Monday, June 15, 2009

Cap'n Sump Goes Sailing

I found myself in need of an adventure. An Insight Adventure, to be precise.
Having failed to do much adventuring for my monthly(ish) mutual drivelling session with the mighty master of the airwaves Simon Pauley at Insight Radio for the last couple of broadcasts, I cast about in hope of finding a suitably heroic escapade for June's on-air witterings.

Enter The Sump with an offer of taking to the high seas in his boat "Syzygy". We checked days off. The Sump checked the tide times. We settled on a date; Sunday just gone was it.
Sunday at 07:30 in the a.m., that is. Oh-seven-thirty immediately after a film club evening which finally wound up with us levering Slocombe through the door at 2 in the morning.

Time and tide, though, as we all know, wait for no man. Not even a tired Millbrooker and his lovely lady wife, nor a slightly groggy Wizzers of Soz.

Life jacket drill was quickly taken care of: "Can you swim? You don't have to wear it unless I tell you to..." , and we set off to the creek and our Insight Adventure:After a bit of pushing and pulling, The Sump manoeuvred his dinghy into position and we were afloat in next to no time, the gunwales slicing through the water under the extreme ballast of me. Yes, I know gunwales aren't usually the bit that slices through water; have you seen the size of me lately? Trust me, it was the gunwales.

Here's The Sump at the other end manfully trying to keep us in a more-or-less straight line.We reached the good ship Syzygy without undue wetness and clambered aboard.As we landlubbers settled ourselves into position at the blunt and hollow end, The Sump did technical preparations at the pointy end.It wasn't long before the outboard was tugged into life and we chugged gently down towards Cremyll and The Sound. It also wasn't long before Cap'n Sump, as we'll call him for the day, happily handed over the tiller of his pride and joy to a bloke with a white stick. It was a complex and taxing job which required the application of much coffee.
In a highly unusual turn of events, Cap'n The Sump passed by a pub, the Edgcumbe Arms at Cremyll (below) - probably because it was closed, but possibly because he enjoys sailing almost as much as sumping.For most of the morning there was only one word to adequately describe the sailing conditions. Calm. The wind was but a whimper of a whisper of a breath; any visions of carving through white horses, bottoms skimming the water as we hung over the sides to keep the keel in the water in a fine and dashing display of yachtsman-like derring-do were quickly re-filed in the compartment of my brain marked "not happening".

We got ourselves out towards the breakwater under diesel power before Cap'n Sump decided we should have a go at putting up the foresail and seeing if we could catch a bit of breeze. The result was a nice picnic in the brightening sunshine.We did catch what little breeze there was, though. Thanks in no small part to Cap'n Sump's skills as a sailor boy (no sniggering at the back), the sails got hung in the right place and at the right angle (I think that's called "trimmed" - there's an awful lot of jargon to this sailing lark) and we began to reach the giddy speeds of one knot as we rounded the west end of the breakwater.I got my hands on the tiller for a fair bit of the sail around the breakwater and excitedly (if erroneously) proceeded to try and pass-to-port with anything afloat and crewed. Apparently you only have to do this if you might hit them otherwise. Oops.Cap'n Sump didn't panic, though, and I was allowed to keep on steering as long as I didn't hit anything too solid. At last we rounded the east end of the breakwater, still under sail and without the aid of any internal combustion engineering. A skillful effort on the part of Cap'n Sump who kindly said I'd done it with my tiller work.We needed the engine to get towards Plymouth Hoe, though. During the inward trip Cap'n Sump went for'ard to do a completely unposed photo for the family album. I once again attempted to avoid embarrassing moments with other sailors by pulling on the tiller (look - any more sniggering at the back, and I'll stop).After another brief period under sail with me at the tiller, we rounded Drake's Island on the Plymouth side (this time we hit 3.5 knots - very exciting) and then it really was back to diesel power to get back to Syzygy's mooring before the tide made parking impossible.

The press boat, crewed and rowed by Frankenkeith, was up the creek to meet us as Cap'n Sump skimmed his keel over the mud to bring Syzygy to rest at the appropriate spot. Then it was back into the dinghy......before heading off to The 'Ark for very welcome pint of Doom Bar. All the best adventures end in a bar, you know.

What a great few hours we had, I'd go again at the drop of a hat. Cap'n Sump has kindly said we can go out with him again and The Wizzers of Soz was so taken with the whole thing that she's asked if he'll teach her the rudiments in his dinghy. Stop it. Stop it now.

Huge thanks, of course, to Cap'n Sump for giving of his time and expertise. As a "White Cane Adventure", it's among the highlights. Do try this at home. Or at least on the nearest stretch of water, it's great fun.

There are lots more, captioned, photos on the complete photosets link on the right, or just click here.

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