This week our blogger Jonty Pearce recalls rainy sailing days.

For several decades I have acted as Medical Officer for our local steam fair. I have no doubt that my lifelong love of steam was inherited from my father, who used to take us to the Lickey Incline to watch the ‘double bankers’ huffing and chuffing up the steep slope while the train driver and fireman waved to the pair of small boys and their dogs running alongside trying to keep up. Wonderful memories, and all brought back by boxes and boxes of the photographs that Dad loved to take.

I suppose it was therefore inevitable that I would find the steam side of our fair more fun than the medical side – I graduated through displaying my old supercharged Triumph TR2 to, joy of joys, becoming deputy driver of Lady Diana, a 111 year old Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies General Purpose steam engine. Her role at the Welland Steam Fair is to tow a bench seat equipped trailer giving rides round and round the showground – probably the busiest engine at the show. The lead driver, an irascible Welshman from Merthyr nicknamed Smog, reckons that we do 5 laps to a pint of cider (non alcoholic, of course), and ten to a pork pie.

Except this year, we didn’t. Rain stopped play. A lovely run-up to the show was halted by steady rain on Thursday night, so that the ground turned into a quagmire. Heavy steam engines amongst crowds of people are not safe when they slip around, and when they get stuck they get properly stuck. With the rain continuing all Friday there were no vehicle movements on site. Lots to see, but all static.

So, what has all this to do with sailing, I hear you say? Well, while I stared out onto the drowned field as the rain dripped from our awning I was reminded of the times I have looked out over wet anchorages as the wind, enhanced by the tattoo and beat of heavy showers, buffeted the sprayhood. Mind you, mere rain would not make me linger in a sheltered haven – what are waterproofs for? No, it is the wind and waves that all too often accompany such wet days. We sail for pleasure, and while we remember the halcyon days afloat (replete with with sun, gentle breezes, and flat seas) the stormy days of incessant motion and self stirring soup slopping out of our mugs as we are hurled about the cockpit are experiences preferably only to be brought to mind when boasting about our epic voyages in the yacht club bar.

Such days, while exciting, are often less than enjoyable and it is a relief to reach the flatter waters of a suitable anchorage where the rewarding cup of tea stays securely in its cup ready for a dunked digestive. And once in such a haven, tucked up away from the swell, what better to do than look out over the vista spread before us, often dotted with similarly sheltering yachts. We would all then stare mystified at any yacht venturing out, wondering what necessity drove the crew to brave the rough and tumbling seas – hair shirts or a deadline to meet?

In such conditions it is often either more pleasant or safer to let rain stop play – just as we did at the steam fair. Afloat, we may have the option of running away bravely to a favoured refuge, be it the pub ashore or, as is often in our case, to the wandering upper reaches of Milford Haven where the Cleddau River has numerous sheltered nooks and crannies where even the most seasick can rest comfortably. And at least we are then not stuck in a slushy, muddy field full of traction engines waiting to be pulled out to the hardstanding. Me, a fair weather sailor? Yes, for sure.


– Jonty Pearce