What does that red flashing light mean?

Which one, where?

It was last Wednesday that I  down to Northney, for a spot of light wind sailing. I was taking the retired librarian and cave manager for a “taster” sail. He’d collared me at a wedding the other week and said “What’s with this sailing thing that you do?”. It was that time in the wedding when food had been eaten, the speeches were done and the toasts all finished (and, of course, the bride and groom were now officially married – you mustn’t forget that bit). The Dad dancing hadn’t started, although the group was warming up but conversation was just possible. Anyway, you get the scene and the state of mind of the retired librarian. “Now I’m a retired librarian, I need to find something to do” – he continued.

“Well”, I replied, “how about the week after next ? – the tides are right at Northney and the weather might be OK – I’m free Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday – let’s see what the weather forecast is like nearer the time.” When I arrived home, the family diary told me that I was only free on Wednesday, so that was when it HAD to be. The forecast was fine for the wind – F3, possibly F4 but it included a chance of rain. You know, that funny wet stuff that we soft southerners haven’t seen for a few months.

On arriving alongside Riff Raff, it wasn’t raining – yet. The wind seemed steady (from the NE) at about 8 knots – perfect for an introductory sail. Just enough breeze for a fire-ship and the tide was making strong* so, in a flash, Riff Raff was stripped of coverings, un- necessary weight was taken off and stored in the car and she slid down the slip and was afloat.

Off we went – the wind was coming straight up the entrance channel to the marina, so I hoisted the full main on our way out, turned to starboard past the post maker, unrolled the jib and we were off – 2.5 knots SOG against the incoming tide. Once past the third post marker, another turn to starboard and we were running before the wind. This time, despite a few strong puffs, the wind and sail combination (and a bit of concentration on the part of the helmsman) let Riff Raff maintain a stable goose wing all the way down to the Hayling Island Yacht club. Meantime we settled into a comfortable introduction to sailing for the RLACM (See above). The rudiments of sailing theory were expounded upon. Bearing transits were demonstrated. Collision avoidance was alluded to but not demonstrated. The naming of parts took place (and was promptly forgotten). He took the helm and soon learnt which way to push it. A gybe was demonstrated (oops). Despite all this we overtook some sort of Westerly on the downwind run.

We took a photo of the RLACM for posterity – I hadn’t noticed he was eating his lunch!DSCN1540

There were four or five other sail boats about: – we noticed a couple of Drascomes making their way up wind.   The theory of going about was discussed. We went about and worked our way upwind. The idea of heaving to was discussed and demonstrated when we next went about (oops).  We chased the Drascomes. Tack on tack as we overhauled them and left them in our wake. Not that we were trying, of course.

It came on to rain. That fine rain that penetrates all foul weather gear*** and not only soaks you but freezes you to the marrow.  It was time to go in. We sailed to the third marker, started Freddy and motored in – the RLACM steering as I packed away the main sail, put of the fenders and found the mooring ropes.

I took the helm for the tricky bit in the marina and we parked against the jetty with scarcely a bump.

Then I noticed the flashing red light – on the engine, just below the stop button. Yikes, it’s the low oil pressure warning light – how long has that been on?




* Reminded me of a verse from “The Old Way” by Ronald Hopwood

‘Came a gruff and choking chuckle, and a craft as black as doom
Lumbered laughing down to leeward, as the bravest gave her room.
“Set ‘un blazin’, good your Lordships, for the tide be makin’ strong,
Proper breeze to fan a fireship**, set ‘un drivin’ out along!
‘Tis the ‘Torch,’ wi’ humble duty, from Lord Howard ‘board the ‘Ark.’
We’m a laughin’-stock to Brixham, but a terror after dark.
Hold an’ bilge a-nigh to burstin’, pitch and sulphur, tar an’ all,
Was it so, my dear, they’m fashioned for my Lord High Admiral?”

** I hasten to point out (to my insurance company at the very least) Riff Raff is not a fire-ship!

*** I mean all old foul weather gear. My set Musto about 15 years old and leaks like a sieve so I fear it’s time to buy some more.

**** OOPS – For Musto read must be.

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