There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. A quote that can be variously attributed to Sir Ranulph Finnes, Alfred Wainwright, Roald Amundsen*, and my Granny Mac. That the worst the elements can throw at you can be repelled with a good waterproof layer on the outside and some warm, cosy underlayers. And it’s true, mostly, except when the weather actually is bad.
As we left Peel on the Isle of Man, skies were clear, the sun shining and the wind was just right to take us north. Meanwhile, out in the Atlantic Ocean a weather front was moving eastward towards the British Isles, strengthened what was left of Hurricane Bertha after the storm battered into the islands of the Caribbean. A wave of strong wind and heavy rain were forecast to sweep over the UK and Ireland, with several weather warnings issued across the country.
By the time we reached Skye, the wind had spiralled round to come from the north, barrelling down the Minch and through the Inner Sound, pushing waves and rain into our faces, and making it impossible for Draken to sail once we round the Sleat peninsula and entered the Kyle of Loch Alsh. Dropping sail, we began to motor.
The question asked most frequently about living on Draken is “Where do you all sleep?”. We usually point out the tent in the midship, but it just fits half the crew at a time, for when we keep a watch system at sea. Or that we sleep where we can, when we can. Being on an open-decked ship is like camping, but without the luxury of being able to throw everything into the car and drive off to a country pub with a log fire and good beer when it gets too wild outdoors, or the promise of being there to see Dolly play a once-in-a-lifetime festival set. We’re outdoors, all the time, for everything we do.
Conditions in open water prove too rough to make a break for Stornoway, so we turn back to an anchorage in the sound between Skye and Rasaay. A canvas is put up over the yard, covering most of the foreship, and lined with a couple of tarpaulins to keep out the worst of the rain. But with wet clothes, a wet ship, wet bodies, once activity stops, the cold creeps in. The only thing to do is huddle up under a blanket with your crewmates and wait for the storm to pass.
*As a Norwegian, Amundsen probably actually said something like “…wear a wool sweater. And a wool hat. Don’t forget your wool mittens.” In Norwegian, obviously.
Originally written 12th August 2014.