Monday 28 February 2011

A night out

I left the beach at midday ready for a night out and having packed all the important things including fresh mussels, prawns, fish stock, garlic and parsley. I pointed the bow towards Vilanova, fifteen miles northeast.
In the gusty northwesterly wind I reefed, unreefed, double reefed, reefed, unreefed, double reefed again rather more tidily. And sailed large at 2 to 8 knots.
A large swell rolled up and OB surfed into the low teens. I’ve rarely had the boat howling along so and, due to our speed, Vilanova turned up far earlier than was decent or proper.
The Guardia Civil hailed me at the port entrance and I broke a thole pin pretending that I was in control rowing downwind in 16 knots. The harbour master welcomed me but it was a struggle to reach the dock and shake his hand.
After an afternoon drinking beer in the company of sailors I abseiled back down to the boat and rowed off, singing to lower quay. Here I hoisted the boat tent and got down to business. First I fried some prawns with a goodly amount of garlic and chilli, then I set them aside while I added a goodly amount of white wine to the pot along with the fish stock and a few handfuls of rice.
I ate the prawns while the broth simmered then added the mussels and a goodly amount of parsley.
And the light shone down upon the fish soup.
Nursing a sweet hangover I packed up, tidied and made breakfast. While eating I had perhaps the most profound thought of my entire exisistence.
‘What would life be without bacon and eggs.’
I said goodbye to my ostentatious nieghbour but was unable to compliment him on his taste.
I rowed round to the beach and negotiating the remains of the swell hauled out at the ramp. Here I met two hobie cat sailors who’d sailed nearly the same route as myself at the same time yesterday. They told me a tale of 20 knot winds and three metre waves that ended with a nasty pitchpoling and them limping in, cold and tired as darkness fell. Without wanting to sound too smug I commented that sometimes a versatile boat makes all the difference.

Lessons learnt:
Cruising is possible in February.
OB is an easy boat to sail, comfortable in surprisingly harsh conditions. In fact the more I sail this boat the more she rises to each occasion.
Rowing downhill in strong winds is not her forte, she wants to turn side on. I need a scrap of sail somewhere to keep her heading straight.
The Guardia Civil are a pain in the nuts.
Each half of a mussel shell makes the most exquisitely designed spoon, perfect for shovelling in rice and silky soup.
OB is a fine cruising boat. But it’s important to stay supple. And probably better if you don’t have to rely on too much sleep.


Anonymous said...

From Mallorca, I'm happy to see you sailing again, and learning of your kwonwlegde and experience.


Gavin Atkin said...

I've thought a few times that the 'scrap' of sail could be a plywood board or vane. The advantage would be that it would not flap about like a cloth sail.

Hang it from the halliard and sheet it in tight using the usual fittings, I'd suggest.

One could get the size for any given boat right by experiment and hopefully it wouldn't be too large to store.

What do you think?

Osbert said...


Great to see you back on form!

All the best


Ben said...


Maybe I could use the daggerboard... will have to experiment.


mytober said...

How are the nights at the med, aren't they pretty cold?

mytober said...

Thank God! - Taste and money are not related to each other. This structure on the photo is an expression of greed!

Graham Neil said...

Hi Ben, great to see you back in action.
You can come and cook for me anytime.


Graham Neil said...

Hi Ben, great to see you back in action.
You can come and cook for me anytime.


Brandon Ford said...

Another great sailing story. Glad you are back at the tiller.


Bob Easton said...

It's wonderful to see you sailing and bloggin again Ben.

Hope this marks a lasting recovery that keeps you well and active for many more decades!

Great looking eats.

Stay well!

David Kirtley said...

Great to have you back. Always a treat to read your blog. I had to go back and re-read from the beginning a few times just to fill the hole.

Anonymous said...

"Each half of a mussel shell makes the most exquisitely designed spoon, perfect for shovelling in rice and silky soup." on El Camino de Santiago they use a scallop shell Hope you got to build your Rietveld chair.

Joe D.

Bursledon Blogger said...

Everyone else has already said it but it is very good to see you back


Jackrabbit said...

Ben, you and that little boat are an absolute treasure!
Looking forward to reading many more of your adventures.


Jackrabbit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben said...

