The Clever Scheme

Recently, I posted the fabulous news that this little blog had received 500 views so far this month – and we were only a third of the way through it!

I invited people to subscribe – and they have. Scrolling down through the replies, I see one complimentary comment after another. It seems that my lifelong dream of going sailing and writing about it may be coming true after all…

Then, there was a comment saying that “this appears to be a clever network marketing scheme to sell a dietary supplement”. That stopped me in my tracks.

Maybe I have some explaining to do. After all, the site does feature a page called “Good Health” which, indeed, promotes a dietary supplement from a Network Marketing company.

Incidentally, there is also a page called “The Novel” where you will find a clever scheme to sell my book on Amazon – and another one: “Bad Back” which is full of free advice (maybe I should charge for it.)

Anyway, I must hold up my hands: Yes, I am a Network Marketer. I started in 2005 for the very good reason that I was 55 years old and nobody would give me a job. That business was in the utility sector. It paid for the boat and now supports my family ashore.

By contrast, the dietary supplement business is very small indeed. Last month I earned £61.05 – hardly enough to justify buying a sailing yacht as a promotional tool!

No, the reason I promote the health product is because I am very anxious that the company which makes it should survive in what is a very over-crowded market. Their product is unique and if they go under, I won’t be able to get it anywhere else – and I firmly believe that I would not be able to continue like this without it.

I still carry with me a vivid picture of my life back in 2015 when I was so ill that I ended up in hospital because I had banged my elbow. Had I continued on that path, what condition would I be in now at the age of 69? A lot of people of 69 can’t walk a mile. Yet during our family weekend in the Peak District in September, I walked 12 miles on the Saturday and another eight on the Sunday. It’s not a marathon but it’s what any normally healthy person should be able to do.

In fact, today there is nothing wrong with me at all. I don’t have arthritis any more. I don’t wear prescription glasses, I don’t have liver spots on my hands, don’t have to get up in the night to pee…

I have not seen a doctor since 2016 and do not carry any pharmaceutical products on my boat at all – not even an aspirin.

As long as the company keeps producing its product – which means, for as long as enough people keep buying the stuff … then I will be able to continue to live the life of my dreams. That is the reason I promote it on this blog – not for the sake of £61.05 a month…

Also, you will notice that the supplement is not “in your face”. There is no flashing advertisement on the front page – just a reference here and there in the text and a page given no more prominence than the other eleven.

I have realised that it is better not to be strident about it: In the Azores, I met a man enjoying his retirement living aboard a Contest 48. His only complaint was having to fly back to the UK every three months to see his doctor. I began to tell him my story – but I can still see the distain on his face as it dawned on him that I was trying to sell some sort of snake oil.

So, the blog will continue to focus on the adventures (another attempt to reach Kirby-Le-Soken coming up.) Only a tiny percentage of readers will be interested in the “Good Health” page. But I like think that if the sceptics continue to follow me as I grow older and older, cheerfully defying the ageing process as I go, then maybe they may look again at my “clever scheme”.

The expedition

Everywhere I look, I see land. Rather muddy land, admittedly. But here, half a mile further up Kirby Creek, surrounded by saltings and winding water, with only the birds and the seals for company, I am as protected as I can be.

Last night we had a bit of wind and it barely raised a wave big enough to slap against the hull. We did heel over as a gust caught the mast and revved up the wind generator. The coffee pot fell off the cooker but otherwise, Samsara stayed as rock-steady as if she had been chocked up in a boatyard.

This was all because of The Expedition: It’s now a week since I arrived here and the water tanks ran dry on Thursday night. I have another 30 litres in cans and a couple of emergency bottles but what with that and running out of apples, the time had come to go and find civilization.

Round here, the village of Kirby-Le-Soken fits that bill. It has a pub and a shop and – presumably, a water tap. All I had to do was take the dinghy up to the head of the creek where, apparently, there is a quay accessible at high tide. That was going to be at 1234 yesterday and so I set off at about 1100, properly dressed in wet-weather gear with all the gash and the empty water cans and Google Maps on my phone to stop me following the wrong branch of the creek.

