The Birds

Joshua Slocum, on his solo voyage around the world, looked up into the cockpit one dark and stormy night and saw the pilot of Drake’s ship The Pinta at the wheel.

Jean Le Carn in the Vendee Globe Race held his sister in his arms – and woke up hugging a sail bag.

Hallucinations, when you’re alone at sea, are not unusual.

Feeling someone touch the back of your neck, however, on only the second night of a passage from Falmouth to Caernarfon – especially when pushed by northerlies into that empty gap between the Smalls and the Tuskar Rock separation schemes where there’s just nothing but empty sea (and on this occasion, not a breath of wind) – well, something’s up…

I’d had nothing to do for the past 18 hours but sleep and read and sit in the cockpit drinking coffee and watching some tiny land-birds flutter about the boat and try to balance on the guardrails…

So this was just plain creepy… but there: It happened again, just as I was pouring hot water into the pot: A feather-light touch on the back of the neck…

That was when I realised that the birds – having given up on the guardrails – were now in the cabin: Six of them whizzing about like rockets, exploring. It was a scene from Hitchcock.

Then they got into the fo’c’sle which, now it’s turned into The Shed, full of sails and the bike and the dinghy and the new enormous ball fender – well, it’s easy for a small bird to get lost in there – and start panicking.

With all six of them simultaneously bouncing from off the chandlery and banging their heads on the windows, they didn’t do much for my state of mind either. I got in there too and started waving my arms about and shouting.

In the end, of course, we all calmed down enough to take some pictures. One of them perched on my hand and even allowed me to carry him to the companionway and toss him into the sky like Noah and dove.

I hope he made it back to land (he hasn’t re-appeared with an olive twig). Another made a nest in the cockpit with a couple of non-slip mats for a cushion. He was gone by the morning. It was only then that I found another had settled down beside the petrol can. Maybe it was too cramped down there to spread his wings. I don’t know. Anyway, he was dead in the morning.

I gave him a sailor’s burial complete with a short prayer appropriate to a poor dead bird. I’ve no idea what he was. Maybe there’s a twitcher out there who can help…

The farmer, the bull and the windlass

Did you hear the story of the Spanish farmer and the bull?

This farmer had a brand new calf and it was time for it to move out of the stable and into the field during the daytime.

But the calf wouldn’t budge out of his stall. No matter how much the farmer cajoled and rattled a bucket of grain, the calf refused to move.

In the end, the farmer lost patience, hoisted the animal onto his shoulders and carried him across the road to the field.

The next day, he tried again with the bucket of grain – and even a slice of bread (calves love a slice of bread). But no, the calf was adamant. He wasn’t going anywhere.

With a sigh, the farmer bent down, put his head under the animal’s belly and straightened up, the calf lying across his shoulders – and, once again, walked across the road to the field.

And this happened the next day… and the next. Eventually, the farmer gave up on the bucket of grain and the bread – and even the pointless attempt to coax the calf to walk by himself.

In other words, carrying the calf across the road became a habit.

But as the calf grazed the good grass in the field, he began to grow. Imperceptibly, day by day, he grew bigger – and he grew heavier.

But the routine continued and every day, as the farmer lifted the calf onto his shoulders, he grew stronger – and stronger.

And it is said that if you go to a particular village in Andalucia early in the morning, you can see a crowd gathered around a farm gate to see an old, grey-haired farmer walk across the road carrying a full-grown bull on his shoulders.

I don’t know where this story came from but I’ve always loved the moral – which, of course, you can work out for yourself.

And I have been reminded of it over the past few days because of the anchor windlass. If you look back through this blog you will find various references to the windlass. It has worked on and off for the past two years. From time to time – for no reason that I can deduce – it will just go “click” instead of winding in the chain. I have checked everything that can be checked. The brilliant electronics engineer Art Butler of Deben Marine Ltd has toiled over it on several occasions – most recently, only a couple of weeks ago when he drove up to Lowestoft to clean the commutator. He even ordered a special cleaning implement for me so I could do this myself.

