By Nigel.Studdart - 7 Sep 2020
Some musings on Navigation and Youth.
As I sit at anchor in paradise (Bequia )I let my mind drift back on the winds to my first passage to these fair islands ..
It was a backyard concrete sloop built in a year in Liverpool in the full flush of youth. Built in an old dock warehouse with little or no roof the incentive to get finished and sail to the tropics was all around. In some cases reinforced by the pigeon poop dropping from above as the welding rods sizzled on frozen steel.
The odd electrical shock as I loaded a new welding rod into the electrode kept me focussed and my youthfull eyes faired sweet lines in the armature as I built her.
Plastered and faired she looked sweet. An old broken mast spliced together . Sails modified from other boats no engine and half an interior and she was ready to launch .
A couple of months in the Liverpool docks on the fishing wharf and we were ready for the off.
One of the joys of the wharf was when the fisherman came in late or on a weekend . As I held the keys they were keen to get out and a deal soon emerged . I would let them out to hit the local pub or the ladies of the night in, so they could engage in good conversation and other pursuits in exchange for fresh fish.
A happy deal with much satisfaction all round.
So we sailed the ocean first to Ireland and thence to NW Spain and fair Vigo . Learning to navigate along the way .
Oh the arrogance and ignorance of youth. A Casio
Watch, a plastic sextant and some tables and an almanac along with the indomitable Mary Blewits Celestial was all that was required .
That voyage took us to Vigo , Gibraltar , Ibiza and Antigua. The transatlantic was memorable for its arrival . After 30 days at sea ( no engine) some of which involved pulling the ship with a rowboat to find wind , using a chain rode to take out the jerks , We were close to land . Using Celestial navigation I figured we were spot on. A Direction finding position on the local Caribbean Gospel station put us around 1/2 an hour and 1 mile wrong . I will never forget that signal .
Nary 35 days of only the voices aboard and the first voice I heard from ashore when I swung the antenna was “ you are a sinner” ...from a bible thumping evangelist ..in that place and time it was like God himself speaking from the heavens. A thunderbolt from above.
The boat was brought to anchor in English Harbour , steel drums rang out from Shirley heights and much rum and laughter followed . In truth after the first Caribbean hangover I reflected the preacher might be right. 35 years later I sail these islands again with GPS and real charts . It’s still full of magic and promise. Now as to the sinner well I may be a bit of a Pirate but I hope my sins are forgiven..
Fair winds and calm seas
By Dick - 7 Sep 2020
Nigel, Very nice reminisce. Thanks for sharing. Dick
By simoncurrin - 8 Sep 2020
Thank you Nigel that’s a lovely account
By alshaheen - 10 Sep 2020
Things were very different 50 years ago. Sailing old battered charter boats, borrowed boats, club boats. No money, practically no instruments, navigation by dead reckoning with occasional assistance from inaccurate RDF and occasional astro, minimal safety gear and only short term weather forcasting. but one had the excitement and irreplaceable satisfaction of a landfall withing 5 miles of one's EP at the end of a passage.
Today we have safer boats, electronic position fixing, radar, AIS, chart plotters, electronic charting, VHF, SSB, Sat phones, Iridium Go, trackers, the list seems endless. Passage-making is certainly safer and more predictable, probably just as enjoyable but normally less exciting. Just different!
What will it be like in another 50 years?
By DariaBlackwell - 12 Sep 2020
Sweet. Thanks, Nigel.