It was not till 7 May that the yard finished and installed the vane. I crossed the bar at the entrance to the Beaulieu River, headed the yacht across the Solent and locked the vane to the tiller. Gipsy Moth started tearing through the water, sailing herself entirely. Her wake was almost dead straight; it was fascinating to watch. That was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Gradually I found out that Miranda, as I christened the self-steering device, required just as much skill to get the best out of her as does setting the sails of a yacht in a keen race. Also it gave me the same pleasure to succeed.
There were jobs like swinging the compass and calibrating the D/F loop to do, besides the sailing and self-steering experiments, and the sail handling drill. Sometimes I felt such despair, swamped by worry at the hopelessness of getting all the countless jobs done in time, that I longed to chuck up the whole project. My hands became so sore that I had to use my little fingers to pump water at the galley. Some of my swollen fingers would not close, and my fingernails were torn to the quick.
Atlantic Map Detailed Photo Gallery
But sometimes when I had had a good day, and thought that I was getting ahead with my single-handed training, or beginning to master the tricks of the wind vane, Beaulieu River seemed to be a river in paradise. Gliding up to my mooring at dusk I would see the trees and clouds etched in the still surface of the river, and I would hear the occasional plop of a sea trout jumping. After dark the nightingales would start singing in the woods alongside the mooring, and in the morning the sun would light up the pale green, tender, young, spring leaves on the trees.
At Sheila’s invitation, Tubby Clayton came aboard with three disciples. He donned his robes in the fore-cabin and held an impressive service of blessing the ship. With Edward and Belinda Montagu there were ten of us standing in the cabin. When Tubby imperiously demanded to be disembarked, I found that Giles had gone off with the dinghy. So, somewhat fortified with ‘Liffey Wather’, I offered to motor the yacht down to the jetty at low water of a spring tide, with the mud-banks showing horribly on each side. Turning 30 yards below the jetty we went on to the mud, where we were presently heeled over 43 degrees. To run aground within an hour of the ship’s being blessed must be a record.