So there we were, aboard the Eda Frandsen in the glorious autumn sunshine, having just consumed a fabulous breakfast and gallons of tea and coffee, with our anticipation just ruffling the ropes slightly more than the wind. James gave us a lesson on sweating and tailing and those among us who fancied heaving on a very long rope – the sweating bit – stepped forward to pull the rope (also disguised as a lanyard) to haul the sail. Weedier crew members such as myself, did the ‘tailing’ – which meant keeping the rope tensioned around a wooden pin thus ensuring that it didn’t return back to the sweaters. Sounds pips I know, but later several under-used muscles which had been called into action by an overdose of enthusiasm told me it wasn’t. You can see from this picture we’re talking serious ropes that need some serious pulling – none of your super-yacht winches aboard this baby, oh no!
It was about about ten minutes after heading out into the beautiful blue sea however, I detected things were not as they should be. I clenched the hand-rail tighter than I needed, more often than I needed, and refused all offers of more cake and tea. Yes my friends, Mr Chunder was waiting below decks to catch me unaware. Super skipper James however, did that ‘here take the wheel and steer us safely on our course’ routine, obliging me to stop concentrating on not being sick and concentrate on not running us aground instead. I did my best and indeed it helped. When I got a spare five minutes however, I dived in to my – well, it wasn’t a cabin – let’s just say ‘space’, ferreted around for the seasick tablets I wished I’d had for breakfast, took two, and returned on deck. Ten minutes later I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so laid down on the lovely warm wooden deck and fell fast asleep in the sun. This too, is typical seasickness behaviour. You don’t have to chunder your guts up (another nautical term, bastardized from ‘watch under’) to be suffering Poseidon’s wrath; being useless and falling asleep is another very common symptom. So I slept in the sun and it was lovely. I awoke an hour or so later with a raging appetite feeling tickety-boo and looking a like large tomato that had been under the grill for too long.
And it was just after a delicious lunch, again conjured up by Chloe, (I think she has a wand and matching cape) that the cabaret began. On a scale of one to ten, ten being hardest, how hard do you think it is to take a picture of a porpoise? Let’s say 11. Arriving in a spray and a splash and flash, in seconds they were gone again. The pod zipped under the boat and we all ran to the other side to see them shoot out from underneath us. Just out of sight, completely out of reach, they came and went so fast, like dreams, leaving us wondering if they’d been there at all. So I have pictures of some rope. I have some pictures of some sand. I even have a picture of my left foot that I accidentally took when I dropped the camera trying to get it out of my pocket quickly so I could take my first ever picture of a porpoise. But I don’t have any pictures of the porpoise. Too fast, too clever, too awe-inspiring. Staring at the dark opaque waves made me pause and think of the whole world below us: an entire eco-system living so totally differently to anything on land. And all of it hidden from view; only a glimpse of these beautiful messengers from the deep reminded us that we weren’t the only ones there.
Ten or so sailing hours later we arrived at the Scilly Isles, mooring just on the edge of St. Agnes,
in a peaceful harbour between St Agnes and Gugh. Soft white sand, sparkling blue sea (check out that sky!) and a pub called The Turks Head.
The only pub on St Agnes in fact…so obviously it would have seemed impolite not to.
Back on board and after supper, the gentlemen of the crew held a meeting to discuss the day’s sailing, which seemed to be conversation mostly about which whiskey they should taste test for sea-worthiness (turned out all of them) and which beer is better for sea sickness (turned out all of them), while us ladies retired to our bunks. I only had four layers of clothing to grapple with on the Sunday night, so my toilette didn’t take too long to complete. Socks off, jumper off, in to bed. I had a little giggle to myself when I realised that the chances of washing my hair during the week were minimal. I had 8 days with nothing but a tiddly little hairbrush and as much sea spray as I could cope with (which is not, it turns out, like leave-in conditioner spray) to keep my matted locks from sticking to my head. Clearly no mermaid tresses for me on this voyage. And yet somehow, as I fell asleep to the sounds of the water trickling around us, knowing that those porpoises were out there somewhere, it didn’t really matter…
Next time, the tranquility of Bryher and Tresco – oh – and the Engilsh Civil War..