Mukti’s Diary • July 2007
Tuesday 31st July
The Bentley of Sailing Vessels
We woke up to find ourselves moored on a pontoon with the most beautiful array of stunning wooden Gaffers that I have seen in one place at one time. Our immediate neighbour, Brian, offered us a cup of tea, and told us about the traditional working boats, the east coast smacks. He sails his own 35ft Gaffer single handed, and takes kids out to give them an experience of the sea.
After breakfast, Tony, in the boat ahead of us, a stunning 44ft black wooden Gaff-rigged smack called Maria, called me over to have a look round. She was recently re-launched after a complete restoration. He invited me out for her second sail since the re-launch, and as she was such a stunning vessel, I accepted. The owner, Paul, and the mate, Tom, came aboard at twelve, and we sailed out on the top of the tide.
What a vessel she is, the Maria. 20 tonnes of Larch-on-Oak, with 10 tonnes of lead ballast. A 40ft solid Douglas-Fir main-mast and a tremendous boom and gaff of the same. The decks themselves were Douglas-Fir, which I have never seen before. Douglas Fir is a material I love; Chance has her mast and spars made of it, and I recently build a whole conservatory from it. It has a beautiful golden colour, and a strong, waving grain. And of course, a tremendous strength-to-weight ratio.
The Maria was like driving a Bentley after Chance. Her vast canvas set, she eased over onto her side and set into the course with silent momentum. Stood at the vast, 7ft tiller, the whole of the vessel is around and below you, not in front and above you like many a modern yacht, so you feel like a king, and the sea and the land and everything around is openly in your view and all around you. In fact, I've designed Chance in a similar way, so the greater part of your sphere of vision is of the elements around and the boat itself takes as little as possible of your view. The Maria has low, 18" bulwarks (the wooden "fence" around the boat), and great open decks, broken only by three modest sized hatches into the three hull compartments. So there is space and openness all around you, with no clutter, which has the effect of making you feel as if you have space and openness in your mind. Space to settle into, move about in and enjoy.
We put the Maria through her paces, testing a new topsail, and pacing the other Gaffers around, in preparation for the weekend's races. The sun shone brilliantly down, and the sea was a light green-brown with a playful chop all over it, in the sporting force four of a perfect sailing afternoon. Returning to the Brightlingsea creek, we made a run of the harbour, turned at the far end, and ran back out under those acres of red-brown canvas and the long streaming black and white pennant at the mast-head. It had to be carefully done, as the Maria carries no engine - to keep to minimum weight for racing - a perfect boat for me. Her owner Paul was brought up on the East Coast smacks, and had been sailing and looking after them all his life. Finally we were alongside again and strapping the gaff and the mainsail down with sail ties that were 6ft long, of 2" webbing. And Brian made tea for all of us.
Sunday 29th July
Another Low Carbon example
I went to chat to Rob, a young policeman from Ramsgate, who was just finishing his round Britain trip in a 20ft boat. He said it felt like a palace after seeing ours. He set off, but we stayed in as the weather forecast was quite strong, and we were tired.
We had a series of visitors including Dave Kelf, who had run down from Yarmouth, Helen and Robin from Great Days and their son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Their son, Steve, is a fisheries scientist, and cycles 12 miles to work and back every day. He said it wakes him up in the morning and de-stresses him in the evening, as well as being part of a low carbon lifestyle. It was so good to hear another case of what I had been using as an example in my talks, of how low carbon lifestyles can improve your quality of life.
Rowena and I went to watch the Honda Powerboat Championships off the quay wall for a bit at lunchtime. Even these could be part of a low carbon lifestyle, because if the fuel used is divided between all the spectators, it is very little for each person. This is particularly true of Formula One racing. I have heard it said that an entire Formula One racing season uses less fuel than one jumbo jet flying to Australia! So even some apparently high-carbon activities have a place in a low carbon lifestyle if they are benefiting many people.
After a siesta, I went round to visit a Dutch couple on their 44ft lift-keel yacht, Skua. I have noticed when cruising the Atlantic that many of the most serious yachts you see are owned by the Dutch. They are often aluminium, and fitted out with very strong fittings, suitable for the South Seas and anywhere in the world.
Monday 30th July
Great East Coast Welcomes
There was an early favourable tide, so we set off at six for Felixstowe. We sailed well in the light northeasterlies and were off the mouth of the river Alde by lunchtime, but I couldn't spot it for the life of me. I was staring at this green starboard-hand buoy that was plonked right by the beach, saying to Rowena: "What on earth is that green buoy doing there? I can't see a channel anywhere!" It was infact running at an angle of just a few degrees from the line of the beach, with sand banks all around so you couldn't really see it unless you knew it was there. By the time I'd worked it all out, we were half a mile further on, and doing well, so I opted for the river Deben, just four miles further.
We didn't think it worth fighting the strong tide with the light winds, so wanted to moor for the afternoon and finish the last few miles to Felixstowe in the evening. Taking the telephone number from the chart, I called the harbourmaster of the little village of Felixstowe Ferry at the mouth of the river Deben. His name was John White, and I got through immediately. When we got down to the Deben half an hour later, John was waiting outside the estuary to escort us in. He was in his beautiful clinker-built boat, Ellen, that he had built himself by hand. John took us through the sandbanks to a deepwater mooring, and after we had put the boat in order, ferried us ashore for the afternoon. Felixstowe Ferry is a lovely, quiet, peaceful spot, and we lay on the river bank to rest in the gentle sunshine.
At six we were under way again, out of the narrow channel at low tide and into a choppy sea with a brisk southeasterly that wasn't in the forecast. It was good for a sail though, and we made for the Harwich estuary. It was such a good breeze that we decided to pass Felixstowe and carry on to Brightlingsea, close to our destination of Colchester.
John had advised us to call Harwich before crossing the very busy shipping lane, so I did. The lady running Harwich harbour operations on Channel 71 was incredibly calm and professional. There was a constant stream of massive freighters and ferries running in and out of the channel, but her voice exuded cool, calm authority. She guided us through the shipping lane with great courtesy and we cut across between the towering ships, thanking her kindly and wishing her a pleasant evening watch. Dealing with the British Coastguard and harbour authorities gives one pride and pleasure.
Towards the end of Rowena's watch we reached the mouth of the river Colne. It was near to high tide so there was plenty of water all over the estuary. Rowena was dead tired and wanted to drop the hook anywhere, but with our lift keel and a rising tide, there was no risk to grounding so we carried on, and found our way onto the moorings of Brightlingsea at 1145.
