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Stanley C Smith sailing a West Wight Potter from the Isle of Wight to Kloster Fjord Sweden in 1965

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 11 months ago

 

An account of a fairly eventful cruise in a 14' 0" West Wight Potter from the Isle of Wight to Kloster Fjord, Sweden October 12th to November 17th, 1965

by Stanley C. Smith

Managing Director. West Wight Marine Ltd.

Ward Rood. Totland Bay, I.W., England

Telephone: Freshwater 2627

 

Map of Smith's voyage

 

We received an order for a Potter for Sweden in the late winter of

1964-5 after a Swedish Tanker Captain called on us. It was my intention to

find time for a fairly ambitious cruise during the summer, and this seemed

a good opportunity to combine business with pleasure.

 

The Captain agreed, like the good sportsman he is, to accept the boat

on arrival in Sweden.

 

During the ensuing six months a great deal of careful consideration

was given to the requirements of the voyage. It would indeed be courting

disaster merely to step into such a boat and sail away on such a voyage.

 

Details of the preparations and the special equipment carried are

described in the appendix.

 

The original intention to set sail during June was defeated by

pressure of business.

 

All was ready by the early part of September, but at this time a

persistent spell of Easterly winds began to blow, and it was useless to

attempt to beat up Channel against these in so small a boat. Eventually

(as it happened, for only a short interval) there came a change of wind

and I set out from Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, late afternoon of the 12th

October in company with friends of mine in another boat. We arrived at

Cowes after dark that evening.

 

For the next few days the wind was back in the East again and it was

not until the 14th that I was able to get under way. Even so it was a poor

beginning because of very thick fog. Visibility about 100ft.

 

Setting out from Cowes harbour, under power, at 0830 that morning, I "

felt my way " from buoy to buoy, past Ryde and across to the Looe Channel

at Selsey Bill with a favourable tide. At this point the fog cleared, a

light breeze from the South set in and helped me slowly out across the

wide bay towards Beachy Head against the ebb.

 

I passed between Beachy Head and the Royal Sovereign Light Vessel

about 0400 hours on the morning of the 15th. By this time the wind had

risen to Force 4 from the West. I was tempted to think conditions showed

promise for the rest of the trip. Alas, what optimism !

 

During these early hours of the morning, one begins to feel the strain

of a long watch-I had been motoring and sailing continuously since 0830

the previous day-so 1 was not surprised to find myself startled time and

time again as my head fell forward and woke me repeatedly from momentary

sleep. Later, however, after I had enjoyed the sight of dawn and sunrise,

this feeling passed and I was able to sail, alert and active for the

remainder of that day.

 

An hour or so after lawn at 0730 hours there was a sharp change of

wind and conditions. For about an hour it blew from N.N.W Force 7 and I

had to bring down the main. 1 sailed for a thus under the fores'l and

mizen, but a little later I reefed the mails'l and brought down the mizen

as the wind settled to Force 6 from N. It was hard, brisk sailing for the

rest of that day and I sailed inshore to avoid getting too wet in the

seas that were beginning to mount off shore.

 

Dungeness was passed about 1700 hours and 1 began to think I would be

in Dover soon after dark. The wind died however and for two hours or more

I made little headway off Folkestone. When I did reach Dover I hall to

fight a strong West-going stream with insufficient wind, and I eventually

picked up a mooring in the outer harbour at exactly midnight.

 

I slept well that night, for I had been actually underway without a

break for twenty-seven-and-a-half hours. In total my last sleep had been

more than thirty hours before.

 

To my intense chagrin, when I awoke later that morning, I found the

wind had again swung round to the East. It remained strong in the East for

the next six days. At last on the 22nd, after poking my nose out of Dover

harbour once or twice to find conditions impossible for getting clear past

the South Goodwins, I could contain my impatience no longer; I got under

way at 0930 hours. On getting outside 1 found there was just enough

"Southing " in the wind to allow me to slip through into the North Sea.

 

What a joy it was, on clearing the South Goodwins, to "square away"

and find a fresh wind on the beam for a few hours.

 

Again I indulged in undue optimism ! As it turned out. It seemed that

Easterly winds had become a permanent weather characteristic for Northern

Europe and Britain. Rather like the " Trade-winds." Just in case

this proved not to be so, I decided to get Northward as far, and as

quickly as possible.

 

It should be mentioned here, for the benefit of those readers who like

a fully detailed account of cruises, that my log-book and charts were

lost later under somewhat harrowing circumstances, therefore most of what

follows is from memory.

