I have no photos so I am going to attempt word pictures.

in a week of calm weather when little breezes started up and disappeared again, my several times postponed sailing lesson became possible yesterday, just, squeezed in on a late but enormous tide, and a breath of wind. at three in the afternoon there was only a trickle of water in the creek, all day the air had been vaguely stirred by a movement you could hardly call a wind, and the seal boat passengers were queuing up on the quayside to get on boats which were sunk in the mud. C (my teacher, a young Scot) was confident of a lot of water before he had even finished redoing the rigging, and my now more effective dinghy was launched into a creek that had as much water in it as the top of the tide had when we sailed two and a half weeks ago. a tow to the end of the creek (note to self, always put the centreboard halfway in when being towed to prevent water slopping up the slot and into the cockpit) and there I was, on my own in the Mirror, with my teacher disappearing behind me in the motor boat, in the middle of a vast expanse of smooth water spreading wide between the spit and the marsh. sailing by myself, very gently; there was just enough wind and tide to move the boat.

it was a little alarming at first, although C chugged around me like a mother hen with a single chick (I won’t say duck because they seem to expect their young to follow them through whatever difficulties arrive – perhaps I should say goose or swan) he had not realised how little experience I had. but we got my tacking more or less sorted out (I was trying to do it too fast, panicking about the necessity of changing sides and ducking under the boom), so I could at least half the time do a nice smooth ninety degree turn and end up with everything in the right hands without treading on the sheet (sail rope to you lubbers) and over-steering; gybing seemed easier (like tacking but turning so that the wind is behind you, you pull the tiller towards you instead of pushing it away) and I even managed to work out where I was going and what the wind was doing, and set the jib up in the cleat each time (no crew to take care of that job). without another body to crew I was sitting further forward in the boat and giving myself the room to use the tiller extension properly.

the real treat was sailing late in the season and during the week, when there are very few motor boaters and suchlike about. on my last trip with the Mirror the noise of a water-ski-tow-boat completely drowned the curlews. in October there are more birds than ever, migratory passagers and the water-fowl that come down from the arctic to spend the winter here, brent geese, pink-footed geese, whooper and bewick swans, and all sorts of ducks. they sound wonderful and  as the light faded the cries of the birds seemed to grow stronger. the sky huge, the  ragged edge of  a sheet of navy-grey cloud  opening up a slice of palest blue to the east across the drowned marsh, and the calm spread of water reflecting the light. an utterly peaceful scene; the boats hardly disturbing the surface, sliding along with that musical chuckle of the water under the bows, curving sails taking up the wind like dancers in a lengthy and courtly sequence of moves, as we tacked and beat and tacked again.

at last the light was really going and with it the wind. I ghosted in to the creek entry, shoving the boom out with my hand to try to keep the wind in the sail. almost the height of the tide, and a little current to keep me sailing forwards, flotsam floating on the surface where the water had swept up the dry debris of the last high tides. a short tow and then I was on my own again, hoping the tide would keep going, slowly slowly gliding past the jetties and moored boats. C had time to fetch the launch trolley and catch me on a narrow slipway with enough shingle at the top to make a good landing on this high tide; a few paddle strokes and we had her on top of the trolley and I could get out in shallow water, legs surprisingly wobbly.