Friday, 20 March 2015

Entering port

This is going to be one of the hardest blogs to write as it contains some pretty grim news. However, over the years I have become very attached to you all – and especially those who send encouraging emails or leave comments. So . . .

As you know I was suffering from anaemia at the back end of last year. As a result I have been taking medication to increase my blood count and that has been working (I feel better now than I did then) but it left unanswered the basic question: why was it happening? We now know. I have a malignant tumour growing in my oesophagus and that is at the root of all the problems.

It has been decided – I have decided – that an operation is not an option. All the advice is that I would be extremely lucky to survive what would be major surgery. So, more and more tests as we look at other treatments. I will keep you informed but I have no intention of dwelling on this in future blogs.

My apologies for ignoring last week’s comments (and messages via email, Facebook and so on). I am sure you will now understand why.
Achieve with David Griffiths at the helm.
Only one photograph this week: Achieve. She is that blue boat moored on the river Dart. Now in semi-retirement, all she does is help with the ferry between the town and the castle at the river mouth during the height of the season. She was, however, the River Dart Pilot Boat until the river trade came to an end with the closure of the Baltic Wharf in Totnes. The name gives the purpose away: it was through this river that much of the timber from the Baltic ports that was destined for use in the west country was imported.

Achieve belongs to my friend David Griffiths: one time and last River Dart Pilot. One day, about thirty years ago, I suppose, I accompanied him out of the river on board Achieve (crewed for the occasion be Messrs Distin and Bell) and we – David and I – boarded one of those ships from the Baltic (climbing a rather scary Jacob’s ladder). From the bridge I watched as David threaded this ship up the river – and I use the word ‘threaded’ very advisedly because there are places where the channel is both very narrow and very tortuous.

Achieve was already in Totnes when we arrived, her crew ashore to take the bow warps as David turned the ship around in the turning bay before sliding her gently alongside the Baltic Wharf to await unloading.

Then it was back down the river to Dartmouth. It had been a wonderful day – and profitable. At the time I was writing a regular column for Yachts and Yachting and the experience gave me ample material for one of my pieces.

Down the centuries pilots have taken over as ships near the end of their voyages and I am now looking towards that final trip from the open sea to a secluded berth. Luckily I have the best of pilots. You know her as a novelist.