From this I learned that there is no such thing as a mistake. This
word is meaningless. Every thing that we do at the moment in time
that we do it we think to be the right thing to do. When the outcome
proves otherwise what happens is not a mistake but a valuable
Many times in this life every one of us falls afoul of Murphy's
Law. In the school of hard knocks it's a plus not a minus.
A week or two later I got Curlew afloat again. This time it was on
an almost windless day. I was amazed to find that even on such a day
the sails filled and Curlew moved right along. Slowly I learned the
art of sailing and the capabilities and limitations of my vessel.
For safety and to achieve positive buoyancy I stuffed the fore and
aft covered ends with beach balls. Several times I came close but
never once did Curlew get swamped. The large square footage of the
dagger plate drop keel was a winner.
I learned that in going to sea on the Firth of Forth the all
important thing is to use the tidal flow to your advantage. Never
buck the tide. Always make sure that the tide, whether it's ebbing
or flowing, is moving in the same direction that you're going ,
especially when you're heading homewards.
The most ambitious sail that I did with Curlew was to go east from
the Earlsferry beach to the May Island
and back. This was a round trip of more than twenty five miles----
alone and out on the open sea.
I had always wanted to see the lighthouse on the May Island.
There's been a light of some kind on the island since 1635 and the
island was renowned for being the home of numerous sea birds. In
earlier times a brotherhood of monks lived on the island.
As Curlew was essentially a fair weather boat, to venture to The
May, every condition for going to sea had to be met. First, there
had to be a good weather pattern of several days duration when the
sea was calm and there was but steady, light, on-shore air from the
south. It should be a time of high tidal flow in order to get the
maximum speed of the tidal current, which occurs around the days of
the full moon.
Also since this would be
an all day trip, the height of the high tide had to occur about six or seven in the
morning so that from then till about one o'clock in the afternoon
the tide would be ebbing and flowing out to the east in the
direction of the island.
From one o'clock onwards the tide would then turn and be flowing in
and to the west in the direction of home.
If such conditions happened my plan was the set
out from the beach at Earlsferry
and head for the Elie
lighthouse on the Elie Ness, go around the Lady's Tower on Sauchar
Point and keep inshore, passing St Monans and Pittenweem.
After Pittenweem and when I could see the
Anstruther lighthouse, I'd cut the corner and angle over to
get into the traveled boating lane from the Anstruther harbor to the
island. Once I got into this boating lane I'd follow along to the
landing at the lighthouse on The May. This last outward leg would be
the most difficult. This same leg on returning should be a breeze.
One day, in mid-summer, all conditions said, "Today's the Day,"
set off at about seven in the morning.
All went as planned and I spent about an hour on the island. The
Stevenson lighthouse was of considerable interest and there were
many species and great numbers of sea birds, some that I'd never
seen before. At about six o'clock as I lifted the dagger board
plate back up in its slot Curlew grounded back on to the beach at
Earlsferry. It had been a long day.
I did have some anxious moments but it was a day that I've
remembered and relived many times.
I'm sure as sleep overtook me that night there was a smile on my
That day turned out to be "one for memory lane."