Autumn 2017 - cruising with Uffa Fox, Baltic icebreaking, a rare William Faulkner short story, and reflections on voyaging and naval disaster
Uffa Fox crosses the Atlantic in luxury, and returns in squalor:
Day after day passed peacefully by; Bobby reading for an hour every evening out loud to us all in the cockpit, Miss Ann (as we called the skipper's wife) mixing Mint Juleps about 2.00 p.m. every afternoon, a Virginian drink, which first of all produces smiles, then a great feeling of energy, then a powerful desire for sleep, while, as my trick at the wheel generally started soon after sundown, I used to sing for half an hour with Bill as a helpmate, and Bobby would lead us in 'Green Grow the Rushes O'.
And so time passed, and we bent south until the sun was plumb overhead; and after that we bent our way north again for Bermuda, all of which time the squaresail lifted Diablesse over the seas, while the mainsail prevented her from rolling.
William Faulkner goes on two missions with a hero of the First World War:
A marine with a bayoneted rifle passed Bogard on to the wharf and directed him to the boat. The wharf was empty, and he didn't even see the boat until he approached the edge of the wharf and looked directly down into it and upon the backs of two stooping men in greasy dungarees, who rose and glanced briefly at him and stooped again.
It was about thirty feet long and about three feet wide. It was painted with gray-green camouflage. It was quarterdecked forward, with two blunt, raked exhaust stacks. ‘Good Lord,’ Bogard thought, ‘if all that deck is engine...’ Just aft the deck was the control seat; he saw a big wheel, an instrument panel. Rising to a height of about a foot above the freeboard, and running from the stern forward to where the deck began, and continuing on across the after edge of the deck and thence back down the other gunwale to the stern, was a solid screen, also camouflaged, which inclosed the boat save for the width of the stern, which was open.
Horatio Clare goes icebreaking in the Baltic:
The first icebreakers were invented in the twelfth century by the Pomor people of the White Sea region. The Pomors came from Novgorod and Karelia; their koches were flush-planked sailing vessels with rounded keels, designed to be squeezed. When the ice pressed in on either side of the hull the koche popped upwards undamaged. The koche's most recent descendant is the 125 million euro Polaris, owned and operated by the Finnish government, displacing ten thousand tons and running partly on liquid natural gas.
I first saw Polaris, her array of searchlights blazing like a fallen star as she rumbled towards us across the frozen Bay of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland.
Roger Taylor plans a new voyage:
I sit now where once ice towered, graunching its way seawards. The deeply riven landscape still speaks of its weight and power. Sometimes I fancy I can hear the glacier at its murmuring.
Across the loch, left and right, stand the two high sentinels that shouldered the ice aside: Creag Mhaol – Bare Crag, and Creag an Duilisg – Crag of the Dulse. Between the two, the hills stretch away and up to the peak of Beinn Conchra, a faint curve defining the limit of the southern landscape.
The ebb tide sweeps past, carrying my thoughts to the sea.
Max Liberson reflects on the art of anchoring:
The more you know about anchoring, the more you realise how much more there is to know. My first forays into this murky world were successful, mostly because in the Thames estuary the holding is very good, and the biggest problem is getting the mud off the anchor.
The first time things got difficult was on a trip from Nieuwport in Belgium....
A survivor of disaster in the Falklands goes open-boat cruising in Scotland:
The sun is trying to break through. Away to the west, showers move lazily across the sea before wiping their wet hands across the hills of Ardnamurchan. Below, the boats tug impatiently at their mooring lines. We break camp and stow the damp gear. One reef in the sail and cast off. A short tack across the sheltered loch, then out through the narrow entrance to the open sea. Clear of the anchorage the full force of the wind hits us. Too much sail. Another reef, then a long wet beat out to the west. Three small boats dwarfed by the hills of Morven and Mull. The seas grey and steep, the motion violent. Two miles to the point of Auliston and the sound of Mull.
I climb up onto the bridge. The sun shining through the windows is harsh after the red night lights below. Broadsword lies close astern, Pebble island five miles to the south. The sea is calm and blue. Giant Petrels wheel effortlessly across the water, their wings never quite catching the waves. The watch changes and the bridge settles down again. Ops room chatter sounds over the speakers, routine reports tracking the unfolding drama of the day.
Graeme Stones tells the story of an agonising decision:
We called our skipper Tiger because he was fearless. In every other way the nickname was unsuitable, for he was amiable, fun-loving and relaxed. We made him walk the plank once, on his birthday. Took him down to the aft deck, blindfolded him, hoisted him up on to a broad board over the gunwale and poked him with poles until he fell off into the chill North Sea. He swam round to the stern ramp and clambered out on the steps, puffing and blowing and as he stood there, catching his breath we tipped cold porridge and galley scraps onto his head. He just roared with laughter and chased us off the deck.
Tiger’s command was a little under 200 feet long, an ex-Arctic trawler now converted to a Dive Support Vessel...
Tom Cunliffe takes a relaxed look at Lecky's 'Wrinkles':
Ask any serious sailor born before the electronic revolution if the name 'Lecky' rings a bell and the answer will be, 'Lecky's Wrinkles, of course.' What he or she would mean is a book that first appeared in 1881 and had by 1908 run on to a fifteenth luxury edition 'with photogravure portrait', containing the distillation of more hints and tips for the navigator than anything published before or since.
Henry McBride examines the economics and ecology of fish farming:
In the 1970s, technology, necessity (declining populations of wild fish), and a large helping of corporate and consumer greed led to research that culminated in the rearing of saltwater salmon by duplicating the events of their career at sea. This career resulted in the 200-fold transformation of a one-ounce parr into a six-kilo adult in two years - a testament to the incredible productivity of the marine environment; by comparison, a top Hereford steer might achieve a measly 30-fold increase in mass in its lifetime.
Claudia Myatt goes cruising with Daphne:
I woke at midnight; I think it was the noise of the bow slamming into a wave that woke me. It always sounds as though it's hit something solid, doesn't it? So anyway, I didn't sleep too well. The Captain had warned us it might be rough; he's very good like that. 'Do take care to hold on when you visit the bathroom in the night,' he said in his noon announcement. The Captain talks about rough sea in the same way a surgeon talks about pain: 'It may be a little uncomfortable,' he says. It's like the sick bags that are always available in bad weather, with a discreet sign by them which says 'Motion discomfort bags'. I find that quite amusing. It's a shame it's rough, though, as I was looking forward to the ice sculpture demonstration today, and now it's bound to be cancelled.
John Rousmaniere looks behind the scenes at the New York Yacht Club Book Group:
Except for the absence of motion, one might fancy oneself at sea,’ a visitor once commented about the New York Yacht Club’s clubhouse, with its flood of maritime themes across its architecture, collections, and even the Library, where yacht models are displayed among the stacks holding thousands of books. This large room, reminiscent of the highly-polished yacht cabins in which Joseph Conrad’s favorite narrator, Marlow, spins one of his tales of mystery and ambiguity, is the setting for the monthly discussions of our book group, which this year celebrates its fifth anniversary. Four storeys above a mid-Manhattan street, two dozen or more men and women come together every third Thursday with drinks in hands and literature and sailing on our minds. We gather in a seated circle, and for ninety minutes we talk of nothing but one book about the sea and ships.
And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.