The Eventider's News
Issue Eleven. Autumn/Winter 2008.
The log of 'Bird Alone'
My wife, daughter & and myself hired a cottage the week after Easter on the river at Martham on the Norfolk Broads, I did not take my Senior "Only a Monkey" as I have not quite finished her renovations yet! (I will of course let you have some photo's when I do). But I did take my self converted inflatable dinghy, with lee boards and lateen sail.
While I was sailing not far from the cottage I came across an "Old Seadog" called Robin Chenery, he very kindly invited me back to his bungalow which was only a 10O yards or so from where we were staying, he is a very interesting man and he has several sailing boats and dinghy's, the next day we went sailing in his Wayfarer for about four hours, a great experience, however the point of this letter is that I found out that he has wrote an article from his experience in 1971 in an Eventide, which as a member of the Eventiders I thought you would be interested to publish it on our website?
Robin is a truly fascinating man and has lots of practical - interesting gimmicks at and around his bungalow in Martham. He said that he would only be too pleased for you to publish his article.
Sorry this has taken a while to sort, but it had to be OCR'ed which took a lot more doing than I thought! I think it is worth reading, bear in mind it was 1971!
I knew I had seen a picture or two of this Eventide years ago, and a search through my old books turned up four black and white, or strangely tinted pics.
Over The Edge Of The World.
It all started when I was working part- time for Eric Manners, at the Martham Sailing School. One evening a week he ran a class for Navigation and Seamanship at the local school. When he told me that he had one spare place, I signed up, as I wished to increase my nautical expertise. One of my classmates was a Mr Harley, from Repps. He was just finishing off a small yacht which he had a little boatyard at Wayford Bridge build for him. When he heard I was self-employed he said that if I provided my time, he would provide the food, so that we could deliver his yacht to his new home on the Isle of Man! We shook hands on the deal and while he did all the hundred and one things that are necessary before a long voyage, I made a super, luxury mahogany toilet seat for the yacht!
From Great Yarmouth harbour to the Isle of Man is exactly the same distance going round the North of Scotland or the other way, round Land's End! We favoured the northern route at first, as we thought the harbours would be less busy, and the mooring fees would be cheaper, but then we looked at the speed of the tides. The Pentland Firth has a tide of 7 knots, (which would mean about two days sailing backwards at 2 knots, a recipe for a disaster, don't you think?) Conversely, going the other way, we would sail across a spring tide of less than half a knot between Land's End and southern Ireland! So it was with considerable relief that a couple of months later, when we crossed the Great Yarmouth harbour bar, I heaved on the tiller and headed us to the south.
We had raised the sails in the shelter of the harbour, so as soon as we had cleared the entrance we switched off the engine. 4.30 in the afternoon is a funny time of day to start a long voyage, but we had a plan to sail gently down the relatively safe Suffolk coast in the dark, to give us a long time in the daylight next day, to cross the approaches to the Thames Estuary.
So it was at first light next morning that we arrived at the Shipwash lightship, off Felixstowe. I read the name on the side to check our position as there was no Sat Nav in those days! Then I set course to go outside the sandbanks in the Thames Estuary. Full speed under sail made it easy to estimate our position, but as the day went on the wind continued to moderate and our exact position became more vague. Then in the late afternoon we passed close to a small group of fishing boats, we felt they must be just off the coast of Kent, but about 3 miles past them we still hadn't seen any sign of land. On looking back we could see the fishing boats were obscuring a navigation buoy. As the sails had stopped drawing we started the engine and went back to see which buoy it was! It turned out to be the North Knock buoy. Without enough wind to fill the sails we had no option but to keep the engine running, as we wanted to get into Ramsgate harbour in daylight. The light sailing wind during the day meant we had a good catch of mackerel on board and we wanted to get safely moored to boil them for a late tea, then a well-earned sleep.