For some inexplicable reason, the outboard engine wouldn’t start. Odd, that. Now that it has a new fuel tap, it’s been very reliable… maybe all it needs is a moment to cool down – 2-stokes are funny like that. I started rowing.

An hour later, after several stops to try the engine again during which I drifted backwards into the mud and the seal, with its head out of the water like a Labrador with no ears, watched silently as if wondering what on earth I was doing.

Actually, what I was doing was checking Google Maps and realising that after an hour of hard rowing, I was still only half way – which meant that at this rate, by the time I got there, walked up to the village and back carrying 30kg of water and with the shopping on my back, the tide would be falling fast. What if I ran aground on a falling tide – marooned for eight hours in a dinghy surrounded by thigh-deep mud?

Some things just don’t seem sensible. I admitted defeat and turned round. Of course, this meant rowing against the tide. I remember thinking that I was earning my lunch and calculated how long it was since breakfast – and, come to that, how long since I had drunk half a litre of vitamin and mineral supplement and a large cup of coffee…

…and how it is that one of life’s more undignified manoeuvres is peeing when you are in a tiny inflatable dinghy and dressed up in chest-high waterproof salopettes…

Casting around for a solution, I spied a jetty – well, a haphazard collection of old timbers sticking out of the mud with a few rotting planks on top. It would have to do.

Somewhat gingerly, I stepped ashore and walked up the staging to what passed on Horsey Island for solid ground. I know all about Horsey Island. It is privately owned and a bird sanctuary – no landing allowed. In fact, Tamsin and I came here in 1995 and interviewed the owner, Joe Backhouse, when we were writing about our adventures for the Daily Telegraph’s travel pages. This might very well have been the spot where Blue the dog disgraced himself by catching a Brent goose (I don’t know who was more surprised).

The place didn’t seem to have changed. It was just as desolate as I remembered – in fact, having dealt with the urgent matter at hand, I took out my phone and recorded a quick 360 for Instagram (you can see it on john.passsmore.756).

“As, you can see,” I told the commentary. “Absolutely nobody about… totally desolate…”

That was when I noticed I wasn’t alone. An equally old man with a white beard and a woolly hat arrived with two plastic bags.

I think I should be congratulated on finding something to say. This was it: “Oh, hello. I’ve just stopped for a pee. I hope you don’t mind.”

I’m afraid, I can’t remember what he said in reply (would you?). But he did ask me if that was my boat anchored further down the creek.

“You can’t anchor there,” he said. “That’s an oyster bed.”

“Really? I didn’t know about that. There’s nothing in the books about it…”

“There’s a sign,” he said.

I peered. “A sign? I didn’t see it. Where is it?”

“It blew away.”


But he did suggest I should move to one of the vacant moorings: “Anyway you wouldn’t want to be there tonight. There’s a Force Nine coming tonight.”

And with that, he climbed into the ancient dinghy and rowed off across the creek, gesturing as he went, towards an enormous orange mooring buoy and saying: “You can take that one. The boat that’s usually on it just came out for the winter.”

So that’s where we are – in a deep hole surrounded by shallow water (we’ll never get out except at high tide) – and the shallow water surrounded in turn by soggy but protective land.

All I need now is for the outboard to work tomorrow. I just rang my friend David the fisherman who helped me catch a herring and a brace of whiting. He tells me I’ll get water at the pub. If I ever get there, I think I might deserve more than water.

How to light a Hampshire Heater (technical)

An dessert spoonful of ash on top of the wick…

….absorbs the meths and keeps the flame in the right place.

It’s taken long enough but finally, I think I’ve cracked the business of lighting my Hampshire Heater.

The company does send out instructions with every new heater but these are fairly basic and I have to admit, I struggled.

