Monday, 6 January 2014

Safe harbour in stormy weather.

 “…Plymouth and Biscay gales imminent…” the shipping forecast repeats to us day after day.
As the storms roll through, the harbours are waiting. Small boats are tied up securely, even the big ships remain in sheltered waters until the oceans have vented their anger. Christmas lights decorate some vessels, like athletes dressed up for an award ceremony.

Strong ropes and fat fenders keep families and homes safe as the waves play with them. They lay patiently moored up like slumbering giants. Waiting to move on -Southbound or Northbound. None of us are moving on in this weather. The sea throws itself at the breakwater. Spray fills the air coating everything with sticky salt.

Conversation rolls around the port between the mariners. Separate lives enmeshed by the choice of living on and with the sea.
“Did you manage to sleep last night?”
“Have you had any damage?”
“Have you seen the forecast?”

We all know the predictions for wave height and gust strength for the coming days. Studying the forecasts is a necessity when you live on a boat. Some days as the wind plays its tune in the rigging and rain dances on the roof we shelter inside, hunkered down for the winter. The monohulls lean away from the gusts at crazy angles. The catamarans buck on the waves. Pots and pans are stacked carefully when not in use, ornaments and nick knacks packed away safely. Boats are prepared for the stormy weather as if they were going to sea.

People keep busy doing all those jobs which keep homes and families ticking over. Normal life carries on even when you are storm bound. Hunched against the weather people pass with shopping, bags of washing or parts for engines. Waterproofs are the optional, but preferred, dress code for all.

“Bonjour, Bonne AnnĂ©e” everyone calls, shuffling past through the wind and rain. The wooden pontoons are slippery and roll and shift with the waves. At times the rain stops and groups gather to chat for a while.

We talk about the racing yacht which was trying to return to its base here and was sunk in storm Dirk. The loss of any boat sends a collective shiver through all the sailors. The sea outside the jetty is brown, green and streaked with white foam underneath a thick grey sky. The waves rise higher than we want to play with. Not tempting out there, not nice. 

The weather will pass eventually. Once again the sea will be calm and the sky blue.
The damage will be repaired, tall tales of storms added to the collection and new adventures will begin.

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