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  • Writer's pictureMark

Don't mention the war

Entry No.7

We stayed in Poole Harbour for six nights. The weather was lovely and the wind pretty much non existent which ensured a lovely, peaceful and calm anchorage.

We didn’t see or hear from the police again throughout our stay despite me trying to get their attention when we got locked out of the pontoon we had used when we went ashore in the dinghy. It was the one where the police boats were moored and right outside the police office but I couldn’t reach anyone by knocking on the door or shouting up through the open window. In the end I climbed down a ladder, jumped across a few feet of water onto the pontoon and then opened the gate from the inside. I felt sure this would provoke a response but it didn’t! It certainly appeared that once they had satisfied themselves that we were neither drug runners or coronavirus carriers from overseas they couldn’t have been less interested in us and that is, of course, how it should be.

As I eluded to in the previous blog, the mood in Poole was laid back. Everyone seemed happy and there was no sense of impending doom. Quite the opposite in fact. We went about our business, Asha working and me working on various boat projects, editing video and the days slipped by in sun drenched happiness. If you get this cruising life right, you put one passage in and then get a few days off!

Ever obsessed with the weather I announced to Asha on Sunday (the 26th) that a potential weather window was looming for Tuesday and Wednesday. The next day the forecast for Wednesday showed a Southwesterly gale. That window had closed but Tuesday was still looking good and after a long spell of no wind or wind in the wrong direction, a small glimmer of hope had appeared to help us get west.

On Tuesday morning at 4am I got up for a weather check. The wind was blowing from a slightly different direction than the forecast had predicted but it was go go go! At 5am the anchor was up and we slowly picked our way through the field of unlit mooring buoys whilst it was still dark. Boating always surprises me. We were moving at about 2 knots which is pretty much as slow as you can go whilst still maintaining steerage and yet tensions were high! Your eyes play tricks on you. Is that a buoy in the water right in front? No, it’s nothing but what about over there and how on earth do things seem to creep up on us so fast at this speed? Hitting a mooring buoy isn’t the end of the world but if you are unlucky, it can get caught around your prop making you totally immobile and needing to take a cold dip over the side to cut yourself free or, the much safer option, a rescue. That’s where the stress comes in, especially with any number of people ready to tell us how irresponsible we are for being out and about right now! On a boat, everything slows down but when the sh*t hits the fan it all speeds up again!

We got through and started to make our way out to sea. The sky turned from black to inky blue and the first light showed us the big headland on our starboard side just past Studland Bay.

We had a few hours of favourable tide left and as the wind was not particularly strong we elected to get the sails up but keep the engine on in order to make as much progress west as possible while we had the tide with us.

This strategy worked well and we made between 8 and 9 knots with the wind pretty much behind us. My first thought about this trip was to go into Portland Harbour, near Weymouth. Portland is a huge walled harbour and despite it’s openness it offers good protection from high winds coming anywhere from the south through to the north west so it would be a good place to ride out the forecasted gale. However, there isn’t really much to do in Portland and the dinghy ride ashore would be quite long so as the wind was holding up well and our progress was good I made the decision to push on across Lyme Bay to Devon. This meant clearing Portland Bill by at least 5 miles due to the extremely strong currents that crash into the Isle of Portland and make for a washing machine like sea state for many miles out to sea. The sea state is not just unpleasant, it can be damn right dangerous so a good ‘offing’, as they call it, is necessary. I decided a 7 mile offing was both good and practical for our course across Lyme Bay and all was well until we were directly south of Portland Bill. I had been keeping an eye on the wind and it looked settled and consistent coming from behind and I announced to Asha that the engine would soon be switched off. At that instant I looked down to pick up a winch handle and heard the sails flapping. I looked up and sure enough the jib was flapping in the breeze. What had happened I have only seen happen three or four times in my life. In a split second the wind went from a steady force 3 behind to a force 2 directly on the nose. An instantaneous wind shift of nearly 180 degrees. By this time we had a choice between an 18 mile motor back to Portland and an admittance of defeat or a 40 mile motor, maybe a sail if the wind returned, to Devon.

