First up was Barnaby Scott – B’s talk was entitled “Ελένη- a boat for Greece” – and he started by telling us of his love of traditional Greek fishing boats, Caiques (Καΐκια), that he’d so admired when sailing in Greek waters. These colourful and elegant vessels are under threat from an EU regulation that demands, if the fisherman takes the de-commissioning money, in the interest of fish conservation, that the boat be actually destroyed. What few remained have been converted into mammoth-engined motor-boats, been given nasty superstructures, and lost all character. Shame. Gloom.
Fast forward. B spots an ad for a Greek sponge boat (a trehandiri), amateur-built in Demark, and sets off to Faaborg, Denmark, in November 2015, to view. The boat has been beautifully constructed, and cared-for as a first owner and builder often will. She performed well on a sea trial. There is a snag. The hull is spot-on, but the Bermudian cutter rig, which would be fine on a modern hull really doesn’t suit this heavily built bowspritted double-ender. The builder had toyed with the idea of a Sakoleva rig (a hybrid between a curtain rail and a sprit) but had chickened out. B then consulted James Lawrence Sailmakers who designed a new gaff rig for her. So a price was negotiated for the boat, decision made, survey organised, and the deal done. Administration (Købskontrakt, VAT, Radio (MMSI & ATIS), UK Registration and insurance) was navigated successfully so that just left a passage, in an unknown boat, all the way from Denmark to Essex to worry about.
Leaving Faaborg Fjoord in June 2016, with some trepidation, B and his two young crew had in the event a textbook passage, motoring the length of the Kiel canal to Brunsbüttel, across the mouth of the Elbe to then gather their courage in Cuxhaven, before the challenge of the Frisians, which was, in the event, easy going. Dodging into the Ijsselmeer at Harlingen with the intent to traverse the Iisselmeer and take the North Sea canal to Ijmuiden before skipping across the North Sea to Harwich the very poor weather forecast forced a change of plan: to motor through the Netherlands by canal and let the storm go, and leave from the south (Vlissingen) for the shorter passage across to Harwich. Lots of motoring, some good restaurants on the way, but a good decision and an easy North Sea crossing. Well done, Barny!
Second up was David Oakley, who is a songwriter and guitarist as well as a sailor. He had brought his guitar (as requested, as we’ve heard him play before) and he topped and tailed his talk (with an encore, natch) with fine melodies and apt lyrics delivered with his usual panache.
So to the talk – “Riddle of the Sands Cruise”. David is a member of the Drascombe Association and, with Helen, had joined a cruise of the Frisian Islands organised by fellow Drascombe enthusiasts. Trailing the boat from Chipping Norton to the northern coast of the Netherlands, with a night stop camping in the boat on its trailer, they launched in the Lawsersmeer which borders the Wadden Sea – Riddle of the Sands territory. Locks (some busy, some opened just for them) were successfully tackled, expanses of drying sandbanks navigated through, and little towns explored. His pictures were a balance of sand and mud, and sea, which summed up the area to a T. We were shown their Drascombe creaming along, with boom-less gunter main and leg o’mutton mizzen set nicely and pulling well; we saw a line of Drascombes sitting in the mud along a harbour wall, with a trickle of water bounded by withies disappearing into the distance. Evocative stuff – at the other end of the spectrum from the deep waters of our South Coast, or of their Atlantic crossing to Brazil and back that David and Helen had told us about previously. That’s the thing about being on the water. Never the same…
David wrote up this trip for the Drascombe Association magazine and has kindly agreed to share it with us – download here.