Saturday 28th July
Sailing through a windfarm
The forecast was W/SW 4/5 becoming Cyclonic 5 to 7 later. But by all accounts the 5-7 was expected to be towards the end of the 24hr period. W/SW was good for our course around Norfolk, which began heading east and would end heading south to Great Yarmouth.
Frank Dyer came down at 6 am to see us off, which was very touching. Peter Rainsford in his 16ft Drascombe Lugger, along with two other local boats, escorted us out of the estuary just after high water at 6:30 am. It was great to sail out with these other boats, and we were just half an hour behind four other yachts leaving Wells. Once out of the channel and into the sea, there was quite a chop on, and after turning east we were surfing away down the waves at a great pace. The sun shone, the wind blew and the spray flew, and we rocketed along the North Norfolk coast at up to 8 knots with the tide behind us.
After midday we had passed Sheringham and Cromer and started to turn southeast "round the corner". The wind eased and the tide turned against us, but we had done so well in the first few hours we could afford to slow up a bit. The sun was still shining and we cruised along the beaches, a bunch of jetskiers coming out to say hello.
In the late afternoon we were approaching Great Yarmouth when we came to an offshore windfarm of 30 great wind turbines. We looked at them for a while considering whether to go round. But it would have been a detour and we fancied sailing between them. We headed for the inshore route. The vast blades were turning a quite a rate and there was a strong tidal current so to keep it safe we sailed inside the far inside windmill, and I filmed the great blades turning above us. When very close, they made a swishing sound but it was very quiet. We sped under and through and on towards our destination.
By now the tide was in full flow and we were shooting past Yarmouth. There was a long river to follow to reach the town anyway, where as Lowestoft, just 5 miles further on, was right by the sea. Since we had no event, and the BBC hadn't called me, we opted for Lowestoft.
The tide eased up and we got into the marina at 8pm. Robin on Great Days said he was pleased to see we were in safely before the weather turned. It was a nice marina, and the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club was very smart.
Friday 27th July
Meeting Frank Dyer
There was still a gale in the forecast so we stayed put. At midday I went round to Peter Rainsford's house. Peter and his family had come to my talk last Saturday, and had let the local press know about my call. He was in, and over a cup of tea we called some local radio and television stations. Peter is a great character who has been instrumental in saving the local hospital. He is also a sailor and used to be the Wells Lifeboat Operations Manager; he is still a deputy launching authority for the lifeboat and knows a lot about the local sea area.
After tea he took me round to meet the legendary Frank Dyer, who lives round the corner. Frank is infamous for sailing a Wayfarer (16ft open dinghy) to Iceland, as well as Norway and all over the UK. I had met Frank when displaying Chance at the Beale Park Boat Show three years ago. Frank was just about to go out, so I invited him down to the boat later.
Back aboard, Rowena and I made lunch. Then we had a surprise visit: Dave Kelf, national runner and supporter of the tour, who lives in Devon, dropped by with a friend. Dave is organising a run alongside the tour between Poole and Weymouth, and also helping with the Exeter event. He was in Norfolk to visit his parents. We had a great lunch of salads, pasta, bread and cheese, on deck.
After lunch radio journalist Laura Hampton dropped in. She interviewed me for Radio Norwich, North Norfolk Radio and The Beach Radio. She did a great interview, including a guided tour of the boat. Afterwards she said "I wish I was doing something like this" and bid me farewell.
That evening Frank Dyer came down to the pontoon and came aboard Chance for a chat while we were cooking dinner. It was great to have him on board, and he asked a lot of questions about the boat and the trip. I asked him about sailing up the Thames without an engine. He had done it in his Wayfarer when London was a busy port. He said you just have to work the tides.
After dinner we went aboard Great Days again for a drink with Helen and Robin. There were several yachts in the harbour that were all planning to leave on the morning tide, including us.
Thursday 26th July
The Sky was Getting Dramatic
There was a Gale in the forecast so we stayed put. Rowena did the Laundry while I did office work, and we went up to the Cider Press for lunch. In the evening Jim was away so we invited Pete down to the boat for dinner. Pete, who had studied meteorology, told us many fascinating things about the weather and the sky. For instance, all rain starts as snow higher up, and it only turns to rain as it gets nearer the ground. Rowena was cooking and she braved a tremendous downpour whilst Pete and I sat in the cabin looking out with glasses of wine. I offered to swap, but Rowena insisted on carrying on, and produced a delicious meal. The rain cleared and we sat in the cockpit for dinner. By the time Pete left the sky was getting dramatic, with huge grey clouds rimmed in scorching silver by the setting sun.
Wednesday 25th July
100 Tacks to Wells
We woke up late and there was no rush since slack tide was at 1pm. The wind had picked up to a SW6 and the tide made us lye beam-on to the waves, but the wind was off the shore and to my surprise it was quite comfy on board. It was great to wake up in a little boat, prop oneself up on ones elbows and look out of the windows to find sea all around.
We set sail at 1230 and beat in towards the channel under a reefed main and double-reefed Genoa. The tide in the Channel was at half flood so there wasn't much water. We had to do a lot of short tacks in towards the beach, and at one point there were children playing in the sand just 10 ft from the boat. The tide helped us in. Towards Wells the Channel was just 20 ft wide. We touched a couple of times and Rowena had to hoik up the keel in between tacking the Genoa, but after what seemed like a hundred short tacks we were in, and alongside the visitor's pontoon in this pretty little town. We had some lunch, and then said we'd just have a snooze for an hour. We awoke from deep sleep 2 ½ hours later. By the time we had had showers it was 9 o'clock so we went for Chips. We sat on the quay wall and Neil and Berry, Jim and Pete's friends, came along and invited us back for a glass of juice.
Tuesday 24th July
A Difficult Forecast
It turned out that the lights on tall poles were in fact yachts, but we didn't recognise them as they had been lying so still when we had been bouncing along to windward. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the forecast this morning. The inshore forecast was SE becoming NE 3 to 4 occasionally 5. But the shipping forecast gave Northerly Gale 8 expected soon for the sea area Humber, and we were anchored in the mouth of the river Humber. I called the Coastguard about it and they pointed out that the sea area Humber stretches all the way to Holland, and if gale force winds effect even just a tiny part of it a gale warning must be issued for the area. In fact the Low was in German Bight, which covers the area from Holland to Denmark, so this made perfect sense: The Gale would clip the far South Eastern corner of the Sea Area, two hundred miles away.. We decided to go.
