Friday 22 August 2008

Motor boats

There was only one boat row sailing under the rocky cliffs of the Costa Brava and that was OB. 90% of all other boats were motor powered. Day trippers and cove hoppers with horse power enough, at the push of a lever, to go where they wanted when they wanted. A few days before, wrestling every mile from headwinds, I’d been envious, nay, downright ready to amputate OB’s elegant stern, rig a 20hp outboard on the aft bulkhead and power off to where ever caprice dictated.

But after four days at sea I was back, firmly rooting for the Mediterranean row sailors of which, experience has led me to suspect, I am the only one. And although we happily shared the waters with our motor powered cousins their come as you please, go as you please, drive-in-pointless-circles-kicking-up-awesome-wake attitude often hampered our forward progress. In more frequented areas motor boat wake became a bigger problem than the lack of wind or the mid-day sun. Often OB would be on her beam ends, one oar pointing to the sea bed the other to the pure blue sky, her masts grinding in their steps and her bows slamming into steep waves, as painful to bear as a sharp chisel glancing off a piece of oak into a soft thumb.

So when the wind came fair we were happy to miss the many other coves under our lee and head off shore, where the measured waves of a force three slapped and gurgled down OB’s hull in a familiar, predictable manner. The land became veiled in haze as we made the jump from el Cap de Begur to el Cap de Norfeu. But at the last minute I turned back in shore remembering that a yachtsman had once told me that there was a current setting north between Les Illes Medes and the mainland. I thought it would be worth catching and headed into the narrow strait, where traffic throbbed between l’Estartit and the islands as thick as rush hour on Barcelona’s Gran Via. Needless to say there was no current. No wind either. And I rowed through the topsy-turvy waters, at one point giving way to a large motor yacht whose skipper I could see jawing to a topless girl on the foredeck.

OB and I had been at sea for four days and I reckoned I must be looking pretty sweaty, tired and wan when an overloaded motor launch buzzed us and a suntanned wag shouted off the stern, ‘A castaway! Look a castaway!’

Out of the straits I hoisted the sails again and, much as Captain Kirk might say ‘beam me up Scotty’, urged OB to take me out to sea.

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