In Ramsgate harbour all the well-sheltered berths were gone, so they put us just inside the harbour entrance, which was fine when we tied up, but a force 7 soon blew up and we were being bounced around on the big waves that surged into the harbour entrance. Sleep was almost impossible, as we had to keep getting out to adjust the mooring ropes and fenders. When you did get your head down it was soon slammed into the bulkhead! After a few near-sleepless nights we made a bad decision to set sail and go to Dover while there was still a force 6 southeasterly blowing. We motor-sailed out of Ramsgate because we had to safely get round the Goodwin Sands. The force 6 became an 8 and then a 9 (confirmed on the next forecast.) But we kept going with the gigantic waves rebounding from the shore and making a perineedle sea. One of the cross-channel ferries overtook us on our port side, going so slow that I'm sure he was giving us as much shelter as he could, to help us get to Dover. When the ferry left us to get into port the waves were even worse. One minute we were up on the top of the pyramid wave and we could see much further than usual. Then we were dropped into the trough and couldn't even see the South Foreland cliffs, although we were close to the shore! No wonder the ferry captain was worried about us; we were being flung about so much that when I had a quick look into the cabin I was shocked to see the bilge-water dripping off the ceiling! We became very worried when the engine kept stopping! The penny dropped when we realized that each time we had to restart the engine the ignition switch was in the off position. Then we restarted the engine and kept watch on it. After a few minutes we were flung off the left side of a pyramid wave. As the yacht lurched to the left a jerry-can of petrol came sliding out on its shelf, until it hit the fiddle, but the top of the can kept coming until it hit the ignition key, which turned it to the off position and stopped the engine! (We were lucky that it hadn't snapped the key off in the "off' position!) A bit of tiddly soon secured the can and fixed that bit of trouble.
Each giant wave was a battle, but very slowly we were getting nearer the harbour and we were just starting to think that we might survive our ordeal when, much to our astonishment, the signal mast on the northern mole hauled up four red vertical balls! Fresh from our seamanship course we knew it meant "No entry or departure. Harbour closed!" Then to rub it in they started flashing Morse Code at us! Being thrown around as we were, we couldn't possibly read it. We knew that closed meant closed, and we also knew that it was imperative that we had to get into harbour as soon as possible. Mr. Harley was contemplating going back to Ramsgate! I grinned and said "Don't worry. Dover has two harbour entrances. I'll take us into the other one!" and I did.
Safely in the harbour we could hardly believe that we had survived the last few hours. I closed the throttle and slipped the gear lever into neutral, and was just going to lower the sails when we were hit by this knock-down blast of wind that crashed in over the warehouse on the south mole. In an instant the sails had filled and were knocked down. I looked along the mast and saw the truck drop below the horizon! The starboard deck had plunged about three feet below the surface, giving a great view into the turquoise wall of water. The lead on the bottom of the keel did its job and before that water could come surging aboard, we were suddenly upright again! I headed into the wind and we got the sails down in record time!
I had been on board Wolfgang Hastler's catamaran in the inner harbour a few months earlier, so I knew where to tie up to get through the lock gates, but with the tide right out, 50 yards before we got there we ran aground! Soon the harbour launch rushed up and said "You can't anchor there, sir. We've got a ship coming in and you'll get hit!" I replied "We are not anchored; we have our keel stuck on the bottom, so I don't think we'll get hit by any ship. Do you? But as soon as there is enough water we will tie up over there to go into the inner basin at high water, so we can get some sleep." The man on the launch said "That's alright sir, but mind you move as soon as you can."
We were in Dover about a week getting everything dry and stocking up with undisturbed sleep. Then with a good forecast we set sail again. As we motor-sailed out of the southern entrance we were very relieved at the big change since we were last there. Feeling rested and with a calm sea it was great to be surging down the channel. The sun was shining and the sea was blue. After passing Folkestone we started catching mackerel again. As we passed the Royal Sovereign lightship, I was going to take a photo of it to make a visual record of our voyage, but Mr Harley stopped me saying, "Save your film for better things in Ireland."
One of my best memories of the voyage was watching at very close range the flocks of gannets, diving at great speed into a shoal of little fish. We don't see many off Norfolk, so it was a nice treat. After passing Beachy Head we were sailing along a tide-line of debris, in it was a long line of what looked like large inflatable bananas, with a mass of long tentacles! I was all for getting one on board so we could have a closer look, but Mr. Harley said it wasn't worth the risk of getting stung. We assumed they were Portuguese Men-of-War, and there were more than 200!
