I have just made a wonderful discovery of the blog of an English gentleman who is a lover of halyards, sheets, sails, rudders and the gentle lapping of water against the bow. He also has a more elegant term than gunkholing – creek sailing, meaning navigating through inland tidal waters. In England, they are most plentiful on the Essex and Suffolk coasts, and right the way up to East Anglia and Yorkshire.
The discovery is Creeksailor and the man running it is called Tony Smith. His favourite sailing areas seem to be similar to those of Dylan Winter. I wonder if they know each other with such close common interests. If not, perhaps they will discover each other thanks to this posting! Mr Smith not only sails his gaff cutter, but also has a duck punt and an eight-foot rowing boat he converted into a beautiful sailing dinghy. I look forward to looking into this blog in greater detail. I ought also to buy his book.
Here in France, there are some interesting waters fitting such a description in Normandy south of the Seine and both north and south Brittany. I greatly enjoyed the Dives as I wrote in Gunkholing but found my rig-down arrangement in my 12-foot Zef a little awkward for ultra-low bridges. From there I came up with the idea of adapting my 10-foot Tabur for this purpose with an Optimist rig like on the Mersea Duck Punt. I intend to “do” some other creeks in Basse Normandie (the Orne in particular) and the Eure (where it can be navigated away from the weirs and rapids). I also intend to return to Abbeville to continue my journey on the Somme towards Amiens. One day, I am going to take some time off along the Essex coast and find the El Dorado of creek sailors and gunkholers – before hauling the boat up to my native Lake District and Windermere! Mr Smith is also on Facebook.
Creek sailing is something I only really discovered this year, with the encouragement of reading Dylan Winter’s blog and seeing his wonderful videos. I think my true initiation was the Rade de Brest and the Golfe du Morbihan, where many muddy creeks radiate out from the deep water. Creeks are a challenge because the water can get very shallow, and the boat has to sail without centreboard or rudder, just a carefully trimmed sail and an oar to steer with. The punt has a hard chine to allow a reasonable upwind angle. A more “conventional” dinghy has to be rowed – and that can be a slog against the wind. But, creeks bring the rewards of natural life relatively unmolested by man and a profusion of wind birds and mammals. Sometimes, the top of a creek is filled with a small village, a place to tie up the boat and go and buy some food and get into conversation with some lonely soul dedicated to wind and sail in some way. Each has his tale to tell.
I have now finished work on my little ten-foot creek boat and hope for a daysail or two in December between the damp and rain on one extreme and the brass-monkey freeze on the other. I have hardly done any winter sailing, just once on a lake in January 2014 (see First Boat Outing of 2014). Same boat but with the Optimist rig, since the Mirror rig went to my sea boat Sarum. I will doubtlessly venture up the Orne and the Eure, and go and have another sail on the Lac des Deux Amants at Poses like in January 2014. The sea is too heavy for winter sailing in anything less than a ballasted yacht, though there are calm and sunny days to take the bite out of the frost. Winter is no time for capsizing and hitting the drink! Up the creeks, winter has its charm like the other seasons.
There are a few of us. We should encourage each other by mutual linking in our blogs. We are Romantics – with a foot outside the world of “reality” and people, men of another philosophy of life who cannot be imprisoned in any system or fashion trend. My faith in human nature is somewhat restored!