Sailing and sketching in Scilly
Every year I make the long journey to Cornwall at least once. It’s eight hours of tedious driving but I need my fix of rocks, cliffs and steel blue sea. I stay with good friends down in the far southwest corner of the land and we walk the cliffs and coves of Porthgwarra, Porthcurno, Gwennap Head. You can see the Scilly islands on a clear day, but this time the weather during my first week was relentlessly stormy. Luckily it cleared when the time came to join the good ship Amelie Rose in Falmouth and set sail to those smudges of blue on the horizon.
I sailed to Scilly last year on Amelie Rose, but it’s a joy to return and a thrill to be sailing that steel blue Atlantic sea as well as sketching it from the top of a cliff. Joining a charter boat is always a leap of faith, sharing a small space with strangers. Rules are different at sea; nowhere on land would you find it normal to sleep on a shelf (still damp from those stormy days) in a small space (the foc’sle) with two men and a woman you had just met. It worked out fine, as it usually does, and we all got along well, nine of us on board with ages ranging from 30 to 66 and a mix of experience.
I’ll let my sketchbook pages do the talking about the week island hopping; it’s such an extraordinary place. Several of my shipmates joined in the drawing too, as I’d taken along a few small sketch books which I hand out with the same zeal that a missionary hands out bibles the minute that someone expresses an interest!
It seems that sketching is something many people would like to do but somehow think that only ‘artists’ are allowed. ‘Do you use your drawings to create proper paintings later?’ they ask and are surprised when I say no. I draw because it’s a way of connecting to and appreciating my surroundings in a way that humans have done for centuries. Drawing makes me look properly, that’s all. I love the way that I open the book to a blank page and then I close it again with that page full of lines and colours, imperfections and fragments, just like life. I love the way that when several of us sketch the same scene it comes out completely differently, because we all look at life through different windows.
As an illustrator, it also feeds my creative ideas and keeps my skills fresh, of course, but I think that even if drawing and painting wasn’t what I do for a living, I would want to keep a sketchbook. Does that make sense?
I encourage you to have a go. Like playing a musical instrument it’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. And unlike a musical instrument, no-one has to suffer the noise whilst you’re learning!
‘Amelie Rose’ is a rather lovely replica pilot cutter built on traditional lines by Luke Powell. She’s been a busy girl since her launch in 2009, chartering every year with her owner Nick Beck and giving hundreds of people reason to enjoy sharing a cosy cabin with folks they’ve only just met. Both the boat and the charter business are now up for sale as Nick is keen to pursue other plans, so if you’re interested have a look at the website http://www.topsail-adventures.co.uk/. There’s nothing quite like the feel of a wooden ship under your feet, especially with such sketchable scenery around us and I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to sail with Amelie Rose several times.