On our Return

We only really had two days outside travelling and doing practical things at the camp site. The wind must have reached about force 7, perhaps gusting force 8, when we arrived on Thursday afternoon.

The next day, the wind had dropped to about force 4 in the morning and so I ventured out to sea in my little dinghy. I shortened the mainsail and tried to shorten the jib by wrapping around the forestay. On my Friday outing, it was very short and I went out twice, the second time having removed my jib entirely. The wind whipped up, very unstable and in gusts from the south-west and I had to close-haul back to the beach.


The following day, Saturday, the wind seemed to have calmed. Even with a slightly calmer wind, I took the boat out with reefed mainsail and no jib. I went along the coast in a broad reach, and it felt like being in a speedboat. The wind was, as ever, quite unstable and very gusty. I had planned to go to St Vaast la Hougue, but it would have been imprudent. The wind started to whip up again, and I was concerned. I turned back and realised that my drift was taking me too far out to sea. By the time I reached Barfleur, I headed up and began to tack towards the shore, and this reduced the chop of the north-east swell colliding with the tidal current and the small wind waves. I was frozen stiff by the time I beached the boat, and took her back to the caravan, and then had a long hot shower and a vigorous rub-down with a towel.

On the Saturday afternoon as life returned to my stiff limbs, Sophie and I went to visit Valognes, a town that made its fortune in the middle ages through its excellent tradition of making salted butter. There were some lovely big eighteenth-century houses and a fine church, nearly destroyed in 1944 but with the medieval choir restored and the rest redone in modern (1950’s) style. We then went to visit the Cap de la Hague and the Nez de Jobourg with their magnificent views of the sea and the Channel Islands from the highest cliffs in France. Facing the strong south-west wind, the same wind I challenged in my boat (but on the lee side of the Cotentin), the sea showed its mysterious mood with the slight haze over the horizon and the heavy swell. It was magnificent!

This was certainly the way to spend our Ascension weekend, in the midst of nature and wild beauty. Other things fade into insignificance. God is found a different way, in the howling of the wind and the ageless rocks…

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5 Responses to On our Return

  1. Patricius says:

    God is found in the most unlikely places. I constantly find God in my two, practically useless, dogs. Lucy (so named because we brought her home on St Lucy’s Day 2001) with her incessant mooching, but very soft, patient and good-natured, and Elle, the fat one, as thick as a plank but your best friend every minute of the day. I think I’d be lost without them. They are the best friends I’ve ever had, if only because they’ve been around for so long. If you want some measure of the glory of God, forget about the wind, the mountains and the vastness of the sea; look closer to home at the things we might sometimes take for granted. My two dogs are the glory of God.

    • God shows himself in different ways to us all. I too have dogs and cats – and love them all. The wind and the sea are closer for me, as I go there often. We have our pets at home, and our garden, and all the “ordinary” things of life to which we are attached through their familiarity. We are very much like the monks, who, through their meditation and observance of the liturgy, are sensitive to the things many people miss, like the sprouting leaves and the tiny things of each day. You are right. We should never take anything for granted.

  2. Hello Father Anthony,

    I am so pleased that you had this time away, it must have been very refreshing for you.

    Mothers day was equally refreshing , a day in Melbourne with our daughter and family. The drive home was a bit of an adventure, it is a two hour car trip, this time in the dark and streaming rain and the danger of crossing kangaroo’s, but our God kept us safe.

    My prayers go with you and yours,

    Father Ed Bakker

  3. Neil Hailstone says:

    I had been wondering whether you would be able to take to the water. Here in Cornwall which is not, I would say, that far away from Normandy the seas have been very rough with intensely high winds.The Scillonian 3 (Otherwise known as ‘The Great White Stomach Pump) has remained tied up against Penzance harbour wall and the Isles Of Scilly have been unreachable by sea.

    Smaller estuary ferries have been similarly tied up.

    The crossing from Penzance (Pensans in the Kernowek) is quite often rough to put it mildly.

    I have myself on occasions been the only person in the bar whereat I had adjourned for a modicum of wine on the morning crossing.

    Nautical folk reading this might consider my contention that a decent glass of Chablis has therapeutic efficacy in the matter of seasickness from which I never suffer.

    I do so agree with what Fr Anthony wrote about being close to God outside of our church activities. In my case it is lonely very high mountains. I pray very freely in those surroundings.

    Readers wishing to visit the Isles of Scilly and who would wish to avoid the 30 mile sea crossing should take heart from the fact that Sky Bus will take you to St Marys airport from a few local airports.These are Exeter, Newquay and Lands End. There are designated picks up available from Penzance Railway which will take you to Lands End Airport.

    Sorry about posting somewhat of a travelogue but the Cornish Economy needs all of the visitors we can get down here.

    • I had been wondering whether you would be able to take to the water here in Cornwall.

      It all depends on the wind direction. South Cornwall would be quite calm under a north-east wind with a flattened sea to lee.

      I was only able to sail in the wind we got because the sea to lee was flattened. Otherwise, it would have been out of the question. I love sailing, but I don’t risk my life or those of rescue men who risk theirs because of someone’s imprudence or stupidity!

      The greatest difficulty any boat – motor or sail – faces is a heavy sea and relentless swell, often with rogue waves. The cross-Channel ferries are cancelled from 40 knots of wind upwards.

      Who wants to fly to the Scilly Isles? But, you do need a good boat!

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