Later, when I was left at the helm, I looked back as we passed yet another strange jelly-fish, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a screw dancing on the forward thwart of the little pram dinghy which we were towing. That screw was supposed to be holding down the towing eye, the other three had already gone, and this last one was about to go!
I reached down and grabbed the dinghy just as it came out. Not being able to let go, I had to steer the yacht with my foot, until my cries for help were answered. At our next stop we lashed the dinghy upside down on the foredeck.
We had arranged to pick up mail at Weymouth, so we used the light wind to go to the south of the Isle of Wight. As the sun set the wind stopped and the fog formed. The tide dragged us passed the Isle of Wight in the dark and the thick fog. We knew where we were by taking bearings of the fog-horn on the Niton lighthouse.
In the morning it was so eerie with the sun lighting up the top of the fog, and yet it was so thick that from the tiller you couldn't see the sea. Then I caught sight of a little bird, flitting about, picking insects off our sail. I called Mr. Harley and he identified it as a Dartford Warbler! When it couldn't find any more insects it flew away into the fog, towards the invisible Isle of Wight.
Very slowly the fog started to thin and we were just thinking of starting the engine when we heard a ship coming towards us. As it slid past us in the thinning fog, Mr. Harley said "I know what that ship is; it's the Channel Islands to Weymouth cross-channel ferry. Quick, start the engine and follow it into port." The ferry soon disappeared into the fog, but I kept following the sound of those powerful engines. Then I said to Mr. Harley "You know you said that it was a pity about the fog as you had hoped to see the Needles. Well have a look off the starboard bow. They are there. We have been following the wrong ferry, it's going into Southampton!" Now that we knew exactly where we were, I soon had a course to steer drawn on the chart.
Soon the wind cleared away the fog and we were able to sail along the coast and into Weymouth Bay, carefully going round the firing range. In Weymouth harbour we tied up at the visitors' moorings. There were big notices saying 'SINGLE MOORINGS ONLY. NO CATAMARANS'.
Next day we found out why. The big cross-channel ferry that had been tied up on the other side of the harbour left as usual just after midnight, and to do that they had to swing it to point the other way. The ferry was back again later that day, so we set the alarm clock that night and watched it swing. Not that you could see much in the dark, but you could feel all those tons of steel passing just a few feet away. It made the hairs on your neck stand on end. We didn't stay in Weymouth long. While we were there we caught a bus to Portland Bill and looked out at our next obstacle, the Portland Race. It is an underwater mountain. When the tide is coming in, all the water in Lyme Bay tries to get over this mountain, making the surface boil. It is reputed to sometimes reach 11 knots! Even ships go round it. We had come to look at the inside channel between the Bill and the Race. The chart said only to be used with local knowledge and I could see why, as the whole area was covered with lobster pots. One lobster pot float line round the propeller and you could get dragged into that dangerous race. We went the long way round. This meant it was dark by the time we had crossed Lyme Bay and we got a nasty shock when Hope's Nose (an offshore rock) suddenly appeared between us and Torquay. It was much too close to us for comfort. We thought Torquay Yacht Club might be snobby, so we were heading for Brixham, a fishing and holiday harbour.
It was 3.30 in the morning when we arrived and it was pitch black. The upper deck of the fish dock was lit up like daylight. The lower deck was in deep shadow. As I stepped off with the forward mooring line, I warned Mr Harley to be very careful as it was all floating and wobbled about as I walked across it Mr Harley stepped off with the stern line and thanked me for the timely warning. Next morning, in the sunlight, we laughed when we found it was all made of concrete and solid as a rock! The movement had been in our legs after so many hours at sea. The rest of the night we had to take turns in going to sleep in case the fishing fleet returned and crushed us in the shadows. With the return of daylight we moved out into the sheltered anchorage, so we could drop anchor and both get some sleep. We were anchored on rock and kept dragging the anchor, so we didn't stay long.
We sailed further down the Channel and went into Salcombe. The harbour launch came chugging out to greet us, and directed us to the four big red visitors' buoys. We had just moored to one of the buoys when a big motor cruiser came in from the sea, flying the Stars and Stripes. He was having great problems trying to reach the buoy from their very high foredeck. The harbour launch chugged up and they lifted the buoy out of the water, and held it up at arms' length, so the man on the foredeck could pass the mooring rope through the eye on top of the buoy!
