A fun fishing trip gives Jonty Pearce the perfect excuse to check out potentional cruising destinations for his retirement trip


There are a myriad of occurrences that prevent sailing trips. Some of them are unavoidable evils, such as work and hurricanes, but some can also be rather fun. Although we are keenly anticipating next weekend’s inaugural sail of the season replete with Puffball the embryonic boat cat, we are also delighting in other interests and hobbies – and this week it’s the turn of salmon fishing on the river Tweed. Local parlance suggests that I should just say ‘I’m on Tweed’, but I find such phrasing as obscure as the impenetrable pronunciation of names such as St John Featherstonhaugh-Cholmondeley.


The fishing has been both productive and enjoyable, especially after the high winds that nearly blew us off the river on Monday gave way to blue skies, bright sun, and gentle breezes. Ideal sailing conditions, I hear you think. Quite so, but I’m busy fishing. Next week the forecast is back to cold north winds and drizzle, so I shall enjoy my fishing break and keep my fingers crossed for similar weather for the Spring Bank Holiday weekend and Puffball’s first sail. Still, even if it is then cold enough to blight the blossom buds, I will have soaked up an adequate dose of pre-summer to be immune to an adverse chilly snap. This feeling of well-being is heightened by the late afternoon spectacle of an otter frolicking in the pool in front of us while an osprey stoops into the pool below, emerging with its fish supper to devour on a fence post on the far bank. The evening sun warms the pair of nesting oystercatchers while the newly arrived sand martins flutter against the high mud bank choosing and enlarging their burrows. Halcyon days.


Much as we are savouring the river, Carol and I took time out to take Jerry, my 92 year old sprightly mother, to revisit Holy Island before the fishing started. While the sun did emerge, the wind made its presence keenly felt. Carol wanted to watch the causeway cover, so we parked up and waited in the shelter of the car while the wind whistled round us. And waited, and waited. I explained that the Council had to err on the side of caution for the causeway crossing times, and that each 11mb of atmospheric pressure above the average of 1013mb depresses the sea level by 10cm, but the girls remained unimpressed by my reasoning. They didn’t think the pressure was that high. With the waters still conspicuous by their absence we recrossed the causeway 40 minutes after it should have been submerged (just because we could) before proceeding to the Holy Island car park.


Our pre-lunch walk took us to the ridge overlooking the anchorage, which also gave an excellent view of the navigational buoys and leading lines into shelter. Carol sussed out that the choice of walk had ulterior motives, and I admitted that I was scouting out the locale for a visit on our post retirement round Britain cruise. In the westerly wind the anchorage looked a little exposed, so I suggested we walked down to see the bay between the pier and the castle, where most of the moorings lie. My real intention was, of course, to ascertain whether Aurial could dry out here. However, with her lifting keel and drying plate, the bottom does need to be smooth and rock free. Every time I have visited Holy Island the tidal timings have always prevented a low water assessment, so my scouting trip was again in vain. We will just have to anchor off safely and inspect the intended drying out area at low tide before picking a safe and mooring free spot.


I always feel safer having checked out a harbour by land before visiting afloat. We rely on pilot books for most of the havens we enter, but a landlubber’s preview enhances the awareness of any hazards and gives a better understanding of the available mooring spots. Carol is now aware of my surreptitious planning visits, but I’m sure she will not discourage me. Bring on retirement, and a whole host of new harbours to investigate!

Jonty Pearce