 

From the time I sailed out of Dover until the 27th, I sailed the boat

twenty to twenty-two hours out of every twenty-four (one must not casually

leave a small boat to fend for herself). Throughout the whole time-22nd

through to the 25th-it was a hard thrash for such a light craft in quite

considerable seas, with the wind always forward of beam, never the

longed-for fair wind. Then, on the 26th a change did come. The wind died

to nothing and I enjoyed he luxury of five consecutive hours of sleep !

 

With the change I got an ominous warning, though. The " permanent"

high pressure area over Northern Europe was collapsing at last. Although

there was no gale warning for the Fisher-German Bight area, where I was,

it was clear gales should be expected shortly. When the wind returned

(from astern at long last) I made use of it to gain as much sea-room as I

could, commensurate with getting North towards Tyboron harbour, or even

the Skagerrak in case of need.

 

Unfortunately there wasn't time to gain enough sea-room, or enough

Northing to save the situation as it developed. During the 26th the wind

gradually veered to the West and gained in strength so that by the early

morning of the 27th it was blowing Force 7 - 8 and the seas became too

wild for a boat of the Potter's size to sail through in safety. I had to

put out the sea-anchor and hope that my erstwhile confidence in the new

idea would be justified.

 

Low clouds hurried across the sky and the seas built up into great

moving hills of water, with occasional quite heavy breaking tops.

 

Soon after the first gale warning, there came grim portents for me

when neighbouring areas were given forecasts including Force 9 gales ! To

say that I was unperturbed would be the biggest, fattest white lie of the

year. Indeed, I felt quite concerned as I watched my hands shaking !

 

The inevitable Force 9 warning came to my area a few hours later. The

wind howled a higher note through the rigging and seas became positively

"Atlantic" in dimensions.

 

Even so, the new sea-anchor arrangement, together with the little

riding mizen, behaved so well that, after a few hours highly attentive

observation on my part, with particular reference to occasional

electrifying heavy breaking tops, I went into the cabin and slept well, as

if only the rates and electricity bills were somewhat overdue for

settlement. Nevertheless, my hard-won sea-room was beginning to shrink, I

hoped most fervently that there would be a " spell " before another gale

struck.

 

Careful monitoring of my drift during the next two days (which I

almost halved on the second day, by putting out a long warp with my spare

rudder blade on the end) showed a rate of drift of slightly over one knot.

 

During those first three stormy days, I felt almost sure that the wind

would lessen in lime to allow me to gain an oiling again. On the evening

of the 29th however, soon after dark, I saw the loom of Blaavanshuk

Lighthouses and shortly afterwards the loom of Lyngvig Lighthouse. On

taking bearings of these I placed myself between eighteen and twenty miles

away from the coast. Unless I got a more moderate weather forecast later

during the evening, my reading from the North Sea Pilot of the shore I was

approaching gave me a very slender chance of survival.

 

When later I got the forecast, it told me my area could expect a

further twenty-four hours of Force 8 - 9 ! It seemed I had about fifteen

hours left to me. There was simply nothing more I could do to avoid the

coast, and the consequences on reaching it. I spent most of the remainder

of that dark and awe-inspiring night trying to rejoice over the hefty life

insurance policy I had taken out on behalf of my children. I had done this

on the advice of my friend and legal adviser, Mr. Anthony Gale, just

before I set sail !

 

I slept for a few hours, but my heart wasn't in it, I had rather a lot

on my mind. In contemplating the situation, I drew some irrational comfort

from the knowledge that it would happen in daylight. I even allowed myself

a very, very small ration of hope. I thought it just faintly possible that

I might drift right into the entrance of Hvide Sande Harbour. I actually

laughed aloud when this possibility struck me, and I went on to think how

I would grin at the local fishermen and pretend that everything had gone

according to plan ! Long before dawn I could see the actual lights,

including the leading lights of Hvide Sande Harbour. I began to wonder if

after all I might be fated to play my game on the local fishermen. Later,

however, I could see my point of contact with the shore must be about

half-a-mile further North. This was fortunate; later when I saw how

complicated the entrance was, it was quite clear I would have been quite

unable to negotiate it, and would certainly have been lost.

 

As I got nearer to the beach my reading of the North Sea Pilot as to

the likely conditions was grimly confirmed. The coast is low lying and is

mainly sand doles, the water is fairly deep until within a quarter to

half-a-mile of the beach, there arc sand bars-from two to three-at

intervals lying parallel with the shore-line. These ridges cause the seas,

kicked up by Westerly storms, with a fetch right across the North Sea, to

break very heavily indeed. The " Pilot " advises shipping to avoid these

breakers. I most ardently agree with the " Pilot " !

