Former Harbours

11) Thanks.

Thanks to : Mark Anthony, Dr Paddy Glackin, Simeon Carr-Minns, Jo Ann Duck Teter, Jean Horseman, Ingjerd Johansen, James Butler, Ian Fenton, Richard Wood, John Hesp, Joe Morison and everyone for reading, forwarding and supporting this blog, and our endeavour.

And Paul, what you showed me is indelible, and I can’t begin to thank you.
Every time I see the sea, I’ll hear your voice.

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^ crack ducks.

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10) Hope an anchor, final chapter.

You‘ve got to pick up every stitch.

So I’m writing this while motoring the North Sea at night. There’s a waning moon and, by its light, which at sea is really weird, I can see a broken thread of spider web clinging to one of the stays on the port side of the boat. My kidneys ache from sitting. I can whistle through the holes between my gums and my teeth.

About 4 nautical miles ahead is a huge windfarm. An electrical storm is building to starboard, and every so often, I catch flashes of lightning in my blind spot. A huge ship just went behind us too fast, and I didnt wake Paul up. Sailing by moonlight is breathtaking.

I couldn’t have written that sentence two months ago.

We all want a redemptive narrative, eh?

I’d be lying if I said the trip back has been easy. We almost run out of diesel at one point, and the thingy (still not quite grasped the lingo), the thingy came out of the mast. It’s a really important thing that, erm, holds up the main sail and it came out when we were taking in another sail at sea. The whole main sail collapsed. By this point in the proceedings, neither me nor Paul hardly flinched. Stuck the thing back in with Epoxy.

But even that hazard had a silver tiding. I didn’t flinch when the sail collapsed but it stressed me out and I was screaming at Paul so much and so loud that day as we tried to moor in Burnmouth harbour – it’s a very quiet harbour and you could hear my swearing echo off the walls – that I think the harbourmaster took pity on us, and we got more tricks off fishermen; this time in the shape of three crabs and a cod, which fed us for a week.

I’d be lying if I said that I thought I was a good sailor. I still can’t steer head to wind, and haven’t even started with putting up the main sail on Hope. I’m too physically weak.
But I did make a spaghetti carbonara, at sea, in a force 5, and even separated the eggs without spilling them. So what you sayin?

And if you’re reading this, it means I didnt drown or top myself, or get thrown overboard by the Captain.
For the first month at sea, I had nightmares literally every night. I used to have alot as a kid and again in my twenties. This bout stopped a week ago after I had a dream I was tidying my dream house – tidying! I was picking up piles of clothes that have been there since I was eight. Literally picking up every stitch. Last night, I had another significant dream – one I’ve been trying to have for the past 15 years. I woke up elated. It seems, this time for me at least, that all those stories about initiation rites are true. Magic works.

This morning, there was a beautiful, weird CGI sea. Paul was cursing the lack of wind. I turned around to hail some cherubs to blow breath into our sails, and look. Up in the sky. Look :

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God gave hope an anchor.

Homeward Bound 2)

Scarborough to Bridlington

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Bridlington to Lowestoft

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Lowestoft to Harwich

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Harwich to Faversham

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Homeward Bound 1)

Cellardyke

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Burnmouth

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Amble

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Hartlepool

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Scarborough

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9) Hope wins a prize

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The penultimate chapter, in which our Hopeists accidentally get entered into a Classic Boat Rally and discover the existence of females.

We drop by Elie for a night. Elie is like the ultimate young children place. It has a beach that dries out for miles and inflatable Achilles caterpillars to sit on while you’re dragged by speedboats, screaming child screams. There are a thousand kids tombstoning off the harbour wall (this being The Big Thing with preteens in Scotland) and they spectacularly fail to notice a fucking sailing boat swathing through them. We gently navigate kid porridge (me on bowsprit screaming MOOVE and waving frantically) and moor against a wall. Hope doesnt really belong in Elie but we do our bit when we meet Jim Ireland (hi Jim! ahoy there lads!) and give his two sons permission to come aboard and explore our fiendish pirate ship.