We left at 0930 and in fact the winds were very light. When the tide turned against us in the early evening the GPS read 0 knots so we anchored and cooked pasta and pesto, which we ate in front of a fantastic skyscape where the sun spread rays skyward from behind a large dense cloud. After dinner the tide eased and we set off again towards Wells. It was a long passage - nearly 50 miles from the Humber. We got to Wells around 0100 am but the strong tide swept us past the mouth of the channel and we could barely beat our way back to it. We anchored to await slack tide in the morning. We were right out at sea, over a mile from the shore, but the boat lay comfortably and we were soon rocked to sleep.
Monday 23rd July
Followed by Seals
The weather was SE becoming NE 3to4 occasionally 5 so off we went. We had to push the tide for six hours, and the wind was light to start with, so we went quite slow. A family of fourteen seals followed us for nearly two hours, continually appearing 10ft behind the boat and looking at us expectantly. We figured they were used to being fed fish by the fishermen.
In the late afternoon the breeze picked up and we eventually reached the mouth of the river Humber at the top of the tide at one in the morning. We anchored behind Spurn Head near some lights on tall poles.
Sunday 22nd July
New Crew Arrives
I got back to Bridlington after lunch. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I cleaned up the boat and got things ready for the new crew, Rowena.
She arrived at seven and we had a nice dinner in the cockpit, with rice, dal, curried vegetables, spinach and salad, followed by strawberries and cream and cheese and biscuits. She brought a delicious bottle of red, so we had a glass too.
Saturday 21st July
Talk in a low carbon Cider press
I took the train and bus down to Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk to give the scheduled talk there. Bridlington Station is the prettiest station I have ever seen. They have kept all the old wooden banisters and features, and built a glass roof over the central courtyard. It is open, spacious and light and is filled with stacks of flowerpots blooming with red, white and blue flowers. It's like walking into a flower show, and puts everyone in an instant good mood.
Peter Lynn met me at the bus Station in King's Lynn and drove me up to Wells. He and his partner Jim run a cider making business. They both used to work in offices but wanted a higher quality of life. They spent a few years researching the kinds of things they could do in Wells and settled on cider making. They then found out how to do it. Jim got a pass to the National Library and looked up every single reference to cider making there was. They found and bought 10 acres of land, and planted 1,800 apple trees by hand. It was five years before the business was really making a proper living and they've never looked back. They do everything from picking the apples by hand, pressing, bottling and selling over the counter. They have 9 types of juice, umpteen ciders and even make cider vinegar! I have made cider myself more than once, but was fascinated to hear that all you need to do is take the lid off and leave it four months and hey presto! - Cider vinegar. I like making green tomato chutney from Clovelly grown tomatoes and onions, and using my own cider vinegar would add a whole new dimension.
The cider press is in some beautiful old stone buildings on the top side of the main car park in Wells. We had a delicious meal of salads with friends, accompanied by apple juice, before the talk. A local farmer called Stephen Temple spoke for 20 minutes on the bio-fuel heaters he had installed in his house and farm. It was amazing to hear how much money he saved by generating heat and power from burning wood chips and wheat, compared with his old gas and electricity systems.
I gave the talk on low carbon lifestyles, which everyone seemed to like, and signed books for a while. Then we went back to Jim and Peter's place for a drink. They have a large and spacious house that they built themselves. It is very well insulated so uses little energy to heat. Altogether the carbon emissions from their lifestyles amount to 5 tonnes each per year - half the national average. They have a car and a large modern house, but they live close to their work, and their house is well insulated. (This does not include an air journey that one of them recently took, however.)
Friday 20th July
Calling Buckingham Palace
The strong wind forecast did at least mean that I could work on the London event. There were lots of emails and calls to do to make sure that Westminster, 10 Downing Street, Clarence House and Buckingham Palace are ready to receive the gifts of Guidebooks that I will be taking to them on the 18th August. Everything went well and it seems the tour will be welcomed in all these places.
Thursday 19th July
Even the Met Office have had limited accuracy
Forecast: Variable becoming E 3 or less, increasing 4. Showers. Visibility: Good. Sea State: Smooth to Slight.
I spent ages going through various weather and wind forecasting sites to build up an accurate picture of the weather. But what with it being summer and with climate change as well, even the Met office have had limited accuracy in their predictions. There wasn't much wind on the harbour wall, and I estimated the probability of me making it to Grimsby in 12 hours was low, in which case I could be waiting out all night for another tide. Fatigue is an issue when single-handed.
I could sleep all day and take the evening tide if the wind improved. I tried to doze, but thoughts of the work wouldn't let me sleep. There was a press release to go out, important updates to the web, and the last posting of the diary hadn't got through to the webmaster. I got up and got out the laptop.
The late afternoon found me still tapping away at the keyboard, down in Chance's little cabin, with the high harbour wall towering over us. The evening forecast was better. I went for a walk. The breeze was still light, and from the E rather than NE, which meant I would have to head towards it somewhat, a slower point of sail. At best I'd go 24 hours without sleep, and at worst 30 to 36. Fatigue would be a safety issue, and even if I arrived safely, recovery time could be 2-3 days. But if I made no progress south before the weekend I would be nearly a week behind schedule.
I called Rowena, who is coming to crew for me after the weekend, to ask if she could come on Sunday instead of Monday, and to Bridlington instead of Wells. I explained the situation and the sleep possibilities. "24 hours without sleep is crazy! You'll be monstrous by the time I arrive!" She said. "Don't take any risks on anyone's account, and I'll come up as soon as I can."
I just needed a certain equation of elements for this long-haul single handed, and it hadn't arrived yet, that was all there was to it. I went for a run and a thick, cold mist came in off the sea. The foghorn sounded. All the fishing boats were coming in, I wondered if it was because of the strong wind forecast, NE6-7 tomorrow.
Wednesday 18th July
Heavy Shipping and Strong Currents
The forecast was SW4/5 becoming variable 3 or less. I did all my tides and chart preparation. It is a long stretch from Bridlington to Grimsby, 40 miles of unsheltered coast, ending up with the Humber estuary, with heavy shipping and strong currents. To do it alone I would need optimum conditions: Enough wind to get me there in two half-tides (12 hours) and to be able to predict the arrival time within 6 hours to arrive on the flood tide, carrying me into the estuary. Variable 3 or less was no good.
There was lots to do towards the London event, so I wrote up invitations and made calls and contacts.
