Sam Llewellyn goes on a spring cruise
Spring is trying hard, but it is still too early to be cruising in
British waters. Besides, the boat is still sitting in the yard, and the
cabin cushions are being re-covered, and the sailmakers are a bit
behindhand with the cruising chute.
Still, it would be good to be on the water.
I come to think of it, there is a perfectly serviceable 21ft
open boat sitting in the shed, with an outboard and some sails and a
tent affair that goes over the top of it, and an airbed to sleep on, and
I can nick a four-seasons sleeping bag from someone who has just come
back from his gap year.
Yes. We could have a bit of a
spring cruise. Not a real cruise, to France or anything like that, you
understand, I tell the family as I scuttle around scooping up tins of
tomatoes and ransacking the freezer for boxes of stew. Just, well, here
and there, while the high pressure lasts.
The family says that high pressure will mean light airs and cold nights with a good chance of fog, and they are right.
as I trail the boat down to the harbour, I reflect that it also means
blue skies, and that a touch of frost and fog did not deter the great
Frank Dye from cruising up the Intracoastal Waterway of the USA and into
the Great Lakes in a Wayfarer dinghy.
The 21ft boat I am towing practically a palace compared to a
Wayfarer, I am thinking as it rolls into the water from the trailer.
pressure or not, there is enough breeze to fill the cruising chute. Off
we go, sliding across the harbour. It is not what you would call
summery, but the sun is warm on the padded coat. The only navigational
aids we have with us are a VHF, for the weather, and a GPS, for the fog,
and a compass, for the usual reasons.
As so often at
this time of year, what wind there is is from the east. So we beat up
for a bay that faces west. The anchor goes down at sevenish, and so does
the sun, a big blood-red ball on the glassy horizon.
The spirit stove makes a cheerful warmth in the tent. Above the
remains of the sunset, Venus and Jupiter float hand in hand, Jupiter’s
moons in their perpetual straight line, Venus big enough to show as a
crescent in the binoculars.
There ought to be fog.
Instead there is a mackerel sky after moonrise, because the VHF says the
weather is going round to the southwest.
morning it is time to put a couple of reefs in the mainsail, point the
nose across the bay and spend the best part of the day sailing
full-and-by for the buoyed channel into the harbour, perched on the
weather rail, the wake thundering away down the lee side.
is the south coast of England, but there are only two other boats in
sight. We catch the tide into the harbour mouth and turn west,
short-tacking athletically up the narrow channels under a sky growing
grimmer by the minute, until we find an anchorage protected by a low red
There we sleep the sleep of the fully
oxygenated, the boat rocking gently in the cliff’s lee while trees blow
down all over England. In the morning the sea is satin-calm, and the
yodel of curlews mixes with the song of thrushes over from the land.
We take the tent down and head back for the trailer. It was not a real cruise. But it felt all right to me.
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