Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cobnor (Day Five)

Approximately three hours after high water ‘Faith’ took the hard at the Cobnor slipway; it was 0810 on a grey morning of Tuesday, 21st August. I had listened to the forecast that predicted winds from the North, occasionally reaching force 7. One or two of the DCA folk made an appearance at the slipway, but the general opinion was that not many would venture out on the water. Some had decided they would return home with their boats, as the weather was not improving according the Meteorological Office’s expectations at the weekend. Phil was one of those. His beautiful green Ness Yawl (that wasn’t a yawl) was already on her trailer, but he had time to spare before taking to the road. I told him of my shortage of food and that I would need to find a grocer’s shop, whereupon he volunteered to take me in his luxurious campervan to the enormous Tesco Supermarket at Christchurch.

Only a stone’s throw from the quiet backwater we were cautiously proceeding along country lanes and all of a sudden at a roundabout we found ourselves amongst congested traffic of a main road where drivers were bent of getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ as fast as they could. None of them appeared to have any patience whatsoever. Cars and lorries screeched around the roundabout and no one wanted to give way. I found the contrast of being with patient boaters happy to pass the time of day until the arrival of better weather was quite a shock. We had left Keith and Al in their private worlds aboard their tiny boats quietly attending to their affairs until the return of the tide by nature’s rhythmic force.

At the ginormous supermarket Phil and I entered such a different world – one most perplexing by the diverse choice of goods stacked on the shelves and a completely man-made environment. I was in a daze unable to remember what I really needed for re-provisioning ‘Faith’ for the next four to six days. I was uncertain how long I would continue the cruise at Christchurch, but it would depend on the weather and how I felt. Vegetables, fruit, bread, drink and tinned meat; these I knew I would have to buy. Paper towels and batteries for the miniature torch I completely forgot. Toilet paper I had. Not until I returned to my boat did I remember I should have looked for a stand containing reading glasses to replace the ones I had lost when I fell off the boat. Because of my obvious uncertainty of what was really needed I sensed Phil was guiding me in my choices and I appreciated his knowledge gained through shopping expeditions in the normal course of his life, since this was his usual role when he went shopping with his wife. (Not that I was a substitute for his partner!)

Back at the campsite, and laden with plastic bags full of goodies, Phil gave me a hand with them to the muddy beach where I squelched to ‘Faith’ for off-loading them to her decks until I could find places for each item. On a boat there’s a place reserved for everything, but first I had to lift myself onto the deck without leaving black mud everywhere and experience had taught me to have a bucket of clean water kept for the purpose of sponging off the filthy stuff. I actually use a stiff brush for this necessary task while taking care not to splatter the deck with specks of mud. When the footwear has been cleaned I leave it so that the soles face uppermost to dry; in the case of Wellington boots, they are left on their sides.

By 1130 ‘Faith’ was back at her favourite anchorage overlooking the slipway. The wind blew strongly from the north against the incoming tide which had the tendency to swing my boat from one side to the other, but not a great strain was placed on the anchor and cable because the forces of wind and tide counteracted each other. Lots of people had decided to walk the river banks; there was one family however occupying a bench seat at the head of the slipway. They had two boys aged about 11 and 9. The smaller and younger of the two started playing at the water’s edge, and as he did so he began to be soaked by the breaking waves; then he waded deeper into the water only to be joined with his brother. Not to be outdone, the smaller boy, although wearing his ordinary clothes waded further until he found himself swimming. Only then did their parents have any concern for him. His mother ran down the slipway calling for the swimmer to return to the shore. Reluctantly he obeyed his mum, but when back in shallow water he used his hands to spray his brother. The bigger lad responded by going after the perpetrator until he also became waterlogged. Both lads seemed not to be affected by the cold wind and chill factor because of their wet attire. They continued messing around on the beach, each in turn throwing stones towards moored boats, not to hit them, but simply to try splashing them.

I remained at the anchorage all day while being thoroughly entertained by many young sailors learning their skills under the tuition of the nearby Sailing Centre. On occasions I was concerned about their closeness when sailing over ‘Faith’s’ anchor line. Their tutors did not seem to realise how close to the surface the rope was, because of the pull of the current. Unlike chain used with the nearby moorings for yachts, the anchor rope skimmed the surface for several feet before being pulled down by the influence of the chain and anchor. I took the opportunity of using the strong wind to dry my anorak and swimming costume by hanging them from the lazy jack. As there was little else to do I thoroughly cleaned the interior of the boat and rearranged a few items. I also became better acquainted with my VHF set by testing different functions.

By 1800 the meteorologist’s promised drizzle forced me to retrieve my anorak and swimming costume while they were dry, and to close the hatch. I had already eaten the main meal of the day, so I made myself comfortable by setting up the mattress and preparing myself for a long night’s rest, but before closing my eyes I used the navigation magnifying glass to read two more chapters of ‘Survive the Savage Sea’. Finally, after listening to the radio I snuggled down into the warmth of my sleeping bag. The wind had died away and there was a welcome silence after the cessation of the constant drumming of halyards on metal masts of nearby yachts. I contentedly fell asleep.

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