14 February 2020
All original writing
2014, 2015, 2016,
2017, 2018, 2019,
Dr Ian McLauchlin
JOLLY BOATING WEATHER
A lot of boating has passed under the bridge over the years. Here are some highlights.
In 1990, navigated from Lymington to Cherbourg, St Vaast, Carenton. Took a fix every hour in a lumpy sea. Went below, threw up, plotted the fix and came back on deck, pleased that there was another hour to go before the next time.
Without warning, right in the middle of both 1992 and The Solent, the boom banged across, just missing the skipper's head but knocking his hat into the water and trapping his leg in the mainsheet. It's quite hard separating leg from tensioned rope when the boat's heeling over and out of control.
In St Malo in 1997, spent a day hobbling backwards and forwards, clutching loo roll, to the toilet. Must have been the seafood the night before.
In the same year, after a gruelling crossing of Lyme Bay, we approached Poole Harbour in the dark, in thick fog. Skipper spotted a ferry and said "Follow that". It was only later that we realised it was heading across the channel. Skipper, accepting that he was knackered and hallucinating, went below and said "You take over Ian". Set satnav to define a safe 4 mile square and motored inside it till daybreak. Surprising what you can do when you're desperate.
In 2002 in Honfleur, inadvertently trod some caca de chien français down the boarding ladder and into the boat. Spent a few happy hours, whistling Sur Le Pont D'Avignon, and cleaning it up while everyone else cleared off to the bar.
So you can see why I love sailing. Before I knew it, it was 2004. We'd just moved to Exmouth and could gaze out onto the Marina. Everywhere I looked were boats of various descriptions and I was suffering withdrawal symptoms. There was only one cure and that started with a trip to Southampton Boat Show.
Careful now. Single handed sailing comes with loads of pitfalls, especially if you're not too young anymore. And finding crew at short notice when you don't know anyone is a bit optimistic. So, after weighing pros, cons and anchor, it made sense to look for a small motor cruiser. There was nothing cheap and nothing small. Medium disappointment set in as we made our way to the exit. Then, in front of us, hidden away in a cheap exhibition backwater, was a small white Polish Cabin Cruiser, complete with affordable price tag! Oh and, by the way, there's no such thing as luck. Most of the time.
On the way home, amid the excitement of having committed to buying a proper boat, the question of what to do with it and where to put it loomed large. Someone had a mooring for sale in the Exe Estuary. How could I resist?
Every boat has a name, female, but mine didn't. So, being a Terry Pratchett fan, how could I resist Nanny Ogg?
After a few trips to Jimmy Green Marine in Beer to add essential fenders, warps and compass to the sparse equipment, we were good to go. So we went. Up river, down river, across river and even ventured out to sea. A bit. All that venturing left a bit of muck here and there, so one day I went out to the mooring in an inflatable dinghy to give her the once over.
It was a sunny morning but there was a bit of a swell. Checked everything over and got a bucket of seawater and a brush to give her a scrub. This is easy and satisfying I thought. I got a bit overconfident didn't I. A wave decided to teach me a lesson. The boat rocked, I fell over and banged my shin. Ah well, that could have been worse. I looked down and saw my shoe filling with blood. Oh dear, it was worse. I know, lie down and put leg in the air, trying hard not to make it look like an invitation to passing traffic to come aboard for drinks and nibbles.
After a while, the bleeding slowed. What to do next? If I can get myself into the dinghy and start the outboard then I'm as good as home. Shuffled and fell into dinghy, started engine and was just about to leave when I realised it'd be unwise to leave an unaccompanied boat with hatch open and covered liberally with blood. Imagine the police operation. So I clambered back on board and threw buckets of water everywhere, which did the trick, sort of. Eventually I motored back to the Marina and made a phone call . . .
In hospital, they noticed that I was looking grey and said that if I was about to pass out it'd be better to lie down. It took weeks for the shin to heal, or was it the heel to shin?
So a mooring has its problems. The insurance stated that Nanny Ogg must spend the winter months in the Marina, which was fine as the fees were acceptable. But summer? No chance. I got to know the Harbour Master who, one day in passing, told me that someone had been admiring the boat and would it be OK to give her my details? Couldn't think why not, so agreed.
Many months later there was a ring at the door. "Hello, you don't know me. I've just got a Marina berth which you might like, and you've got a boat that I might like. Interested in pooling resources?"
So Nanny Ogg is now in the Marina all year round and I have a new, and resourceful, friend!
One day it seemed like a good idea to have a trip out. The weather was good but out in the estuary the wind was picking up. Only half an hour out and decided to go back. But the wind was a south easterly, blowing straight upriver and creating large waves. Motoring into it, we were banging about and making no progress. So having decided not to try and fight it we turned about and went with it. But the banging and being thrown about had dislodged a mooring warp and it was trailing behind us. You guessed it. It fouled the propellor and we lost the engine. Oops. While wondering whether to deploy the anchor, an eagle eyed guy in a dinghy roared up and helped free the prop and we motored slowly up to Topsham, while resolving always to tie down firmly any mooring rope in future.
Having to get the bus home after an aborted sailing trip is quite shameful, I can tell yer. But even though he couldn't fail to notice the seaweed in the hair, the odd mackerel peeping out of the pockets and extracts of River Exe forming puddles round our feet, the bus driver didn't comment. Except, when seeing our bus passes, he looked skywards, and tutted under his breath.
And that's it. For now. Watch this space for more sailing exploits. If you dare.