And what happened on Saturday evening in the Falmouth Haven anchorage with an hour to dusk and a spritely 20knots blowing across the deck?


I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t used it once since Art’s ministrations. Of course, the only thing to do was pull the thing up by hand. I had always assumed that with a 20kg anchor on the end of 10mm chain and me being an old man of 70, this was not an option.

But I did pull it up. I took it slowly, nipped back to the cockpit from time to time to drive the boat forward – and then back again to break out the anchor.

And I’ve been doing this ever since – twice when I sailed overnight to Plymouth and anchored in Barn Pool, did a short stay in Mayflower Marina to pick up the spinnaker and then back to the pool before returning to Falmouth the next day. Here I anchored off St Just and then moved last night to Falmouth banks ready for the overnight wind shift.

And, just like the farmer and his bull, I began to get into the habit. The secret, I found, is to take your time and let the boat move up as the weight of catenary takes over the pull – and wear gloves, of course. Eventually, you end up with the chain straight up and down and the anchor still well dug in. Breaking it out is going to be really hard work so this is where you put the engine into reverse and, once again, let the boat do the work: As soon as she starts to move back showing that the anchor is free, click into neutral and now all you have to do haul up the remaining chain and the anchor itself.

Of course, the deeper the water, the more there is to haul up. At the moment, on Falmouth bank just after low tide, I have 8.6metres from the bow roller to the bottom which means 17kg of chain and the 20kg anchor – a total of 37kg to begin with, but of course, less as it comes in (and I begin to tire).

I know there will be times when this last part of the process has to be completed in double-quick time as the boat begins to drift; but if the worst comes to the worst, I can leave it dangling for a moment or two while I nip back to the cockpit.

The odd thing is that, as I get more confident, I am beginning to see the benefits: For a start, I can stop paying Art to come out and try and fix it. The last resort of sending the windlass back to Lofrans might not be necessary after all…

Also, if I can do this now – and continue to do it every few days from now on, then presumably I will still be doing it when I’m 80 – and won’t that be something to be proud of!

Is it possible that I may be able to remove the wretched thing entirely? That would reduce the clutter on the foredeck – and take 25kg off the bow which would do wonders for the trim.

Do you think that, just like the Spanish farmer with his bull, I might attract a bit of a crowd?

Update May 22nd 2019: Of course, the real test was going to come when I had to lift all 50 metres of chain vertically. That was going to weigh 120kg…

Well, of course, if all of it was hanging straight down, that would mean I had anchored in something like 250m – and I can’t imagine anywhere I would want to do that.

But there would come a time when I would have all the chain out…

It happened in Loch Spelve on Mull in the Hebrides. The corner sheltered from the South Westerly right down at the end of the left-hand spur looked just right – except that it shelved so steeply that either I was going to be in 13metres or on the beach.

It had to happen sometime. I let it all out. Adding 2m for the difference between the depth transducer and the bow roller, I should really have had 51m but in fact, given the necessary amount on deck and slack on the snubber, there was probably only 49m.

Still, it all had to be hauled up – and the vertical lift would be 50kg. I left the engine ticking over ahead and started pulling. Once the chain was going into the water sideways, I sauntered back to the cockpit and clicked her into reverse (which gave me a chance to catch my breath).

Then, back to the foredeck and more hauling. The blue and yellow 35m markers appeared, then the white and yellow 25m.

It was at about this time that the people on the little motor-cruiser from the other side of the anchorage returned from taking the dog ashore in their RIB. They made a detour to get within hailing distance: “Do you need any help?”

I hadn’t realised I looked as though I was struggling. I must say, I was slightly disappointed… which sounds churlish.

“No thanks,” I called back. “Some people go to the gym. I do this!”