In the late afternoon I took my sleeping bag and bedcovers up to the laundry. I fell into conversation with a retired gentleman there who had moved from Nottingham to Bridlington and lived in a caravan park. I asked him whether he was pleased with the move. "Oh yes, its absolutely fantastic here" he said in his strong Yorkshire accent. "Why?" I asked. "The people are so kind, they'll do anything for you. I was in t'hostipal with my heart condition, and on our caravan site, about 50 blokes came round to ask what ever my wife needed, and they organised a rota to drive her into hospital to see me every day." I was very touched, and reflected that human kindness is one of life's sweetest blessings. As he left he said "Wish me luck on the lottery!" I guess that was his hope for living in a house, perhaps, rather than a caravan. But I wonder if he could find such caring neighbours anywhere else.
In the evening a beautiful wooden Laurence Giles yacht sailed in and berthed against the wall inside Chance. I helped with their lines and Helen and Robin invited me for tea on board "Great Days". She was one of the prettier yachts I have been aboard, light and airy, simple and well-crafted.
Then Terence Gaussen came over for dinner. He had contacted me with an interest in acquiring an Explorer (of which Chance is the prototype), and wanted to take the opportunity to see the boat while in his area. He brought fresh lettuce and we had dinner on board. He had a good look around and we discussed many aspects of the boat. Unfortunately his work commitments meant he couldn't take time off to crew for me at this stage of the voyage, but he hoped to come for a test sail once back in Devon. He had a great interest in cruising small boats, but had had a capsize experience in his 16ft gaffer, so was very interested in the stability characteristics of the Explorer.
Tuesday 17th July
Escorted by Community Wardens
Chris King, of the East Riding County Council, took me out for lunch. The Vegetarian Café was closed so we had a traditional Seaside Pasty and Chips in the Busy Bees Café. It was great to talk to Chris because he does things like cycling to work, and found it improved his quality of life in the ways that I had been describing in my talks: The oxygenisation of the blood improves your concentration and thinking, so you get more work done in less time. This improves your job prospects and hourly rate. The endorphins released through exercise put you in a good mood, which makes you better company for your colleagues, employers and employees, which also improves your job prospects and hourly rate. As your hourly rate improves, you have to do less work to earn the same amount of money, so have more time off. And you are getting time for a recreational activity such as cycling, on your way to work, rather than arriving home by car and then going out for a bike ride in your spare time. One of Chris' colleagues was inspired to take up cycling to work, commenting that Chris was "always so up beat and positive". The colleague said he needed to get fit as well.
In the afternoon I gave a talk to 6th form product design students at Headlands Comprehensive School, and in the evening at he Bridlington Community Resource Centre. It was a small audience, but consisted of many council workers, who were keen to implement the ideas and data from the booklet in their council's work and practice, which was excellent.
After the talk, I was escorted back to the harbour by three Community Wardens dressed in bright red coats that said BRIDLINGTON COMMUNITY WARDEN on the back. They are the new equivalent of the Bobby on the beat, and do everything from cleaning up graffiti to averting delinquent behaviour on the streets, as well as being there for people to talk to about any problems concerning security and crime.
It was late and I hadn't had dinner so they took me to the door of Yips Chinese restaurant, where I enjoyed one of the best Chinese meals I've ever had.
Monday 16th July
Caught in a Contra Tide
I saw Pete on Ruffian and went round to ask about the tides. He said to leave when I first float after low water and after Flamborough Head there would be a contra tide to take me to Bridlington if I arrived after the favourable tide had finished. He took me up to the town market to get some fresh fruit and bread.
I took the boat round to the inner harbour, which doesn't dry out at low tide, so I could leave early at low water. It was a hard row out of the harbour into the wind, and people watching from the pleasure cruiser clapped when I had made it out and got the sails up.
The wind was ok and I sailed the first 10 miles without a problem. Then the wind died for an hour so I rowed. Then it went from S to SE instead of the forecast W, but I didn't mind as that would make it easier once round Flamborough head, when my new course would be SW. I got round Flamborough Head at the best of the tidal flow, but then found out that the contra tide ran both ways against the normal tide, so having thought I had got everything perfect, I now had the tide against me! Well, the wind was behind the beam so it was easy sailing, just a bit slow. It took 2.5 hours instead of 1 hour to get to Bridlington, but it was a pleasant sail in the evening sun. It was quiet on deck, so I called a couple of friends. The wind died off Bridlington so I furled the sails and rowed, glad to be in the on-board gymnasium for half and hour, as otherwise I wouldn't get my daily exercise.
I moored up at 8pm and went to the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club to find out what was what. It is a beautiful clubhouse, with a massive bay window that takes in the full panorama of Bridlington harbour and the bay. The ladies there had watched me row in and were full of enthusiasm for the tour. They recommended the chip shop next door, so I had chips for dinner.
Sunday 15th July
A Whole Day Off
The favourable tide was after lunch so I went for a very long run. I ran up and round the castle, all along the north beach and then skirted the back of town, finding some beautiful parks and Churches. It was two hours by the time I got back. I got some fresh donuts, from a stall who's automatic stainless steel donut machine was very neat. It had cost £8,000 five years ago and had never broken down once! (It was very well oiled.)
I showered and dropped in at the Yacht Club for a drink. The barman put me onto the club's computer weather links page, and the wind looked pretty unreliable for that afternoon. Pete and Emma from Yacht Ruffian, who had been to my talk the day before, asked me to drop in on them as they had some ready-made meals I could have.
I had a snooze on board for a couple of hours and then went round to Ruffian. Pete and Emma had just finished the AZAB - Azores And Back - race, and had some boil-in-the-bag meals left over, which they offered me. The AZAB had taken 8 days each way - very good going; I've done it twice taking 12 days each time, but that wasn't racing. Ruffian had been surfing waves under big canvas in a gale, making up to 14 knots.
Saturday 14th July
I went for a run and dropped into the Chandlers before eleven. I had lost a fender in the night and was down to two so got three new ones and a new burgee. (A little flag at the masthead.) I couldn't find a replacement locker catch, but the mechanic fixed my old one!
At 1330 Scarborough's two Green Councillors, Dilys Cluer and Jonathan Dixon came to give me an official welcome with the photographer from the Scarborough Evening News. At 1430 I gave a talk in the town library theatre to an audience of 40-50. Everyone was very enthusiastic about the talk and I sold 19 guidebooks. I got the best feedback of the tour so far when a lady called Judy Oats said: "Probably the most interesting talk I have ever heard. Every minute was inspirational." I was really happy to get such wonderful feedback, and asked her if I could write it down to help promote the tour.