Salcombe was by far the best, most relaxing mooring yet, but once we were rested we were eager to be off again. Once out to sea again we turned to starboard and went into a wall of fog. We had set course for the Eddystone lighthouse and it wasn't long before we could hear the Eddystone foghorn straight ahead. We sailed on in the thick fog. When we arrived at the Eddystone lighthouse there was a big hole in the fog, with the sun lighting up the rocks and the lighthouse. There was a dinghy tied up to the steps, a fishing line was out and the door at the top of the steps was open, but no-one was in sight! We left them to it and sailed on, into the fog again. We made a slight adjustment to our course, so we were heading for the Lizard. To make sure we were on course in the fog we kept taking back bearings of the Eddystone foghorn. Eventually we could hear the foghorn on the Lizard.
So we shouldn't hit any of the off-lying rocks around the Lizard Point, we found a safe depth (I think it was 13 fathoms.) We headed for the foghorn until the depth sounder dropped to that, then we turned left until the foghorn was off the beam to starboard, then we followed that depth round the Point, until the course to steer for Penzance appeared on the compass, and off we went without ever seeing the Lizard.
Half-way across Mount's Bay the wind from the Atlantic suddenly rolled away the fog! When I looked back at that great big lump of rock, I found it hard to believe what we had just done! With the fog gone we could sail into Penzance. Just before we went behind the harbour wall, we saw a three-masted ship, coming in past Land's End.
We wanted to go into the inner harbour, but as the tide was out we moored up in the corner, by the steps. Then the harbour launch rushed up and said "You can't moor there. The ferry is coming." We explained that we were waiting for the tide, to go through the lock gate. He said "it's too late to move. It's here! Don't try to move or he'll crush you. Stay up that corner and he'll get very close but can't touch you." The ferry turned out to be the three masted ship we had seen coming in. It was big and the stem went right up to the lock gates, with one of the forward mooring ropes going the other side of our mast! We couldn't get out now, even if we wanted to. The ferry unloaded and loaded again, setting sail long before the tide was high enough to enable us to go into the safe mooring of the inner harbour. It was great to relax in the safety of the inner harbour.
We had intended to wait patiently there, until the weather forecast was just right for the long, next leg of our voyage. It was a bit of a shock to find the forecast was as good as you could expect, so after only a couple of days, we paid our harbour dues and made an early start the next day. It was a great sailing wind, with no help needed from the engine. Soon we were looking at the little harbour at Mousehole, with its stone island sheltering the entrance. Then we were following the rocky coast of Land's End, until we could lay a course to steer, just to the left of the Longships lighthouse. We held that course until well after passing the wreck of the 'Torrey Canyon', lying on the Seven Stones reef. It wasn't recognisable as a ship, just a jumble of rusty steel plates.
When we were safely clear of all hazards, we set course for Cork in Ireland. As it was nearly 300 miles away we knew it was going to be a long stint. If the Atlantic wind were to freshen from the south-west, we would change our plans and run before it, up the Irish Sea. As it got dark on the first night out we were able to take back-bearings of the Longships lighthouse to make sure we were heading in the right direction. We could also see the Wolf Rock lighthouse and the Penden watch lighthouse. We were making good progress but those lighthouses were still visible just before dawn the next day!
We continued to see sharks, in fact 15 in one day! With a cloudless sky, the sun penetrated deep into the sea, giving us good catches of mackerel, (well we had to have something to go with our one loaf of bread.) Later that day I sailed us over the edge of the world! I called Mr. Harley up on deck to witness the event. The area of sea ahead of us was crystal clear and you could see down into the depths about 200 feet. I wish to this day I had tasted it as I'm sure it was fresh water! As to how it got there I can only guess; a melted iceberg, torrential rain, a large river or a discharge from the sea-bed. What do you think? The two types of water were not mixing and the edge was vertical. It took me all my will-power to stay on course and to deliberately sail out over this precipice! I'm sure this phenomenon was what caused Christopher Columbus so much trouble with his crew.