 

When I was about one-and-a-half miles from the shore I had a severe

argument with myself. Should I, or should I not fire my distress signals ?

 

My feelings over this are strong. When I am in trouble at sea I like

to feel my troubles are entirely mine, that no-one else shall be involved,

that no-one else shall risk their lives on my behalf.

 

On the other hand, I thought, suppose when it is too late, they find

my unfired distress signals. What would the lifeboatmen feel if, through

local knowledge and from a bigger, more powerful boat, they knew that a

call for their assistance would have enabled them to save the life of the

idiot who didn't fire his distress signals ?

 

In spite of appearances, I dislike being thought of as an idiot. So I

fired my signals. It turned out after all that these were never seen.

 

I now began preparations for what I thought would be my final and

forlorn struggle with the sea.

 

I carefully stowed my movie-camera in a plastic bag and fastened the

top to make it watertight. Then the film record I had made of the journey.

My passport, and papers, the Nova Pal D.F. radio which had aided my

navigation so faithfully and well. I stowed these smaller bags inside all

my best clothes which were inside a much larger, heavier plastic bag, then

I bound the top of this. I felt quite certain that, if the boat was smashed

to matchboard, as looked so likely, these items at least would be found

almost immediately. In the event this bag simply disappeared.

 

I then hardened up the air in the four Sea-Esta Roll-a-Boats, to

ensure maximum buoyancy through the breakers. Of these I kept one for

myself as a form of lifebelt (partially inflated is best for this), the

remainder I tied together and placed in the roof of the cabin to help keep

the boat from being rolled over. I sealed the plugs with insulating tape.

About a quarter of an hour later I was very close to the first of the

breakers. They looked absolutely terrible, I was appalled.

 

I stood up for one last look round then, about half-a-mile to the

North, to my amazement and delight I saw a small ship with a very

business-like look about her. I thought it was a lifeboat, although I knew

for certain it could not, so soon, have come in answer to my signals. In

any case it was coming from the wrong direction. There is no harbour for

many miles to the North of Hvide Sande. This little ship bore down towards

me so I put out a long line from forward (Ulstron, which floats !) so that

she could hook it up and hope to tow me clear of the breakers.

 

As she came near I signalled the presence of my line, frantically-I

was afraid she might foul her propeller in it, and be in as perilous a

position as my own. Fortunately my signal was understood and three times

her skipper risked everything to get my line. We were now among the first

breakers. Huge and hideous, and with immense violence they rapidly filled

the Potter. Only the sea-anchor kept her head to and saved her from being

rolled over and over and smashed to pieces within the first few minutes .

 

The third time round the fishing vessel got my line, but the next

breaker threw the Potter back and simply tore the samson post straight out

of her.

 

The skipper of the fishing boat would have certainly lost his ship,

his own life and the life of his crew if he had tried again. So he simply

had to leave me to my fate.

 

I learned later that he sent out a radio distress signal on my behalf.

This action quite certainly saved my life, as I shall tell.

 

Meanwhile, as I got closer to the shore the intervals between the

breakers became less and less, until the whole sea was a vast roaring,

boiling mass of white water. I was fastened to the boat with my lifeline,

but each breaker nearly battered me sens eless.

 

I never before had to fight so hard to live. After each breaker I

found myself, legs one moment. head and arms the next, tangled up in the

running rigging. I had to cut myself free time and time again. By the time

I and the boat, had got to within a few hundred feet of the beach the

sea-anchor probably dragged on the ground beneath I could occasionally

feel my feet touch the ground and I knew I had to break the general golden

rule. The boat was not getting into shallow water fast enough to save me.

I had to cut myself free and make it by myself.

 

I could see several men running along the beach now. I cut myself

finally free and swam, and was hurled towards them, then dragged back

again into deeper water by the powerful under-tow. This happened it seemed

interminably, as in a nightmare. Somehow I remember I was stood up looking

at them, waist deep in seaward swirling water. I expected the next breaker

to carry me off my feet at any moment. I did not look behind me, only at

the men on the beach, safe and secure. only a few feet from me.

 

If they could not reach me. I certainly could not reach them. My

entire energy had been used up.

 

They waded in and I collapsed, unconscious, just as they reached me.

 

I recovered consciousness in hospital in Ringkjobing, nine or ten miles

away from Hvide Sander where I was given emergency treatment for

exhaustion and cold. Complete exhaustion and almost fatal cold.

 

I owe my life to those three brave men who risked their lives for the

sake of a stranger, but they would not have been there to save me if Peder

Sorensen, the skipper of the fishing vessel Tyrola (who has since become my

friend for life) had not had the presence of mind to radio a distress call

on my behalf, after his own heroic efforts to save me had failed.

