Wednesday 8 March 2023

Coastal scenery

 Today is wet and cold with flurries of snow, so not at all tempting for work on the boat. What is needed now is a few days suitable for painting.

As a sort of encouragement I think, my brother Tim gave me a book on sailing round Britain for Christmas. Its 'A voyage round the coast of Great Britain' by William Daniell, who was a writer and an artist.  He made this trip in the 1820s, so some of it is a bit dated. On the plus side, there are plenty of gaff rig boats to be seen in every illustration. At the time it was fashionable to admire mountain views and the Lake District, but Daniell wrote the book as he thought that people did not properly appreciate the variety and spectacular scenery to be found in the coastline of the British Isles.

This is one of Daniells pictures. It shows a heavily laden merchant ship approaching a narrow harbour entrance on a rocky lee shore in heavy weather. The port is Portreath in Cornwall whose entrance was so narrow that two ships couldn't pass, and the cargo is probably coal. When flags point above the horizontal its usually about force 7 or more: I dont know what wind strength is required to dislodge a top hat. There seems to be absolutely no margin for error, either in the skippers judgement or in the ships gear. Iron wire had not yet been invented, so both standing and running rigging would be hemp, with flax or canvas sails. Failure of any bit of this gear would be disastrous. Coming into port like this in strong wind on a lee shore under sail is not something that would appeal to most modern yachtsmen who would at the very least like to have the engine ticking over, but when Daniell later talked to the skipper, he thought it was nothing out of the ordinary. What he had that we don't of course, is a lifetime of experience in sailing these waters. And he must have had confidence in his crew too- Portreath was a small and crowded harbour so they must have been pretty slick in getting the sails off her once in the entrance.

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