May 2017 “Memorable Anchorages” – Alistair and Carolyn Roberts

In a double act husband-and-wife sailors Alistair and Carolyn Roberts gave a memorable talk on their “memorable anchorages”. Having sailed together for over 45 years, spent 279 nights at anchor during their circumnavigation, and 100 or more since, they had had a “self-indulgent” task selecting the most memorable few.

They’d picked places that stood out for their scenery, historic or local interest, remoteness or inaccessibility. One or two had personal significance (like a life-threatening incident following a diving trip).

Tobago CaysAlistair was first off and his pick was in the remoter places: Caribbean, South Pacific and Australia. He started with evocative pictures of the reefs and turquoise seas of Tobago Cays (between Mayreau Island and Union Island in St Vincent and the Grenadines), before jumping us round to the classic coral atoll of Maupihaa in the South Pacific. Seldom visited, the wildlife there is unafraid of humans, and it is reminiscent of the Galapagos Islands. One is well rewarded for finding the place and successfully navigating the exciting and poorly marked narrow entrance. Finding it is a problem. Although there’s not much doubt as to where it is, it is so low as to be below the horizon until you are right on top of it. There are a few trees, which come into view first. It was here that Alistair and Carolyn were given an oyster containing a black pearl, for which the local fishermen wanted a union jack in exchange. Not having one to hand, contact details were swapped and, with the wonders of modern communication, it was all sorted out later. After telling us about anchorages in the Society Islands, Bora Bora, Huahine, Tahiti, and Moorea, Alistair moved into panto mode with pictures of the monsters of the deep they’d encountered on diving trips, with an occasional “behind you!” caption… Thence to Lizard Island off Australia to hear about Cook’s Look – the headland from which Captain Cook had scanned the great reef to try and see if he could spot a way out.

EribollCarolyn talked of nearer, chillier anchorages – of Scotland and Ireland. Here tides can be fierce and periods of clement weather short. Anchoring is often about finding shelter where one can, and being glad to be there, with the magic of the scenery a bonus. Lovely Eriboll in North Scotland is a fine place to await a window in the weather to tackle notorious Cape Wrath. Apart from having to do some extremely clever weighting down of a lobster pot line they’d snagged (criss-crossing it with anchor chain) the Cape Wrath passage was, in the event, atraumatic. Another anchorage that had stuck firmly in Carolyn’s mind was at Inishmore of the Aran Islands, a place they’d visited during a circumnavigation of Ireland. Stunning in its desolation, it is bleak, unearthly and barely cultivable. Carolyn finished the talk with views of the blossom-laden pathways of St. Agnes on the Isles of Scilly, to remind us that that one doesn’t necessarily have to travel far from home to find those memorable places.

We were transported.