Friday 13th July
Great Organisation But No Audience
I spent ages setting lines and secondary lines so I could leave the boat without worrying in the forecast SE6-7. I walked up the length of the high street and took the train to Hartlepool in the pouring rain.
My contact in Hartlepool, Iris Ryder, of the Hartlepool green Party had organised a tremendous event, with several stands and speakers, including the Co-operative Membership, Energy Saving Trust, a Fair-trade stand and a Children's painting competition. But several things had come together to prevent people coming. The posters hadn't got through. (I had been at sea and sent Iris' address by text message to my friend Mary who sends out the posters, and somehow she hadn't got it.) The local paper had not advertised the event. It was organised in the Yacht Club, but not by the Yacht Club, so they hadn't promoted it to their members. The Yacht Club was out of town and quite difficult to find in a new housing development. It poured with rain all day. It was Friday 13th.
Quite a few people passed through during the day, but by the time of my talk at 530pm there were just three people in the audience. Still, I gave the talk anyway, in a nice informal setting around a table, and everyone enjoyed in never the less.
Iris walked me back to the station and we were both very philosophical. Iris has organised many events and battled away for years, opposing a local nuclear dumping ground and many other difficult and worthy endeavours to protect and preserve her community and its habitat. She has a wonderful, positive and steady character.
Thursday 12th July
Sixes and Sevens and My Fastest Solo Run
The 6 o'clock forecast was just the same as yesterday, W4/5 becoming V3. But there was cloud cover today. I went up to the office to pay, and um'd and ah'd with the watchman about what the wind was going to do. The office anemometer was showing SW 6 knots (Force 2) - not much to be getting on with. I had to make a decision, as the lock gates would close for low water for two hours from 730.
At 0715 I rowed out into the sea. I had to give it a go. Things picked up, and I was earlier than yesterday too, 3 hours before the favourable tide. The smoke stacks of Middlesbrough were issuing smoke almost horizontally. Excellent. It was a nice reach too, when the wind is right on the side of the boat, the fastest point of sail, so off we went.
To my surprise and delight 1300 found me off Whitby with, would you believe it, deep reefs in the main and Genoa. That meant the wind strength was force 6 to 7! But it was coming off the land, so creating little sea, and on the beam so we were roaring along at 6.5 knots. Just another 15 miles to Scarborough, with four hours of favourable tide, let's give it a go.
Now we were in a region of romantic place names. I passed Robin Hood's Bay, and far away down the coast, Scarborough stood out from the cliffs with its prominent castle on a huge island-like outcrop of land. I started to sing:
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.
Tell her to find me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Between the salt water and the sea strand,
Then she'll be a true love of mine.
Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
And to bind it all with a bunch of heather,
Then she'll be a true love of mine.
Yes, I'm going to Scarborough Fair.
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
For to find your true love if she lives there,
Then she'll be a true love of thine.
Scarborough, Scarborough, Scarborough. What was Scarborough Fair? It must have been famous across the land. There was a haze to keep off the intensity of the sun, but blue sky and gentle sunshine filtered through and the coast stretched straight, with tall cliffs from the waters edge, down to Scarborough. I came towards the town at teatime and the wind eased so I shook out the reefs.
Four storey Victorian Hotels stretched right along the cliff tops of the North Bay and the Castle on its Peninsula sat right in the middle. As I rounded the peninsula on the south side, a wonderful bay opened up with a bustling big town hidden behind, and grand Victorian buildings coming down to the sandy beach, and fairground rides and candyfloss stalls. It was a classic English beach resort, with a lot of character.
I pulled into the outer harbour and some rain came down to wash the boat. I tidied all the lines and bailed out the lockers, which had taken a bit of water in the strong winds. I was quite pleased with myself, as it was my longest and fastest solo passage in Chance: 40 miles in 9 hours.
Pete Redwood from the Scarborough Green Party came down and took me for a drink in the ancient Leeds Inn.
Wednesday 11th July
Turning back for the first time
I set off towards Whitby at 9am. The wind was very light even though the forecast was "W/NW 4/5 becoming variable for a time". Perhaps it had already become variable. The town of Hartlepool fell away astern and the smokestacks of Teesport and Middlesbrough lay to starboard (on the right). I had to admit the smoke from the chimneys was going rather up than across. By 11am I was just in the mouth of the river Tees and not really getting anywhere very fast. A couple of ships went close by as I was near the channel. The wind died completely. It was a clear 25 miles to Whitby, with only one or two very small tidal harbours in between, that weren't detailed on my chart. It just wasn't going to happen. "There's a first time for everything" I thought, got the sails down and rowed for Hartlepool. It was the first time I had turned back on the tour, except for Aberystwyth, which was due to a damaged rowlock.
I went to the marina this time, and was soon inside the lock gates and into the vast water basin with 500 yachts. Well, the tour flyer said I should be in Hartlepool that very day, so I was completely back on schedule. Unfortunately, since I had been so far behind two weeks ago, I re-scheduled the Hartlepool event for this Friday, thinking I could visit Hartlepool and Scarborough in one trip by train. By chance and good fortune I was right on schedule, but it would have put me under stress if I hadn't changed the date.
I showered, did some laundry and caught up some diary.
Tuesday 10th July
A better breeze
After a wash in Blyth Yacht Club's Ship I set off again at 1000 in the bright sun, with a forecast of W3/4 occasionally 5 later. I conservatively aimed for Seaham, just 18 miles away, but with a good wind just behind the beam I knocked off port after port. I passed Tynemouth, the entrance to Newcastle, with its huge walls to protect the mouth of the estuary. Lizard Point soon followed with its red and white striped lighthouse. Sunderland soon came abeam, and at 1500 I was off Seaham.
I carried on towards Hartlepool, nearing the harbour at 1800. A hovercraft going great guns was heading straight towards me just outside the harbour, at half a mile and rapidly closing range. At a quarter of a mile I grabbed the radio.
"Hovercraft in the vicinity of Hartlepool Harbour, this is the small yacht dead on your bow at close range, over."
"Station calling hovercraft, this is Solent Express, over."
"Solent Express, this is Yacht Chance, just calling to make sure you have me in your sights, over."
"Yacht Chance, Solent Express, yes we can see you and are keeping well clear, over."
"Solent Express, Yacht Chance, for your information, your current speed and range are quite worrying for a small yacht with no engine, over."
"All copied, over."
