Wardley Marine Yacht Club sailors Malcolm and Simon collect the cup for the first sail over to Piel this year!
The barometer was high on this cold February Sunday morning, stopping the tide from reaching its predicted height. Come high water (11.15), Jamila was still aground in the mud. But, with her engine shuddering at full-speed astern in a pool of gurgling and bubbling water, her twin keels were begrudgingly dragged from her underwater shackles, free to go where ever she wanted. Out on the river Wyre, a significant search was taking place using helicopters and high-speed RIBs. Over the preceding week, TV news reports had beamed to the public at large an image of a woman with an attractive smile who had gone missing on the river near the upstream village of St. Michael. She had been missing for some time, and social media speculation on what might have happened was rife. Noticeably more walkers than ever could be seen treading the footpaths on both sides of the river, looking this way and that way but in particular onto the water. So, with a sense of morbid excitement, the two crew set off down the Wyre en route to Piel Island. The sea state was calm but allied with a strong outgoing tide and the iron donkey chattering down below; Jamila made her way at a steady five knots towards the mouth of the river.
Eventually, we arrived at Piel and looked for a mooring. We thought, “Why mess about with buoys and rope when there are plenty of muddy places to park?” So Jamila was put aground onto a patch of soft mud and left high and dry by the ebbing tide. The crew decided not to descend the ladder but would rather drink tea and do social media with a second-to-none maritime scene all around. The skipper, however, descended the ladder and climbed the glistening bank onto dry land for a round-the-island walk. As seen in the photo above, the precaution to drop the anchor was not taken. The skipper calculated that there was plenty of time to tour the island and be reunited with the boat before the incoming tide returned. And once back, Jamila would eventually float again, and the little wind that was would gently blow Jamila towards at least one of the vacant buoys out yonder.
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 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. Monday morning with the alarm ringing. We pulled
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!