But everyone for the past week or so has told us that the Anstruther Muster is a…must and we must head back there. So…

In Anstruther, we get meeted and greeted – literally – we’ve only just tied up the boat and didnt inform anyone we was goin there – by a charming chap who’s all like :
“Ah! The guys from Hope, good, good, well, if you’d like to tie up against the wall underneath the funfair, there’s a free meal on Saturday in the Boathouse, write out an A4 sheet with some details about Hope would you? I’ll print it out and put it on the lamp post. See you!”

That was Bill. He runs the Classic Boat Rally.

He had me at “free meal” to be honest. At this point in the journey, I’d eat Camilla Parker-Bowles if I didn’t have to wash up afterwards.

So we’re…entered into the Anstruther Classic Boat Rally. We do our bit by dressing up in our best sailor togs n poncing about for three days on the boat answering alot of questions about Hope from the throngs of mustermakers who pack Anstruther for the weekend.

Pretty much everyone we’ve met on our travels turns up there. There are RNLI guys from Dunbar and our friends with the bong and the mandolin, and people we’ve met in St. Monans, and people from Aberdour and it feels all climaxy and symbolic and Wizard of Oz and just really…nice. It just is nice.

We get the free meal. And at the free meal are women! I’m not lyin man.

To be fair, there have been women before. There were at least two in Aberdour and there was the Female and there were the “dykes who run a pub” (quote from Limekilns sailor) and there are women in the shops. Paul goes to a bakers and the girl there says to him
“You’ve come off a boat, haven’t you. I can smell it off you.”
Good chat up line, I thought.

Anyway this lot are The Wives. The Wives are fuckin tough cookies and spend most of their time belittling their husband’s career/hobby/personality (keeping a boat is a war of attrition, it seems) and flirting with me. Which is nice too.

We go to the Anstruther Classic Boat awards ceremony. It’s in the town hall. There is security on the door and a live band but no vol au vents. By now The Wives are polluted. To be fair, their husbands are too, but they’re a more reserved lot, except the Dunbar boys who are on a three day binge and have now reached the jiving stage (nowt better in life than seein fat straight blokes dance with each other). The band swings into a cover of Katrina and the Waves’ summer smash Walking on Sunshine, and Anstruther is a frenzied saturnalia.

We’ve inside information – not that inside actually, everyone we met today told us – that Hope is to win a cup of some sort. Bill reads out various awards (in my ear is a running ironic and just too loud commentary on how useless all this is, from one of The Wives) and Paul’s name is announced to win the cup for best classic boat wot travelled the furthest. Given that every other boat came from two miles down the road, it wasn’t much of a competition.
But its a big cup, and I’ve never won a cup before. It feels good, if only so we can tell John Hesp, who built Hope and who has been following this blog. It’s an honour to have learnt to sail in your boat, Sir. People love her.

We dance with The Wives and it all gets very touchy feely. We talk smut with security about the ladies of Anstruther. The Dunbar guys are still more interested in dancing with each other than girls. It feels like a real night out.

Hungover the next day, we are invited onboard for a biscuit – I really needed that biscuit, thanks Bee – by a lovely couple, Bee and Sandy, who own and run a huuuuge boat called Britannia. It’s quite a thing. Then it’s Anstruther Fishing Museum, a huge 3 hour trek through the reasons this trip was started. The museum is fantastic, exemplary. They even have a library and a prayer room. I spot the painting – or a version of it – that Christopher Rush was talking about in chapter 4 of this blog :

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And then in the cafe, we spot Kenny.

Kenny is another reason we started this trip. Me and Paul kinda bonded over Kenny. Throughout this trip Paul’s been all : “Where do you think Kenny is now?” “What do you think Kenny’s doing now” “I bet Kenny lives in that house. No, that one. I bet he lives in that one”. Kenny has been travelling alongside us.

Kenny is the guy behind a band called King Creosote, and he made an album called Diamond Mine, with John Hopkins. It’s such a beautiful record. You can find examples of it on youtube, but really, just buy it. Buy it now. You need a good cry.

So we see Kenny in the coffee shop, and course don’t speak to him. We pap him! :

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Kenny ^^^

Incidentally, if this isn’t Kenny and is just some guy who you know, don’t tell me, alright? It’s essential to this story that this memory is true.

There isn’t much more to say. Winning a prize – even if we do have to give it back – and seeing Kenny feels like an ending. Or if not, a good place to tie it off.

