A Passage to…Iberia

I don’t do boats, me.

I suppose it’s probably because, odd trips aboard car ferries and hydrofoils apart, the majority of my trips on the briny have been in small vessels. Fishing boats and such. They might only venture out of port in fine weather, but I’ve always found the sea something of an enigma, especially when what at first appears a benign mill pond swiftly turns into an episode of Deadliest Catch. Well, maybe not quite as stormy as the Bering Sea in winter, but you get the general idea.

So when my better half decided we’d go on a cruise for our 30th wedding anniversary, I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with excitement.

When I thought about t a bit more, I decided it might not be such a bad idea. We’d go around Spain and Portugal, so that might be useful for some casual research. But the other thing is my next novel features a sea journey, so it’d be handy to get something of a feel for that.

Queen Mary II following us out of Southampton

Cunard’s Queen Mary II following us out of Southampton

Now, sailing down the channel and across Biscay on a P&O liner is probably nothing like being on a tall ship in a howling gale. But hey – give a lubber a break! There’s no way you’d get me even halfway up a mast in a dead calm, never mind when the ship’s pitching and rolling, so since sail training ships will likely never have my custom I’ll forever be forced into using a little imagination on that score.

I think sometimes it’s small observations help make a story more real. For example, pulling out of Southampton Water at 3 or 4 knots is slow, and probably around the same speed a tall ship would have made with an offshore breeze. Regular sailors will probably treat this as a norm, but for me it was interesting. Sad, eh?

I was surprised at how much the bow wave of a large vessel affects smaller boats passing nearby. I’ve probably seen this phenomenon before, but not really seen it, if you get my drift. Maybe I was too busy staving off seasickness to have noticed.

This morning we travelled through a fog, relatively easy nowadays with radar but in the age of sail they’d have shortened sail to slow down and doubled the watch. Oh, and instead of a foghorn I gather they used something akin to a football rattle (remember those?) to warn of their approach.

But at this time of year, sailors in those days would also have seen small parties of gannets, the stark black and white winged, yellow-headed adults along with speckled brown immatures, hunting far from their island colony breeding grounds.

So some things haven’t changed 🙂

Next stop – Corunna!!!!



~ by cavalrytales on September 3, 2013.

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