Caution: what follows is a shameless endorsement and promotion of one of the most interesting and entertaining sailing sites on the world-wide web.
Those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning will recall that the site started off as an exploration of the bays and harbours I visited (or intended to visit) in my pocket cruiser, a Halman 20 called Ebony. From there it evolved into a site dealing with the maritime history of Northumberland Strait and that is its primary thrust today – but I have not forgotten the original purpose.
Winter is not a happy time for sailors in this part of the world. Boats are tucked up in their winter quarters and there is a limit to how much solace one can get from planning summer cruises based on charts and on-line imaginary navigation. As we approach the particularly nasty little month of February we search anxiously for a winter replacement for sailing therapy. As I have done in previous years I turn to the internet and present (once again) my nomination for the best nautical survival gear for the dark days of January and February.
The finest source of mental survival rations and one of my inspirations for the Sailstrait site was a video series I discovered created by “a middle-aged, middle-class bloke from middle England” named Dylan Winter who sailed a Mirror Offshore, a 19 foot boat of a similar size to Ebony affectionately referred to as “The Slug.” Dylan set off to sail around England and Scotland starting from a harbour on the south coast and then turning left (that’s to port for your nautical snobs). Gunkholing along from harbour to harbour Dylan kept turning left working his way around the coast of England, up the east coast of Scotland, to the Shetlands and Orkneys and then back down the west coast. These are not heroic voyages, they are slow excursions taken alone or with friends or family and it is a pleasure and a privilege to be taken along.
Travel proceeded as time and finances permitted. Some years Dylan would explore every single creek and backwater he could find and never stray more than a few dozen nautical miles from that season’s home port. In other years he would leapfrog along the coast. Like real sailing, the videos are a fine blend of the mundane and the sublime. Engine problems, days of continuous rain and unfavourable winds are bracketed by the uplift provided by the happy chuckle of a bow wave or the site of a dancing flock of shore birds over a mud flat.
In his other (I dare not say “real”) life Dylan is a professional videographer and the series is composed of exceedingly high quality video essays of inconsistent length with Dylan luxuriating in the wonder of a walk along a creek-side dike or the design and grace of an East Coast sailing barge and then delivering a rant on the thoughtless antics of motorboaters and their fibreglass lozenges. In other words it is very personal, and yet at the same time he captures the universal appeal of small-boat, thin-water sailing.
There are now nine seasons of eclectic sailing videos on-line. And no, after nine years, he is nowhere near to finishing the circumnavigation. The tiny Slug is gone, replaced by the Katie L (get it – KTL) a 23 foot Hunter Minstrel, replaced by an almost borrowed (an interesting story in itself) Westerly Centaur for the Scotland trip, and now back to the Minstrel. After turning left he has returned to the east coast of Scotland for further adventures on the coast of the North Sea. Perhaps he’ll return to the Irish Sea, perhaps not. Like Bernard Moitessier who refused to finish the first single-handed round the world race because he wanted to just keep sailing, the joy for Dylan is the journey itself, not finishing but continuing.
There are hours and hours and hours of wonderful sailing time to be had on Dylan’s site at keepturningleft .co.uk/ If nothing else it will get you through February and then you can dream of the ice melting and taking to the sea again.
For years Dylan has been able to continue to provide these videos only because of voluntary contributions from (as they say on PBS) “viewers like you.” If you enjoy the series I urge you to pay your fair share. The hours of pleasure it has given this sailor are a cheap cure for the winter blahs. To see how you can contribute click at the top right of the KTL home page found here.
All images lifted from the KTL site. I am assuming permission, and if not, then forgiveness. Sail on Dylan.