So, getting on for half-way through my second winter with the heater, I have this advice:

  1. Rake through the cold remains of last night’s fuel with a long-handled screwdriver to knock the ash into the ash-tray. Remove the ash tray. Save a dessert-spoonful of ash and dispose of the rest. While doing this, have something like a baking tray underneath to catch any stray pieces of fuel or ash.
  2. Before replacing the ash-tray, put a small amount of lumpwood charcoal into the cylinder – no more than 30mm deep. The reason for this is to allow plenty of air to flow up through the fuel – so don’t use the end of a bag of charcoal for this because it will block up the gaps with coal dust. Do this without the ash-tray attached. You do not want unburned fuel to drop into the tray because it will ignite from the hot ash falling on it. This will set off your Carbon Monoxide alarm as the gas escapes through the vent rather than up the chimney. Some small pieces of fuel will drop through into the baking tray. Add them back to the top.
  3. Carefully pour the dessert-spoonful of ash onto the top of the wick.
  4. Equally carefully, pour a capful of methylated spirit onto the ash on the top of the wick. The reason for doing this is because I found that the wick itself does not absorb all the meths and the excess runs down into the tray which can cause a disconcerting blaze – and even blow out the wick. The ash on the top of the wick absorbs all the meths and keeps the flame where it should be. (The manufacturer now recommends barbecue lighting gel instead of meths – it stays put but it smells awful).
  5. Replace the top of the heater. Open the vent and light the top of the wick. Replace the ash-tray.
  6. Do not add more fuel until the heater is well alight. Adjust the vent – a quarter turn is enough to keep it burning.
  7. From this point on, you may continue to add more fuel as you please. However, if you just add a shovelful of charcoal to the top of the cylinder while it’s burning, the hot air rising will blow coal dust all over your cabin. To avoid this, load the refills of charcoal into paper bags and keep a supply of them ready. One bag lasts about 90 minutes.

Amp starvation


This the scene in Samsara’s cabin tonight – candlelit, as you can see. I appear to have run out of electricity

Well, not really, of course: The engine battery is still raring to go at 12.8volts but I can’t touch that – who knows when I may need to start the engine in an emergency?

Meanwhile, the service battery – the lights, the phone charger, the rechargeable DAB radio, the laptop on which I am writing this – that’s where the amps drain away.

If I was going somewhere, this wouldn’t happen. I would have the water-turbine trailing out behind, pumping in the amps (you can see it in action on the video on the “Good Health” page). But that’s no good without water flowing past the boat at more than three knots and all we get in Kirby Creek is half a knot of tide at the height of the ebb.

I do have the solar panel which I left tilted backwards on the assumption that the stern would be pointing south-east when the sun came up. Sure enough, when I looked before breakfast, we were getting a steady 2amps but I’m afraid I was profligate with my current and spent the morning charging the radio and writing up yesterday’s fishing expedition (you can’t see it yet because I’m going to show it to my neighbour and fishing companion – I never did that when I worked for a newspaper).

Anyway, the BBC forecast was for a “moderate” wind in the afternoon and I hoisted the generator into the rigging with a propeller in place of the water turbine. The trouble is that it needs 15 knots before it starts turning at all and by the time it was too dark to see, the battery was on its last legs at 11.5volts – and still draining 1.1amps. I went round turning off lights, unplugged the phone… still negative figures. Where was it going?

Of course: The masthead light comes on at dusk and helps itself to 0.2amps. Well, I knew what to do about that. Out came the trusty hurricane lamp. I had one of these on my first boat – and well I remember my father’s ritual with the anchor light at dusk.

It is rather academic in Kirby Creek – the last of the lit buoys is down Hamford Water at the junction with the Walton Channel, the best part of a mile away. Who’s going to come up here on a pitch-black night like this in half a gale?

