Scratch wins at North Berwick Traditional Boat Muster


Sailing the dipping lug rigged, Yorkshire double-ender, Crystal Sea of Port Seton

At the end of August we made our way, Scratch and I, from Portobello to North Berwick for the annual Traditional Boat Muster.

The Muster is an informal affair and ‘traditional’ is loosely defined. The page is no longer on the East Lothian Sailing Club website, but from memory is was along the lines of ‘traditional is any one of the following: made of wood, has a sail with four sides, has a bowsprit, has a skipper with a smock and beard‘. There were six items in total, I’ve forgotten two, and Scratch qualified in four and half – I don’t have a smock.

Last year I had planned to attend in Selkie, my sailing canoe, (yes she’s still for sale) but the weather was so bad I never set off – this year it was better but too windy for comfort. On the Saturday we had a parade of sail, which for Scratch and several other small boats, was some careful reaching out from the harbour and back a few times fully reefed.


Some of the other boats at the muster

Yet again, no photos of Scratch sailing, but I had several admiring comments about her speed under a scrap of sail.

North Berwick is littered with rocks and I had a nasty few minutes when the daggerboard struck one – I thought the tide had come in sufficiently to allow me to cut a corner. I let fly the sail immediately and with a bit of pushing with an oar we were soon free, but the daggerboard was jammed in the down position in the case. I released it by lifting the oar vertically and bringing the handle down on the top of the board, just in time to sail away from the other rocks below the harbour wall onto to which we were drifting. I decided that was enough sailing for Scratch for the day.

Leaving Scratch pulled up on the beach, I quickly walked round to the harbour – bouyancy aid at the ready – to see if I could get a ride in any of the larger boats. I spotted Stuart from Port Seton at the harbour mouth, just climbing down the ladder – asked if he needed more crew and quickly followed him down the ladder.

Crystal Sea was described to me as a Yorkshire double-ender. She has an inboard engine and dipping lug. It was an interesting experience lowering the sail and moving it to the other side of the mast on each tack – the engine was kept ticking over to help her round. Crystal Sea fairly romped along in the strong wind, a completely different feeling from being in a small dinghy in the same conditions! Thank you Stuart, Alec and John for letting me jump aboard.


Racing around Craigleith – image North Berwick Rowing Club

Earlier in the day the St Ayles Skiffs had been racing – and performing superbly in the heavy seas and strong winds. This was longest course we’d raced yet – out around Craigleith Island and back – a row of around 25 minutes. Because I’d planning on going out in Scratch I wasn’t expecting to row, but was delighted to join the Portobello Mens over 40s – my first time as cox. We came in second.

In the evening the forecast for Sunday was for worse weather still, so it was home by trailer. The skiff races and other sailing was abandoned early on Sunday morning; it had been the right decision.

I was surprised a few days later to discover I’d won a prize – for the longest journey to the Muster by sea. The journey is described in an earlier blog – apparently as I sailed in to the bay, fully reefed after a very wet and buffeting sail, someone watching commented “that’s what it’s all about”… and so it is.


About Osbert Lancaster

Creating ripples to foster sustainability. Seeking solace & clarity on the sea by sail & oar.

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