Climate Change

Monday April 22nd 2019

Setting off to sail 350 miles from Lowestoft to Falmouth, you would think you could get away from the Extinction Rebellion people bringing central London to a standstill…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for saving the planet – also, I’d rather climate change didn’t start setting off unseasonal hurricanes.

But Global Warming and Greta Thunberg and the pink boat in Piccadilly Circus seemed to take over the whole voyage: Every time I picked up Radio 2 there were more arrests and when the 4G signal reappeared off St Catherine’s point, someone on the BBC website had calculated that in order to be carbon neutral by 2025, we are going to need another 130,000 wind turbines.

That’s right:130,000! Apparently, they will take up an area twice the size of Wales – except of course they won’t actually be in Wales, they’ll be offshore. Nobody minds offshore wind farms. After all, there’s nothing offshore is there? Just a lot of sea…

Well, yes – and that’s the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I like wind turbines. There is something elegant them – the sails rotating in endless slow circles pumping out the kilowatts. They’re strangely beautiful – in a technological sort of way.

I just don’t want to have to get in among them – especially with the tide running and the wind dropping…

And they’re all over the place: I never knew about the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm. I am familiar with the Gunfleet Sands Wind Farm – although the Gunfleet Sands (2) was a surprise – as was Gunfleet (3) and, come to that, Gunfleet Demonstration Wind Farm.

The course did avoid the London Array and the Kentish Flats Wind Farms but that still left the Thanet Wind Farm which, being just off the top corner of Kent, is really inconvenient.

It was a relief, somehow, to dive into the traffic of the Dover Strait – at least the ferries get out of the way. But what a minute, what was this off Selsey? According to the chart, The Rampion Wind Farm is “under construction”. Oh no, it’s not. It’s up and running with some jazzy new turbines complete with, stylishly curved sails tipped off with red paint like a new airliner.)

I don’t want to be a Global Warming denier because that’s worse than being an offshore tax advisor or an MP and my predilection for sailing a small boat for my own pleasure doesn’t count for much when set against the survival of the planet – but is this going to be the end of sailing as we know it?

I’ve just looked at the map and discover that when I go and see my son at university in Liverpool next month, I will have to find my way either through or round the Rhyl Wind Farm and then the Gwynt-y-Mor Wind Farm – and that’s before I even get to the North Hoyle and the Burbo Bank Wind Farms…


There are three things Roy Marshall likes to do.

He likes to spend his mornings sitting in his Aladdin’s Cave of nautical junk and wait for people like me.

He likes to raise money for the Lifeboat.

And he likes to talk.

I’ve been in Oulton Broad, just up the lake from Lowestoft for five weeks now – or at least Samsara has while I went home and took my youngest skiing. But I’ve spent enough time here to get to know a bit about Roy.

It started off when I messed up the delivery address for a parcel and Roy took it in. A condition of Roy taking in parcels is a pound the Lifeboat box – but that entitled me to a 25% discount on a snap shackle.

Then I went back and donated my old anchor connector. After that, it was a hawse pipe for an aneroid barometer. Places like this can become addictive.

Roy hobbles about his treasures, knowing exactly where he can lay his hand on a 9mm bulldog grip or a tank for a 1968 Seagull.

He hobbles thanks to a kicking he got from a pair of visitors at HM Prison Blundeston. They were busy delivering a consignment of heroin when Roy, as the prison’s security officer, decided to confront them.

Roy isn’t worried about confronting anyone – it might have something to do with boxing for the Navy in his youth (Combined Services Light-Heavyweight Champion, 1975).

All this I learned while sorting through anodes and clevis pins and full-flow ball valves and a complete stern tube lubricator.

“I had a bit of a reputation for being aggressive,” he remarked as if talking about the weather. “That’s why they made me the gunner in the Falklands.”

The gunner. Not a gunner?

