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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The 'Unlikely Voyage' continues


It's Day 4 of an unusually early cool and grey week and I'm glad I'm still on my Enid Blyton-esque voyage from the borders of North Wales to the Black Sea in "Sandy" Mackinnon's "Jack de Crow".

It's such a charming public school, end-of-empire and daring-do story that you want to read it at the same speed as the Mirror dinghy itself, and so far I've only just got through the Thames Barrier where "here for the first time I encountered the intriguing world of marine buoys and navigational markers. Every mile or so, I would skim by a channel marker, regular green bell-shaped buoys occasionally coming up on the southern bank. These, I knew, marked the starboard and port edges of the deepwater channel, which sounds straightforward enough, but is that going downstream or coming upstream?"

It reminds me of the time my friend Ian invited me aboard his new yacht SY REMY which he was going to sail around the world, but first he had to sail her down the Clyde River for which he asked me to come along.

Now I hold Ian in great respect, not only because he is ten years older but also because he is widely read and can turn his hand to almost any-thing, and so I thought little of it when he passed the first port buoy on the portside and the next starboard marker on the starboard side.

However, I did dare to ask how much water his Compass Easterly 30 was drawing - "1.7 metres", he replied - which made me wonder why he'd venture into places I wouldn't take my dinghy into. As we neared the next marker which was a red port buoy which he was likely to round on his portside again, I shouted from the bow, "Helm hard to starboard!"

Luckily, his yacht had an old-fashioned tiller and he knew that starboard meant pushing the tiller to the right which turns the boat to the left, and so we safely rounded the red port buoy against our starboard side. As I explained to him, yes, you do round the buoys port to port and star-board to starboard but only when going upriver. You do the opposite going downriver because Maritime Services hasn't got enough personnel to swap the buoys from side to side every time you go downriver again.