Company

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.

 

___________________

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf-uzDM-300d

 

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…”

___________________

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf-uzDM-300d

Poole

September 26th 2018

This is Poole Harbour tonight. It’s going to be hard to leave tomorrow.

I can’t believe I will have been here ten days – the first week because of gales and the rest because of calms. I’ve been ashore once for four hours to fill up with water, do some shopping and get the washing done.

… and I’ve loved every minute of it.

I once read that Poole is the second-largest natural harbour in the world (Sydney being the largest). This means that you can cruise around without going outside at all. At present, I am anchored off Goathorn Point in the South Deep – before that, I was in Blood Alley Lake which I chose over Pottery Pier or Shipstal Point.

Of course, I know it all – or I used to. I kept my first boat here, a little 18ft Caprice in 1979 and then, in 1982, Largo was on a mooring off Brownsea Island. I can’t believe that I thought nothing of ferrying my two sons, then aged eight and ten, in an inflatable dinghy all the way across the ship channel to the Lilliput shore (nobody thought of wearing a lifejacket in those days).

For the past 48 hours, I have done some reading and some maintenance – but also spent a lot of time just watching the harbour traffic – such as it: The wobbly paddle-boarders, the drifting dayboats with the helmsman’s feet up on the gunwhale and there’s a sightseeing boat which looks just like Brian the Snail from the Magic Roundabout.

Now a party from the house behind the “Keep Off” signs on the point has brought their gin and tonics down to their private jetty to enjoy the sunset. I don’t blame them, I sat up on the stern seat and watched a pair of birds skimming the water as they headed home, their wings almost dipping into what didn’t look like water at all but solid gold.

Ah well, the wind should be returning tomorrow night – from the wrong direction, as it happens but I’ve only got to get to the East Coast and at the beginning of the summer I had headwinds all the way from North East England to South West Scotland so I reckon I deserved a rest…

 

___________________

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf-uzDM-300d

 

 

Six days

September 23rd

This must be the longest I have stayed aboard in the same place since I moved onto Samsara last year: Six days and we’re still gale-bound in Poole.

Well, technically-speaking, it’s not a gale – just blowing 25knots and raining sideways like it did all day yesterday.

Am I bothered? I’m loving it!

If you have read the “Old Man’s Story” page, you will know that I always knew this is what I wanted to do – and I am thrilled to report that it is living up to every expectation…

Yesterday, I phoned my 20-year-old son at University and he asked what I was doing. I suppose it was a good question. What have I done for the past six days? I haven’t been ashore…

In fact, the shore is more than a mile away, (unless you count the uninhabited Brownsea Island a hundred yards out of the window). The weather has been so foul that, apart from hoisting the Aquair generator into the rigging to make electricity from all this wind, the only times I have been outside have been to check for chafe on the mooring lines. Then it’s back down below and put kettle on…

Just as the days settle into a routine at sea, so they do in harbour.

And who needs to set an alarm? There’s luxury in waking up when you’ve finished sleeping. I reach out from under the covers and pull the phone in with me. This blog is producing some excitement: 50 views a day and rising…

A good deal of time has been devoted to updating the novel which is currently for sale on Amazon (see above). Now it’s gone off to a London agent. In Jersey, I caught up with my old school friend, the novelist Peter James and discovered just how successful he is (19million books in the Roy Grace series alone).  What the hell I have been doing with my life all this time? Anybody can self-publish on Amazon.

Next, fire off a magazine article and when I’ve finished writing this, I shall dig out the new book, started a month ago and in abeyance because the plot got stuck. Now I stumble on Stephen King asserting on Youtube:  “The plot is the last resort of bad writers”. So that’s all right then…

The days are punctuated by tea and coffee and hours spent reading the Kindle (currently Jojo Moyes, Nevil Schute and Stephen Leather).

Meals from the tins locker are highlights and the evening, an occasion: Curtains drawn at 7.00 p.m. The charcoal stove lit and then out comes a beer and a book (the Pringles ran out the day before yesterday). After that, 45 minutes of Clarinet practice and start cooking just before eight.

At sea, I started a tradition of Dickens with meals and gradually the endless chapters of The Pickwick Papers are slipping by. He’s a lot more fun than when they made me read him at school.

