanger rather more than before.
Come October the boat came off the water at Ardfern and we decided to take a long hard look at things – which included for a moment – do we keep her? Gladly that was only a moment in the consideration and swiftly it passed!
There is only one way to bottom the thorny issues of oil and water leaks and that is to take the engine out and have a dexter at what is going on. I have a couple of gifted cousins – one is a stainless-steel fabricator the other is a mechanic – agricultural mainly but a handy man with a spanner on anything mechanical – a complete contrast to my good self who I describe as ‘inept’
Out came the engine. Barely a thing right with it! Loose everything inside and probably maxxing out at around 10hp rather than the 48 it came with. The bilges were a mess really – better give them a paint whilst we are at it and whoa! What is all that wire festooned in delicate arrays and clusters like the lair of hyperactive electric spider? Better sort it whilst we are at it but – what about the engine?
Doing the sums – it has worked out better to replace old Betsy the BMC with a new 35hp Beta which ought to be Better – Beta.. Better …never mind.
The wiring was replaced 20 years ago when I bought the boat but the problem with boats is that nothing stands still – does it. You buy another instrument and another wire is added to the loom – do this most years and multiply by 20 and whoopie -do – organic growth gone mad. Then you find that the circuit breakers are getting towards the end of life and ought really to be replaced and some of the wire was not tinned copper so ought really to be replaced and before long this job just got bigger and bigger and its March already and we are planning a trip in May.
Next Instalment coming in April.
Well – this certainly shouldn’t take much writing!
Let’s see – ah yes, the Merry Month of May. Off we set – bright eyed and full of hope and the promise of a balmy cruise in Scottish waters, long days and light nights, destinations to discover and destinations to revisit.
With antifouling complete and hours of spitting, polishing and buffing, the Boat began to look in aspects, ready for sea by mid May. The weather was delightful whilst all this was going on in the yard at Ardfern. A revamp of the wheelhouse and long needed tidy up of the navigation area were completed and then we were afloat! Happy days. The original intention was to set sail on the first Summer Cruise during the last week of May, however – the Gremlins had stowed away over the winter and come the time to go – nothing would go! Anchor winch U/S is reported in the log along with wipers a dodgy gps connection, a fridge light not functioning, an issue with the shorepower unit which seemed to suggest it wasn’t powering (rigorous testing indicated it always probably had been but you have to trust the lights and when there are no lights – it’s a fairly logical assumption that the bally thing isn’t working.
The first entry for the 2017 log came on 2nd June when we (My friends, the Good Doctor Musgrave and the Hon. Douglas Smith) slipped quietly from the pontoon at Ardfern at around 10:30 hrs – all three sporting the most dreadful headaches after a wee promenade along the Top Shelf in the Galley of Lorne on the previous evening.
We scooshed along on the tide down to the McCormaig Islands where coffee was taken, as was lunch and indeed an afternoon snooze meaning that we eventually arrived alongside the Pier in Craighouse on the lovely island of Jura at around 17:30 having covered 23miles.
Our intention was to wander around to Port Ellen on the morrow and sample the Craic – we Sampled it in Craighouse and felt it couldn’t be bettered but you never know…..
The road to Hell is, as we know, paved with good intentions – On Saturday 3rd June the fairway to Port Ellen was paved with wind, rain and hail. We tried – oh how we tried – but try as we might – the prospect of another hour or two of the same proved to much for the noble Skipper and Crew and so we turned tail and headed back into Craighouse – the Craic was mighty and who know – probably better than the previous evening and far and away superior to anything we may have found in Port Ellen. The Log recorded 20 miles travelled so clearly we had done half the distance – anyway we drank to that achievement – several times if I remember correctly.
Listening to the forecast that evening it was clear that strong winds and rain were to adorn the West Coast for the foreseeable future (probably up to November) so we sailed back to Craobh Haven, then around to Ardfern the following day, got on our ferret suits and legged it home the following day – stopping only so that the Hon Douglas could make a record Bacon Butty eating attempt at the top of Rest and be Thankful. He pitched in with a Personal Best of 4 but believes that 5 is achievable if he doesn’t have breakfast first.