Mr. Harley wore glasses, so I had to steer at night, and when there was any spray flying and when the sun was glaring off the sea, so by the third day I was feeling very tired and a little bit weird. It was a great relief when we saw mountains on southern Ireland. We had been looking at about 40 degrees above the horizon, but we were so far out that the mountains eventually appeared as a black smudge above the horizon. As we got nearer to the coast we came across a large fishing boat. It wasn't at anchor or underway. The face sitting behind the steering wheel came and looked out at us from the open door. It was a very large black dog! We assumed the crew were fast asleep. I felt like asking the dog where we were making landfall, but I suppose that would have been barking up the wrong tree.
By now the wind was so light that we had to start the engine. Landfall turned out to be the Old Head of Kinsale. We turned to starboard and followed the cliffs into Cork harbour. It's the second biggest natural harbour in the world. We came across a large shoal of whitebait, being preyed upon by mackerel. The gannets were dive-bombing from above. A massive shark was ploughing through the shoal and coming out the other side with the biggest mackerel he could find. He would eat it and go straight back through for another. I was steering the yacht round the melee to get a good view, until Mr. Harley realized the massive shark was nearly as long as our yacht, and if it got mad at us it could easily stove in a plank. So we left them to it and motored into Crosshaven, to tie up at one of the visitors' buoys at the big yacht club.
Three days of sun glaring off the sea and nights staring into the dark had `done in' my colour retinas. Next day I could only see shades of grey. I was on the point of going to see a doctor, but didn't like the idea of a stranger dealing with my sight because of the troubles, halfway across we took down the British Red Ensign and raised the Three Legged Isle of Man Ensign I did my bit by writing an open postcard home saying how worried he had been but needn't have been so concerned because the locals were so kind and helpful, always greeting you with a smile and a chat. As I thought, the post-lady must have read it overnight, because next morning I was in the post-office stores again and was greeted with a smile and helpful advice, in fact I was kept chatting so long that I had a job to get back for dinner. It was so successful that we exchanged Christmas cards for about 20 years, until she died.
Mr. Harley telegrammed home for his wife to come and join him for a short holiday on board. When she arrived, I departed to hitchhike to Castletown, near Baltimore, way down south. The reason I went there was to meet the Sturkey family, who had sailed their new trimaran round from Japan, where he had been working for the USA government. They had left Trinidad after we had left Great Yarmouth, but they got to Ireland before us! Their trimaran was designed by Eric Manners, my employer, and was built by Japanese boatbuilders. To save water they got Mrs Sturkey to put on a swim suit, and then they built the bath around her.
We stood on the deck and watched their kinsfolk fishing for salmon, with nets across the river. In the evening we trouped across the road to their ancestral pub, where they wanted to give me a 38 pound salmon! They were most insistent and I had great difficulty in turning it down. After the pub, we went back to their trimaran, where they put me up for the night. A village pub put me up for the next night as I hitchhiked back to Crosshaven, via Kinsale.
Mrs. Harley was still on board when I arrived back, so they had arranged for me to stay at a bed and breakfast ashore. While there I caught the flu, it put me in bed for three days. The proprietors were most understanding as they had already had it themselves. Eventually I felt well enough to walk down to the yacht club and found Mr. Harley. When I explained about having the flu, he went mad and said "You youngsters have got no stamina. A little cold and you think you're dying. My wife left yesterday. Go and bring your things on board We sail in the morning." It was poetic justice because as we sailed over the bar the next morning, Mr. Harley's `cold' developed and he took to his bunk for the next three days!
It was yet another sunny day with blue sky and a sparkling, calm sea, with just enough wind to move the yacht gently along the rocky coast It was force of habit when I lowered the mackerel spinner over the side. I paid out the whole 60 feet of line and it went vertically down. I was amazed when I saw the flash of silver, before I felt the jerk on the line to confirm I had caught a mackerel. Soon I had caught three-quarters of a bucketful. A weak voice from down below said "Don't catch any more. I shan't want any."
I was mesmerised by looking into the depths and fearful of seeing anything, when I sailed us over the wreck of the Lusitauia! Later I sailed us past half an Alsatian dog! As I was alone at the helm, I took the sails down at sea and motored into Dunmore East, after going this way and that to get around all the salmon nets set in the estuary.
We stayed moored at Dunmore East until Mr Harley was seaworthy again. The harbour has a level working area alongside it. Directly behind this rises a vertical cliff, all the little ledges and fissures are home to the largest colony of Kittiwakes, a type of sea-gull. Their constant mewing keeps the visitors awake at night and shouting at each other by day.
