Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Small Fry, part 2


Manureva again

Sunday morning brought little wind and a thick, pea soup fog. The sound of ships’ horns came from all quarters, and with the life raft at the ready, we had a few anxious moments. The siren of Lizard Lighthouse grew closer, sounding one long blast and one short. Faint images emerged from the gloom. There was tiny ‘Bluff’ drifting in circles, and beyond her lay the Lizard’s rocky spine. For the next two hours a gentle wind blew from the southeast, and our large yellow spinnaker drew us along nicely. We silently skipped over rippling water towards that sentinel of the Western Approaches, the Bishop Rock Lighthouse; tall, austere and granite grey. After bypassing a vicious tiderip to the south, and with the 'Last Light of England' dipping the horizon, the ocean was ours. We shaped a course for Cork Harbour.

The wind freshened from the southwest, but at dawn it veered, causing ‘Shyauk’ to be close-hauled. ‘Nellie’, our Hasler self-steering gear, took command. We huddled below and warmed our hands over the oil lantern, which we kept burning in a galvanized bucket. Our valiant vessel thrashed to windward. Overhead, the sky was leaden grey, and all around, the green sea was flecked with white spray. So as not to lose ground, we worked a course too far to the west where we sighted the unmistakable lattice structure of the drilling ship, ‘Saipen’. Fatigued, and our senses dulled, we belatedly altered course for the Daunt Lightship.

At dusk, the Head of Kinsale’s welcoing Light blinked a message, ''Here I am. Here I am. Keep Clear. Keep Clear.”

The starboard light’s glow transformed our spinnaker into a shimmering ghost that magically whisked us through the void of the night. Foaming, phosphorescent waves dissipated into the gloom, while a luminous wake trailed astern. Cobh Harbour’s myriad confusing lights dazed our senses.

“Red sector, white sector, 2 ½ seconds ………. or was it 3?”

“Where’s the finish line?”

“Over there by that light.”

At last established, we made all speed. I, with torch and timer at the bow, shouted, "Allow for the set,” and “Watch that rock!"

My, brother worked the tiller and played the mainsheet. At 0208 hours, we crossed the transit marking the end of the first leg, having taken 3 days, 14 hours and 38 minutes. (Unknown to us, the 24 foot ‘Bluff’ arrived exactly 5 hours before us.)

Tired, we searched for an anchorage. The wind freshened and it began to drizzle. ‘Thump’, our engine, was on strike and refused to start. There followed a nightmare experience. A sluicing ebb tide against a sharp swell from the south combined to make things difficult.

I pleaded with my brother, "Can you get those lights in transit?” then I bellowed, “Watch out, we're nearly aground!"

With the driving rain it was impossible to judge distances accurately.

“We can't anchor here. It's too exposed."

We haphazardly made our way against wind and tide into the river at Crosshaven.

Shapes loomed ahead!

“Yes. That’s 'Manureva' and there is ‘Mantis 1V. Let's drop the hook here.”

The anchor failed to hold us; therefore we hurriedly threw the heavy Danforth over the side. This was attached to six fathoms of five-sixteenths chain and thirty fathoms of Nelson warp. The extra anchor did the trick. At last we had found peace. Exhausted but contented, we fell into a deep, deep sleep.

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