The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Near Miss

She's been afloat for nearly 75 years; next year is the anniversary of her launch in 1937. She's been through a dozen or so owners, and sailed from the north of Scotland to South Brittany and all points in between. She is the second  of the Vertue class,  brainchild of Jack Laurent Giles and perhaps the most capable small cruising boat ever designed. Vertues have sailed virtually [sic] everywhere there's water and round every cape, headland and ocean. She'll outlive me, with luck, the kind of luck that stood by her the other night.

It must have been sheer luck, and not the strength of her ground tackle and riser - all of which were renewed a few months ago, well before the storm out of the north west swept down on Loggie Bay.

Her near nemesis came  in the shape of a huge, rusty steel barge weighing god knows how much. Sometime in the early hours, around high water, this barge that had been lying for 20 or so years on the beach upwind took it upon itself to drift free whereupon it ran amok among the dozen or so yachts and workboats moored in the bay. With winds touching well over 80 mph it must have been horrendous: 20 tons of slab-sided steel careering through the anchorage like the proverbial bull in a china shop. And by a miracle, Sally, and all but one of the other boats was spared, though it must have been by inches, for she lay right in the path of the barge which fetched up on the beach just beyond where Sally lay.

One yacht was not so fortunate; whether hit by the barge as it careered through the fleet, or not, we will probably never know. But she was right in its path and from there to her resting place at Ardcharnich beach is clear water, with nothing to stop her drift.

Next morning, stem badly scarred we found her a few miles downwind, high and dry, holed on her starboard side, her port side badly abraded from bouncing on the pebble beach. With a temporary patch over the hole, Robin and John towed her back to Ullapool that night in the driving sleet, and next day we had her hauled and dried her out against the sailing club wall. Her owner was remarkably sanguine: "She's a lucky boat. Been aground five times now, and survived..." Make up your own mind.

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