 

Unknown to me at the time the Potter washed in and was hauled clear by

other men I did not see.

 

I found later that she survived almost undamaged. A lot of her

equipment and my remaining provisions were washed out of her and never

found. What did it matter ? I am alive !

 

I was taken to the hospital on Saturday and released on Monday, fit

and well, but stiff and aching in every muscle, and with a permanent

memory of lavish kindness from doctors and staff. A few days later

numerous large areas in various parts of my body turned blue, yellow,

green and purple as unsuspected bruises came to the surface.

 

My first day out of hospital was a very busy one indeed. The police

and C.I.D. detectives escorted me everywhere. They took me to see my poor

beloved little Potter. What a dejected little thing she looked. Half

filled with white sand (Hvide Sande), water, and the sodden remains of my

gear, all tangled up with frayed ends of rope which I had had to slash and

cut during the time in the breakers.

 

I was delighted however, to find all the sails intact. The only

structural damage, a minor break in the deck where the Samson post had

been torn out of her.

 

In the evening I had to appear at a special Court before a Magistrate

(or equivalent), to conform to Danish Law by explaining my presence in the

country without money or passport !

 

The Court-Room was the most pleasingly proportioned and decorated I

have ever been in. But then I have only been in one before !

 

Apparently my excuses for diving into Denmark without a passport or

money were accepted. I was released and told that I had been invited, by

the Skipper of the fishing vessel who had initiated my rescue, to stay

with him as long as I needed to do so. Peder Sorensen, a wonderful friend,

who during the next few days was unbelievably generous in so many ways. He

had visited me in hospital, and by outward appearances looked as tough and

as hard as a man could possibly look. Short and square, with a vice-like

grip, he struck me as a perfectly adapted man for his job.

 

His house was comfortable, clean and beautifully furnished. But there

was no-one living there but he and his old father. So we lived roughly as

a trio of " bachelors " should.

 

Most evenings we were invited out for an evening meal by one friend or

another, and when we did not go out we went aboard Tyrola and had many

bottles of Tuborg Lager to wash down fried eggs. Peder, speaking Danish in

a loud rasping kind of thunder, and I English, till one o'clock in the

morning, "skolling" furiously, shaking hands every few minutes or

thumping each other on the back. We had a gloriously friendly time of it.

 

But many people were very kind indeed, and I now have numerous good

friends in Denmark.

 

At last the boat was ready to sail again. Never one to disdain the advice

of local seamen, I decided to avoid sailing the last forty miles along the

coast to Tyboron. Peder arranged the necessary road transport to Struer on

the Lim Fjord, so that I could sail the remainder of my journey in

comparatively sheltered waters.

 

We went overland to Struer on the Saturday following my landing, and I

found myself alone once again.

 

On Sunday morning I got under way but had hardly gone more than a mile

out across the fjord when thick fog came down, and I had to return to

Struer before I lost sight of the leading marks.

 

Monday morning, though grey and hazy, so that I could barely make out

the shadow of the coast a mile away, commenced with a light Southerly

wind. I decided to make for Nykjobing at least. Before an hour had passed

the fair wind turned S.E. then E. again and I had to motor the whole way.

 

On nearing Nykjobing I proudly hoisted my Red Ensign and my Ocean

Cruising Club burgee for the first time on the trip. I felt the little

boat had earned this privilege ! A number of large car ferries, plying

their back and forth courses from the Island of Mors to Salling sounded

their sirens in friendly greeting, and their officers waved to me from

their high bridges.

 

On reaching Nykjobing harbour entrance I decided to seek shelter there

for the night. The wind had died and the motor was behaving like an

invalid; also, it is hardly advisable to negotiate at night the

complicated, unlighted channels through the narrower part of the fjord

beyond Logstor for one's first passage through.

 

On landing at 1645 I immediately sought out a supply of fuel for the

motor for the next day.

 

The following day came, cheerless as before, very thick grey haze,

almost no wind, and my poor ailing motor hardly able to give me three

knots against the West-going stream. I barely saw the islands of Fur and

Livo as I passed close by and it was approaching an early dusk when I

passed the town of Logster.

 

It was clear that the faster stream in this part of the fjord would

prevent me reaching the harbour at Nibe. Navigation would be impossible

here after dark, so I headed across the fjord to a place the chart

described as a landing near the village of Haverslev.

 

I could not find this landing so I had to anchor off and try to steep on

board. The cushions were heavy with sea-water. T had no blankets. The

Primus was out of commission. The fog descended so that visibility became

less than fifty feet. Almost freezing water dripped down from the rigging.

