There may be reason to doubt early 20th century sailing adventurer WE Sinclair’s sanity, but I don’t have any question about his sharp sense of humour, so here’s an example from his book Cruises of the Joan quoted by the Old Gaffer’s Association’s splendid 50th anniversary website featuring old boating tales, www.sailing-by.org.uk.
On this occasion, Sinclair and his crewmate are at Campbeltown in the Inner Hebrides, and making plans to sailing to Dublin without the help of a chart.
‘I don’t see there’s much in it,’ said the mate. ‘We know Ireland’s out there south-west somewhere and I should think we’d find Belfast by the number of vessels going there. It’s the only big port in the place.’
‘Very likely. Still, it may be tiresome sailing up and down the Irish coast to find the biggest stream of traffic.’
‘Couldn’t we hail a boat and ask the way?’
‘Yes, but we’re not going to. Suppose you were off Southend and a passing boat asked you the way to London, you’d give him an ironical answer. That’s what we’d get. ”Sure and begorra now but ye’ll only need to keep sailing on. Ye can’t miss Belfast. Ye’ll tell it by the lively disposition of the people.” I suppose you haven’t seen a picture of Belfast so that you’d recognize the place when you see it?’
In fact, apart from a big of fog and a spot of weather in the crossing, the voyage went smoothly enough with the aid of a nautical almanac. Sinclair describes how they found their way without trouble and adds:
Nothing else happened on the journey except the sailing on to Belfast. The Lough was so well buoyed that anybody could have found his way to the town. Once there we went into the first opening that offered, took all the advice freely given us and tied against a dirty cosy wall in the corner of Spencer Basin.
‘Nothing in it at all,’ said the mate. ‘What’s the good of wasting money on charts?’
Read the complete extract on the Sailing By website, or, better yet, buy a copy from publishers Lodestar Books and have a good giggle some time when you’re waiting for the tide, or a break in the weather.