So we unravel our mooring ropes, put down the bowsprit, take in the fenders, attach the staysail, Paul puts up the mainsail. We click our seaboots three times.

Sometimes it’s very hard to turn around.
Especially when you have to sail home.

8) From Heterotopia to Hope.

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(paraphrased from “Modernity at Sea” by Cesare Casarino)

In which the personal development of our young hero is hollowed out from the inside so as to be turned into the narrative device and the interstitial aperture through which the collective life aboard the ship can be brought to the fore and into focus.

It is precisely such a preoccupation with the world of the ship and the sea voyage conceived as autonomous enclosures that turns the emergent form of the modernist sea narrative into a representation-producing machine for the turbulent transitions from mercantile capitalism to industrial capitalism.
Such a dialectic of historical representation makes it necessary to test the structural limits of narrative itself by corroding many of its conventional structures and to question the very viability of narrative as a form of representation.

Since the modernist sea narrative is firmly rooted in some form of realism, it could be said to have captured precisely those marginal and protomodernist elements in realism that were going to become indispensible for the formation of the various literary aesthetics of modernism. Furthermore, it is also the case that the realism of the Bildungsroman of the sea owes a great deal to romantic idealism, often by the way of the figure of the Byronic hero. Distinct forms of the sea narrative interfere with one another and include zones of indiscernibility that make it impossible to categorise them in strict terms of either genre of literary periodisation. Ultimately, out of all such interferences, it is the sea voyage and the world of the ship that emerge as the new and peculiarly modern problematic to which we now need to turn.

In 1967, Foucault delivered a programmatic lecture titled “Of Other Spaces” in which he developed a concept that he had first introduced a year earlier in The Order of Things – heterotopia.
“There are probably in every culture, in every civilisation, real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted. …because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.

For Foucault, the ship was the heterotopia par excellence. “In civilisations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.”

The sea narrative folds back upon itself so as to problematise and to question – in short, to think – its foundation. The sea narrative questions not only its own foundation but the foundation of a world that founded its narrative.

Deleuze says : “The inside as an operation of the outside : in all his work, Foucalt seems haunted by this theme of an inside which is merely the fold of the outside, as if the ship were a folding of the sea. On the subject of the Renaissance madman who is put to sea in his boat, Foucault wrote

: “He is put in the interior of the of the exterior, and inversely….a prisoner in the midst of what is the freest, the openest of routes, bound fast at the infinite crossroads. He is the Passenger par excellence: that is the prisoner of the passage.”

Deleuze seizes upon Foucault in order to explain the relations between thought and unthought, inside and outside. Deleuze unwittingly draws attention to the ways in which the ship is indissolubly bound to these questions; it is precisely because the space for the ship comes in being as the interference between thought and unthought and between inside and outside that Deleuze can make recourse to this space.

For Deleuze, the cinematic image of the ship is identified as a type of crystal image – that is, as a certain interferential circuit and zone of indiscernibility between the virtual and the actual – and he singles out Herman Melville for having fixed this structure for all time.

The point is for us here to understand the modernist sea narrative as an attempt to produce the space of the ship as the thought of an unthinkable unthought, as the inside of an unrepresentable outside, as the fold-effect through which the immanent cause of the outside comes into being as a form in the world and comes to disrupt the history of forms, in short, as an attempt to produce the space of the ship as heterotopia. The heterotopia of the ship produces a language that gravitates toward the nether world of the nonrepresentational and that operates at the edge of its own dissolution. The modernist sea narrative freezes the world of the ship into a fleeting image flashing onto the screen of history for one last moment before its disappearance; it captures simultaneously the apogee and the end of the ship as the heterotopia par excellence of Western civilisation.

Elie

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7) Dysart needs you.

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Dysart gets its own chapter. To start with, I’d like to point you to this link :

http://www.fifetoday.co.uk/news/local-headlines/we-re-left-with-nothing-1-2080094

but for those who can’t link, I’ll precis it over the next bit.