Yes, the Admiralty had posted him to a requisitioned trawler. They took off all the fishing gear and refitted it as a minesweeper – but most of the time Roy and his shipmates ferried the SAS and the SBS around South Georgia. The trawler didn’t have any armament when they started out. But then, in view of what they were getting up to, the powers-that-be found a spare 20mm cannon and gave it to Roy so that he could blast away at the Argentinian bombers in San Carlos.

“Never hit a sausage, though.” he said. “But then nor did they, most of the time. They’d fitted propeller fuses to their bombs and then came in so low that there was no time for the propellers to spin long enough to arm the explosive. Most of the bombs just bounced off.”

So how much has he raised for the Lifeboat?

He pulled out a sheaf of receipts: “I’m the third highest donor…”


“In Lowestoft.”

Good for you, Roy!


Soggy Bottom

I don’t think I have posted anything about my folding bike. The only time it has been mentioned at all was when it got me lost one miserable winter’s night in the sugar beet fields of Essex.

But in fact the Brompton is just about the best thing on the boat.

Brompton bicycles are very fashionable now – you can see people in Hugo Boss suits carrying them off the Underground at Bank and Westminster. They are certainly expensive enough to be fashionable – you can buy a flashy racing bike for less. But your carbon fibre thoroughbred will not collapse into a bag no bigger than a brick salesman’s briefcase.

Of course, mine was free – but that was 25 years ago when hardly anyone had heard of them – certainly I hadn’t.

I had just announced in the Travel pages of the Daily Telegraph that Tamsin and I had given up our jobs and henceforth would be living aboard our tiny catamaran and exploring the UK from the outside – and there, to illustrate it, was a picture of us doing nautical things – and in the foreground, lashed to the rail, were two folding bikes.

They were early Bickerton’s – a type you don’t see any more. I’m not surprised: Being made entirely of aluminium, the frame would bend as you pedalled along, giving the whole thing the riding characteristics of a bucking bronco machine in a Liverpool pub.

No sooner had the photograph appeared than Andrew Ritchie, the inventor of the Brompton, wrote and said that under no circumstances should I set off on my adventure with a Bickerton. He insisted I would need something much more sturdy – and he would donate one of his own machines.

By this time, Tamsin and I had become rather blasé about being given things. Now that we were in the paper, shoes and clothes and bit of equipment turned up almost daily. Still, a brand new Brompton was a real coup.

Looking at the competition’s website today, it appears that the Bickerton people have caught up – indeed their latest folding bike looks a lot like the Brompton. But it is too late. I am a Brompton convert. I rode it on excursions all round the UK. I rode it on the wonderful cycle paths of The Netherlands where bicycles are the highest form of life. It carried all the shopping, it delivered 20litres of petrol back from the garage. There seemed to be nothing it could not do.

For the 18 years I lived ashore, it was my daily mode of transport around town – even though the family insisted I looked ridiculous and why didn’t I get a mountain bike like everyone else?

The Brompton really is the most brilliant invention and the fact that my 25-year-old bike is very much the same as the latest version, shows you that Mr Ritchie had designed that ultimate rarity, an almost-perfect machine.

I say almost-perfect because I have just discovered the one design flaw.

As I mentioned, you may have read about us (me and the bike) getting lost among the sugar beet – and all the mud we collected under the mudguard (which is why it’s called a mudguard).

Well, a couple of days ago, it occurred to me that there was still an awful lot of sugar beet field bound up in the mechanism and this might not be good for even the most reliable piece of machinery. So I bought an aerosol of special cycle cleaner. You spray it on, wait for all the muck to dissolve and then hose it off. Obviously, the best way to do this is with the bike upside down.

Having never looked closely at my bicycle upside down, I had never noticed that there is a big hole in the bottom right in the middle next to the pedals – just where I was directing the jet from the hose to clear away all the now-emulsified mud. The water gurgled away merrily down the hole almost as if this was a bath emptying.

