I crawled out of bed on Saturday and dressed warmly before heading out into a overcast day with a cold wind blowing.

I was scheduled to be rowing with RowPorty from 9 till 12, and while I fancied the exercise, the weather was not conducive:

The strong north easterly was blowing right onto the beach kicking up big breakers. We could have rowed through them, but beyond there were white horses and frequent breaking waves as far as the eye could see. We decided to give rowing a miss.

In the afternoon I visited North Berwick (by car!). The north-easterly was blowing right into the east bay – photo above. The west bay, and the entrance to the harbour, was remarkably calm in comparison. I can see how, if you kept to the channel, you could have found safety in the harbour if you were unlucky enough to have been caught out.

So when Sunday morning, despite the forecast, was bright, with force 3 or so from the north west, it was too good a chance to miss – after a wet and windy week.

I went down to the shore half expecting the sea to be too choppy to make sailing fun – but it wasn't too bad, so I decided to give it a go. I rowed Scratch out through the breakers, taking not a drop on board, and once a good bit beyond the breakers, it was up with the sails.

There was still quite a swell, but not too short and choppy. We had a great time just sailing around off the beach for an hour or so. Unfortunately I needed to go to a meeting at one, otherwise I'd have been more adventurous.

Very pleased with how Scratch handled in the swell, on occasion the sea rising nearly to the gunwale on the bow, but nothing more than spray coming aboard.

We had a good turn of speed too. As always she cuts through the water so easily, you only realise you going fast when you watch a piece of seaweed as it rushes past.

All too soon time to head for shore. Coming towards the breaking water I lowered sails and rowed in – backwards through the breakers. This means the bow is to the waves, and despite the wind from the side, I can keep the boat head to waves as she's carried in. Again, not a drop of water taken on.

But once on the beach my troubles started.


I launch from a beach that shelves so gently, and with sand so soft, it's impossible to float the boat on and off the launching trolley. My trolley has rubber pads across the flat, which I've covered with plastic drain pipe to reduce friction – so launching, by sliding her off – is now easier. Recovery is ok if I can, while floating her, lift the prow onto the trolley. I then use the mainsheet and blocks as a tackle to haul her on to the trolley.

Today however, the breakers kept trying to turn her broadside to the beach (and waves), and when I managed to keep her aft to sea, the waves broke on the transom, and water came through the tunnel on the aft deck. (The tunnel takes the lines from the tiller to the rudder head.)

Eventually, after much struggling I wrestled the prow onto the trolley and was able to haul on the tackle and pull her up – not made any easier by the extra weight of water in her. (Actually less than a bucket when I bailed her out later.)

Last time I tried this manoeuvre I fixed the tackle to the forward part of the trolley, today I attached it to the anchor laid in the sand above the trolley – this was I think a little easier.

I never had this problem in the summer, but at this time of year, there are less people on the beach, and those there are seem disinclined to wade into the water and help lift the boat bodily onto the trolley. Strange.



About Osbert Lancaster

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

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