Wardley Marine Yacht Club sailors Malcolm and Simon collect the cup for the first sail over to Piel this year!
We did not think the Ship Inn would be open, and it wasn’t. As it happened, the new King of Piel Arran and islanders Don & Sharron had been doing a spot of painting. All evidence of labour was just and so tidied up when I arrived, but we all found time for a chinwag and a beer or two. It was a very nice but short stay, and once back on the boat, Jamila’s stove was stoked with charcoal, and the tilly and brass oil lamps were lit for the night. We spent the evening on board, with temperatures just above freezing outside but thanks to old-fashioned technology, inside the cabin it remained cosy and dry. It went dark around four thirty in the afternoon, as it was, after all, February, and the returning tide started lapping around the hull at around eight O’clock. Soon Jamila was drifting out towards the deserted buoys in the dark, and with a little prod from the engine, the crew went forward and took one. Safely tied up, we enjoyed a hash of tinned beef and baked beans, elevated from dullness with lots of finely chopped onion, sultanas, and Lee & Perins. A good bottle of Australian wine was found in the bilges to help all this goodness down the hatches. And it did not stop there, later in the evening, a bottle of whisky was produced and was enjoyed whilst looking up at a magnificent star-lit sky. Very soon the conversation turned to putting the world to rights, as so often it does on nights like this. As the evening unfolded, the uneasy excitement of earlier in the day gently transformed into a blissful calm. Eventually, an overwhelming feeling of tiredness, and the thought of an early start, got the better of us. We topped up the stove with fuel, blew out the lamps, and snugged up into our awaiting sleeping bags. With no time lost, Jamila’s two Lancashire lads fell into a sound sleep. But nothing lasts forever. After three hours or so, this was interrupted by an errant swell coming in with the high tide over Mort Bank, bumping the boat and jiggling a loose anchor up forward. The crew sat it out lying in their cots, and soon enough, the tide started its six-hour-long ebb, and all went quiet once again.
All too soon, it was four-thirty on Monday morning with the alarm ringing. We pulled ourselves into action with just a cup of tea and yoghurt, and departed thirty minutes later into a sea illuminated by a moonlit sky. Sunrise came around at about seven-thirty; see the photo above. Bacon, baked beans and crusty thick brown bread and butter were eaten on the move whilst crossing Mort Bank. All progress was made under engine as there was little wind, and handling the cold ropes and sails would have been hard on the hands. Feeling a bit soft and vulnerable vis-a-vis the elements at this time of the year, we maintained the stove and tilly lamp stoked with fuel, which served well on the voyage back, where crew and skipper could take turns in the cabin keeping warming.
We duly arrived at Knott End-on-Sea and picked up a buoy near the golf course at 8:30 am. High tide was predicted at 11.30, thus a two-hour wait imposed by mother nature before going up the river. All went nicely whilst navigating the last of the flood tide. After entering Wardley’screek, the skipper positioned Jamila perfectly by the jetty and was duly complemented by the crew. In fact, it was the mud that should take the glory, for it was the mud that stopped the boat perfectly on station, so that the ropes could be tied easily and at our leisure. As soon as the docking chores were completed, the crew took off rather too quickly, but a little later, the skipper was pleasantly surprised by a deliciously served luncheon of clubhouse-cooked cheese-on-toast. Capital stuff!
In conclusion, we both had a jolly good time sailing to Piel Island and back, stayed warm and dry, met up with some pals, fed well, drank some wine and ale, and had no mishaps along the way. Job done I’d say!
There were a lot of trips to Piel Island over the 2021 season. This is just one of them. The main aim is to get out to sea, watch the Lancashire coast with work and worries left far behind. See the Cumbrian coast in the distance come closer and closer. Navigate into the channel and find an anchorage. Get ashore in a small inflatable dinghy. Walk the walk up the long inclined jetty capable of handling a 36-foot tide, order a pint in the Ship Inn, then pay homage to the King of Piel (order more pints). Get back to our moored boats in spite of the 4-knot running tide. Hopefully, sail back into the arms of our loving families the following day.