The Solent Express roared on by, about 200 yards ahead of me. To have made a clear change of direction and gone astern of me would have been good helming, but to roar at me and cut a fine course across my bow at 40 knots was quite perturbing. At least they responded by radio. Solent Express? Up here? Perhaps they were doing a round-Britain. At that speed it would take two days! (40 knots x 24 hours = 1,000 miles per day.)
I tacked into Hartlepool and had a look at the Marina entrance, but it was the wrong state of tide and the lock gates were shut. I bore away to starboard and sailed up into the main harbour. Rounding the corner at the top it was downwind into the moorings so I came along side rather rapidly, with a neighbouring yachtsman leaping to grab my lines. 27 miles made good in 8 hours, that's more like it.
The old harbour was all private moorings with no facilities and a locked gate, but a fisherman lent me his key and the neighbouring yachtsman invited me for tea and scones.
Monday 9th July
13 miles in 12 hours
Brother Harold cooked me eggs on toast at 630. He walked me to the brow of the hill and I told him that I was deeply inspired and moved by his work. He said he was equally so about my tour.
It was a pleasant cycle back through the Northumberland green and rolling hills to Alnwick, and the bus soon dropped me back in Amble. I got things ready on board and after the 1200 forecast set sail.
I am spoiled for choice of ports on this coast, with a port every 15 miles or so. I shouldn't otherwise have sailed on a forecast of "W3/4 becoming variable for a time". It was a sunny day with a steady breeze but it did become light and variable and it was a full 12 hours later that I ghosted into the harbour at Blyth along the line of huge wind turbines on the harbour wall, just 13 miles made good.
Sunday 8th July
As many jam scones as we could eat
Although there seemed to be a good breeze blowing from the west, I had decided to spend one complete day at Shepherd's Law. I had had a intense, non-stop time on the tour, including rest days, visiting and meeting people, but not with any days off, as such for anything completely other than the tour or resting from it. And I thought one day in the middle of the tour, devoted to something utterly unrelated to the tour, and a spiritual day, was an important thing to do. So I switched off my mobile phone and gave up thoughts of the tour as much as I could.
The two Brothers went off to other churches. After helping clean and set up for an open day that afternoon, I went into the Church and and meditated for an hour. I was quite tired so my concentration was not that great, but it was good none the less, and I was glad to experience Brother Harold's Church.
In the afternoon many guests came including the architect Ralph Pattison who had designed the Church and the rest of the hermitage, which consisted of a small house with kitchen and library and four small "cells" or flats, for Brother Harold and other visitors to live in. Brother Harold set me up with a table and leaflets to tell people about my tour, and Ralph showed a slieshow about the building of the Church, which had taken seven years. There were three people involved, Ralph, the stone mason and Brother Harold, who made tea, oversaw everything and helped with decision making on all the hundreds of small decisions about form and materials that need to be made along the way. The stone mason was a real master, cutting and shaping many of the thousands of great square stones by hand, and lifting lintels of up to two tonnes into place with pulleys up to the tower of the church. And Ralph had done a masterpiece of architecture down to the smallest details of the varied coloured clay bricks, the fingered brick arches, and interspersing a few buckets of old red bricks from the nearby beaches into the stone walls to give them a brightness, and variedness, and a human touch that made this church something both beautiful and humble, something magnificent yet very human. I found this creation of Brother Harold, Ralph and the stone mason deeply inspiring and moving.
We had as many jam scones as we could eat and then there was a service for the fifty guests, and slowly people drifted away and finally there were just Brother Harold and myslf, as Samuel had left as well. After clearing up I went into the Chapel for another hour of meditation, then brother Harold and I cooked dinner and talked about how many of my books to present to the Royal family and the importance of numbers, of the values behind the church, of the happiness of the rich and the poor and many other things, before an early night.
Saturday 7th July
Brother Harold had built a Church
Ross took the helm until 0300 and nearly got us to Holy Island, Lindesfarne. I sailed us through the inner channel of the Farne Islands, with the help of the lights and buoys as the dawn arrived and we carried on rapidly down the coast.
Finally 9 o'clock in the morning found us off Amble, well into Northumberland. The wind was still good, but we were tired, and Ross was keen not to get too far from home. I wanted to visit a friend called Brother Harold who lived in Alnwick near Amble, so all in all we decide to pull in. We had covered 80 miles in 23 hours, the longest run Chance had ever made, and with a good average speed at that.
It was a sunny day. We showered in the marina, sorted out the boat and had a breakfast of several courses. Then we wandered into town and I got directions for Brother Harold's place from the tourist information.
Ross's partner came to pick him up and they gave me a lift to Alnwick. There I hired a bicycle and set off in the late afternoon to cycle the 10 miles to Brother Harold's place. I was exhausted from the night's sail, but this was a very important visit for me. I had booked a week's holiday here to spend a few day's with Brother Harold, but that had all been used up catching up the schedule.
I met Brother Harold, who is a Christian Hermit, 10 years ago when I was cycling around Britain for a summer holiday. We had kept in touch occasionally over the years and I always remember him saying that he would pay a premium to travel to America by sail. When I had visited him at Shepherds Law Hermitage, which he was renovating, he showed me the foundation stone of the Church which he was planning to build there. Now I had heard that he had finished the Church.
Brother Harold had built a Church! In the 21st Century? I had never heard of a new church being built, only churches being sold for development. I marvelled in my thoughts as I cycled out from Alnwick in the late afternoon sun. I was given wrong directions and had to cut through a field and a muddy track to get back on route. It was very beautiful around here, wonderful stone buildings and lovely green and rolling hills and forests. The rain came in sudden torrents, I whipped out my waterproofs and put my socks into my drybag. I cycled on, singing in the downpour.
I like churches, such beautiful buildings, wonderous architechture, carvings and decorated glass, and built for nothing material, simply in reverence for the spirit and for existence. What would Brother Harold's Church be like? He built a Church himself! Amazing.
The rain passed on and the sun came out, and Northumberland stretched before me undr a magnificent blue blue and clouded sky, gentle hills stretching away under a patchwork of light and dark green fields. The rain came again in torrents and I passed a great blooming of honeysuckle. I stopped to pick some for Brother Harold. I was exhausted and tremendously moved by this expression of faith, that Brother Harold had built a Church, such a great work for no material purpose what so ever, and I started to cry, and I cycled on in the tremendous rain, crying, with the honeysuckle in my left hand flapping against the handlebar.
