yesterday it was still very calm, and I had an unofficial lesson in my Mirror dinghy, from MM’s skipper. the original idea was that he would sail MM as a safety boat and shout instructions at the first mate and me in the dinghy. (by the way, the dinghy has a name, Mythos, but I think that is too grand for me; she has won races, but I will only be pootling about in her and I would like to call her Minnow)

however, MM could not be got out, she was sitting on a bank of mud and there wasn’t enough tide to get any water under her. we stood for about twenty minutes in the creek, watching a lovely restored Albercore dinghy being launched and given a tow (about three times the size of Minnow), and the hurly burly of motor boats being launched by four-by-fours (we have a very rude expression for some of these, the sort with an enormous engine at the stern that makes the bow rear up in the water). the Oyster Heron volunteered to tow us out far enough up the creek to get the wind in our sails, and then to chaperone – first mate went aboard her and had a lazy time with tea and biscuits, and the skipper got the short straw of crewing in my tiny cockpit, with no refreshments. I think he will be sore for a week.

the first five minutes were a little stressful – we relinquished our tow prematurely and had no room to manoeuvre. a huge seal trip boat passed and its wake lifted us up and deposited us straight onto the muddy lower bank of the creek. once we had pushed ourselves off with the paddles, we tried to tack but there wasn’t enough wind, and the next passing motor boat put us back on the mud. in the end we got there, with some paddling and some sailing, and rounded the next corner where the wind was in our favour. looking back we could see Heron also pushing herself off the mud, MM’s first mate did have to help out and could be seen wielding a paddle. once out of the creek I took the helm with some trepidation, but it all felt very safe really. we had just enough wind to sail nicely around, tack in and out of the moored boats, and follow Heron once she came past us.

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you can see this is a bit different from the Cockle. we are in a tiny cockpit, and poor MM’s skipper is crouched in the crew’s spot. every time we tack the sheets get underfoot, if not around my waist. it’s fun though. I am sitting too far back, but it didn’t matter too much as it was easy sailing and the skipper’s weight mean the boat didn’t sit up as if planing.

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I have to remember to sit up and smile! I must be contemplating the next tack.

we sailed out a long way, it was lovely, the water was clear and the bottom sandy, when the waterskier let up you could hear the curlews. it was nice enough for a swim if the water had been deeper. we were not tempted though. Heron was confident that the tide would not turn for a while yet, and that we would have the wind behind us coming back and would be able to goose-wing to the mouth of the creek. however, the wind died out, and the water got very shallow. we slowly got ourselves back into the channel, getting about walking speed from the main sail let right out. Heron, much further along than us, and with only about a foot of water, took her sails down and got the motor out. Minnow was doing alright, but as soon as the tide turned we would not have had a chance to get back, and when the bigger boat caught up with us she took us in tow.

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I got more practice steering all the way back.

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we had in fact cut it pretty fine, and Heron could not land her crew on the jetty, so everybody got covered in thick black mud. Minnow got dropped off at the hard (not very hard, we got a small dose of black squidgy stuff too) amongst the four-by-fours reversing just about into the creek to haul their huge motor boats out. after that it was ice creams all round and home to clean up.

huge thanks to Chris and Alan and Margaret and Carole for all the TLC. I had a wonderful time.