Dysart is unbelievably pretty. Really, just pretty beyond belief. We’re helped with our mooring ropes by a gorgeous chap with his sons and then a fab old guy comes by to chat who inadvertently kicks off the John Wayne is Big Leggy incident (it happens here, this night) by mentioning John Wayne filmed here at some point. What immediately strikes me here is how :

1) how many people here ask what engine we’ve got in the boat. We have alot – and I mean alot, Hope really, really attracts people, especially in the smaller harbours – but usually people have asked about what she is, where we’ve come from etc.
In Dysart, this is incidental to how the boat works. Dysart – for all of its problems (see above and later) is fucking fighting to still be a working harbour, against all fucking odds, and really really needs your support.

2) how apologetic people here are. Everyone, bar none, apologises for the fact they don’t have any facilities and that if we need the toilet we have to use the Harbourmaster’s House, which has been turned into a cafe and kinda museum. We try to explain to them that we’ve been at sea for a month and are like pooing over the side of the boat by this point but the locals are having none of it. You don’t say sorry unless you feel a lack. The locals in Dysart want to give more, but are unable to at the moment. They really, really need your support.

So it turns out that everyone in Dysart is kinda suffering from PTSD. In January 2012, due to an alleged dispute between some of the boat club members, their boathouse was burned down in what the locals say was arson. Everyone, bar none, that we speak to – and people come down to the boat, people get their friends and come down in groups, to talk about engines – everyone talks about their boathouse. They couldn’t afford the insurance on it – it got too high – and their showers and facilities have been closed by the council. When the boathouse burned down, people lost sails, lost masts, lost hours and months and years of work and of potential work. Everyone we speak to mentions it, and apologises for it. They’re so sorry they can’t be of more help to us.

It’s fucking fucking heartbreaking. The Harbourmaster’s House which exists just by the harbour – which was renovated in 2006 as part of a £1 million project involving Fife Council, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, Dysart Regeneration and the Dysart Trust, doesn’t even mention the fire. Doesn’t even have a fund box that you can donate to. It’s a really, really weird set-up and we have to leave the next morning so I can’t get the full story.

But if one of you fucking multiple yacht-owning cunts who’re potentially reading this, if one of you sold one of your fucking stupid white diesel guzzling monsters and gave the money to Dysart, they could have a boathouse and their self-respect back.

Dysart, I fucking love you and this trip is dedicated to you. Even if you did infect me with John Wayne is Big Leggy.

Dysart doesn’t even have a website, but if you’re interested, you can try and contact people at these addresses :

http://www.ports.org.uk/port.asp?id=710

http://www.fife.gov.uk/atoz/index.cfm?fuseaction=facility.display&facid=C9D8BD25-C853-11D5-909E0008C7844101

6) The Urban Seaman part two

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The Aberdour Regatta is a riot of weekend fathers enduring sandcastle competitions and RNLI lifeboats suits humanised with rather chubby Victoria Beckham masks. Presumably post-drowning bloat. Poor Victoria.

We go to the clubhouse and enter Hope into the Boat Race. The skipper has never done this before and I think competition is the devil but it seems pussy not to do it now we’re here.
Aberdour boat people all seem very pleased and talk at us about stuff. I’m not listening. By now part of me has evolved into a rather surly and sarcastic 18 year old Ghanaian yout from Bow, East London – let’s call him Malachi for the sake of having to repeat the above – and Malachi is ripping everyone to shreds.

“Fuck this fuckin town blud, there ain’t no chip shop here, there ain’t no KFC, ain’t even no JD Sports, fuck this fuckin Scotch place man” says Malachi as the guy explains the rules and the course of the race.

“Fuck their fuckin boat race blud”, Malachi says to Paul as we leave the boathouse. “Hope fuckin runs the seas, what fuckin postcode is this anyway? This is fucking E.C.O innit, EC fucking zero blud. If they don’t fuckin give us a fuckin cup for fuckin turnin up, mans’ll break into their fuckin yard at night and fuckin hotwire their fuckin electric blankets so it look like some faulty electric fire innit”

Malachi sits and sulks while Paul puts a reef in the sail. It’s the first time Paul’s ever done it and Malachi doesn’t even ask why.

We set off. Turns out Paul hadn’t been listening either and we don’t even know which way to sail round the opening buoy. “Which way Jim?” “I don’t fuckin know blud” Malachi answers “Mans was thinkin bout gash innit”

Turns out fear is a many fingered hand as it’s a force 8 to 9 gale in the Firth of Forth that we head into. It’s really, really fucking violent and there’s not much I can do in this situation to help except keep out of the way and sit very low down in the cockpit and try not to fall out, and Paul has to do most of the work. I’m not frightened at all – or maybe Malachi isn’t, and I’m just subsumed somewhere like Sybil – but I’m quite enjoying myself. It’s the enjoyment of the ignorant as I have absolutely no idea how dangerous it is until we get back.

