Latitudes and attitudes

It’s been a good year for meeting varied and intrepid sailors. You could reasonably point out that actually everyone who sails is more fearless than I, who can make an ordeal out of sailing up a creek, but I was in the right place at the right time last week to hear Roger Taylor talk at the Deben Yacht Club in Suffolk about cruising to high latitudes in his junk rigged Corribee Mingming.

I love hearing about adventures I know I would never do myself, but I’m also fascinated by the attitudes that make it possible. Taking a tiny yacht to latitude 80 degrees north might imply a relish for macho feats of endurance and suffering, but Roger’s attitude is refreshingly free of heroics.  He has nothing to prove; he sails because he enjoys it and has arranged Mingming’s rig and cabin to make sure she is easily handled in all weathers, well behaved, warm and comfortable, albeit at a simple level. He sails to places like Spitzbergen and the Faroes because he loves the wild northern waters, alive with sea birds, dolphins and minke whales. He loves sailing close to a land of high cliffs and glaciers tumbling into the sea and is totally unworried about not being able to anchor and go ashore.

The foundations for his enjoyment are three principles of safety afloat. Roger’s views are based on years of experience, including a dramatic shipwreck on board a square rigged ship in Australia. You’ll need to read his books for the details of how his experiences shaped his choice of boat and the modifications he made to her, but in essence an ocean-going boat needs to hang onto three things in even the most extreme circumstances: unsinkability, motive power and steering. A boat designed with these in mind will provide the basis for stress free sailing – sound logic indeed.

Stress free sailing? Bring it on! Perhaps I should try for a change of attitude this year and shape a course to rediscover my own inner ruffy-tuffy sailor. Who knows, I may even make it out of one muddy creek and into another.  Perhaps I could give talks about my adventures around the coast – what do you think? I could have you on the edge of seat calmly relating how I grounded my coracle on an uncharted mudbank miles away from civilisation (well, out of sight of the pub at Cresswell Quay, anyway) and had to eat the last kit-kat whilst waiting for the tide to come in.

Roger’s experiences are proof that the difference between ordeal and adventure is attitude – and I really will try and remember that next time I dive back under the duvet and stay safely in harbour if the wind looks like it’s going to be strong enough to make me spill my drink.

Here’s one of my sketches of Mingming, drawn for Marine Quarterly, which has several excellent articles from Roger (and the spring edition has just arrived, by the way – look at www.themarinequarterly.com if you’re not already a subscriber).


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Anglo-Saxon Inspirations