We pushed on. I had warned Asha that there would be days like this when you do everything right by the forecast but nothing goes according to the predictions. Asha makes me laugh. She has a weird mix of Polish and Irishness having lived in Ireland since 2005. She talks about pikeys and does a half decent but totally unintentional impression of the gypsies in Snatch! With no wind blowing she looked at me and said ‘So they use a crystal ball and a half drunk gypo to predict the weather here too, do they’? Yep, it seems so!

As far as listening to the engine goes, it was actually quite pleasant because when the wind left us completely, the sea flattened off, the visibility dropped to almost nothing and a strange greyness descended that made it almost impossible to distinguish where the sea stopped and the sky started. It was both eerie and special. You could almost imagine that coronavirus had taken everyone and we were the only two left, except for the birds! We became a refuge for many disoriented and exhausted land birds who flocked to us and hopped right onboard for a well earned rest. Some flew off after a few minutes and some stayed for an hour or so. Remarkably tame and totally unfazed by us, they were simply happy to have somewhere to rest instead of a watery grave. They kept us entertained and helped soften the monotony of the engine noise while we made our way across Lyme Bay.

By 17.30, twelve and a half hours after leaving Poole Harbour, we were in Brixham on a mooring buoy hiding under the nearby cliffs and behind the sea wall. A perfect place to shelter from the gale which did indeed blow as the half drunk gypo had predicted. I drank whisky while it blew as I always do after a long sail and happily listened to the wind howl whilst safely sheltered in this Devon harbour. DEVON!!!!! YES!!!!! I love Devon and it’s such a treat to be back!

As I type we have been here for five nights and so far no one has come our way to ask any questions whatsoever. The approach to Coronavirus and the movement of vessels during this ‘crisis’ seems to be a bit random but more and more we are appreciating how being afloat and on the move means that not only is a good healthy distance maintained from possible infection but also a distance from the misery and depression that the media is inflicting on everyone. Put simply, this means one thing and one thing only. This is a happy ship!

I am sure that anyone reading the dubious content of these blogs can pick up a happy vibe. However, I have previously felt a little guilty about feeling this way but hang on, that can’t be right! Happiness is a thing to be celebrated isn’t it? It is obvious to say that it’s impossible for everyone to be happy all of the time. Some people have the time of their lives whilst others are having the worst time of their lives. That is the very nature of life and indeed a fact when it comes to the different experiences people are having on this planet at any one time so I have decided not to hide in the closet anymore. No, no , no! Not in a gay way. I’d have no need to do that. If I liked men, I’d just say so. ‘Hey everybody, I LIKE MEN’! See? It’s actually quite easy to say and so it should be. It doesn’t matter what each person likes, wants or does as long as they are not hurting anyone else in the process.

Sitting here in my cockpit (no, that’s not a euphemism) on a sunny day in Brixam harbour I really don’t have any idea how my ‘free typing’ has led me to express that I like sausage! I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s difficulty addressing their sexuality or getting acceptance of it but sometimes I just can’t keep up with my own tangents, let alone control them. The point I was trying to make is that we shouldn’t feel the need to hide away from any feeling and as much as I sympathise with anyone who is affected by coronavirus and I don’t mean from a mere inconvenience point of view, I mean from illness or death, we are extremely happy. Life tastes so sweet. I feel free, like we have slipped through the net of control that is currently being inflicted on everyone. We (and I mean you and me) have media and hearsay telling us constantly how serious this is for the world and that’s pretty depressing, if you listen to it. Ok - I accept that I am currently living in a very different environment. The fact is that some people would call me weird, especially if you simplify things to the extent where you assume the definition of weird is doing something that the masses don’t do. Is my happiness weird or merely a symptom of being less affected by authoritarian control than the masses? Answers on a post card for that one I guess as it’s totally subjective but I am very happy and proud to be so!

However, despite my happiness, I do get frustrated about some things. I’m not going to allow myself to descend into a rant here because I’d like to keep my options to do that in the future well and truly open but I do want to share one of the frustrations I am feeling.

Who mentioned the war? Oh, it was me! I just did and this is what I think.