Of course the hole is not a bath plug at all. It is the open end of the saddle tube – on the other end of which is the saddle … the specially-designed Brompton saddle – a legend in cycling comfort and, more than that, waterproof when rained upon while parked outside the pub… at least, when rained on outside the pub providing the bicycle is upright…

If the bicycle is not upright and you direct a hose straight down the saddle tube, all the water will emerge at the other end and promptly fill up the saddle from the inside.

Now, the reason the Brompton saddle is so comfortable is because it is made from a clever sort of semi-rigid sponge.

And we all know how a sponge and water go together.

It was not until yesterday when finally, we got some sun, that the saddle dried out. In the meantime – well, you will have noticed the title of this post…


If you wondered why people write sailing blogs, here’s an answer for you:

You get to meet all sorts of useful people.

My friend Jeremy is one such. I’ve never met him, of course. He’s a “virtual friend” – although, we have exchanged an enormous number of emails as he attempted (and finally succeeded) in ordering the health supplement that keeps me going (see the “Good Health” tab above).

Anyway, I mentioned that I had been sitting on a mooring at Felixstowe Ferry for the past 48 hours waiting for a weather window to jump to Lowestoft (tomorrow looks good).

Whereupon Jeremy sends me the following:

Lowestoft – fished out of there back in the 70’s, skippering a 50 foot longliner, Cod in the winter and Spurdog in the summer, together with a bit of trawling.

Bloody horrible entrance with a good ebb tide and a bit of slop. Tide runs hard across the entrance, trying to push you into the north wall, then as soon as you get your nose into the harbour, it pushes your stern around trying to get you to hit the south wall.

They had a massive tragedy there back in the 1800’s. A summer storm came out of nowhere and they lost many lives at the harbour entrance with the sailing boats unable to make it into the harbour before being smashed against the north wall.

All I got from Reeds was: Shelter Good. accessible H24. Wind over tide, especially on the ebb, can make the entrance lively.”

I said I’d let him know how I get on.


More on Bad Back (Health)

I have started learning Yoga from Desmond Dunne’s 1961 classic Yoga Made Easy – and discover that the exercise I recommend on the Bad Back page is, in fact, a pose called The Cobra (Bhujangasana):

“An exercise to make the spine amazingly supple and flexible, at the same time it revitalises abdominal muscles. Kidney, liver and pancreas are stimulated so that appetite improves and bodily heat increases. This asana is of great value to persons who do a great deal of stooping – sedentary workers and women overburdened with housework – and all who suffer from habitual backache.

“Caution: If your spine is stiff, proceed cautiously. Remember that whereas a smooth, slow stretch  will benefit you, a wrench may be painful or even harmful.”

There you are. I said I’d learned it from someone else…


There used to be a time when you could get lost on a boat – well, not exactly lost … but, maybe you might experience that nagging sensation of being not quite where you thought you should be.

Of course, this didn’t matter too much in the middle of an ocean – the sun would come out tomorrow and all that…

Then along came GPS and we all knew precisely where we were every moment of every day – right down to the last decimal place on the LCD screen.

So how is that in this age of digital navigation I found myself in the middle of a ploughed field, staring at Google Maps by moonlight and wondering where I’d left the boat?

Well, actually that’s not a fair question. I knew exactly where I’d left the boat – anchored comfortably at the south end of Kirby Creek in Walton Backwaters on England’s East Coast. Anyway, if I wasn’t sure, I could always use the Shipfinder app on my phone because I had taken the precaution of switching on the AIS for five minutes before I left (a little trick I picked up when coming back to the dinghy and finding Swanage Bay had gone opaque}. No, the difficulty was navigating the Essex countryside – particularly the myriad farm tracks which don’t feature on Maps.