We turn back cos it’s fucking hideous out there and neither of us fucking know what we’re doing at all. “Where’s the fucking markers Jim? I can’t see them?” “I don’t FUCKIN know blud, mans have fuckin picked em up to stop us winning innit”.

As we turn back, the jammer on the mainsheet fails and Paul has to sail it like a dinghy, sail it like a dude all the way back into port. I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible.

Turns out we did well only breaking that. Turns out one guy was blown against a fuckin stationary oil tanker and snapped his mast in half, and out of 20 contestant boats – all of whom are local except for us – only 6 manage to finish.
“Bloaw! Mans got fuckin blown right onto a fuckin tanker” says Malachi, all pleased at the drama. “Mans got parred innit”.

We leave Malachi behind on the boat and go to the award ceremony. We get given an award for coming from Kent and for taking part “in horrendous conditions, albeit not for very long”. We pick up two lovely engraved glasses and totter back to the boat, a bit embarrassed by all the attention. It’s really, really sweet of them. Malachi isn’t too impressed.
“Man’s didn’t even fuckin fill up the fuckin cups with whisky innit, fuckin Fife cheapskates” says Malachi. I put him to bed for the night.

There are three types of boat people. There are the beautifully preserved ex-merchant seaman, all clean cut and new teeth; there are fucking horrible agents of privilege with red trousers and there are kinda slightly fusty, bent over guys with untrimmed beards. That’s it, really. There aren’t any women at all. Except the “female”.

It’s all been too exciting and I fall asleep, only to be woken up by one of our fellow boat people who is giving us two bottles of ale because “they’ve been in my bilge for two years and I haven’t drank em.” He invites us over to his boat later as there is a Ceildh in town and we agree to go together. I really like these guys.

We turn up at their boat later. There are six of them on it, and a dog, and a huge bong, and one of them is playing “Babylon’s Burning” by the Ruts on a mandolin. “Ach, we’re children of the 60s” they say, “that was 170 quids worth we just had” and seeing kindred souls, and not wanting permission to board, I usher them to the pub.

Aberdour pub is all 200lb man and drum machine playing AC/DC covers and who needs more than that. These 60s guys really know how to have a good time. They’re too much for me and we leave to visit the Ceildh. Ceildh is all Irish wedding and children and is too much for me. I’ve been living on a boat for a month with only Paul to talk to and am finding life a bit weird. We stagger home to Hope.

My self-loathing rant about fear in the last chapter was triggered by a cashpoint in Aberdour swallowing my card. I hate all that stuff. Malachi’s on the phone to fuckin Lloyds and they’re all like “Ok, can you give us the card number” and he’s like “COURSE I FUCKIN CANT, FUCKIN MACHINE FUCKIN SWALLOWED THE CARD” and then they’re like, well, if you go into the bank and Malachi’s like “I TOLD YOU. I’M IN FUCKING ABERDOUR. I SAILED HERE. HAVE YOU HEARD OF ABERDOUR? NO I DIDN’T THINK SO. IT’S FUCKING NOWHERE. THE BANK IS OPEN TWO DAYS A FUCKING WEEK” and they’re all like, please don’t swear Mr. Hollands.

So anyway after Aberdour joy, we have to sail to fucking Edinburgh so I can go to a bank. Sail. To. Edinburgh. To. Go. To. A. Bank.

In spite of trying to be authentic sailors, you’d be surprised how much you really start to stink after wearing the same clothes for two weeks straight so we hit a launderette – 2 miles away from Granton Harbour! sort that out, please! Granton! – and I have a haircut. I choose the wrong barber – he’s really depressed – just trust me on this, I just tried to write the conversation we had but it seemed cruel – but the guy massacres my hair. Really. A camel could have chewed my hair better. Thanks m8, get some anti-depressants, please? If you hate people that much, go into advertising.

We’re a bit Grantoned out and head for Dysart. Dysart is so special, it gets its own chapter.

Dysart

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