I smoked cigarettes because I had not yet found a Danish pipe tobacco which

suited my taste. I shivered energetically all night. But I did not sleep.

By the first faint glimmer of the following dawn I was under way again,

relieved and happy to bc on the move.

 

The course between marks-average distance perhaps three-quarters of a

mile-had to be set each time by compass because of the fog. I reached

Aalborg with great joy late that afternoon.

 

I learned there, from several new-found friends, on the following day

what the consequences of a mistake in navigation might have meant. A local

fisherman had found two men that very day, stranded in a small motor

cruiser in shallow water two miles from the shore, along the route I had

just completed.

 

They had been there without heat, food or bedding for three days and

nights, and were in a very poor shape indeed because of the continuous

penetrating cold.

 

And I had been bleating loudly to myself all the while about my own

misfortunes !

 

I was very kindly treated at Aalborg, particularly by the Harbour

Master, Captain Plougheld, and others I would like to name.

 

On this account, though I now found myself trapped again by the

weather, my stay in this fine port was to prove rewarding, if almost

unbearably frustrating.

 

The night of my arrival saw the wind increase with determination and

stubborn vigour from E.N.E. It brought the first snows of Winter and the

temperature got firmly stuck below zero.

 

The short hop of seventy-six miles, past Hals at the Eastern entrance

to Lim Fiord, and across the Kattegat to Sweden began to look impractical.

Strong headwinds, icy conditions and a tired little outboard motor

represented to me the near approach of defeat. Eventually I telephoned my

good friend the Swedish Captain and explained my predicament. That same

evening he was travelling to Goteborg to catch the ship to N. Denmark to

join me the following day.

 

There was only one way to get the boat across the Kattegat. Buy a more

powerful outboard motor. To my amazement and joy, he did just that! A 6

h.p. Swedish twin cylinder " Archimedes ".

 

Monday, the 15th, the Captain and I started our busy day of

preparations for the final stage of the journey at 0630. All day trudging

about in the snow, back and forth, while engineers overhauled the old

pre-war Seagull 1 had been using. We organised the bringing into town of a

number Of motors from the surrounding countryside which might suit our

purpose. We bouquet petrol, plugs, spanners (mine were lost at Hvide

Sande) and attended to numerous now forgotten details.

 

At 20:00 hours we finally got under way from the snug little yacht

harbor where I had moored the boat, scraped under the low railway bridge

with inches to spare above the mast, past the cheerful lights of Aalborg

and into the darkness and biting cold of the empty fjord. At midnight we

moored past Hals out onto the bitter Kattegat.

 

Wind Force 3 - 4, E.N.E. dead ahead, a short, choppy wet sea for our

further discomfort. Temperature&emdash;10° C (we learned later). A multitude of

brilliant stars, and frequents silent explosions of light from the

brightest display of meteors I have ever seen, for our entertainment.

Only sixty shuddering, shivering miles to go !

 

The late sunrise, shortly blotted out by thickening banks of snow

clouds found us out of sight of land, Thirsty, our can of water frozen

solid hungry, we had, in our anxiety to get away, forgotten to put aboard

the food we had ordered, and paid for! Wet from the wind-driven spray.

Astonished, I at least, to see the fore-part of the cabin-top covered with

a beautiful quarter-inch coat of the smoothest, most slippery ice I have

ever seen.

 

On and on we crashed our way through those infuriating short seas.

Unable even to tolerate spells in the shelter of the cabin. We had tried

this during the night, and on emerging to face the wind and spray again

found we could hardly bear the misery of our comfortless situation. In any

case the bunk cushions were board stiff now, having frozen solid!

 

We had with us a small half-pint bottle of Carlsberg "Elephant" ale,

left over from the evening of our meeting in Aalborg. We had agreed to

drink this on sighting the Swedish coast. All the afternoon we competed

for the pleasure of shouting " time to kill the elephant", hut the horizon

was still empty when the sun closed down toward the sea astern.

The Captain now suddenly remembered something he had in the cabin. In

a few minutes he came out with a vast brown sausage. He cut off two large

chunks and handed me one. It proved to be a thick smoke-darkened skin

packed with salt; mingled with the salt was minced raw bacon. We ate

several lumps of this and quickly developed a raging thirst to add to our

collection of unhappy things to think about.

 

It became rapidly even colder and the wind began to rise a bit. The

ice started to build a little thicker and the Captain soon transmitted his

growing anxiety to me by his tales of " the black death ", as he called

it, which murdered fishing vessels off Iceland by building ice faster than

it could be cleared, until the ships became unstable with the weight and

rolled over. He had seen the death of more than one ship from this cause

when he had been a fisherman in that area.