It had all looked so easy in daylight. I had anchored in my favourite spot and left Samsara in the care of the seals and geese while I took the dinghy up to the little jetty on the edge of the saltings. Then, manhandling the folding bicycle up the sea wall, all I had to do was pedal along it for quarter of a mile without riding into the mud on one side over the 10ft drop on the other, before turning left at an isolated barn – the only feature in this fabulously wild landscape – and start on the best part of a mile up a cart track through the sugar beet fields to the farm where the track turned into a concrete lane. Half a mile up this and I would come to the road. All I had to do was turn left to Kirby-le-Soken (two pubs, two churches, one shop).

This, I should add, is currently my commute to work – yes, I’ve gone back to work for a bit: You can read all about it on my Facebook page The Network Marketing Blog. It means that for a couple of weeks, the dinghy ride, the muddy ascent of the wobbly staging and the ride along the sea wall is going to become just as much a routine as the District Line used to be from Chiswich Park to Kensington High Street.

It was just that Google Maps’ version of Deans Hall Farm, Kents Hall Farm and Hall Farm itself was not a patch on Transport For London’s version.

With sunset somewhere in the middle of the afteroon, I was well aware that it would be dark by the time I made the return journey. I had two tail lights (one on the top of my high-viz cycle helmet) and three front lights – two of them flashing, no less). I was a bit like a two-wheeled Christmas tree.

And, so I progressed – highly vizibly – past the first farm track: That couldn’t be the one because it smelled strongly of farm and I didn’t remember that.

The second turning seemed much more familiar. It progressed from concrete lane to muddy track. There was a farmhouse with cosily-lit windows. I imagined the ruddy-faced farmer presiding over a table with a picture-book farmer’s wife and half a dozen rosy-cheeked children tucking into home-slaughtered crackling and cider.

By the time I ended up in the ploughed field, I hoped they choked on it.

Hauling the bike out of the mire (have you ever manhandled a folling bicycle? It keeps on folding on you) I set off back up the lane – only to find that much of the ploughed field was now wedged firmly under the rear mudguard so that it was only with the greatest effort that the wheel could be made to turn at all.

How do you get a clod of mud out from under your mudguard in the dark, in the middle of nowhere and, certainly, miles from any useful implement? Well, why do you think it’s called a mud-guard?

In the end, I had to use one of only two biros I had with me – and still the wheel only rotated under protest. By the time I regained what passed for the “main road” I felt I had competed in the alpine section of the Tour de France.

So where now? Google Maps offered three farm tracks – none of which went anywhere near where I estimated the jetty to be (should have stuck an electronic pin in it). I had dismissed the first – but on the other hand, the third appeared to be miles away.

I turned left and investigated the first again. Sure enough there was a farm down there – and a pond, which I remembered. But no unpaved track going any further…

Back to option three – which was another two miles back in the opposite direction. There were some familiar features down that one – speed bumps, a high hedge… sugarbeet… a pond…

And then, of course, another muddy field.

I’d had enough of this. I’d been peddling up and down getting nowhere for an hour. I was covered in mud. I had the other half of last night’s spaghetti putanesca waiting for me (made with sardines for extra zizz).

I would ask at the farmhouse (I’m not proud).

Given that there is plenty of spare land in North Essex, the farmhouse was at the end of a long, sweeping, crunching drive. The farmer was at the door long before I reached it – which might have had something to do with the fact that I was still flashing like the Regents Street decorations.

“Ah,” he said. “I know exactly where you want to be.” And he did too – in fact it was his mooring I had borrowed for the adventures described on November 16th last year under the short but apt title of “Mud” (yes, more of it).

So where did I need to go? You guessed it, back to the first turning – the one I had dismissed right at the start of this shambles.Sure enough, there was the dinghy waiting obediently at the jetty – and, in the distance, Samsara’s automatic anchor light shining like a welcome-home beacon.

The destination by daylight

Where have all the dolphins gone?