I returned North on Wednesday 14th June for a second Sun-Kissed adventure. This time with my ageing former Colleagues Professor Stancliffe and The Boy Roger Skelton – both loose acquaintances from my time working at Knott End Sea Centre
The picture paints a thousand words as we saw the sun for about 10 minutes – which in 10 days is not a high average really!
We didn’t let this get us down (much) We met up with two Danes in Tobermory. One is a lifelong friend of my Son-In Law and the other sailed for Denmark in the Montreal Olympics – great company – I unblocked their bog – they tried to get me the worse for drink in return. I think I won. We parted after a couple of days – they bound for Mallaig whilst we wandered over to Salen in Loch Sunart. The picture above is of the new pontoon there. Can recommend the pub!
After that we looked into Port Mor on Muck before heading back into the Sound of Mull in thick mist and over to Tobermory for Milk before heading down to Loch Aline – where again we went alongside a pontoon – but this time in glorious sunshine - Whooppee!
From there we wandered slowly back through Oban bay, inside Easdale Sound, through Cuan and back to Croabh leaving a short day on the morrow to get through Dorus Mor and back to Ardfern – again – in Sunshine – by now we were thinking this was all getting a bit much and wasn’t it time for a spot of rain?
Our final sortie has been a very sober and brief trip – Just Liz and myself – where we had a lovely potter around the Islands for a couple of days – again, the sun - whilst not quite shining – made its presence felt as it was warm – Have any of you taken coffee at the café in Crinan – The scones are to die for!
So – that’s us home for a week or two – I said the final trip was a sober one – well, not quite!
Here’s to an Indian Summer and a few decent weeks in September and October before we call it a day for another year.
From Fleetwood towards Pwllheli
During a conversation with one of my usual crew, it was mentioned that someone wanted a Westerly Centaur moving from Fleetwood to Pwellheli. As I had sold my Westerly Fulmar “Tortola” and purchased a motor boat “Why Knot” (as you do). I was missing sailing and thought it would be a great idea to offer my services.
We waited for a window in the weather, during which time we gave the engine a full service and fitted the sails etc. Whilst the boat had been refurbished a few years before, it had not been used for the last two years and therefore needed quite a lot of TLC. Originally there were to be three people on board but as it turned out we ended up with just myself and Tom Bradley (a member of Wardleys Yacht Club). Tom and I have sailed many miles together and know how each other work.
We had decided to leave Fleetwood on Monday 24th July at 01.00am. This was forecast as the start of a three day window in the weather.
The plan was to sail down to Holyhead, where we would spend the first night in the marina, completing the journey to Pwellheli the following day.
During the afternoon of the 23rd July we had a chance conversation with the loch keeper who informed us that it was going to be a bit windy and wet during the night. We told him our plan was to leave at 01.00am the following morning and he said he would listen out for our call. As it got nearer to our allotted time to leave, the wind had increased much higher than was forecast. Due to the change in wind speed we decided it would be prudent to leave the marina and pick up a mooring waiting until the wind eased. At 00.40am there was a knock on the hull and we were informed that we had 20 mins to leave the marina as they were going to start sluicing the gate. At that time we hadn't yet dressed for the occasion. He also informed us that it was blowing around 25knots out on the river.
Leaving the pontoon was the first of many problems to come. As I put her in reverse the bow swung round leaving me no option but to reverse out into the main marina channel, after much ado, I managed to point the boat in the right direction. We left the relative safety of the marina and entered the river and were flattened by a 35knot gust of wind. It was completely black and we couldn't see past the bow of the boat. Making life impossible and it would have been extremely dangerous to try and pick up a mooring buoy, even if we could have found one.