 

I did not know he had lived in Iceland. To pass the time he told me

more of his fantastic past How, once, he had spent three years alone with

a tent in the mountains of that forbidding country. This explained, to the

comfort of my ego, how it was that he could stand the intense cold without

(much) complaint. while I ached with long continued shivering and felt

almost paralysed.

 

The Captain saw something ahead. We thought it was a lightship and

agreed, in view of our thirst, that we should call this our first sight of

Sweden. We enjoyed that ale !

 

The " light-vessel " proved to be a fishing boat and we found this

very depressing. I was very unhappy at the prospect of yet another long

cool night in the open.

 

Not long afterwards, when it had become properly dark, the Captain saw

and recognised the loom of the lights of Varberg on our starboard bow.

Shortly afterwards the faint loom of Kloster village, dead ahead. Our

course had been a good one, even if our estimate of progress had been

optimistic.

 

With the wind increasing, our fuel getting dangerously low, and our

destination still a long way ahead to windward, we still had our worries.

Then our motor stopped and could not be re-started. With grim pessimism we

shipped the poor little Seagull. Our hopes were low because we had not

gained great confidence in the engineer who had overhauled it the day

before. We were mistaken, and I apologise sincerely to that young fellow.

The motor showed all the old vigour and, though not so powerful as the

other motor, it got us into Kloster Fjord with less than an egg-cupful of fuel

left in the tank! We found a small harbour, partially frozen over, and

moored up as well as circumstances would allow.

 

I stepped on to Swedish soil for the first time at 0015 hours, Wednesday

17/11/65.

 

We then had a mere four-mile stagger through the snow to the Captain's

home at the head of the fjord !

 

We arrived there at about 0145 hours. I was astonished at the

delighted welcome we received from the Captain's very charming wife.

I had a hot bath, a change of clothing, a large hot meal. Then we had

a few drinks of something new to me, a cross between vodka and nectar, and

went to bed. Our first sleep for forty-five hours.

 

Preparations

 

Physical Fitness:

The first, and most important, preparation I made for the voyage,

undoubtedly saved my life. I thought the trip might turn out to be

a rough one, so I decided to make myself as fit and strong as possible.

 

Every day I did physical exercises. I soon found I could do twenty

press-ups without even changing my normal breathing rhythm. Exercises

opposing muscle against muscle in various ways soon built a tough covering

of hard-working sinew around my shoulders, arms, back, stomach and chest.

When I set sail I was stronger and harder than I have ever been in my

life before. Undoubtedly the extra endurance this gave me enabled me to

fight my way ashore far enough for my rescuers to reach me at Hvide Sande.

It is quite certain I could not have done so otherwise. I am one of the

very few men to survive those breakers in gale conditions.

 

Sea Anchor:

Some months before I sailed, my friend Mike Patterson described a new

type of sea-anchor he had thought of. I mulled over his idea, in the light

of past experience, and eventually, with a number of modifications, I

worked out the sea-anchor I felt would suit the Potter best.

 

Mike's principle was for the sea-anchor to be so rigged that, should a

boat be caught off the bow by heavy breaking tops, the arrangement would

require the force of the roller to lift the weight of the sea-anchor

before it could turn the boat over.

 

Although the Potter was attacked many times by the odd sideswiping

breaker in the North Sea, it was soon apparent that the idea worked.

Before such a sea could act on the boat its force was expended in partly

lifting the weight of the sea-anchor and partly throwing the stern round

so that she. came about almost head-to-seas.

 

Time after time this happened. I gained great confidence in the

arrangement in heavy breaking seas twenty feet or so high, during the

gales 27-30th October.

 

Riding Mizen:

One of the greatest assets in wild seas is for a little boat to stay

head-to-wind. If she cannot be made to do so there is a very strong

possibility that she may be smashed in or filled by the heavier breaking

tops. Lying a-hull may suit some people. I would be very unhappy !

The riding mizen fitted to the Potter was arranged as

illustrated. The advantages of this are as

follows: (I) The stresses as the sail fills are transmitted as compression

stresses into the hull.

(2) The arrangement calls for no modifications to the steering gear in

order lo avoid a central mast.

(3) No standing rigging is required.

(4) The aft part of the boat is clear for action and gear.

(5) It can be carried on board in pieces and rigged at sea.

The riding mizen, as fitted to the Potter, was a very important safety

factor. It made for considerably more comfort and peace of mind than I

could otherwise have enjoyed.

 

Life-Line:

The life-line was arranged as for the Atlantic voyages in the Nova Espero.

