Saturday, 5 September 2015

Thin water

The morning came on gently and I watched it drowsily from my hammock. When at last I eased my limbs from their swaddling and established that my body was sound, I let my legs take me for a potter around the shore of my petite isle. The water was warm and the fine sand underfoot occasionally gave way to cooler black mud that sucked greedily at my feet. Empty clam shells abounded and I ran my hands through the mud to see if I could find any live ones that might want to join me for breakfast.

In an atavistic frame of mind I wondered at the possibilities of finding food and water here and dug deeper into the mud, but every shell that came up was long vacated. On land there was enough marsh samphire for legions of foodies. But rather than gather bundles and then go hunting for bird's eggs I returned to the boat where more conventional fodder awaited.

With the breezy assuredness of the fully satiated I knocked out the grounds of my coffee maker on an oar handle—as nonchalantly as I might have knocked the dottle from my pipe had I been doing this half a dozen years ago when smoking was still good for you—and languidly mulled over possible activities for the day. I settled on a plan: I'd follow the ins and outs of this north shore of La Punta de la Banya, enjoying the solitude and the wildlife and generally letting my mind range where it would.

Tidied and afloat I towed OB through the ankle-deep water to a point where I could board without grounding her. Like most boats, left to her own devices Onawind Blue turns side-on to the wind. With the centreboard and rudder out of the water she happily did 1 knot crabwise in 8 knots of breeze, and in so doing rapidly went back to the shore. I unshiped the mizzen staysail and hoisted it as a jib, l loosed the line that holds the rudder blade up so that it might keep some its surface in the water and lowered the tip of the centreboard. With this configuration I had some control over the course and rounding the end of the island I turned downwind and the water deepened to half a metre.

The shore, for all its lack of human presence, was littered with civilization's detritus; plastic bottles and bags, ropes, crates, cans, joists, beams and a forlorn overturned boat. The fluctuating depth meant I was constantly adjusting the centreboard and at times the weed grew so thick that I could hear it tickling OB's belly and she'd slow from 2 to 1 knot obviously enjoying the sensation. Here even the fish seemed to run aground, occasionally a series of splashes would mark a fish leaping, salmon style, off a sand bank. We passed egrets, stilts and herons. I watched the herons land, rather overawed by their grace. The egret, similar in form though smaller, would seem the more elegant bird being blazing white, but I noticed that it is more flappy and nervy when landing, handing the prize for poise to the heron. I eventually let OB ground on another small island and I set off footslogging through warm mud to see another group of birds, this lot were large and pink and balanced on one leg.

A stilt
Having taken my souvenir photo of flamingos I returned to the boat for lunch noticing that the wind had risen significantly out on the water. As I ate a sailboat luffed abruptly and tipped hard onto its side before rounding up with sails flogging. Other motor boats were making straight wakes for Sant Carles and everything indicated that sailing back in OB might be fast and wet. I munched on my lunch disinclined to dispell the mellowness of the morning with swift sailing. But I an idea occurred to me which, if it worked, would mean I could sail back with very little stress.

I double reefed the mizzen sail and hoisted it, I rolled the main tightly round its boom and yard and lashed the bundle to the side deck, then I hoisted the staysail again as a jib, lowered a tad of centre board and set off, across the wind towards Sant Carles. Even under this improvised set up of jib and mizzen, probably no more than two square metres of sail cloth, OB sailed at three knots. The chop stayed in its place, rather than coming rowdily aboard as it would have done under reefed main and mizzen. Sailing in this gentlemanly fashion I was able to hold on to the deep peace that had settled over me during the morning.

Until I reached the boat ramp.

If there was anyone around with a camera then my slapstick performance will certainly appear on youtube with time. Probably speeded up and set to the Benny Hill theme tune.

Thursday, 3 September 2015


Sleeping in Onawind blue has never been comfortable, though deep slumber has often been achieved through a combination of fatigue, food and drink. On this trip I was determined to get off the hard surfaces of thwarts and centreboard. I recently had a few cosy nights—on an 4 day, 800km tour of Catalonia on a 49cc moped—cocooned in a hammock in various copses and woodlands, happy to let the life of the forest floor go on below me while not actually having to lie on it myself.

The small beach upon which I had hauled OB was part of a diminutive island with a small lagoon in the middle surrounded by reeds and samphire. Its solitude and inaccessibility would have satisfied the most discerning hermit though the lights of Sant Carles were visible which, I suppose, would have irked the true loner.

I ran a taught line from mid point on the main mast down to the ring on the stem, then stayed the mizzen in a similar fashion and hung the hammock between the masts. I eased myself in and the spars took up the strain with no ominous creaking or bending. Satisfied that my bed was sorted I got on with my evening. Expecting clouds of mosquitos to arrive for cocktail hour I spray painted myself with some truly repellent repellent and sat down to a cold beer and a small plate of black olives while I waited for the pasta water to boil. The moon, full to bursting, rose while I was eating, the wind dropped away completely, the water stilled and the wildlife, disinclined to go to bed, kept up a commentary.

Leaving the housework for the morning I climbed into the hammock and luxuriated in its silk embrace. In no time I was fast asleep. Later, when the moon was much higher, I opened an eye. Just at the stern of the boat, perfectly still in the mirrored water was a heron standing tall. I watched as it took a few paces, paused and took a few more. Poised, elegant, bathed in silver light it focused the spectacular night into one crystalline image of beauty. Out on the lambent lake fish launched themselves skyward, reaching for the gleaming orb. There was enough light to read by and I dug out my book from under me to prove the point to myself. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” ...ermm... “He was lying on his hard, as it were armour-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed-quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely.” ...ermm... “his numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.” Erm, thank you Franz.

Snug in my cocoon sleep again washed over me as I wondered if I too might wake metamorphosed.