Sunday 30 October 2016

David and goliaths

Went sailing up Southampton Water with the Dinghy Cruising Association on Saturday. Winds were light to nothing at all so almost everyone relied to a considerable extent on secondary propulsion, in my case oars.
The fearless David Sumner went between the Isle of Wight ferry (r) and a monster container ship (l) which looks totally death-defying in the picture I took from a nice safe position behind the channel markers. But the distance between the ships was larger than apparent, and I think he was running the motor so he was under control at all times.
I got fed up sitting there going nowhere so I took to the oars (picture: Tom). Then I felt a breath of wind and put the sail back up again, whereupon it died. This happened about a million times before I got fed up with that too and decided to get stuck in and row back. From Hythe to Warsash. Snarleyow  is quite heavy but under oars she was faster than all the sailors.
Here we are getting the boats out.
The absentee was Tom, the guy who took that picture of me. His motor would not start, then he broke a rowlock. He eventually managed to lash the oar on and got back after dark. Bad luck, Tom!
When I got home I lay on the sofa drinking wine and watching TV. Exhausted.

Friday 28 October 2016


Rowing in fog is like rowing through space. The horizon disappears, replaced with a gradation of greys from the dark of the water to the light of the sun trying to break through.
The downside is it is completely disorientating, with no indication of direction apart from the sun. Even up and down is a bit vague. I steered by mobile phone.
First, I fired up Google Earth and checked our position. Google Earth is the best because it shows all the mudbanks. The picture clearly shows a rough heading. Next, bring up the phone's compass and off we go.
Surprising how quickly the heading changes - I needed to consult the compass all the time even looking at the sun. Surprising also how often one needs to look back at Google Earth to check the position.
Cue for old Goon Show exchange:
Captain Ned Seagoon: "What's our position?"
Major Dennis Bloodknock: "Desperate!"
So it was a great relief to see the Ferryboat Inn looming out of the mist. We had arrived!

Thursday 20 October 2016


Up the Hamble in the Solent galley Avery A today to see the changing colours of the trees. In a week or so they will be spectacular.
The fleet from Hamble River Rowers consisted of Avery A, a Bursledon gig and a sliding seat double scull. We went up to the Horse and Jockey for tea or beer, according to taste.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Messing about in a Quad

Langstone Cutters juniors visited Dittons Skiff and Punting Club recently, to experience the joy of skiffing and build up some river coxing skills. They did so well in the doubles Malcolm Knight got special permission for them to row the club's unique quad skiff, built in 1895.
Apparently the boat was acquired a number of years ago when the then owners concluded it was useless and threatened to burn it. Dittons went to look at it, taking the Eton College boatman for expert advice. He squinted down it, and then waggled the stern firmly. The whole boat wiggled like a snake in childbirth and everyone assumed it was structurally unsound. "It's fine," the boatman said. They got it restored and today is is a thing of beauty as you can see.
At the end of the day these guys floated down from the nearby watersports centre. Not sure what type of sailing rig that is, technically speaking.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Oars For Sale

Southbourne Sea Scouts are having a clear-out of their wonderfully-located scout hut right on Chichester Harbour in picturesque Prinsted. It is a treasure trove of boating stuff, including these oars which they want to dispose of.
They range in length from about 6ft to about 9ft (measured by a scientific process of knowing the doors are 8ft 6in high). With one exception, they are straight sea oars with plastic sleeves. 
The shorter oars do not seem to be in pairs unfortunately but that depends on how picky you are. The spoon blade is a really attractive antique shape and would make a great ornament for a pub.
The Sea Scouts are open to any offers in aid of club funds. Email me, and I will put you in contact.
Even if you don't want any oars, Prinsted is a really pretty place to launch a boat (access two hours either side of high water) and on Sundays from April to October you can get tea and cakes at the Sea Scout's hut.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Last Cruise of The Year (Probably)

It's the time of year for getting out whenever you can because it may be months before an opportunity recurs, so last weekend the five members of the Home Built Boat Rally who could drop everything, hook the boat on the car and head for the water at a moments notice went to Bablock Hythe.
Bablock where? It's a hamlet on the Thames upstream of Oxford, consisting of the Ferryman Inn and a bunch of mobile homes. Not a place that features in those Glories of England picture postcards but which has the three elements required for a successful river cruise in small boats, viz:
1) Campsite,
2) Slipway, and
3) BEER.
There was the usual eclectic mix of boats. Richard Rooth brought his new kayak built to a Paul Fisher design and painted a vivid scarlet. Graham Neil brought Katie Beardie, built to a design by Chris Waite. Paul Hadley brought Millibee, a Paul Fisher Lynx micro-yacht.
Tim O'Connor brought two canoes from his vast collection, a Cheseapeake Light Craft kit kayak and a collapsible canoe made by a Swedish firm (amazingly, not IKEA) that he assembled from a pile of aluminium tubes and a huge plastic sheet. Once up, it looked rather good but went sloooowly...
And I took Snarleyow Too (natch...she is a Thames girl).
On Saturday we went upstream to the Rose Revived at New Bridge, so called because it was built in the reign of King John.
On Sunday we went downstream almost to Eynsham Bridge via Pinkhill Lock (pictured above) and had a picnic.
All in all, a fabulous weekend. But waking on Sunday morning the view from the campsite was beautiful but chillingly autumnal. I don't think we will be getting away again this year.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

By the Light of the Silv'ry Moon

Rowing by moonlight is a rich and particular pleasure, but in the challenging navigation of Chichester Harbour it happens once in a, well, blue moon. Everything has to be right: high water before bedtime, a big moon, cloudless sky and light breezes.
Last night it all happened and we rowed down towards the harbour mouth under the stars.
And we saw the International Space Station swing overhead.
And then there was beer.