Hang on, who said there was half a gale blowing? Last time I looked there wasn’t enough to squeeze out a tenth of an amp. Suddenly, now the battery is sucking up 1.1. I poke my head out of the hatch. The boat is heeling under bare pole. The anchor light has blown out, but who cares. I reckon there’s even enough to fire up the phone and ping this off to WordPress.



Saturday November 10th

I’m not alone after all. Anchoring last night in Kirby Creek in the Walton Backwaters, the only other vessel was a tiny fishing boat on a mooring – unoccupied … and still I left 300 yards between us.

Then, today, an old man (another one) rowed acoss in an ancient weed-covered dinghy to say hello. He’d been taking his dog ashore – a liver-and-white springer spaniel and I’ve got one of those at home so we had something to talk about.

After a couple of minutes about where he could land around here without sinking thigh-deep into the mud and how he had left his friend Paul on the boat wrestling with the wiring, a small voice in the back of my head suggested it would be neighbourly to invite him aboard for a cup of tea.

Immediately, of course, another voice burst in, protested at the invasion of my solitude – and adding the age-old warning about inviting single-handers for tea (you can never get rid of them). But I know that if I keep spurning all human contact, I shall end up even more reclusive and socially awkward than I am already.

So, yes, he replied, he would delighted to come aboard for a cup of tea.

Getting him onto Samsara was a challenge that neither of us had considered.  David Haig-Thomas is 78 and you only have to look at his oil-stained sweater and his prehistoric corduroys with their missing buttons to know that he is not the sort of man to baulk at climbing aboard without benefit of a ladder.

Actually, next time I shall get the ladder out. I am still trying to remove my heart from my mouth at the memory of him swaying between dinghy and deck, his entire weight on the wobbling wire guard-rail like a clown on a tightrope.

But in the end, we sat in the cabin over our tea and he told me more tall tales in the space of half an hour than I think I have ever heard before – the dog that stole the Sunday joint from a different neighbour every week, his naked swim round the Backwaters interrupted by the picnicking family from Clacton…his father getting an island named after him…

Actually, maybe they weren’t such tall tales. I just looked up the arctic explorer David Haig-Thomas Senior and yes, HaigThomas Island is one of the Sverdrup Islands in the Qikiqtaaluk Region in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost province. During the war he volunteered for the commandoes and died in the D-Day landings when young David was four.

After our tea, my guest swayed, mightily, once more and eventually settled with Susie the Springer in the ancient dinghy and set off again – whereupon Susie promptly jumped over the side and started swimming. Neither of us were sure about this, given the distance she would have to cover – even with the tide. In the end David headed for a pebble beach which looked marginally less muddy than the rest of the foreshore.

As dusk fell, I could hear an engine running and could see a blaze of fluorescent light from the little fishing boat’s wheelhouse. The wiring seems to be connected again.

Just as well. Apparently, we’re going herring fishing tomorrow.


David and Susie

The harbourmaster’s Dad


“A Rival is she?” The harbourmaster stood and looked as Samsara, dried out against the scrubbing posts at Felixstowe Ferry and proudly showing off a clean bottom.

(If you have been following this blog, you may have seen the picture of “The Infestation” of goose barnacles which appeared out of nowhere).

I had just scraped off the last one and was going round the topsides with a rag and a bottle of hull cleaner, so I was feeling a certain pride of ownership already – but there’s nothing like a compliment from a harbourmaster to put things in perspective. Harbourmasters have seen it all and you could tell that this one had seen it all and shaken his head over most of it.

I had waved to him on the river as he chugged past in his ancient workboat with “Harbour Master” flying from the ensign staff. This was the vessel, I learned later from the sign on his ancient office, that was available for sightseeing trips – and ash scattering by arrangement.

“Good boats, Rivals” he continued. “Nice wide side decks for getting around – and look at that keel… good skeg too – strong.”

Then he added: “As my old Dad used to say “They go a long way and they take a long time to get there.”