A length of stout line with a long eye splice is passed round the mast

and through the eye and remains in place throughout the trip.

A second short length is attached to a large stainless steel snaphook.

This can be fastened around the body without inconvenience. When leaving

the cockpit it can be either snapped on to the mast line or to any

preferred part of the standing rigging, or to both when forward.

 

Fore-sail Downhaul:

This was very simple and very effective. A length of courlene

hambro-line was fastened to the top cringle of the sail, entered into each

hank down the fore-stay, passed through a twisted shackle at the bottom

thimble of the fore-stay and led aft to the halyard cleats within reach of

the cockpit. It was never necessary to get out of the cockpit to work the

boat.

 

Compasses

I carried two compasses. The "Sestrel Minor " by Henry Brown & Son

which we used for the second Atlantic crossing in the Nova Espero, and an

ex-Government light aircraft compass with the rotating verge-ring, for use

at night in case my batteries for the "Sestrel" light failed for any reason.

These were mounted on a slide-down, portable Shelf in the cabin

doorway, unaffected by deviation with the centre-plate in the " down "

position.

 

Charts and Pilots

One Stanford folding coloured chart of the Channel. All the remainder

Admiralty Charts for all coasts along the North Sea and Kattegat and

through Lim Fjord.

The appropriate North Sea Pilot and Baltic Pilot with supplements,

including new buoyage code for Denmark. The Admiralty Consol Chart. All

were spoilt or lost at Hvide Sande.

 

Navigation Equipment:

All lost at Hvide Sande. Most important and most regretted, my "Nova

Pal" transistorized direction finder, and three band radio. Along the

English Channel 1 only used this little set for checking positions already

known, so that I could evaluate it for the North Sea.

Marine Radio Beacons and Consol were received and translated into

quite accurate positions, which 1 could verify by observation along this

part of the route. I gained more confidence in the set the more I used it.

It was mounted on a kind of portable pillar which raised it just above the

aft end of the cabin-top, and could be quickly stowed out of the way

immediately after use.

I had numerous spare batteries, so could afford lo use it for

entertainment as I felt like it across the North Sea.

 

Buoyancy:

Four Sea-Esta Roll-a-Boats were kept inflated and tied in place

throughout the journey. That is, until I felt the need to adjust their

positions on approaching the breakers at Hvide Sande.

If those breakers had been less heavy (twenty feet high, half mile

offshore) and severe, and myself not battered senseless by them, I could

probably have rolled the boat right up to the beach, single-handed on the

Roll-a-Boats, using the special handy-billy and the anchor I carried.

As it was, they played their part well in keeping the boat upright and

saving it from very severe damage in those terrible breakers.

 

Distress Signals:

I carried two daylight distress orange smoke signals, and six night

hand flares. The smoke signals were used off Hvide Sande, but none of the

flares. I regret to have to say that these were not seen and that Peder

Sorensen cracked on all possible speed on seeing my Red Ensign flying

upside down !

 

Spirits:

My friend Mike Patterson was horrified to learn that 1 wished to carry

none at all. He wanted me to take some brandy for emergency.

I am glad I resisted the temptation. My argument was that one may well

think the time is ripe for " rejuvenation " sonic time before the real

crisis arrives. It is well known that, although spirits will " warm the

cockles of your heart " for a short time, they leave

a man a little less able than he was, when the effects have worn off.

This would have been fatal at Hvide Sande

 

Motor

I borrowed a Seagull 100 longshaft from my brother. For most of the

journey of course this was stowed under cover in the aft locker.

Unfortunately it was flooded at Hvide Sande and lay unattended for

several days while I was in hospital. It was then overhauled but did not

run well, probably owing to some slight maladjustment, until the final

spurt of about twenty miles into Kloster Fjord. This saved us from an

ordeal indeed !

 

Cooking:

Primus. Good old Primus !

 

Provisions:

Nothing special to report. Except that a friend supplied me with a flagon

of strong homemade lemonade. This cleansed the mouth wonderfully in the "

small hours " out at sea.

 

Cockpit Cover:

A very heavy canvas cover, with strong-backs under, laced around the

coamings. This was hardly used at all; but it might have been needed if

the sea anchor/riding mizen arrangement had not been so effective.

 

Radar Reflector:

A portable, fold-flat reflector was carried.

 

Miscellaneous:

Numerous items of equipment were carried, i.e. hand-bell for use

during fog. A simple peloras for snap-bearings from the cabin top,

self-made. Our special sliding multi-purpose outboard bracket. And others

too numerous to list here.

 

Sails

The normal standard terylene sails as supplied by our sailmaker. No

spares were carried. The sails were in perfect order on arrival in Sweden.