I looked to port as we passed one of the large sea survival pods just inches away. The tide was running around 4knots and we were just blindly going in circles. The only choice left to us was to moor up to the survival pod. This proved to be difficult as we could no longer find it. I have never been out at night when it has been so dark. The torches we had were useless. We eventually found the thing and spent the next half hour bobbing up and down trying to keep the boat on station and loop a mooring rope around the pickup line of the pod. I had drawn the short straw and bounced my way up to the bow on my knees continually moving the safety line to various points. I scrambled back to the cockpit and immediately dumped my last meal into the river. That was only the second time I had been sea sick in over 15 years of sailing. The two of us sat in the cockpit all night fending the two craft off each other in rain and 25-35 knots of wind.
It was not nice to say the least but by 04.00am the rain had stopped and the wind was dropping. Our plan to leave at 01.00am had long gone which left us two choices, we could stay and wait for the lock gates to open and abort the trip or set off and see how the trip panned out. We did the sensible thing and put the kettle on whilst we worked out plan B.
By 05.00 the wind had dropped and the river had settled down a little so we decided to set off down Fleetwood channel turn left at fairway up the Lune deep and away south.
We motored with a little of the main out for the first 40nm in water which can only be described as uncomfortable. As we approached land we pulled more sail out and knocked the revs down to conserve fuel maintaining a steady 5.5knts. However as we approached Anglesey the sea became significantly steeper. Eventually this left us no option but to shorten the sails again.
Holyhead was a new experience for me. Tom however had been in before which helped enormously.
I radioed the Coastguard as I couldn't raise anyone in the marina office, telling them we would be arriving soon. However as it turned out the entrance which I was having difficulty seeing was quite a bit further than I had anticipated and by the time we actually arrived the marina staff were long gone. We moored up in the marina just 14hours 10mins after leaving Fleetwood.
I don't know where time goes, as it was after 22.00 by the time we had showered and sat down to eat. Needless to say we both slept well. Before hitting the sack we worked the tides out for passing through Bardsey Sound only to find out that our late start the previous day would mean another 03.00am start. As neither of us could bear the thought of another all-nighter we decided that Holyhead was the end of the road. I rang the owner who was very understanding and agreed to drive down the following day to collect us.
Even though at some stage during the trip we were both heard to say we would never sail again! I have no doubt we will be going back to Holyhead sometime in the next week or two to complete the delivery to Pwellheli.
Just another story for the Grandchildren.
Russ Tabiner, August 2017
July 2017 - Ian Gartside.
Tom Postlethwaite was a member of our club in the 1970’s. Known as “Poss” to his friends, of whom there were many, he was the owner of a 20 foot Vivacity named “Viva” which he and his teenage son John would sail to Piel Island and the Isle of Man often lagging behind the rest of the B&FYC stalwarts but arriving safely nonetheless with a huge grin on his face and in time for a last pint at the Mitre Hotel in Ramsey.
His voyages, in common with most of us, had their fair share of interesting moments which became the stuff of legend and oft recounted stories told by his shipmates carousing in the dockside pubs around the Irish Sea.
By chance I found this poem written by one of those shipmates, John Spencer, about an encounter with the “Bison” which in those days ploughed its business along with the “Buffalo” between Larne in Northern Ireland and the newly built Ro-Ro berth at Fleetwood. Although neither are with us now, I am sure they will forgive me for letting this particular cat out of the bag.
Returning from the raging main
To friendly native shores again
His nature said “Now Jolly Tar
Methinks it’s time we had a jar”!
And so without further thinking
Made her fast and went off drinking
Not knowing that quite close behind
Was brewing a jar of a different kind!
Big ship’s Captains are seldom petty
And get annoyed when to their jetty
You tie your craft and, with a cheer,
Speed shoreward then is search of beer!
Our carousing Skipper, who ought to know
The habits of Bison and Buffalo,
On board was nowhere to be found
Nearly causing Bison to run aground.
To cries from the bridge midst much confusion
Someone yelled “I think he’s in the Euston”!
The ale he consumed in that short time
Cost this skipper a five pound fine.
Back on board he used swift action
And applying ten horse of forward traction
To hearty curses of “Damn and Blast!”
Sailed under the jetty and snapped his mast!
