Charles Stock & Shoal Waters

It takes two to Tango

Yachting Monthly

Cartoon by Peyton

While I admit that many beginners can get in a bit of a muddle, it takes a lot of experience to create a unique muddle, and two experienced chaps can always do better than one veteran sailor on his own.

In fact, l didn’t need to go into Southwold at all as I was bound for Blakeney, but it looked so attractive in the spring sunshine. The tide was flooding against me on the coast and I fancied a good fry-up for a leisurely lunch.

In those days, 1973, there was a line of mooring buoys down the middle of the narrow harbour, which is merely the mouth of the River Blyth. It was Easter Saturday and most were empty so early in the season. All l had to do was pick up one with my ‘grabbit’ boathook, which I use from the cockpit when singlehanded.

It is not quite as easy as it sounds, for the tide runs in fast here. As the first buoy raced towards me, l furled the headsail, lifted the centreboard and went for the ring. Missed! Out jib, down plate ready for the next one. I furled the jib but had no time to lift the plate. Got it! I was slow pushing the rudder over as the line tightened and she swung the wrong way. My little gaff cutter, Shoal Waters, ended up moored by the bows by a line which passed under the hull behind the centreboard and was thus held beam on to the current. She responded by swinging back and forth across the river like a wild thing.

By the time I’d stowed the sails, the Cruising Association boatman was alongside to help out. He tried to use the bow of his little clinker motor-boat to push the bows of my craft round over the line against the tide. He ended up with the line between his rudder and his transom. The two craft struggled in an embrace that was almost indecent!

Fortunately there was no one to hand with a camera.