A couple had hired a sea-going cruiser from England. They had crossed the Irish Sea and were tied up alongside us. They departed one day at dawn. Four hours later they limped back into port. We helped them tie up; they looked green and said that they had spent most of the time wallowing around trying to get the engine to stay in forward gear. It would go alright in reverse; in fact that's how they got back into port! He was despairing that if he couldn't fix it, it would be a call out fee of £150 to get an engineer to come from Dublin! He said "I can't make it out. If I disconnect the operating cable from the lever on the gear-box I can move that lever into gear and it will stay in gear, but when I connect it again, it won't." I said "It's almost as if there was something stopping the control knob from going fully forward, but there's nothing there. Wait a minute, do you have a flying bridge above?" He said "Yes." I said "Does it have another set of controls?" He said "Yes." I said "Is that lever catching something?" He ran upstairs and returned saying "Yes!" We all had a good laugh. It was as simple as a tear in the covering sheet that stopped the full forward movement of that lever. Later Mr. Harley said "You fool, you should have kept quiet and taken the job on and made yourself a lot of money."
We went into the yacht club and looked at a big chart of the area hanging on the wall. I was amazed at all the little crosses in the area we were going into next, as each cross was a rock that broke the surface of the sea. It looked most formidable. I remarked to Mr. Harley "It looks like a big detour to get round that lot!" The secretary of the club overheard and said "Oh no! All our club members do the short route. Look here, I'll show you. When you come out from behind Hook Head set a course to steer straight through between the Saltee Islands and from there to just off Carnsore Point. Try it you can't go wrong and it will save you 50 miles. But a word of warning, don't do it if it is foggy." Another helpful member of the yacht club took us into Waterford, so we could visit the glass factory.
When we eventually left Dunmore East, I motored us out into the Estuary and found they had added many more salmon nets: 'We had to go mile after mile to get round the nets; when we got round the end of one net we would - find ourselves in the middle of the next and so on. When eventually we came out into the sea, I looked to port past Hook Head and got a good view of the Saltee Islands. So I hauled up the sails, switched off the engine and laid a course for the gap between the two islands, just as the locals had directed. When I caught sight of all those rocks, worn away by the actions of the sea to leave a jagged point, just breaking the surface of the sea, or revealed in a wave-trough, I pondered the wisdom of our actions.
Between the Saltee Islands was a line in the sea that turned out to be a waterfall, with the drop of about 18 inches. I couldn't help wondering just how far the slab of rock was below the surface and whether we had been set up to be wrecked. But we sailed over the waterfall quite safely and out rounding the headland of Carnsore Point.
Further up the coast of Ireland we came across a long row of buoys that marked a long offshore sandbank, parallel with the beach. The trouble was we didn't know if the buoys were marking the inside or the outside of the sandbank! I suggested that as a ship placed the buoys there, if we sailed directly from one buoy to the next along the row we should be OK. It worked and we arrived safely at Arklow, where the bank manager was checking the ropes on his yacht. He saw us coming in and caught our forward mooring rope. When we were safely tied and locked up, he kindly drove us into town so we could have fish and chips. It was a good job he was there or we would never have found it. He led us into a bakers', straight through the shop and out the back, across a cobbled yard and down a flight of stairs. Lo and behold there was the fish and chip shop, and very nice they were too.
With a good forecast we left Arklow early and I sailed us gently up the east coast of Ireland arriving at the Kish light house off Dublin at 4-30 in the afternoon. With a continued good forecast we set off to cross to the Isle of Man. The wind freshened but the sea stayed flat. A few hours later when it got dark we could still seethe loom of the Kish and were able to get a back-bearing on it to check we were going in the right direction. At that time we noticed a red light abaft the starboard beam. It was there for hour after hour, we pondered that it could be on Anglesey. It was a black moonless night but the visibility was good. We were identifying the lighthouses on Chicken Rock, The Calf of Man and Dreswick Point, when I suddenly realised that the red light was higher! I asked for permission to turn and head back. Mr. Harley said he thought it would be all right, but left it up to me. I was sure now, the red light was higher, I slammed the tiller over and headed us back the way we had come.