They set beautifully and worked very efficiently. The little riding mizen

had had to take a terrific hammering and is still as good as new. One

could not ask for better than this !

 

Presumptive Lecture

 

 

It may be thought that I am in favour of people making long passages in

small boats. In fact this is not quite so.

 

When I hear of a successful crossing of the Atlantic in a very small

boat I am delighted (Paul Johnson, Venus; John Riding, SJO AG; Robert

Manry, Tinkerbelle). It pleases me that they usually receive

an enthusiastic welcome ashore. But at the same time I think there may be

a tendency on the part of some people to say, " If tiny boats like these

can cross oceans, what's all this time-worn stuff about the terrors of the

deep ? "

 

The sea can indeed be terrible. It has terrified me, at any rate, on

numerous occasions in my life.

 

It is a fallacy to imagine that, because the safety of the land is

near when out for an afternoon's sail, this nearby security will be

quickly attained should things begin to go wrong. It may be a dangerous,

and sometimes fatal, false comfort, to compare the situation of a tiny

boat in a howling gale a thousand miles from the nearest lee shore, to

that of oneself in a much larger boat one mile from your own harbour

entrance.

 

The off-shore man may well be blissfully asleep. You'd better not sleep !

 

It is a fact that the sea claims almost all her victims because the

shore is there to trap them.

 

I believe many " big-ship " men have a painfully ingrown impatience of

the very small boats which put out to sea in ever increasing numbers. I

think they feel these boats (and the people in them) are insulting the sea

their own hard-won experience has taught them to respect.

 

This lack of " respect " probably hurts the " big-ship " man,. more

particularly if he is unaware that many of the small boats are the result

of long years of hard-won knowledge and development. I sympathize with his

views, but I would hate to have to admit they are invariably justified.

 

My enthusiasm fails me when I hear of some ambitious voyage to be

undertaken by people, hair-raisingly flaunting their inexperience. I

sincerely hope that they will not come to grief, but I also hope they will

not succeed. Their success might tempt more people to "dare the sea."

 

Definitely a short term hobby !

 

Long passages in small boats should be made only after long

consideration.

 

The boat must be trustworthy, the equipment well chosen, the

confidence of the crew well founded.

 

Tips on Handling Your Potter

 

I designed the Potter at the very outset with leisurely pottering in

mind as the boat's sole purpose.

She is under-canvassed by many people's standards. Generally. however,

I sleep at nights !

The Potter's sections were designed for maximum initial stability, and

she should not be allowed to heel more than about 10'. If she does, her

sections will not allow an increase in speed, rather they will impede her.

Also, her peak of stability is exceeded.

In all ways the boat handles beautifully in reasonable conditions&emdash;fast

and exhilarating in a fresh breeze, close-winded and hard to get " into

irons ".

About Force 6 one should consider reefing. She handles well and

remains dry with full fores'l and reefed main. Downwind in these conditions

a jib is not something to fear, although of course, one must beware of

over-confidence.

If one is caught out in over Force 6 she can be handled and even

brought " through the wind " with reefed main alone. But this needs

careful handling and experience, particularly if the wind is unsteady.

When all fails and the boat can only be taken downwind, it is

sometimes a comfort to know that she can be sailed on to a beach !

I am alive because the Potter draws a mere seven inches with the

swinging plate and rudder up !

In light airs, the best tip I can give you is to have her listing

slightly to leeward. The lee chine will do a good job of gripping the

water and help you up to windward. Never have your sails penned in hard in

any conditions.

I have always found the boat goes better, and performs properly, with

weight in the cabin. Never be afraid to load her with gear and equipment.

She was designed to carry masses of people and their gear. But do remember

she will be badly handicapped if this is placed too far aft. The forward

third of the lee chine must be allowed to do its job.

 

Warnings

(1) A light 14ft. centre-board boat can only be a freak if you can

tramp about the foredeck without fear of turning her over. Be careful. If

you have others on board and need to go forward on deck, see that they

move well aft in the cockpit so that the stable sections aft can do their

job.

(2) Remember always that the Potter is a 14ft. centre-board dinghy,

with a cabin. Sail her with your main-sheet free to let run, pass it under

the cleat at the aft end of the case by all means, but do not make it fast

unless you are very sure of the conditions.

(3) Keep the plate down always when you are on board, unless

circumstances definitely dictate otherwise. If you do have it up in such

circumstances, never forget that it is up, and let it down again without

fail when circumstances allow.

 

 

Printed in England for Stanley T. Smith by Lightbowns Ltd., Ryde, Isle of Wight.

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