Sailing off the Alabaster Coast

O ye Seas and Floods, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.

O ye Whales, and all that move in the Waters, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.

One of the nearest places on this earth to God is the sea, through the Benedicite speaks of many other places like the mountains. It is on the sea that one may truly see the sun in its orb setting on the western horizon. Here is the beach at Veules les Roses on the Normandy coast facing England, where I usually go sailing.

Here is the beach facing Saint Valéry en Caux.

This is not the most beautiful part of the beach, which is a resort for many people during the summer. But, it is the place where people take out their boats for earning their living, fishing or simple recreation. The boats are rolled down the launching ramp, often littered with dead and rotting fish, but there is something in the mess and untidiness of a place of work. Most of us like to eat fish, and someone has to catch them!

Here is my battered old boat covered and padlocked.

Here is the boat rigged and ready to go.

I took this photo yesterday after having taken down the boat’s sails and rigging, and put everything away. We look towards Dieppe at low tide. Beaches are so different out of the holiday season! Places are important, and this is my sanctuary.

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3 Responses to Sailing off the Alabaster Coast

  1. ed pacht says:

    Ah, yes! Among my favorite places to know God’s presence are many spots along the rugged and rocky Maine coast — and it’s not the pretty sand beaches full of tourists that so impress me, but more likely the working ports. Here’s a poem I wrote nearly a quarter century ago while still a Pentecostal pastor:

    MEREPOINT 1987

    The shining path
    of reflecting sun
    lies upon the bay,
    a highway, so it seems,
    from where I sit,
    safely, solidly
    upon the rock,
    upon the shore,
    aware of all the beauty from the Lord,
    the gentle waves softly sounding,
    gentle breezes lightly touching.
    All is calm, all is good.
    Time is still.
    God is near.

    The shining path
    of reflecting sun
    lies upon the bay,
    a highway, so it seems,
    from where I sit
    to somewhere – where?
    Beyond the path,
    across the bay,
    I see a land,
    a land unknown,
    a beckoning land,
    a calling land,
    a land where I must go.

    The gentle waves are calling me,
    the breezes pluck my sleeve.
    The Lord so near is beckoning,
    “O preacher, come thou here:
    the way is marked across the waves
    along the shining path.
    The way is marked;
    the end is sure;
    the land’s prepared for you.
    The Book you hold will tell you so:
    its promises are sure.
    So come, my son, the way I lead,
    for my desire is – you!”

    “But, Lord –
    The shining path
    of reflecting sun
    lies upon the bay –
    the bay, my Lord, so deep, so wide,
    impossible for me.
    I come, O Lord,
    I want to come,
    but, Lord, I don’t know how.
    The bay is deep,
    the tide is strong,
    and I am small and weak.”

    Amidst the shining path
    of reflecting sun,
    a boat upon the bay,
    afloat amidst the waves,
    afloat upon the deeps;
    a boat a-moving on the bay
    with purpose sure and firm,
    headed soon for the beckoning land,
    headed soon to bring me home,
    and to bring me not alone.
    A fishing line –
    a lobster trap –
    a net down in the bay –
    a working boat will take me home,
    for I’ve a work to do.

    The shining path
    of reflecting sun
    lies upon the bay,
    a highway, so it seems,
    from where I sit
    out over the deeps,
    teeming with living things,
    with fishes and creatures
    great and small,
    desired by His love divine –
    bought with the blood of His life,
    passing beneath me there.

    The bay is the world,
    the fishes its men,
    the island my heavenly home,
    and I’ll go home
    on a working boat,
    after the work is done.

    ———-ed pacht

  2. James says:

    Your boat has Mirror sails but the hull does not look like a Mirror. Is it a hybrid?

    • It is a French boat called the Tabur 320 that was made from the 1960’s until about 1981. I picked it up cheap. It had a bermudan rig and a fragile aluminium mast. I broke the mast landing on the beach and repaired the mast, adding standing rigging. Last November I broke the mast again in a similar argument with a big wave crashing onto the beach. This time, the mast was broken in two places. As this boat and its parts are no longer made, and spare masts are rarer than Sarum altar missals, I decided on a re-rig.

      I have always liked the Mirror rig aesthetically and in terms of the practicality of a short mast and gaff. I bought the sails and spars in England and adapted the mast step on the foredeck of the hull. I rig the boat exactly like a Mirror, but the ‘centre of effort’ was a little problematic on a hull not exactly designed for the Mirror rig. The basic plan is similar, and the centreboard appears to be in just about the same position in relation to the mast step. Would it have lee helm, which is a nightmare for the sailor who falls overboard and sees his boat sail away downwind? The result surpassed my expectations. The boat under main and jib has light weather helm and comes about beautifully when tacking. She also gybes very nicely, but her performance when beating close to the wind is slightly less good than the modern bermudan rig. All in all, a successful re-rig.

      However, my next step is going the whole hog – getting a Mirror dinghy. They are much more seaworthy boats and are great for cruising and fishing, which is my thing more than racing and competition.

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