Friday, 16 August 2013

Are we sinking?

Last week our son popped down to see us for a couple of days which was, as always, a great delight. However . . .

Most parents would agree that there are certain episodes when their young are young (if you see what I mean) that are best forgotten. Charles decided over lunch to reminisce about one such occasion.

We had bought a launch – an open boat with a covered foredeck (useful for stowing shopping and so on), a short mast (generally useless but fun for hanging flags from), a folding canvas canopy rigged abaft the mast under which two people could shelter from the elements and a rather good Mercury outboard that enabled us to go both forwards and backwards (or ahead and astern if you prefer). The boat was on the shore beside the River Yealm at Noss Mayo. Our ketch was in the Kingsbridge estuary. The obvious thing to do was to ask the previous owner to put her afloat, cadge a lift down to Noss Mayo and bring her back by sea. This was known as “Plan A”. There was no “Plan B”.

The whole journey would have been in the order of twenty miles which at our cruising speed of about four knots would take about five hours. We had all the important things with us: provisions and the means to make coffee; ample fuel for the outboard; sunglasses (it was high summer) and spare sweaters in case it turned chilly.

The launch (it never did have a proper name) had been ashore and being a clinker built wooden boat needed a bit of time to “take up”. These boats keep the water out because the overlapping boards are held together with copper rivets (or “clenches” as they used to be called and from which the name derives). Riveted together when the wood is dry. Only when the timbers become wet (or “take up” moisture) and swell does a clinker built boat become watertight. Really the launch should have been in the water for a couple of days more before we set out but . . .

The crew: two landlubbers and (right) an old sea dog - Boy.
We were about half-way. The sun continued to shine, the sea was almost flat and there was virtually no wind. The coast of south Devon was slipping past looking, at that distance, utterly beautiful. Then one of my two landlubbers noticed that water had begun to seep over the bottom boards (the flat bits of wood inside the hull on which you stand). Panic. Needless and totally unnecessary panic. Where was the pump? We haven’t got one. Where was the baler  An inspection in the stern locker soon answered that: we haven’t got one.
Not quite the right part of the coast but this is much the same
and the shore is about as far away as it was that day.
I pointed out the facts. The boat was gradually taking up and the rate at which she was leaking was slowing down: during the first half of the journey we had taken in less that three inches of water: we wouldn’t sink unless we took in another twelve at least: there was nothing to worry about.

The crew continued to worry – quite a lot. Needless to say we made it, safe and sound.

But Charles has never forgotten. We were talking about the joys of boating when he decided to revisit that trip. There was nothing worth saying so I didn’t say anything.

‘Good heavens!’ said Marcia. ‘That’s the first time I’ve seen you lost for words.’ She was right, I was.

Claire Rudkins – she blogs at “Less is More (I hope!)” sent me a photograph of a moth the other day. It landed on her window in Exeter and, as you can see, we are looking at the underside of the wee beastie. Claire wondered if I could identify it. Basically I have failed. Someone has told Claire that it is a Vapourer Moth. I think not. This moth (Orgyia antiqua to give it its proper name) is odd in that the female is flightless and the male has very distinctive feather-like antennae whilst the moth in the picture has long, slender and unfeathered antennae. So, what is it? I won’t bore you with my investigation save to say that there are only 2 out of the 2,700+ moth species in the UK that strike me as possibles. Both present problems. One has never been seen in the south west and the other shouldn’t be around at this time of the year. Hmmm. Any ideas, anyone?

Our blog dog this week spends much of his time on an old Humber Barge in the River Dart. Hardly surprising, therefore, that he is called Storm. I should add that be came from Animals in Distress of Ipplepen (not far away) who rescued him after a very traumatic start to life. Now, after four years of patient and loving care, he is a happy and very friendly person.