I have just been reading Leslie Johansen Nack’s book Fourteen about sailing the Pacific and this is her decription from 1974:

Seeing the dolphins every single day never got boring or old. There were often twenty or thirty dolphins, maybe more because it was hard to count when they all came up at different times…

It reminded me of the passage in Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way:

I hear familiar whistlings and hurry out, as always when porpoises are around. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many at once. The water is white with their splashing, furrowed in all directions by the knives of their dorsal fins. There must be close to a hundred… A tight line of 25 porpoises swimming abreast goes from stern to stem on the starboard side, in three breaths, then the whole group veers right and rushes off at right angles, all the fins cutting the water together and in the same breath taken on the fly. I watch, wonderstruck. More than ten times they repeat the same thing…

What he is describing here is the legendary incident when the dolphins warned him that Joshua was heading straight for the rocks on Stewart Island at the Southern tip of New Zealand. That was in 1968.

And between 1987 and 1991 when I sailed twice from Falmouth to the Azores and back and competed in the OSTAR to Newport, barely a day went by without a visit from dolphins or whales.

Yet this year, returning to ocean sailing, with a passage from the Western Isles to the Azores and then back to the Solent, I think I could count the sightings on the fingers of one hand.

Was I just unlucky or is this an example of what we are doing to the planet and its wildlife?

Or is it, as Douglas Adams suggested in his Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy follow-up So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, simply a case of the most intelligent life-forms leaving The Earth by “their own means”?


The Test

Tuesday November 20th

Long ago, I decided that if I was going to live on a boat, then it had to be all the year round – otherwise it would just feel like a holiday. Admittedly, I still have family commitments so I shall be going home this week for ten days – and then again over Christmas and New Year. But the house in Woodbridge is beginning to feel like a place to visit whereas life aboard Samsara is rapidly becoming “home”.

And today I have had my first taste of what that means. It was, in a sense, a test: The forecast was 25kt winds, a real winter chill of 30C and driving sleet.

In fact, when I awoke at 0830 with the boat heeling to 30kt gusts whipping across Kirby Creek, the thermometer above the chart table registered 70C. This seemed encouraging – until I considered that it probably had something to do with the fug released by unzipping two sleeping bags, one inside the other.

But who needs to get up at 8.30 on a day like today? I climbed back in, taking with me the Kindle and Neil Hawkesford’s A Foolish Voyage.

Incidentally, this book is staying in my library along with Moitessier’s The Long Way. Even though it’s self-published and largely unknown, I think it’s up there with the great sailing books. Just like Moitessier, Hawkesford digs deep into his emotions – here is a man who spent his whole life wanting nothing more than to live on a boat and go sailing… and eventually he managed it. I can relate to that. I’ve just written a glowing review and downloaded the sequel…

In the end, of course, I did have to get up. I mean, you can’t stay in bed all day, can you? Even if there’s no parent to come barging into your bedroom with a basinful of adult responsibility… even if you’re so grown up, yourself, that you’re retired and really don’t have to do anything ever again…

So, I emerged for a second time at 10.30 – and found the cabin still wasn’t any warmer. For a moment I hankered after one of those automatic forced-air central heating systems where you poke one finger out from under the duvet, push a button and wait for the boat to reach a sensible temperature.

Of course, I could have roused myself to get up and light the charcoal stove but that seemed like a slippery slope – pretty soon I would have it running it all day as well as all evening and, while matters might yet come to that, I don’t want to start down the wimpy route until I have to.

The answer was to keep moving: Without going outside into the cold and wind, that meant rubbing down the bulkhead ready for painting (and clearing up all the dust that produced) carving a new knob for the heads door… you can imagine the kind of thing…

It got me as far as a late lunch and a second cup of tea but after sitting still for an hour finishing the book, 70C didn’t seem so homely any more. I lit the stove at 3.30.

By 9.30 I was sitting so close to it that I was beginning to singe.

By 10.30 I was a back in the two sleeping bags – now with Hawkesford’s second book A Foolish Odyssey.

Odd really, I wouldn’t swap places with anyone…