Nearly Off!

Tecla 1

Nearly off! I catch the sleeper to Inverness Friday night, then the bus across the Highlands to Ullapool, where I expect to find Tecla moored alongside the Town Quay.

I have one bag full of sailing waterproofs and warm sailing gear, another full of regular clothes. I have put together all the documents I need—passport, Airbnb and flight reservations—and packed a small pile of the cables and chargers I need for my iPad and camera.

And that’s about it. It all seems so easy, just to pack a few belongings.

I find myself reflecting on the far more extensive preparations I needed when I took Coral on a long pilgrimage: all the usual new season preparations like antifouling the hull, but also checking that all the sailing gear was in a good state for a long voyage away from any kind of help. I would make myself ready for navigation and pilotage—selecting and buying the right charts, always needing more than my budget would allow; reading up the sailing directions, comparing the instructions for various inshore passages with what was shown on the Admiralty charts; wondering what it would be like in actual experience. Then buying and packing away to stores I would need until the lockers were overflowing, the spare water and fuel tanks full.

There was so much more to do, and I think it made me more ready to get going. It is very strange to be leaving all the planning to Tecla’s crew.

There is a familiar excitement at the beginning of a voyage, an excitement always tempered with anxiety. Off to sea again, away from the normality of everyday life and the enclosure of land and city into the great expanse of water that covers two thirds of the surface of the planet. I looked forward to familiar sensations: the open view of the horizon cutting a razor line between sea and sky and hinting at the curvature of Earth; the pitch and roll of a sailing vessel; the crack of sail canvas catching the wind; the salt water spray; and, even with good sea boots, the smell of ever-damp feet. And there is the added excitement of the unexpected: might a whale breech alongside, as one had that time off the Mizen Head in Ireland, close enough to look her in the eye and feel her presence as another sentient being? Might we see shooting stars during night watches? Might I even experience ‘moments of grace’, when the boundary between myself and the wider world thin or disappear?

The anxieties that lurk behind the excitement are partly practical: would I find my cabin comfortable, would the food be good, would I feel seasick? But also, would the skipper draw us into working the ship, would I get on with my ship mates, would I, in my mid-seventies, keep up with the younger ones while hauling ropes and lashing down sails? I imagine out first encounter, standing on the quay before being invited to go onboard, a dozen or so of us hanging around with that awkwardness of people who know they are going to spend time together and wonder how they will get on. Last time I sailed on Tecla my fellow guests were a varied bunch. Some had a long sailing history in yachts, some had been before on tall ships, even racing square riggers across the Atlantic, and some had never been on a sailing boat before. Most were keen to take part in managing the boat, although I one or two were happier to be bystanders.

By the end of that week-long voyage to St Kilda we were all good mates–we had to be, with all the work we had to do together to work the ship: loosing and stowing sails, hauling halyards and sheets, learning how to release and set the running back stays during a gybe. I am sure it will be the same again…. watch this space.

Here are the waterproofs I expect to be living in for the next month!











  1. margigold says:

    Oh Bon voyage dear Peter. I wish you moments of grace and safe adventuring I look forward to reading your dispatches Margaret xx

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Sarah Gillespie says:

    Happy sailing Peter. Xxx

  3. Emma Geen says:

    Have a great trip!

  4. says:

    Dear Peter,

    A lovely description of your wonderings as opposed to your wanderings you’re yet to experience. I love your honest admission of slight apprehension about meeting your fellow crew!

    Where are you headed?, I may have missed your voyage details… I’m delighted and somewhat amused at your taking to the older style boats! I’ll always remember you pointing out those slow moving relics in Ireland. Yes, handling the running backstays during a gybe is something you simply mustn’t get wrong! It took me a while to get my head around what has to happen and when. Learning on Amelie Rose has been really useful when sailing Jenny, although half her size, the principles are the same. I soon learnt that oversheeting really slows the boat. We were in Cornwall last week, it was very chilly but dry with winds out of the North. We went to Fowey from St. Mawes, Dodman was actually quite pleasant!

    I hope all’s well with you, Elizabeth and your family. We’re going through difficult times with my Mum, she has worsening dementia and fell while we were away. She’s in hospital so I’m off to visit now.

    Please include me in your updates when you have time. I’ll be thinking of you! Have a lovely time and take care.


    Sent from my iPad


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