Thank you everybody for the warm welcome. I'm truly touched.

mytober-Yes, the nights are cold. I used a silk sack inside a 10º sleeping bag inside a bivi bag. I wore cotton trousers, two long tees, a heavy jumper and a hat. I was just warm enough.

Joe, plans for the Rietveld chair ended up on the back burner when the wood I'd set aside was purloined by some opportunistic passer by. However it is still very much on my to do list.
I've walked some of the camino and remember the shells but didn't know they used them as spoons.

David Kirtley said...

Just thinking about rowing downwind. How about a little handkerchief jib? Just a little something to keep the nose going in the right direction?

Fernando Costa said...

Hellon Ben!

I saw your video!

Very good! I would like to publish a post on my blog about you.
Me too I have a little sailboat, here in Brazil, in the other side of the Atlantic.

Good winds!

Fernando "Estrela d'Alva" Costa

Dale said...

Ben, we stream a sea anchor, albeit a small one, to give us steerage when working a lightly loaded stink boat down wind.
Typicaly we are towing various bits of gear under the water, with max hull speeds of 2-3kn without loss of directional stability.

I'd be most interested in seeing just what works for you.

As an aside, I was on a crowded train this am when I saw your post. A broad smile crossed my face when I saw the image of OB ready for sea. Great stuff as usual.

Ben said...

David and Dale, on rowing downwind. I usually sail downwind if there's any significant distance to be covered so it's not an issue that often crops up.

In this case I had to stow the sails in order to enter the harbour (it's illegal to enter a port under sail here, and under oars for that matter but it's less conspicuous) I had only about 200 metres to cover so in the time I'd have taken to sort out a small sail plan I'd have drifted into the harbour mouth.
I've used a drogue to good effect rowing to the beach in waves but didn't think to deploy it in this situation because pulling a drogue makes for fairly hard work. I might well try it next time.


Ben said...

Hello Fernando,

I'd be very happy for you to publish a post.

Nice looking little boat you've got there.

All the best

Fernando Costa said...

OK Ben!

Thanks a lot and good winds!

Anonymous said...

From Mundaka, Bizcay, I love your blog and wanted to tell you it´s very good to see you sailing again. That breakfast you had looked great!

I´m sending you a link about rowers from Orio, I hope you like it:


Dale said...

Trailing a sea anchor for such a short run would be a waste of time then!

So no harbour entry under oar or sail eh? OB does look a little short in the gin and palace departments...

Unknown said...

Ei, Ben!

És un plaer tornar-te a llegir i, sobretot, saber que tornes a estar en forma.

T'has d'apuntar a alguna de les sortides que fem els del grup del "Slow Sailing", sobretot a la travessia que ens agradaria fer aquest estiu. Seria fantàstic poder comptar amb algú amb la teva experiència.

Una abraçada i ens llegim!

Ben said...

Hola Joan!

Ara estic al clinic un altre cop pero quan surti d'aqui m'encantaria apuntar a les vostres navegades.

Mentres tant, un abraçada.


Joan said...

Ben, posat bo ben aviat.

Geoff_D said...

Ben, so great to see you out and about again. I hope you have totally beaten the Bad Thing. (My Lymphoma seems to have learnt its lesson, and gone away to where all Bad Things go. A year since the stem cell transplant.)

Jaume Amengual said...

bon vespre Ben,
que contents que estem de poder llegir un altre relat d'una navegació amb l'OB. A veure si m'ensenyes a fer aquest musclos que fas i sinó cridarem al Marcelino que ens faci una fideua.
una abraçada molt forta des de Mallorca.

Ben said...

Hola Jaume! un altre abraçada per tots vosaltres.

Geoff, Well done, I just doing the stem cells now.

Iñaki, thanks for that link, really beautiful.

Thanks everybody for the comments and kind thoughts. They sustain.

giacomo said...

Grande Ben!! So happy to read about your trip.
So, we will row together alonfg the river from London to Istanbul. Inchallah..
A super strong hug.
Take care eat well and sleep.
Be water

nemo said...

Wow Ben so happy to see you back. I have been following you from to Toronto.

Great new post about an awesome adventure.



Rob said...

Ben, it makes me so happy that you are out on the briney again! Missed you, your blog, and wonderful photos and Videos !!