Well, yes, I suppose so. Nobody has ever claimed the Rival is a fast boat and – it may be a product of my return to the design in retirement, but I don’t mind that any more. Thirty years ago, when I took Largo across the Atlantic in the OSTAR, I had ironic T-shirts printed with the legend: “Largo: Broad and Slow” (I looked up the musical term in a dictionary).

Now I realise that if you have a fast boat, all you want is a faster boat. You’re constantly up-grading the gear – not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because the man on the stand at the Boat Show says it’ll give you an extra half a knot.

So, I have been able to forget the harbourmaster’s father’s views and concentrate on Samsara’s other virtues – of which, we agreed, there are many.

…not forgetting, the extra half a knot that comers from not towing a bottomful of barnacles.


The Infestation

I didn’t expect this when I got up this morning.

They weren’t there when I went over the side on the way back from the Azores. The bottom was as clean as a whistle.

After a lot of Facebook discussion, Poole Harbour gets the blame. Apparently we’ve had so many really wet summers (until this year) that the nitrate fertilizers have been washed straight off the farmland into the rivers and estuaries, dramatically altering the eco-system. And, of course, Poole doesn’t get flushed out as thoroughly as an estuary.

It seems they’re goose barnacles. I’ll have to find a better place to scrape them off, though…


Lost Hat


RIP (the hat)


It is with great regret that I have to report that my favourite hat – indeed the one I am wearing in my profile picture, has been lost over the side.

It’s my own stupid fault. I had 20 knots of wind across the deck, it had already blown off once and landed on the cockpit floor (as if to demonstrate that I would get one chance).

But then, if I had heeded every warning I had ever been given, Life would have turned out very differently…

Sure enough, just as I getting the mainsail down at the same time as negotiating the famously narrow and winding approaches to Walton Backwaters (Arthur Ransome fans will know all about this) the wind gave an extra puff and whipped it over the side.

Of course I went back for it but, with the sail half way down, by the time I was able to turn the boat around, the hat had disappeared.

I am very sad. However, I knew this day would come. Indeed, I have been consoling myself by reading the Law of Lost Hats which featured in my Dogwatch column in Yachting World in the 1990’s (and the 1999 collection published by Adlard Coles). I think this puts it in perspective rather well…


To the Fellows of the Royal Society:

Dear Sirs,

I am sure you will be delighted to hear that the borders of scientific knowledge have today taken a giant leap backwards with the completion of the next stage of my work on the subject of lost hats.

You will recall my earlier work, which resulted in the publication of Passmore’s First Law of Lost Hats. In this we examined the complexities of cause and effect which come into play whenever the wind pipes up and someone on a boat puts on a hat.

The breakthrough – which received considerable publicity at the time – came halfway through the first leg of the 1987 Azores and Back Race when the freebie sun visor donated by the race’s sponsor ended up in the water some 300 miles west of Vigo, necessitating the vessel being turned around to retrieve it (three attempts) and providing a rather good excuse for coming last.

My own misfortune notwithstanding, that day will long be remembered in scientific circles for proving that, in accordance with the Laws of Perplexity, the velocity with which I reached for the hat was matched instantly by an equal or greater increase in the wind speed – the ratio, of course, being dependant upon the square of the surface area of the visor’s peak.

Had the weather been less clement and had I been wearing a bobble hat, we now know that the increase in the wind strength could have been calculated just as exactly from the circumference of the pom-pom.

Other formulae relating to a range of headwear, from the chandler’s nylon Breton variety to the heavy-duty woollen affair with earflaps and storm gussets as knitted by the more traditionalist Lifeboat coxswain’s mother, are covered in Appendix XVIII. But the statistical analysis shows that in over 99.8743% of cases, every type of hat is eventually lost over the side.

Further work, I happen to know, is under way to discover whether the new fleecy-type hats also comply with Passmore’s First Law. However, I consider such work beneath me since it is obvious that hats in shocking pink or luminous green fall outside the Laws of Good Taste and therefore need not concern us.