Finally I came over the brow of the hill towards the place, and thought I saw it over a hillock in the vast countryside before me. The sun came back and my tears dried up, and then I found the track to Shepherds Law, and walked slowly up it to the top. There was a windmill and a solar panel at the entrance to the group of buildings that were built in the ruins of a very old farm. And there was the beautiful Church, with a red tiled roof like in Italy (I later found that it was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi). It was neither large no small for a small church, just right, and quite strong and certain in its form. It had lovely round arches made of radiating bricks that gave it pretty decoration in a modest way.
The gate to the grassy courtyard creaked and I leaned my bicycle against the hedge. Brother Harold has no telephone so whilst he knew of my intended visit, he would not be expecting me now, so behind schedule. I walked round to the side door of the church and as I looked it opened and a figure stood inside. "Brother Harold?" I whispered. "Yes?" he looked at me uncertain. "It's Mukti." "Oh! You've come!" I gave him the honeysuckle and he said "Let's give these to Mary and Jesus" and led me inside. There was a strong smell of insense. We entered the porch and turned left into the church. It was all white, and shafts of white light beamed down from high windows on the left, through the white haze of insense, and onto the white walls and light stone floors. Great arches radiated in multi coloured natural brick, fingered into the walls. It was quite still and silent. Brother Harold led me in and we both stood there side by side in silence for a long time. It was a moment of peace, of openness, and of arrival.
Eventually we moved and Brother Harold put the honeysuckle in a vase by a black statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus. Then he took me and showed me my room. He lent me a wonderful thick white jersey, a woollen hat and some sandals, and we lit a wood burning stove to dry my clothes and shoes. Later we had dinner with Brother Samuel who had been staying on a retreat for a week, before an early night.
Friday 6th July
Back in England again
The forecast was NE backing W/NW ¾ increasing 5 later, and for the 2nd 24 hours NW backing W 4/5 increasing 5/6. Fantastic. It would be a steady to strong wind off the shore, creating little wave motion, or if NW then it would be behind us. With crew on board we should be able to make tracks and do some catching up.
Ross turned up at 830 and we left at 1000 on the last of the ebb tide from the harbour. We coasted down to Fife Ness, arriving around 1 o'clock. Unfortunately the wind died on us and the adverse tide was still quite strong so we anchored a mile offshore in 15 meters of water. It was the furthest off I'd ever anchored, but the sea was flat so I thought it was worth a try, and the anchor held fine. The heavens opened so we climbed into the cabin and has humus sandwiches, cheese and pickle sandwiches, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, nuts, fruit and malt loaf, with fennel tea.
Around three the wind picked up and the tide had turned so off we went, right past the Forth Coastguard lookout station on the headland. Mary Island and Bass Rock came into site across he Firth of Forth and Ross explained that there was such a huge Gannett colony on Bass Rock, that Gannets had first been studied there and got their latin name, Sula Bassana, from the Island.
It was great to cros the mouth of the Forth, with North Berwick and Dunbar and the whole estuary in site. As the evening came on the wind increased so we were rushing along beautifully under a massive sky, exploded with magnificent Constable clouds and a crimson sunset behind us. Ross didn't want to get too far away from home, but since Dunbar was exposed to the NE and we would arrive at Eyemouth at midnight, he agreed to go on with an overnight sail and se how far we would get. We were spoilt for choice with ports every 10-15 miles through East Lothian and Northumberland, so could pull in when we wanted.
A great night sail began. The wind reached 5/6 behind the beam and we sped down the coast in the dark night, the water running constant rushing and swishing sounds on the hull, and the wake gushing and bubbling from the rudder. At 9pm we passed Dunbar abeam and I took the watch. We passed St. Abbs Head just before midnight and the acceleration of the wind around the headland made us surf down the waves for half and hour. At midnight we passed the lights of Eyemouth, and soon after Berwick on Tweed, which meant I was back in England again after seven weeks in Scotland.
Thursday 5th July
Diary and emails
The forecast was variable 2 or 3 becoming southeast 3 or 4. As I was heading southeast, neither of these were any good so I stayed in port to catch up on diary and emails. I spoke to a friend of a friend of Jay's who wanted to crew for a couple of days, called Ross. He would come over in the morning, first thing.
After a long day in the office (on board) I went for a run and then had a lovely farewell dinner with Christine and Henry.
Wednesday 4th July
Bye Mukti! Good Luck!
I met Mike Rankin on board again at nine to show him round the boat and discuss low carbon lifestyles in more detail. He was keen to do another feature, as well as follow the tour with updates all the way back to Devon. I asked him if he would be interested in doing a monthly piece on low carbon lifestyles, based on each of the ten main chapters of the booklet. He said he liked the idea and would put it to his bosses. I said he could use the material from the book in any way he wished.
The commodore of the sailing club came over for a chat, took some flyers and said he'd put a link on the club website. Then the whole of St. Andrews Primary School year 6 came down to wave me off. I explained that the tide was still out so I couldn't go anywhere yet, but I also explained about the weather and we had a nice chat.
After that I suddenly felt exhausted, and lay down in the cabin for a snooze. At 1230 a gentleman from the club who had escorted me in last night came by with his daughter. They asked if they could buy me lunch, and went off to get me a sandwich and some bread and fruit for the boat. The tide was coming in so I got everything ready to go. We sat on the quay wall and chatted for half an hour while I had a sandwich. There was a good breeze blowing, so the bridge was opened and I rowed out, with children on the beach shouting "Bye Mukti! Good Luck!"
The forecast was variable 2-3 occasionally 4. I would never have gone out if I hadn't been behind schedule, and there was plenty of urgent computer work to do to catch up the diary and organise the London event. I got about 2 miles and was completely becalmed. I worked out that if I rowed the five miles to the Fife Ness headland I would get there just as the tide turned against me. I gave up and rowed back to St. Andrews, which took an hour.
When I got in the harbour master gave me a talking-to for not calling him and for tying-up badly the day before. I apologised sincerely, saying I had been a bit spoiled with free harbour dues and in one or two harbours previously the harbour master was never around and had not even charged a local yacht for a year, but that it was no excuse. He lightened up and shook my hand, and gave me a berth near the harbour entrance - perfect for getting out early.
David Stutchfield, the St. Andrews University Energy Officer, was eating chips on the quay wall and invited me for a drink later. I was pleased to have met him since he had emailed before. I got some chips and a vegeburger myself, tidied up the boat, and then we went for a drink. St. Andrews has a £90 million budget for making the University zero-carbon, and the project is at a very early stage, so we discussed all aspects of the project, and I suggested some targets for per-capita annual emissions that would make the University look good well into the next three decades, and fit neatly into the low carbon lifestyle of the future. It was a very interesting discussion. David said that by buying second hand windmills from Denmark, they could make turbines pay for themselves in 2.5 years, and amazing rate of return that I had not heard of before.