The moral that follows is fairly true
And could well apply to me and you:
If you wish to avoid such trials and fines
Don’t park on Nautical Yellow Lines!
© J. R. Spencer 1979
I’ve given up on my Silhouette, which now languishes in the shadows. This was due to several things :
I pranged my knee.
It was too small.
Finding a new boat
Anyway, last year I had the misfortune to slip on the stairs. I’m not saying it was my fault, because as will become clear it wasn’t, but I do admit I’d been out for a drink with my two teenage lads; and the band was good so I stayed longer than I intended; then afterwards played pool. I played superbly, my luck was flowing like the beer and I came out 7-0 up. I’m not used to staying out late. Or drinking. No way am I used to winning at pool – it’s unnatural. So this luck had its payback later as I went to bed and couldn’t remember if I’d locked the door. Trying to stagger down the stairs in the dark wasn’t the best idea and I didn’t see some neatly folded washing sitting there. Hence the slip. After a bit of a swear I checked the door. It was locked. A wasted ‘trip’..... (Sorry, I couldn’t resist it). Then went to bed again.
I woke up next morning with a leg that looked a different size and shape than normal. And a bad head too. It turns out that I’d done in some cartilage and ligaments. The previous night’s painkiller had run out too, but at least it was only one leg.
It should be clear from this where the fault lies. It’s with someone else. It’s with whoever put the washing on the stairs. Obviously.
I tried to point out that where there is blame, there’s a claim, I’ve seen those informative ambulance chaser adverts. But I was rebuffed with a sharply raised eyebrow and some comment about scaring the cat. It was also pointed out that she’d always put it there so I should have been used to it.
Well, a leg that doesn’t bend much is useless for getting in boats, squelching in mud or for crawling in small cabins, so since last summer the silhouette has been sitting on its trailer gathering dust and pigeon droppings at the back end of the factory I work in. Becoming single again - completely unrelated reasons, mostly – resulted in my employers panicking that I would move away from the area. Pay-rise, extra coffee, a free pen and an invitation to play golf! The golf has turned out to be easy, until I worked out that the low score was better. There’s even a golf weekend away in November. Should’ve got divorced years ago. Moving into a flat (no boat park here), with even more stairs, next to a pub that has a pool table, real ale and regular bands, could be seen as living dangerously. But no one leaves their booby-trapped washing out on the stairs and I’ve still got a view of the sea, if you squint around the corner of the window.
All the time in the gym strengthening up my leg has given me a body to diet for, and now I’m more mobile again the Ex has been encouraging me to get back out there. We get on really well and she has a point. In the age of the internet she actually used a web site to introduce me to a younger model, quirky but responsive, and that’s who I’m with now.
She’s a Newbridge Coromandel, and I’m now in the process of making it good. A definite upgrade on anything I’m used to. It’s even got a toilet, although I’ve no idea how to work it. Previously being caught short meant a bucket over the side. I can’t do that now, this thing is bolted down. It’ll need some investigation on the web. The silhouette is being stripped of all its good bits to upgrade the new. I’ve even got a four stroke outboard in a well to slow me down now in case the increase in speed scares me. I’ll keep the seagulls though for old times sake. The flat is full of boat bits. The fact is that in the dead of night I can safely walk around all the boat parts lying on the floor on autopilot - even if I’ve accidentally left the window open and filled the flat with a north sea fret to add to the darkness - far more accurately than most could use a garmin navigating up some backwater with some joke sticks pretending to guide you around the mudbanks. This sober sure-footedness indicates the possibility that my initial injury wasn’t totally the fault of the washing.
So it must have been the cat.
The end result is that I’ve unintentionally become one of those absent members. Nothing to do with warm southern climes or pontoons with power. By the time I’ve got the boat ready to go back and see what’s happened to my dangerously squelchy mooring on Skippool it’ll be too late to enjoy the British summer, but part of that trip would be across Scotland and everyone in our Scottish office tells me I’d need some form of cockpit cover, insulation and a wood burner whenever I chose to sail up there, so maybe time of travel would make no difference.
So here’s to getting it ready to go!