Many wars could be used as an example but I’m going to pick World War 1. This is mainly because WW1 is the war I know the most about. Not because of a school education, oh no! My school education was totally devoid of worthy historical facts. This is knowledge through self eduction and many trips to some of the battle grounds of WW1 in France and Belgium with my old work friends including one very wise owl who could make living out of doing battlefield tours there.

During WW1 thousands of soldiers lived through bitter winters, unimaginable harshness, squalid conditions, surrounded by disease, infection, mud and rats. There was a shortage of fresh wholesome food, they didn’t have any kind of real comfort, heating or hot water and all the time they were under the threat of a German attack by bullet, bomb or both and perhaps the most frightening, chemical attack. This was the reality of life in the trenches. If this reality, very understandably, became too much to bear and a soldier decided to run away from the horror, he would be captured and mercilessly shot by his own so there really wasn’t any escape from that hellish place.

If that constant state of stress wasn’t bad enough, at some point some bloke blew a whistle signalling the start of the attack on the German line and everyone rose up out of the mud, trenches and squaller, went ‘over the top’ and into enemy fire. This was the Battle of the Somme and was to become the bloodiest day in the British Army’s history with 20,000 young allied men killed and 40,000 young allied men maimed and injured on the first day! The battle lasted just over four months and in total 300,000 people were killed and 700,000 more injured from both sides. Just take a second to crunch those numbers….. I’m no authority on the subject but you can google it. It’s all there in black and white. Those deaths occurred on what was called the ‘front line’. To me, the term ‘front line’ is a clear and specific reference to the most hopeless and harrowing part of a war zone where the value of human life drops to zero and the ultimate aim is to kill and injure as many human beings as possible in the shortest amount of time in order to achieve the objective of the war.

We hear the term ‘front line’ on a daily basis right now but to me, it just doesn’t feel right. I’m not sure it should be used when talking about treating people in modern hospitals during peace time in a civilised society. I’m not the first person to talk about this and maybe I have too much time on my hands but it has been bothering me for a while now.

I have full respect and gratitude to the NHS staff and all key workers for putting themselves at risk when treating people with any ailment including those infected with coronavirus but I wish the media and the powers that be would stop calling it the front line. I know what it means figuratively speaking but in a world where we are not allowed to label or generalise in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or pretty much anything for fear of offending someone, why are we using the same language to describe coronavirus treatment in modern civilised hospitals as we use to describe a battle ground that resulted in the unimaginably horrific, violent, bloody and indiscriminate deaths of 20,000 men in a matter of hours in an anonymous field somewhere in France? In my opinion the battle ground is the only place where the term ‘front line’ can be used correctly and I think it should be reserved for those who sacrificed themselves on a battle ground during war time for the freedom we know today and indeed for those who will suffer and will die on a battle ground during war time in the future.

I feel that it’s latest usage serves only to provoke the population into a state of fever pitch or submission by fear. It has worked too but that’s not a good thing.

For me, and many others like me, we have been born in a time when we are lucky enough to consider shoulder barging French skiers whilst queuing for a ski lift or queuing for a coffee in Costa at rush hour as a battle!

We don’t even know we are born! Let’s not forget what the term ‘front line’ really means or indeed it’s relevance to our freedom. I think we can all agree that NHS staff and key workers are all heroes all of the time, not just in coronavirus time. Their efforts should be recognised far more than they are. Publicly thanking them is the right thing to do and additional financial compensation for their efforts would be even better but I wish the term ‘front line’ could be dropped. It’s not terminology coined by NHS staff, it’s hype and there is no need for it.

Having just said all of this, Asha has reminded me that each and every one of us has an asshole and an opinion. I guess I am hers and this is just mine but I'm happy to get it off my chest!


Oh and by the way, I should clarify that I don’t actually like cock. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not for me.

I really miss the pub! Can you tell?

It was lovely to be back in Poole Harbour despite it not being part of the plan!

Long distance view of Altor anchored off Brownsea Island

Ashore on Brownsea for the sunset and wine!

We were quite early for the sunset = patience and more wine!

A couple of our passengers across Lyme Bay

The wind died and the visibility closed in.....


Closing in on Berry Head after 12 hours at sea

Lovely Brixham!

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