This brings me to the establishment of Passmore’s Second Law of Lost Hats. This work deals with the relationship between the hat and the main or genoa sheet. It is, of necessity, a wider-ranging study by virtue of the fact that in aft-cockpit yachts it is the mainsheet which flips the hat over the rail, while in centre-cockpit designs, the genoa sheet emerges at the top of the table of probability (Appendix XXVI Sheets, guys, halyards and washing lines).

I was prompted to this avenue of inquiry after acquiring a centre-cockpit vessel after many years with the other type. In the past it had seemed that only spectacles exhibited any form of magnetism for the mainsheet. But, as will be appreciated from an understanding the Principles of Exasperation, only expensive prescription spectacles vanish in this way. Cheap plastic sunglasses, particularly the type bought in seaside postcard shops after leaving the Ray-Bans on board, go on forever.

Hats, however, are another matter and the study shows that every type exhibits an equal propensity for being caught between tacks and catapulted some considerable distance into the water.

Indeed, my very first outing in my present yacht resulted in the loss of a much-treasured Lacoste woolly hat, which I like to think made me look like the most fashionable kind of New York mugger. It disappeared into Chichester Harbour during the first experiments with my new endless-line headsail reefing gear.

Indeed, it was this endless line, being as short as only an endless line can be, which was the cause of much of the trouble – I mean, the research.

The Theory of Vexation tells us that circumstances such as a rising wind, when the wearer has to lean out of the cockpit to haul on the furling line, puts the hat directly into the path of the threshing genoa sheet.

Classifying such instances over the past year put paid to one Marks and Spencer’s linen peaked cap, two Milletts’ woolly hats, three of Mr Musto’s rather grand double thickness thermal affairs, and an indeterminate number of ridiculous sun hats which were asking for it anyway.

It is interesting to note that replacing the endless line with a longer endless line (which is, of course, an impossibility of terms) did not alter the findings. Indeed, it is now possible to stand in the exact centre of Lottie Warren’s cockpit, hauling on the line, and watch the genoa sheet make a determined lunge inboard to snatch one’s hat into the water.

I have attached some preliminary work on this phenomenon (genoa sheets: Alien intelligence or inanimate abuse?)

I await the comments of fellow Fellows with interest.


Yours, etc.




Gale Warning

My parents (Mother is saying that Force Six is a “yachtsman’s gale”. Father isn’t listening)


Mother had a rule: If there was a gale warning on the Shipping Forecast, we didn’t go out.

Actually, we didn’t go out in Force Seven either, in case the Shipping Forecast had got it wrong.

And, just in case Father started getting ideas, Force Six was categorised as “A yachtsman’s gale”.

It wasn’t until I was 18 and we were ambushed by a completely un-forecast “hurricane” off the Ile de Batz and spent the night in survival mode, that I discovered what all the fuss was about.

I suppose it was inevitable that, over the years, the idea of Force Eight should lose its terror. All the same, when it came up on the shipping forecast in the middle of the passage from Poole to the East coast, there was something instinctive about hunting through the almanac for a bolt-hole.

Since the route had taken us round the back of the Isle Wight, this didn’t leave a lot of options: The only safe haven with any water in it – and enough water over the entrance when I needed it – was going to be Portsmouth. It was only about 15 miles away and I could pick up a mooring (getting gale-bound in a marina can be ruinously expensive).

In fact, I had spent an hour back-tracking before I started thinking of this logically: Already, I knew I was in for a hatful of wind. The picture on Windguru was distinctly red. But on the other hand, there was no sign of purple which is what they use for gales. Moreover, the nastiness seemed to concentrated in mid-channel. If I stuck to the coast, it looked as though I would find nothing worse than 20knots which is, what… about Force Five.

Besides, an offshore gale is a lot less menacing: Years ago, I took three teenagers off for a week. I had never met them before and knew only that they could sail dinghies – they had been volunteered on me by my old school’s sailing club and their “get them into bigger boats” program.

