Jonty Pearce makes the most of September's good weather with a cruise to a quiet anchorage in Milford Haven, Wales
August Bank Holiday is all too often beset by howling gales and torrential rain; this year was different.
Regretfully, we were not afloat, but still enjoyed a fine weekend at the Shrewsbury Steam Rally and Shrewsbury Folk Festival, followed by a few days in a remote cottage in the Shropshire Marches.
The sun was so hot that we worried for our elderly black cat who enjoys these camper and cottage trips with us, so all the roof lights were left open and regular pussycat visits were a priority; all was well, and we too benefitted from a rest in the shade.
Puffball the cat was recuperating from a corneal perforation and graft operation which had prevented our planned summer trip to The Scilly Isles, so nothing was too much trouble to make her life stress-free.
Feeling starved of sailing and guilty at owning an under-used boat we fitted in a long weekend in the middle of September, luckily hitting a scorching patch of weather.
I write this in T-shirt and shorts after a late al fresco breakfast as Aurial settles on the sand in Milford Haven’s Sandy Haven.
One resident Southerly 110 and a few small craft are our only companions in this hidden creek; the sound of silence is deafening.
When I awoke I spent the tranquil hour or two that Carol takes to surface on deck with a peaceful coffee; the high tide water was like a mirror, and the only background hum came from bees harvesting nectar from the bankside ivy blossom.
A kingfisher flashed by to rest on the Southerly 110’s railing before continuing to catch its breakfast, while little egrets prowled the shallows, showing off their clean yellow feet on the sand.
The world was at peace, and I with it.
Carol is an owl rather than a lark and has little inkling of what she is missing on these special mornings.
As the tide flowed out the gurgle of passing water added its song to the wakening day, and fast-moving froth boats and seaweed clumps swept past on their way to the open sea.
Aurial gradually sank down as the level dropped and kissed the sand so gently that I only realised that she was aground when my view from the comfy cushions stopped slowly swinging.
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Yesterday was the same, though I spoilt the day struggling with nasty maintenance tasks; scraping and painting the propeller, cleaning the ultrasonic speed sensor, and, most vile of all, repacking the stern gland.
The last time I did this I was younger, more flexible, and had two good shoulders; access to the necessary nuts requires a torso able to flex at right angles, and the only way to properly bed the rings of packing material is to repeatedly screw up the nuts to push the flange in far enough to create room for the next packing ring.
It took the two of us several hours, but success came at last; I celebrated by daubing myself with red Trilux as I finished off the prop and speed sensor.
I hope it sticks as well to the boat as it does to me – I forgot the solvent.
Today is for rest and healing of hurting shoulders. Aurial is now resting on the sand, the sun is blazing down from a blue sky with only a few white fluffy bits to heighten the colour contrast, and it is time for a gentle constitutional down the stream and onto the beach.
Such Indian summer days are a godsend – the busy school holidays are past, and there is still enough real warmth in the sun to give us the impression that Wales beats the Mediterranean hands down.
We will end the day supping Pimms as the sun goes down, but at 7.30 we will have retreated below as the autumn chill gives the twilight a sharp edge.
The nights are drawing in, and during Indian Summers a fleece should always be to hand!