It was none too soon either, as the red light climbed up and up then someone on the bridge of the ship shone a searchlight down into our well and lit us up like a couple of startled rabbits in the headlights. Mr. Harley said "Don't wave; he may think we are in trouble!" I said "We may well be, they are at full speed and I daren't take their bow-wave on our stern So as soon as we hear the wave I must turn and face it." The searchlight went out and left us blind as bats but now for the first time we could hear their massive engine thundering away. Then we could hear the bow-wave approaching in the dark! I flung the tiller over to face the wave, the bow was slammed up by the wave, then the stern, we were jerked back down into the well by our safety-lines when the yacht dropped back into the sea and left us in mid-air! I said "That was the bow-wave, the next one won't be quite as big." It wasn't and eventually the surface quietened down. We pumped the bilge and resumed our journey. Perhaps it's just as well that we hadn't been able to see the size of that wave! The big ship had come up the Irish Sea to go to the left of the Isle of Man; we had come up the Irish Sea to go to the right of the Isle of Man. When the bearing of another vessel remains the same, it means you are on a collision course. We should have twigged that earlier.
It became light as we approached the Isle of Man, at 7-30 am we lost the wind and were becalmed just off Douglas. Apart from nearly being run down, it had been a grand crossing Dublin to Douglas in 15 hours, strong wind and flat sea are unusual. We didn't wait for the wind to return, but started the engine, with no fear of running out of petrol now. Motoring up the east coast of the island, lowering and stowing the sails for the last time on this voyage. As we passed the Laxey Wheel [The biggest water wheel in the world.] It shone in the bright sunshine all red and blue to impress the holiday visitors. The last time I'd seen it was during the war when my Dad squeezed through the barbed-wire and climbed halfway up the spiral staircase. When he came down I asked why he hadn't gone to the top. He gave me a one word reply "rust." As we completed our long voyage by motoring into Ramsey, a little fishing boat came chugging out to sea, without giving us a second glance. I felt like yelling "You'll never guess what we've done." But he wouldn't have wanted to know. It's nice to know that YOU do or you wouldn't have got this far! Once in port Mr. Harley moved 3 dinghies [without their owner's permission,] to get his yacht tied up alongside the harbour wall, because most of Ramsey harbour dries out at low tide! His yacht has a fin keel; it needs a wall to lean against when the water all goes at low tide. It's not quite as easy as that, before the keel actually touches the bottom the yacht has to be moved a few inches away from the wall and held there. When the yacht is standing on the bottom it can then be pulled over to lean against the wall. Mr. Harley set the alarm clock for me to attend to this, then went home to his wife, and I went to bed.
The first thing I knew that something was wrong was when I was woken up by things falling off the shelves' then I heard two men shouting "Wake up, have you got a rope?" I unlocked the door and pushed open the hatch and replied "Yes, Iíve got a rope, I'll just put my trousers on.` One of the men said "Never mind about your pajamaís; seconds count. It may be to late already. Tie that rope round the mast as high as you can get it and throw the rest to us." I didn't think it was going to work, but with them pulling and me pushing on the quant the yacht came upright then further to lean against the harbour wall. They tied the rope to the handrail, received my grateful thanks and left me to get dressed. I had been so tired that I'd slept through the alarm clock! Mr. Harley drove up in his car and said that he was going to make sheer-legs to stop the yacht from falling over again. If it had fallen right over all the way, when the tide came back in the yacht would fill with water and sink!
For the next 3 days while the sheer-legs were being made I stayed on board to adjust the moorings at the appropriate time on each tide. Also I wrote up the voyage using the log to send to the R.Y.A. The yacht is an Eventide class, the designer was Maurice Griffiths. We won his trophy for the longest voyage of one of his designs in that year.
His daughter very kindly sent me the engraved tankard when Mr Harley died.
I never got a copy of the log so I've done all this from memory. It was so vivid at first that I used to think of the voyage every day, as the years have passed I sometimes go for a month without giving it a thought. I was away from home for 5 weeks and 2 days.
When Mr Harley drove me to the Islands airport at Ronaldsway, it took me 35 minutes to fly back to Heathrow!
Hope you've enjoyed this true story of my voyage.