The week coincided with a week of gales but I could hardly send them home (their parents had probably nipped off for a mini break). Nor did a week gale-bound seem attractive, cooped with three bored teenagers.

So, we tied down two reefs and went out every day to thrash around the Solent. Largo, being a Rival 32, thrived in a blow. One way and another, it was a fantastic week. We visited five different harbours, dried ourselves out each evening over my pasta-and-tins repertoire and got to know each other very well indeed. Boring it was not.

Well, now I have another Rival 32. And Samsara’s sail plan is even more suited to a blow than Largo with her toobig furling genny.

So, I dismissed Portsmouth, turned round and resumed the course – and guess what? The next forecast talked only of “possibly gale eight” – and that was for the whole sea area, all the way to the French coast.

And what did we get? Nothing more than 22knots apparent. What the forecasters might have called “occasionally Force Six”. In fact, the wind fell lighter and lighter until we ended up becalmed and going backwards off Dover – only the heaviest concentration of shipping in the world…

That was when Dover Port Control told me they had some work going and the anchorage was closed…”but you could go in the marina…”

I thanked them kindly (and politely avoided any comments about “ruinously expensive”) and went and anchored on a sandbank in the middle of nowhere. It’s an old East Coast trick. Nobody’s going to run down, anchored on a sandbank.

It was oddly peaceful.

Stop Press: The following morning the Dover Lifeboat turned up to check that I was all right. Apparently they don’t get many people anchoring for the night on the Goodwin Sands – someone had seen me from the shore and reported that I was “not making way”. The Lifeboatmen were terribly polite. I told them that I’d once been advised by an old fisherman that if ever I wanted to anchor without the risk of anyone disturbing me (or worse, running into me), I could do a lot worse than a sandbank.




Chain foul-ups

This has never happened to me before – and, come to that, I’ve never heard of it happening to anyone else. But, it’s a bit alarming to say the least…

This evening, I went to drop the anchor. I know from experience to lay out a good bit of chain on the foredeck – the last thing you want is to be drifting all over the anchorage while you stand there, yanking at the chain trying to dislodge the knot it’s got itself into the chain locker…

And that’s what I did today – except that the tangle wouldn’t give. In the end I had to empty all the sails out of the fo’c’sle and dive headfirst into the forepeak to excavate it manually – which still took two attempts and a good ten minutes.

I know what happened, of course: The windlass deposited the chain in a nice tall pyramid which upended itself at the first sign of motion. Next (and this is where the trouble starts) when the boat jumped off a wave in a good blow, the bottom of the pyramid (which, being broader at the base and therefore more stable) now took flight and landed on the top half.

Now I know that we’re talking about 45-year-old chain here – galvanised but a bit rusty in places and 10mm just to make it more difficult to shift. However, in all my years (and I’m now and old man, remember) I have never been unable to free it by yanking and jiggling from the deck – which is why you need a hole rather than one of those silly swan-neck hawse pipe arrangements.

Of course, owners of modern boats who just pull up a hatch in the foredeck and it’s all there and accessible, are probably wondering what all the fuss is about – but don’t forget I’ve got the weight lower down where it belongs.

So, I’ve been wondering what I can do to ensure this never happens again – particularly not when I’m running into a tiny, overcrowded anchorage with a gale behind me.

First, I should say that the sides of the chain locker are already smooth with pieces of plywood bonded in to stop the chain sitting on the stringers.

Secondly, I know that stainless steel chain slithers nicely over itself and it probably wouldn’t do this – but isn’t stainless ground tackle the preserve of the gin palace brethren?

Any advice would be welcome.

Of course, I could comfort myself that this sort of thing happens once in a lifetime and now that it has and no harm was done, I can relax.

But that’s the sort of argument that leaves a niggling thought at the back of the mind: “What if it does happen again. What if it happens now, just when I can’t afford any foul-ups…”