Late Cruise


The inshore waters forecast was not encouraging. Still, it was late in the season, so that was to be expected. We shoved the tender into the water, piled in supplies and pulled the starter cord on the outboard. The outboard had had a hard old year, and refused to go. So we plonked the oars in the rowlocks and began to row.

The surface of the sea was by no means the charming blue to which we had become accustomed during the long hot summer. On the plus side of the ledger, there was not much breeze. On the  minus side it was grey and grim, with a sullen heave to it that implied that somewhere in the distance quite a lot of weather was taking place, and judging by the jagged fronts octopussing over the Atlantic surface pressure chart that weather would be heading this way.

We rowed, sitting on top of the tarpaulin spread over the heap of clothes and supplies against a small, thin rain that had begun to fall. It was only when we came alongside the boat that it became apparent that there was quite a lot of sea running. Still, we tied on and started to pass bundles and bags up and over the side, operating on the theory that while some of them were not fragile others were, so if you treated everything as if it was the priceless porcelain of Marie Antoinette you could not go far wrong.

The rain fell and seeped round corners in the clothes and fell some more and seeped some more. Breathable oilskins are all very well, but under these conditions they are about as useful as kitchen towels. Soon we were experiencing a universal dampness, and beginning to entertain the heretical notion that while swinging moorings are ecologically sound and do not harm the bank balance, there is much to be said for marinas with shore power and tumble dryers, and cute little barrows instead of wildly rocking tenders.

These, however, were counsels of despair, not to be entertained. Down went the bags and bundles, and into the lockers we packed them. The stove spread a grateful warmth over the proceedings, and a cheese sandwich restored the tissues, so it was possible to ignore the howl of the breeze in the rig and the hammer of unfrapped halyards on the mast. 

After lunch the stowing continued. The interior of the boat ceased to resemble an RNLI jumble sale, and began to take on the orderly appearance of a yacht's saloon, with an un-nautical bowl of fruit and the ship's guitar propped behind the banquettes. Outside, the halyards were still at it like the hammers of hell. A bracing touch of frapping, and the hammering ceased. It was replaced by the wolflike howl of the breeze and the crash of the fruit bowl hurtling across the saloon, for the tide had turned, and the wind was up and blowing across it, and a ferocious rock and roll had set in.

In these circumstances it seemed to be a good idea to devote the evening to passage planning, study of the Ashley Book of Knots and a touch of impromptu folksong. Departure could be postponed till the following day. At some point we rolled into our sleeping bags and plunged into a dark and knackered sleep. Next morning the sea was merry and blue as a baby's eyes, the breeze a mere zephyr.

We ate a hearty breakfast, pulled up some sails, and glided between hills the colour of rusty iron towards the flat horizon beyond the spiky heights of Arran.

In our dreams, anyway.

Sam Llewellyn, Editor Marine Quarterly