Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cobnor (Day Seven)

Weather dictates what the sailor can do. If there’s wind, he can sail, providing it is not too strong and preferably if it comes from a favourable direction. Paradox can work to windward, but not handily as a Wayfarer or a Mirror dinghy; therefore I must first consider the proposed route before setting off. Without an engine there is no guarantee of achieving the objective. Perhaps that’s not such a problem with Paradox, if there is time to spare, because the necessities of life and items for survival are immediately available. The boat is very strong and she can take the ground; she can be sealed from the elements to provide relative comfort. With food and drink available it does not matter if plans are changed by the weather or if the boat is stranded on a mud bank until the next tide.

Considering these factors and having been afloat for two days without moving from the anchorage at Cobnor I felt I could not face another day of bobbing around while the wind whistled from the north; therefore at 0710 I beached ‘Faith’ near the slipway, but as the water receded and the wind pushed her on the beach I became aware of the sharp flint stones under her. As she lifted on each wave and the noise of grinding was magnified by the hollowness of her hull, but my fears that there would be damage were without foundation, because a later inspection of the bottom showed there was no discernable wear. An hour and half later she was high and dry which meant I had ten hours before ‘Faith’ would be afloat again.

With the prospect of drizzle and the aim of reaching Emsworth by foot I donned my anorak and placed a Mars Bar in the pocket. More appropriately I should have prepared a picnic with ample drink. I needed to buy fruit, milk, yoghurts and paper towels and a knapsack would have been useful for carrying the goodies. Having told Al and Len of my intentions I set off for the ten mile return trek. There was lightness in my heart when I found myself in isolation walking the sandy eastern fringe of the Thorney Channel. Glancing behind I saw the imprints of my shoes and I made a mental note to look for them on my return. To my right there was a red sandstone bank almost hidden by clusters of miniature ancient gnarled oak trees and to my left was the broad and colourful expanse of marshland stretching to narrow muddy channels where flocks of gulls searched for food. The silence, apart from a faint rustling of leaves was most apparent. My spontaneous reaction was to burst into song and with no one to hear me I was not embarrassed with being off-tune. The joy of freedom I greatly cherished.

I became aware of my lack of knowledge regarding the huge variety of estuarine plants and flowers it was my privilege to see; some were so beautiful I just had to stop and examine them; the flotsam and jetsam cast up at the foot of the sea wall I purposely ignored. Appearing from nowhere a stranger approached me from ahead. To my mind his appearance was weird – tall, tassel haired and with his head inclined towards his right shoulder. On passing close, because of the narrow path between tall grasses each side of the pathway, I greeted him with, “Good morning!”, but there was no reply. Pleased that our encounter was brief I scanned the way ahead and noted two more figures proceeding in my direction. Optical perspective gave the impression they were a long way off, but it was only a matter of minutes and we were greeting each other. The two were obviously hikers out for the day because of the way they were dressed with boots while having small rucksacks on their backs and using walking sticks.

How many more people would I meet along this protected stretch of National Trust walkway? Only a few, and those meetings were near easy access points which encouraged owners of dogs to bring them for exercise and to do their inevitable deposits of whatnots. I kept my eyes open for treacle sausages, because if there’s one thing I dislike it’s having the smelly stuff on my shoes!

By mid-day I had traversed the southern boundary of Prinsted and walked through the boatyard of Thorney Marina where I called into the Boater’s CafĂ© for a ploughman’s lunch without the cider. The cup of coffee did not satisfy my thirst, but the salad, cheese and buttered loaf more than satisfied my hunger. I did not care for the loud piped music. Before continuing with my walk I thought it prudent to ask the way to Emsworth and how far I needed to go. It was just as well I did, because I would have followed the path going south towards Stanbury Point, only then realizing my error. Instead of taking the path dictated by my instinct I went as I was directed up the road from the Marina until coming to a main road which I crossed to a footpath leading to Emsworth Marina. There was barely room between overhanging branches and bramble bushes, but I proceeded until reaching the Marina. As I had walked to the town centre before from the Marina I confidently made my way along the delightful raised pathway that lay between a tidal leat and a large pond.

With only a short distance left to the Co-op I raised the hood of my anorak to protect myself from the drizzle, but I felt people were looking at me with some trepidation because of my resemblance to one of David Cameron’s adorable ‘hoodies’ who are people we should not hug, but understand. By the time I had done my little shopping the drizzle had ceased and I could walk with my hair blown by the blustery wind. Back at Emsworth Marina I called into the office to inform the duty staff that I would be taking ‘Faith’ out of the water some days later than stated and I enquired if I could use the slipway winch.

The return to Cobnor was over previously covered ground, but more prolonged because I stopped to pick blackberries on the way. I noted a colourful pair of spectacles that were hung on a signpost and tried them to see if they were any good for reading and they were perfect, but they were not mine; therefore I replaced them for the owner to find. In my mind I was convinced I would come across the spectacles I had lost when I fell off the boat and to this end before arriving back at Cobnor slipway I searched the muddy stretch by the sea wall where I had had the mishap. Saddened that I could not find my spectacles in the mud or blobs of weed I returned to ‘Faith’ for a welcome cup of tea, but before getting aboard I mentioned to Al that I had run out of reading material and he gave me a Pan book by Agatha Christie, ‘The Secret Adversary’.

By 1900 my boat was at anchor in her ‘spot’ overlooking the slipway. The wind had abated and was only a zephyr. Reading the Christie book was difficult because the print was small, the light bad and I had to use the magnifying glass. I took solace by listening to the radio and telephoning my wife. Then I slumbered until I fell asleep.

This is small boat cruising.

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