You can have too much wild


It had been a tough sail from Falmouth to the Scillies, close hauled hard into northerly winds all day, then motor sailing the last twenty miles when the wind backed further west with Coral bucking and plunging into moderate seas. In contrast,we had a delightful day exploring the Scillies. The sun was bright, the beaches shone bright yellow against the azure sea and the fresh spring green on the hillsides. We could well have stayed longer, but north easterlies were forecast, favourable for Ireland, and we wanted to take advantage of them before the backed northerly. So we set off early on a fine but very chilly morning, taking a more northerly course than the direct one and sailing on a close reach with the intention of following the wind round to the west as it backed and so, we hoped, reaching south west Ireland before it was completely contrary.

Apart from a short period in the middle of the night when it faded away for a couple of hours, the wind stayed at between 18 and 22 knots. We kept all regular sail up and between them Coral and Aries, our windvane self steering kept a good course just off the wind. We made our coffee and lunch wedging ourselves next to the cooker and managed to spill very little. We took turns in napping down below while the other kept watch. Steve enjoyed seeing the day come to a close and the half moon light up the seas. I watched the moon turn from white to yellow before it dropped the horizon and watched the stars as the brightened and filled the sky. For the last few hours, after the Irish coast appeared on the horizon, the wind backed and increased so we had to take in a reef and sail as tightly close hauled as we could in the conditions.

In many ways it was a good crossing. We picked up some familiar landmarks: the craggy shapes of Stag Rocks, the long grassy summit of Kedge Island, and then the lighthouse and beacon that mark the entrance to Baltimore harbour. We had sailed 170 miles in 29 hours and made landfall just where we had planned.

But we were of course short of sleep and physically tired from the movement of the boat. More than that, the unseasonable cold of the north wind felt debilitating, as if it had travelled right through us and taken our energy with it. Baltimore Harbour looked open and bleak, so we piloted Coral through the channels between Sherkin and Heir Islands into Long Island Bay and picked up a visitors mooring in the shelter of Schull Harbour.

After three passages into fresh winds it is time to rest up. Looking at the charts, I realized with some dismay that Galway is too far for us to reach comfortably in the time we have. We can’t go on and on battering ourselves against the elements. Schull is a lovely little town with all the amenities one could wish for. This morning we took the dinghy ashore chatted to people on the quay, visited the local market and had an excellent late lunch and Guinness in the Black Sheep pub. As I tucked into my home made fish cakes the phrase came into my head, “You can have too much of the wild.” So I decided to stay put in this area for a while and delay moving further north until July.


  1. So happy to hear you’re safe and sound xx

  2. Perhaps this is you listening to the wild. I don’t think it always says ‘come out here with me’ and often our response to stay where it feels right to be is the deepest, most respectful one. In any case, a decision to respect your human, earthly bodies is definitely a good one! Oddly enough, I think boats sometimes need a rest too. What a blessing not to be in a hurry. If it gives you a chance to write more, it is even more of a blessing. xx

  3. William Torbert says:

    Dear Peter,

    Your latest note to us oversocialized tenderfeet is once again most fulfilling in the way of unwanted adventure on the high seas… And then ends in the most lovely joke on yourself that thereby lightly holds the simultaneous profundity of the civil and the wild for the rest of us to meditate upon. Thank you.

    Like my neighbor, Louise Bruyn, whose new book at 82 – She Walked for All of Us – about when at about 41 she walked the 450 miles from this same home to Washington DC in protest against the Vietnam War, you sail (and dine) for all of us.

    Thanks so much… Bill


  4. Fran Landsman says:

    We have been thinking of you here in Scotland as we looked out to sea and wondered where you were. It’s been so cold and windy I had to sleep with a pair of trousers wrapped round my head. Jolly glad to be on dry land. Felt quite relieved for you when you got to the fish cakes. Love Fran

  5. Peter, think of dad while you are in Roaring Water Bay. We scattered his ashes between Schull and Heir Island and, while I know they will be all round the globe by now, a lump came to my throat reading your description of piloting that passage. x

  6. Sarah Bird says:

    I’m glad you got there safely. How wise, tucking into homemade fishcakes in the Black Sheep and not overdoing the battering of your own selves. Perhaps some battered fish instead for the next meal?

  7. Miriam Darlington says:

    So inspiring to follow this journey of the heart. What a journey. x

  8. I like the way you’re taking the failures to engage with the wild more lightly and letting yourself go with the way things are happening. Your enjoyment really comes across.

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