Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Don’t Look Back – Too Often.

Yea - sometimes I wear a tie - now that I don't have to
Its better, I find, not to look back too often. What is ahead is infinitely more interesting that what has been
done. One time each year however, Susan and I like to review progress and share aspirations – she for her art, garden and potager, me for the boat, writing and my guitar playing. And then there is the joint stuff – house renovation projects, trips and voyages. The discussion, which we refer to as the ‘shareholders’ meeting usually takes place at this time of year in front of a log fire with a special heart-warming dinner and a bottle of better than average plonk. So, this year our meeting will be on Saturday evening on my return from Jersey where I am undertaking a writing project at the moment.

With the meeting in mind, I found myself reviewing my boating year the other day. How was 2013 as a boating year? Well pretty good considering I didn’t have a boat on the water.

Winter last year was exceptionally long – at times it felt as if spring would never arrive. But then in May the weather improved and Mother Nature made a dash for summer. Without a sailing boat, the two man sit-on-top kayak was the way to get afloat – and I have to admit it provided a lot of fun – paddling up creeks and into waters hidden from and denied to larger deeper drafted vessels, harvesting wild Samphire and cockles from mud banks inaccessible to everyone else. Something good about paddling too – getting the winter chill out of the old bones and sinew.

But then, toward summer I was invited to sail La Passagere – a heavy old wooden gaff ketch. We even took the mayor of Plouer out for a sail and showed him bits of his parish he had rarely seen.

Full summer, and I had the opportunity to crew a Moody 33 from Plouer to St Valerie en Caux – a delivery trip – a forty hour, 200 mile voyage north through the Channel Islands and the infamous Alderney Race, out into the English Chanel and then East, passing Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, the mouth of the Seine, Dieppe, and on to our destination, arriving at dawn, a half hour before ETA.

Autumn, and I managed to crew a friend’s newly bought Cornish Shrimper, an unexpected bonus. He’d bought her to renovate and discovered that she was in very good order and there was no reason not to launch.

Late autumn completed the circle – I was back with the canoe and foraging for wild fruit along the estuary shores, pretty good for a guy living through a boat famine.

Memories such as these led me to digging out log books from even earlier voyages aboard my old sloop Seaward Lady a  24ft Macwester Rowan Crown and later aboard Susan of the Seas a twin engined Channel Islands 22. Glancing through the books over a glass of wine by the fire is certainly an instructive, if not always an enjoyable, occasion. In truth it’s a history of highs and lows - dates, times, distances, courses and compass headings – data that serves as a reminder of the successful and not so successful trips. Logbook data has its obvious uses at sea while on passage but  it’s often the comments made in the margins that are the most telling. ‘Skipper has close family connection to Captain Bligh’ was one that made me wince.  Another salt-stained almost illegible comment contained the words ‘skipper’and ‘pollark’ I think that’s what it said anyway. Surprisingly enough, I also came across a poem of sorts –

We were out one day down Carteret way
The waves were high and rollin’
Bail out! Sue hollered
But she needn’t have bothered
The bucket had a hole in.’

But enough of looking back! A free copy of the local tide tables landed on my doormat this morning and the shortest day of the year is already passed – sure signs that its time to get back to the boatyard.

For other aspects of this frugal life please read Frugal Living in France