After dinner, when the evening’s musical comes to an end (Gigi and My Fair Lady are favourites), when the washing up is done and the breakfast porridge soaking, another couple of bags of charcoal plop into the stove and it’s time to settle down for “movie night” – don’t you just love Netflix and Amazon Prime? I’ve even got some DVDs in case there’s no mobile signal or the data allowance runs out.

Finally, I can promise you, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more cosy than snuggling down in a darkened cabin with the wind moaning in the rigging and small waves slapping against the hull while your whole world rocks you to sleep.

 

___________________

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf-uzDM-300d

Gale-dodging

September 20th

Sitting in Havelet Bay in Guernsey last Sunday, I fired off a post to the family WhatsApp group saying that the book claimed the bay was protected from south westerly gales – and that I hoped the book was right.

In the event there was a good deal of swell but I came to no harm.  Now I am in Poole Harbour sheltering under the lee of Brownsea Island while watching a whole succession of gales scream across the Windguru weather forecasting app.

The passage across the English Channel was fairly quick in force five-to-seven and I sailed right into Poole Harbour at 1:30 a.m, anchoring in the first likely spot at the eastern end of Brownsea with the intention of finding somewhere more sheltered in daylight.

However, since I’d slept a bit on the way and didn’t feel remotely tired, I stayed up reading until four – which meant that when the harbourmaster came calling at midday, I had only just finished breakfast.

“There are some vacant moorings round the corner, if you’d like to move,” he shouted against the wind, his launch bucking on the breakers kicked up by the mile-and-a-half fetch from the Godlingston shore. “You’d be more comfortable round there – besides, if you drag your anchor, you’ll be down amongst all those moorings across there.”

He gestured towards the Sandbanks shore and the most expensive property values in the world – with boats to match.

For a moment I wanted to say I would prefer my anchor to his moorings – after all, I knew what I was dealing with (my 20kg Rocna is two sizes heavier than the recommended one for my boat). But, of course the harbourmaster didn’t know that. What he did know was that the moorings round the corner were the heaviest in the harbour – all the boats on them were at least 14 metres, compared to Samsara’s 9.7. Besides, arguing with harbourmasters is just plain impolite – apart from being stupid.

The only trouble was, I had been on one of these moorings before: They had a small stainless steel shackle which you have to get a rope through. The best way to do this is for one person snare the buoy with the boathook, a second to reach over the side and thread the rope – and a third to keep the boat motoring gently ahead and in position next to the buoy so all this can be accomplished without any unseemly shouting or falling in the water.

I have to say that with the Storm Ali just setting in, it took me about two hours to perform all these three tasks simultaneously by myself. I think I can be forgiven for not getting up much earlier yesterday.

Meanwhile it looks as thought I have plenty of time: Scrolling through the Windguru timeline, the screen goes mostly purple at least once ever 24 hours. I had planned to go to the Southampton boat show on Sunday – the last day – when they sell off all the stuff they don’t want to take home. But it looks like being utter misery and I would have to go into Ocean Village Marina with their £37.05 fee (which would probably wipe out all the Boat Show savings).

So, I’m here until Monday – a mile from shore but with plenty to do.

For one thing, an email had arrived while I was in the Azores from a literary agent. Following the Daily Mail’s glowing review of my book Trident (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-5066441/THRILLERS.html) I wrote to all the London agents but they all wanted a formal submission which I couldn’t be bothered to do at the time.

Now that the Sheil Land agency has written apologising for not getting back to me sooner, it seems like rather a good idea.

Of course, if I’m going to do a synopsis and everything, it makes sense to go to some trouble – so why not update it? After all, what’s the point in a book set in the future (it was written in the 80’s and set in the 90’s) if they haven’t even got round to inventing the mobile phone?

So, I’ve had to rewrite the first 50 pages – and you have no idea of the changes that has involved.

