|13/06/2009||Filled under Cycling, Scotland|
Having been sailing for the best part of our married lives we know that the sea is a risky environment and that it will always have something unexpected up its sleeve, so to speak. There are few constants at sea. Just when you think the wind has settled blowing in one direction at a strength your boat needs to move along nicely something will change, either the wind or the sea itself, and sailing can be largely about managing the risks associated with this.
So given that we enjoy being at sea, how then do we cope with being on land for any length of time. We always fully expected to find ourselves spending time in one port or another, not necessarily one we might choose to be in, waiting for weather to arrive that we were prepared to put to sea in. We have time on our side and can do this and we are prepared to amuse ourselves until the weather we want arrives. But life on shore could become mundane and boring in some hitherto unknown port if we did nothing but watch the clouds skim across the sky while huddled up under our sprayhood sheltering from the rain.
In some way the strategy we have for coping with this situation explains why Cirrus is not sailing very quickly these days – she is just a little overloaded. She is weighed down with what can best be described as our ‘toys’, things we are carrying along with us so that we can cope with life away from the sea as well as we cope with life at sea. Perhaps the biggest single items in the toy cupboard are our bikes, Grace and Jet, neatly folded up in the starboard hull. Then we have books to read which we swap regularly at places along the way (many marinas have a book-swap shelf), our walking boots and rucksacks to take us wherever our legs will carry us and of course the mandatory scrabble and domino sets. But scrabble is hardly likely to give us the risk element we get from sailing so how do we get our fix when on land?
The answer to this lies not so much in what we do but more in where we do it. Take a recent Sunday cycling adventure, for example, where we found ourselves first of all traversing a busy golf course when members were queuing at each hole for the chance to score a direct hit on a cyclist then, having survived this, we crossed a main railway line and found ourselves on a cycle route past a military firing range with red flags flying and signs warning graphically “Anything you pick up may explode and kill you”.
Or again, take a recent walk along the Seaton cliffs just outside Arbroath where the sea has shaped the Devonian sandstone into formations with names like the “Deil’s Heid” or this one, the “Needle E’e”. Warning signs here show just what happened to this foolish Johnny who strayed from the path and had to be rescued.
Clearly this is also a risky place to be and once again we have found the excitement we need to survive.
No such additional buzz was needed when we sailed around Rattray Head earlier today. This will be our most northerly headland on this trip and it has a fearsome reputation, more than anywhere we have previously sailed. The coastline is low-lying here and only a small stunted lighthouse guards what is one of the major corners of Britain. The tidal currents rushing past flow over off-lying shoals and can combine with strong winds to produce nightmares of turbulence that can swallow ships whole.
But pick the right weather and get up at 4.30am as we did to catch the tide at the moment it goes slack and you can sail benignly past and into the Moray Firth.
Our cockpit GPS chartplotter and log now show we have turned this corner, at 5.5 knots, and are now at last on course towards the Great Glen, the passage to the west coast of Britain.