David and Georgina invited me to visit if I passed Pittenweem in the next couple of days.
Tuesday 3rd July
Fourth television appearance
The forecast was variable 2 or 3 becoming W4/5 occasionally 6. That would be great for going south.
I went to thank the harbour master and then saw television cameras over by the lifeboat. When they had finished their piece about a double-hoax call to the lifeboat yesterday, the journalist who had interviewed me the day before, and was a member of the lifeboat, introduced me to the presenter. She asked me when I was leaving. I said "half and hour". She said she had to leave in 20 minutes, but would come over to the boat in 10. I got everything ready to leave, they interviewed me quickly and filmed me sailing out of the harbour, and it went onto Scottish news that evening. It was the fourth television appearance of the tour.
Instead of W4/5 It was SE2-3 so I made slow progress. In the afternoon I realised the best I could do was St. Andrews, so I made a few calls ahead to the paper and my previous host, Christine McGladdery.
When I arrived the sailing club sailed out to meet me. The wind dropped and the tide was against, so I borrowed a young crew, Robbie Ingram, who came aboard and steered so we could sail and row at the same time. The safety boat went ahead and opened the bridge to the inner harbour. I tied up and spent half an hour talking to Mike Rankin, editor from the St. Andrews Citizen, who had previously done a big feature. Then I walked home with Christine and her husband Henry to an oven cooked meal, a shower and bed.
Monday 2nd July
Imported dresses never fit
Jonny packed up to go home. There was nothing in the forecast so I opted for a shore day. Arbroath turned out to be a delightful little town. After speaking to the harbour master I put on shorts and running shoes and took my laundry into town. The friendly laundrette would wash and dry for me for £6, very reasonable. Just up Westport street I spotted a dressmaker who agreed to put a new zip on my money belt. I ran back to get it, then went for a run around the greener parts of town and back along the coast, stopping for a good stretching session.
Back at the boat a lobster fisherman came in with his son and started offloading beautiful lobsters. I bought one for a fiver and cooked it as he recommended for 10 minutes. I took all the meat out of the shell and served it on a bed of rice with the "low-carbon footprint" broccoli, and a local cabbage and tomato salad. It was a wonderful fresh and local meal. Half way through lunch a journalist and photographer from the local paper came down so I talked to them while eating my lunch. After that I had some of the Rodway's cheese, then peanuts, biscuits and fruit, then cucumber and carrots, more peanuts and cheese, and a bite of a coconut & chocolate bar, which I had got in the local bakers. This I couldn't eat as it was too sweet. I thought about more peanuts and cheese, but decided the feast had gone on long enough.
I went to get my laundry and money belt and spent half an hour in the dressmakers chatting about the clothes industry and how you can get a pair of jeans for £3 in Primart and a wedding dress for £30 from China over the internet. The lady still had plenty of work because the imported dresses never fit, so she has to make all the adjustments. She was working on my money belt at the same time as chatting, and asked all about the tour. We talked about how hard it is for her to find an apprentice nowadays, nobody comes out of school with hand-skills. I told her that my mother had given me the money belt 16 years ago, after already having used it for a few years. The lady did a fantastic job on it, replacing both the zips and re-stitching the straps much neater than the previous repairs. When I came to pay she said no, she wanted to give it to me to help me on my way. I was very touched, and thanked her and her mother - who had sat there all the while knitting babies jackets - most kindly, and left the shop with a wonderful warm feeling in my stomach. I was as happy as could be. Human kindness is the sweetest of all feelings, and for me it makes the gadgets and perks of a modern lifestyle pale into insignificance. None of them can make you feel like that.
Sunday 1st July
Into the mist
I knew we would have to get out by 7am if we wanted to go before the tide went out. I got up at 6 and looked at the forecast. It was SE4/5. But there wasn't much wind on the harbour wall, and there was a tremendously dense fog. I didn't like the idea of trying to get into our next port, Arbroath between the reefs in dense fog, nor the possible shipping off Montrose. I dithered for a while and by the time I got back aboard we were on the bottom anyway. We went back to sleep.
We got up at 10 and I went to the shop. There was a sign outside this little village post office saying, "Locally produced salad - cut your carbon footprint." I couldn't believe it, so went inside and bought some.
I called Forth Coastguard on the phone to discuss the fog. They said it stretched all the way to Edinburgh today, but that it was a quiet day for shipping. I figured most of the commercial boats out today would have radar, and it is normal for working boats to go out in the fog.
We set off at noon into the mist. It was gloomy and wonderfully atmospheric. I love the gentleness of a cool, misty day. The eyes can rest from all the intensity of colour, soothed by the gentle greys, beautiful greys, and a wonderful range of greys and silvers and whites. The sea melds hazily into the sky and the sky is a white cotton wool, distanceless like a dream. It was silent, and the birds seemed happy on the gentle sea, their calls reaching each other easily across the water. There were ducks and swans, guillemots and gulls, odd puffins and turns and the occasional gannet, appearing from the mist and fading behind again, some sitting in groups in the water. Soon we neared the shore and the distant sound of breakers grew closer. Then dolphins arrived, huge, and very close. First three, then five, then seven and fourteen. They swam toward us, then right under the boat, appearing and disappearing, the occasional fast sucking sound of their in-breath drawing our heads this way and that. We started whistling in little friendly whoops. One dolphin came alongside about 10ft away and rolled on its side to show us it's stomach. Jonny was enthralled, his first sightings. Another, 100 yards away towards the shore, jumped out of the water and landed sideways with a crash. It seemed to enjoy this and began leaping and crashing repeatedly, making as big a splash as possible. We were near the breakers of a rocky reef and I wondered if they were trying to warn us of our proximity to the shore, which I have heard has happened to sailors before. I got Jonny to check our course and speed. We weren't up to much, but were not in danger either, and were just rather close to the reef. Jonny got out the video camera and we caught a little bit but soon we had moved on and the gentle cartwheels of their dorsal fins and the crashing of the leaping dolphin were fading away into the mist.
It began to clear later so we could see the shore but progress continued to be slow. We failed to make Arbroath before the tide turned against us and there was nowhere sheltered to anchor in the gentle onshore swell so we just sat it out at one knot against the running tide and finally ghosted into Arbroath under navigation lights at eleven in the evening.