All of which brings me to another little money-spinner: On the way down to Ponta Delgarda, I read Camino Island by John Grisham which is all about the rare book trade. I had no idea how much the limited run first editions of bestsellers could be worth – and behind my left ear I have six copies of the first Amazon edition of Trident and there can’t be more than a few dozen of those before I corrected all the mistakes. In fact, there can’t be more than about 300 altogether sold on Amazon which is tiny. I was thinking of selling them to anyone who came aboard for a coffee and showed interest. Now I shall keep them for myself – and, of course, if you have a copy, you might like to do the same.

Of course, if you haven’t, you can order it from Amazon on the tab above…

_____________________________________

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf-uzDM-300d

 

Lazy

September 1st 2018

At five O’clock the alarm went off. At 5.30, the other alarm went off.

The explanation for not getting up – not the excuse (there’s no excuse) – is that there’s still 300 miles to go to The Lizard, the nearest I’ve come to a ship in the last ten days is 11 miles and there had been not a breath of wind since teatime yesterday.

So there didn’t seem much urgency about the alarms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a lazy sort of person. You won’t find me lying on the sofa surrounded by empty beer bottles and decomposing pizza boxes watching daytime TV. Indeed, I would like it known that One O’clock this morning found me struggling into foul weather gear while the cabin rolled through 40 degrees. It had been raining for most of the day and there is a saying:

If the rain before the wind,

Lofty ships their topsails mind.

If the wind before the rain,

Soon you may make sail again.

It is surprisingly accurate but does nothing to tell you what will happen if there is no wind. I feel there should be another couplet:

If the rain is all you get,

Sorry mate, you just get wet.

Anyway, at one in the morning there was a breath of wind – only about three knots which, normally, is not worth bothering with. But if I could manage to turn the boat round and head in the right direction, the wind would be from dead astern – and that means that if I had the downwind rig, we could do two or three knots (still rolling like a pig, of course. But rolling and going somewhere is a lot better than rolling and going nowhere).

So, for the best part of an hour, I faffed around with a head-torch rigging two booms, the temporary forestay, the staysail and cruising chute and the eight control lines that little lot requires. The windvane took over and after sitting in the cockpit watching us gliding silently over a flat sea, I settled down for a peaceful night of progress with nothing to disturb me but the alarms every 90 minutes.

Of course, a singlehander sleeping for 90 minutes in the English Channel would never do. But out here (especially with the AIS* running) you could probably sleep all night and not come to grief. No, the reason for the alarms is in case the wind changes – the last thing you want is to poke your head out of the hatch in the morning and find you’ve spent the last six hours going in the wrong direction

Or… in this case, you find that by 3.30 a.m. the wind has dropped again and the boat is going nowhere. Well, not quite nowhere: The effect of the endless rolling is to make the sails act like a bird’s flapping wings. It does produce just enough drive to keep the boat moving at about half a knot. With fore and aft sails, the wear on the canvas is not worth the progress – but my two headsails, firmly tied down to their booms waft gently back and forth without any of the cracking and banging and worries about the stitching…

So, I left them.

At five O’clock the alarm said “It’s Five O’clock” (my alarm speaks, now). However, the boat was still rolling and from the perspective of my sleeping bag, nothing had changed – in which case actually getting up would be nothing more than an inconvenience. So, I didn’t.

I think what I need is an alarm which says: “It’s five O’clock and the wind has sprung up but from exactly the opposite direction. If you get your arse out of bed and bother to take a look, you will find the boat is gliding silently over a flat sea at three-and-a-half knots in the wrong direction.

When I did, finally, get up at half past eight, we were nine miles further away from our destination than we had been when I went to bed.

Worse still, the wind had died again so there was not even hope of making up the loss – and when it did come back, it was from the North East! Exactly where I wanted to go…

It wasn’t until midday that we were back to where we started. In other words, I had lost about 12 hours.

As I write this we are back on course at three-and-a-half knots but it will be another few hours before the errant bit of track drops off the plotter screen and stops accusing me.

 

*AIS: Automatic Identification System. The ship transmits information about itself (Name, course, speed, destination etc). This is received by vessels within VHF range of about 20 miles. The device can sound an alarm which means I know a ship is approaching before I can see it which makes life so much less stressful…

 

 

I can’t pretend it didn’t happen. The plotter cannot lie – and clearly shows all the progress lost while I was asleep!

 

___________________

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf-uzDM-300d