Dinghy sailing legend Frank Dye remembered

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Frank and Margaret Dye at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show

Frank (white hat) and Margaret Dye (leaning on Wayfarer dinghy) talk with visitors to the Beale Park Thames Boat Show in 2008 (my photo)

Dinghy Cruising Association members recently received the latest issue of their excellent newsletter including a couple of tributes to legendary dinghy sailor Frank Dye, who died in the spring.

Dye first became famous in the 1960s when he sailed his Wayfarer dinghy to Iceland and Norway, and in later life sailed up the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and into the St Lawrence River.

In his tiny boat he often endured and survived weather conditions that would have beaten lesser sailors. He made a widely watched film for the BBC, and wrote a book, Ocean Crossing Wayfarer, in which he described his earlier voyages, and explains his reasons like this:

‘Offshore cruising in an open boat can be hard, cold, wet, lonely and occasionally miserable, but it is exhilarating too. To take an open dinghy across a hundred miles of sea, taking weather as it comes; to know that you have only yourself and your mate to rely on in an emergency; to see the beauty of dawn creep across the ever restless and dangerous ocean; to make a safe landfall – is wonderful and all of these things develop a self-reliance that is missing from the modern, mechanical, safety-conscious civilised world.’

In many ways, the appeal of dinghy cruising that he describes is the same for many of us. However, this slight, mild-mannered gentleman wasn’t quite like the rest of us – most of us get quite enough fear and exhilaration either from making long voyages in much larger and better equipped boats, or short voyages in small craft over distances of a few miles.

Even Margaret Dye, Frank’s wife and long time sailing companion, has written that she didn’t really understand why he did it – and she sailed with her husband for decades, only dropping out during his sailing voyage of a lifetime, a trip which  took him up the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and into the St Lawrence River.

The DCA’s tribute articles include a revealing interview with Frank by DCA webmaster Johnny Adams and a long introduction by Margaret, and it’s from here that I have chosen a couple of anecdotes and a quotation that seem to say much about this extraordinary man. (I have the DCA’s permission to do this, by the way.)

‘”Don’t sail with that man; he’ll kill you!” said the instructor of my dinghy course after overhearing Frank’s invitation to me to crew for him on his Wayfarer the weekend following the course. Fortunately, I didn’t even entertain heeding my instructor’s advice.’

‘…we married, and towed Wanderer [Frank’s Wayfarer] down to Devon to share our honeymoon. It was December, and the sailing was good, but never before had I known what it was to be so cold. On the last night, we sailed to a waterside restaurant for dinner. We were dressed in many layers of clothes, and as I struggled into oilskins at the end of our banquet, a fellow diner leaned over to me and said, “I’ll drive you home. Let your old man sail his own boat home!” But that night we had the most wonderful moonlit sail down the estuary, phosphorus dancing from every wave, and a silence rarely enjoyed in this noisy, busy world.’

‘I was privileged to crew Frank and Wanderer for over 25 years, and the happiest and most hellish times in my life have been spent afloat with them both’

Wanderer is now at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at Falmouth and is sometimes placed on display.

Frank and Margaret Dye’s books are available from Amazon.

The Dinghy Cruising Association at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show

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The Dinghy Cruising Association at last year’s Beale Park Thames Boat Show

Dinghy Cruising Association member Nick Watt has written to say that his organisation will be at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show.

The DCA is usually in residence at the show, and generally provides a lot of the on-water activity in a range of small craft.

This year, says Nick, the DCA folks will have a stand ashore on which it’s hoping to present member Dave Jennings’ nearly completed Roamer – this is a specialist dinghy cruising design designed by a DCA member, the plans for which are available from the association. To find out more about the Roamer, click here and here. There will also be a pontoon providing moorings for DCA members’ boats.

A key aim of the DCA’s presence at the show is to demonstrate that there are more ways of having fun on the water in small boats than necessarily racing around the marks (hoorah to that, I say), and that a wide variety of small craft (including, hopefully, Alistair Law’s Paradox) can be used for cruising in coastal waters.

Whatever, those who drop in can be sure of a welcome.

Three hundred kilometres in a 15ft boat

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Ben Crawshaw's Onawind Blue cruises on the coast of Spain

Light Trow Onawind Blue tied up somewhere on the Spanish coast

Ben Crawshaw of The Invisible Workshop is back from a 300 kilometre trip in his boat Onawind Blue and, not surprisingly, seems to be simultaneously shattered and happy. Why not leave a comment of congratulations on his weblog?

Here’s a quotation:

‘You can’t travel 300 kilometres over the sea in a little boat without a lot happening. We had our share of calms and light headwinds, we had long sessions of gut busting rowing under a blazing sun, we had contrary currents and large rolling swells; conditions so frustrating and tiring that I was ready to let mermaids lure me overboard into the cool waters. We had a rat stowaway in the forward locker for 24 hours and we ran aground off a small rocky island. We saw the Tramontana wind and helped heave a 30-foot sailing boat off rocks after it’s anchor dragged in the cove where we sheltered from the fierce blow. We had some fantastic sailing with following winds, at one point so strong that I could only continue sailing by rigging the double-reefed mizzen sail on the main mast and then, with only 1.2 metres of sail cloth, we still sailed at 6 knots. I discovered the most idyllic coves, met fantastic, welcoming people, got drunk, ate some great food and let the sea in through every pore in my body so that now, on land at last, life seems impossibly dry.’

Ben has a great story to tell over the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to it!

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