Home' Afloat : AFLOAT September 2016 Contents 52 AFLOAT.com.au September 2016
*John Quirk has been writing about and illustrating the joys of
messing about in boats for over half a century. He is the author /
illustrator of Foul Bottoms, published by Adlard Coles and available
from Boat Books in Crows Nest and from Amazon.
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near Lynmouth, the ebb is easing there and the seas calmer, then
just keep the cliffs on your left and stay in the wind shadow. We
actually returned this way and with wind and tide together, it
was flat calm. Pity we did not know about this route at the time.
We proudly dried out on the sea legs we had whittled during
the winter and opened the bilge drain to let out the water.
This was traced to a worn stern gland so we moved to a firmer,
sandier part of the harbour where we could repack it. The sun
came out but the wind increased for the next few days allowing
us to enjoy the delights of the town from which to watch the
foam flecked Channel.
Two days later a fine calm morning dawned and we were off
to delightful Porlock Weir. You can follow this in the book Foul
Bottoms. In picture postcard Porlock harbour, I went for a very
refreshing swim as we lay alongside a rather scruffy converted
ships lifeboat. The latter’s crew made some disparaging remarks
about motor cruisers not being real sea boats for these waters.
Interesting, as they were pumping their bilges till well after we
fell into an exhausted sleep.
The rest of the trip was textbook perfection. We woke to
sunlight streaming through the ports, the sound of gulls and
Derek frying rashers of bacon. We passed within a biscuit toss
of the sheer Exmoor cliffs, the highest coastal ones in UK that
plunge down to the deepest water in the Channel. We worked
the tides to nudge into quaint harbours among the local fishing
boats and very few pleasure craft.
The tide came in over sun warmed beaches to make swimming
as enjoyable as it ever was in UK when you were 20. Google images
of Porlock Weir, Lynmouth and Watermouth Bay.
If you are heading to the UK, get off the beaten track and
experience Exmoor. You can get a local boatman from Lynmouth
to show you it from the sea at high tide. He will probably tell
you of the fatal floods of 19521 or the amazing Lynmouth lifeboat
rescue. Or you can read all about it in a future FB in Afloat. As you
will about the charming Watermouth Bay. There was a reminder
in the Afloat Nautical Quiz last month of the vital part this West
facing drying harbour played in WW2.
We peered round Hartland Point where the pilot book
encouragingly beckoned, saying ...
From Hartland Point
To Padstow Light
Tis watery grave
By day and night ...
And we even eased into Ilfracombe where only four years
earlier, I had watched the three-masted top sail schooner Kathleen
and May and assorted ketches unloading their cargoes.
The return passage was under such hot calm conditions it
was the only time I remember in UK that it was too hot to stand
on the decks in bare feet. We cooled ourselves and the canvas
painted decks with buckets of sea water.
The main results of this cruise were: Dave was so enthused,
he bought an outboard speedboat (more on that later) and Jack
put Ryegate up for sale. Sadly, Derek left for London chomping on
a doughnut in a cloud of Craven A smoke and was never heard
from again. Brian went back to serve out a secure life sentence
as a planner with a local council ... with a head full of dreams.
Me? I just wondered what was over the next horizon and four
years later set off for East Africa ...
After the rough passage to Minehead, Jack had quietly
wondered about having Ryegate sent back to the Severn by
road, but the timeless delight of these salty coastal harbours
had diminished the appeal of the river. He sold Ryegate and
commissioned a new diesel powered cruiser to be built in
a Cornish boatyard. In Spring Maid 2, we explored the South
Coast, Channel Islands and, quite by accident, (Afloat Oct’12)
the French coast.
Yes, Paul Hilzinger, these pieces are about real people and
real life. This episode was one of the most exciting and satisfying
incidents in mine. It still brings a thrill to look back on it. And
in conjunction with Ryegate’s current generous custodians, with
whom we have already enjoyed three cruises, it is on my bucket
list to do it again someday. Thanks for your comment which
promoted such happy memories of youth.
Stick around. There’s more ... h
On 15 and 16 August 1952, a storm of tropical intensity broke over
south-west England, depositing 9ins of rain within 24 hours on the
already saturated soil of Exmoor, Devon. Debris-laden floodwaters
cascaded down the northern escarpment of the moor, converging
upon the village of Lynmouth.
Overnight, more than 100 buildings were destroyed along with 28
of the 31 bridges, and 38 cars were washed out to sea. In total, 34
people died, with a further 420 made homeless. The lighthouse
collapsed into the river the next day.
Ryegate at 78 years old plying the Berkeley Ship Canal.
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