One of the advantages of sailing a small boat is that you see the world from an alternative perspective. My feet are a mere two inches above water level, so my view is almost the same as that of canoeists, paddle boarders or dinghy sailors. I like it this way.
I am always wary about about disturbing the birds – but here on the Tay they are well used to yachts sailing up and down just yards from their sandbar.. This is a flock of eiders – britains biggest native ducks which is why they look and behave like geese, You can hear their calls – each one a slightly different polite expression of extreme surprise – coming at us across the wind . This whole flock is made up of adolescent and non breeding eiders gorging on this rich coastline whiling away the two summers while the fertile elder eiders are out scattered across Northern Britain getting on with the important job of breeding.
The bar is massive and flocks will move several times a tide as the water retreats and new territory is opened up–
How many of those moves are prompted by the natural need to shift to new patches to feed … or prompted by disturbance from boats or canoes or seals or gulls or me is anyones guess.
In my defense all I can say is that I have more shots of birds landing and feeding than I do of them taking off – And I will never tire of the site of big seabirds engaged in carefully choreographed aerial manoevers.
Katie L draws just 13 inches – with plate and rudder up – I play a sort of game with the geography – I try to guess the shallow spots by the look of the water and my knowledge of the physics of sand and tide. eventually make an inconsequential mistake and Katie’s joyfully dainty mastery of wind and water come to an abrupt halt as her keels embrace the sand. In an instant she becomes as imovable as a southwold beach hut.
Both Jill and I love a day spent stranded on a sunny sandbar. As soon as the water is shallow enough she will paddle away from Katie in a bare foot sandy stroll seeking out a sun warmed swimming hole she has heard a whisper about..
I like to stay with the boat and watch as the retreating tide reveals ever more complex shapes and artworks – here a sun kisswed miniature tropical archipelago , Over here an Afrikan rift valley, down there, the scarp and dip slopes of sussex, here individually placed grains of the sand which oddly echo the shapes of the strangely familiar dry canals that cover the surface of mars.
and here – the profile of Queen Elizabeth 2 our own dear Brenda reverantly rendered in sand and sparkling tay water.
But, as it always will, the inevitable Tay Tide returns to engulf and reshape and destroy these once in a billion year sculptures and works of art.
And with the returning tide walking back through the shimmering heat haze of this miraculous scottish sand bar come the love of my life.
Eventually we had enough water for Katie to start floating again and the solidly inert mass of grounded boat once more became light and lithe under my tiller hand.
Coming back into the Harbour seemed a bit of a shock after the perfection of the day just passed. The returning wednesday evening tide tide meant that the mid -week races were on – and a freighter leaving dundee – heading for a night at sea.
It is, I confess, one of the many small things I take a stupid pride in as a citizen of this modest island race is our love of sailing. Wherever I go I see groups of hardy men and women in all but identical small boats trying to sail slightly faster than their friends.
In my experience of this journey so far there seems barely a patch of water in this country where Brits do not race small boats dinghiwa. Seeing them makes me very happy.
Dundee is famous for one more reason – it was the site of the tay bridge disaster, where in a storm force 11 On December 28th 1879, a date that will be remembered for a very long time,a section of the cast iron bridge deck collapsed while a train was passing over the Tay. The whole lot, bridge deck, train and all the passengers were tipped into the freezing turbulent waters of the Tay – all 59 perished that night.
They built a new bridge right alongside the old one – the pillar stumps bear testament to a terrible trajedy.
However, it was not all bad – fortunately britains most misunderstood poet William Mcconigle was born born in dundee – his poem dedicated to the Tay disaster is now regarded as an ostentatiously tacky classic of victorian sentimental doggeral – while more intelligent critics say it was written entirely tongue in cheek
and even today most Tay sailors seem happy to recite a few lines of the poem –
The McGonicle mastepeice is at the end of this film – just after the buskers cup
The mid summer light ensured that we had plenty of time to gently sail our way up the tay. As we drifted and sailed we passed up through this fertile slice of scotland. This is easy scotland where the fog hardly ever rolls off the hills in in off the sea and it rains almost as seldom as my own patch of suffolk. This is the bread basket of scotland = one more reason why Dundee was big in ship victualling.
No matter how often I sail the east coast of Scotland – it always comes as a surprise to see how tidy and well kept everything seems. There is a really admirable desire for order and neatness among those who live along these estuaries.
This is less true of the west coasters – I am not sure what that says about the East West cultural split that runs right down through britain
but it is just an observation – not a criticism.
We drifted on past Newbrough – once famous for lino and foulies – then they in invented plastic and that was the end of that – the neat little town is now just a dormitory for Perth and Dundee.
We needed to buy food and alcohol so it was on with the rattler and we hustled on up the ten miles to Perth.
Such a waste of a wonderful estuary to slam on the rattler and despoil the peace – but the weather the next day was going to be perfect for a day drifting up the Earn – which has been described as the jewel in the crown of scottish east coast rivers.
–In perth we tied ourselves to a wall , just one up from a fishing boat.
I will spare you the video vloggers trope of boat adventurers going boldly around tescos in Perth.
Lovely town by the way – well worth a visit.– but Perth is a lovely place for all that.
by the time we got back to Katie the tide was ebbing fast so we drifted back in the near dark towards the sandbars that form where the Earn meets the Tay.
we dropped the hook and spent a sublimely peaceful night.. swinging at anchor where the natural sounds of the nocturnal land meld with the night calls of the at sea birds
and without the jowly old wobble gob – if you wish