Bedtime for the Boat

Today was the day for taking our little boat, the Isla Mia, out of the water and putting her into winter storage. Sadly we’ve not really used her this year. Throughout the spring we were in lockdown. Collecting the boat from where she’s stored and towing her 12 miles to her summer mooring at Alnmouth could hardly be described as an essential journey. It was therefore much later in the year that we’d planned when she was finally back in the water. Conditions had to be totally perfect to get out of the estuary as the river channel had changed position so sailing out to sea was always going to be tricky. After lockdown was lifted everyone seemed to migrate to the coast so parking became an issue. No wonder we never managed to do more.

Today there was a very high tide so K took the trailer down and positioned the boat ready to winch on to it. Son joined him to help…

… and Buddy supervised.

There was quite a lot of traffic on the river today. The sailing dinghies were racing and this rather beautiful skiff came in.

One dinghy crew were launching off the ramp and kindly lent a hand to keep the boat straight.

We watched a young girl take her paddle board out – she made it look quite effortless.

There are still quite a few boats in the water but many of the smaller ones will be brought out over the next few weeks. If we get severe winter weather boats can be torn from their moorings or damaged by debris such as fallen trees floating downstream. As the tide inched higher over the salt marsh it formed tiny islands.

A group of children were having a brilliant game of pirates. Sword fights determined which band of pirates won control of a tidal island. Actually they were using toy light sabres but that hardly matters in a game of imagination! Their dog was enthusiastically fetching a ball and digging in the mud. Every one of them was wet and muddy but they were having such a great time. They looked like they had escaped from the pages of old children’s adventure stories like Swallows and Amazons or The Famous Five series.

With Son operating the winch and K guiding her on to the trailer as the rising tide lifted her up, Isla Mia inched onto the trailer The engine at the stern of the boat adds a lot of weight so the water does all the heavy lifting work.

Eventually she was fully trailered, secured and hitched up to the car.

The backboard with tail lights was put in place and she was towed away to her winter home. Happy hibernation Isla Mia!

Do you have to make any preparations for winter?

Back On The Beach With The Boat

When K retired he fulfilled an ambition: he got a boat. The Ila Mia is a little motor launch. We didn’t use her much for the first couple of years but last year we acquired a mud mooring at Alnmouth, which is so much easier than launching from the trailer every time. At low tide the boat rests on the mud. We simply walk over to it, climb aboard and wait for the tide to come in. The boat floats off, we untie from the buoy and off we go!

Ila Mia comes out of the water for the winter and we were unable to retrieve her from where she is stored during lockdown restrictions. It was not an essential journey and K’s car, (the one with the towbar), needed the handbrake fixed when the garage was closed. As restrictions lifted, the car was mended and the boat was towed home for some pre-launch maintenance.

She was parked on the front lawn while the barnacles were scraped off, anti-foul paint applied and the engine serviced. Then, on a big tide, she was taken back to Alnmouth.

The launch process takes a while. The boat is towed across the hard sand and unhitched, then it’s the long wait until the tide comes in, when she can be floated off the trailer.

It’s good that she’s back in the water. We hope for some decent weather and calm seas so we can take her out, for fishing or simply to enjoy being out, watching the wildlife. We regularly see puffins, guillemots and even the rare roseate terns that breed on nearby Coquet Island.

Apart from having to wait for the tide, the other drawback at Alnmouth is actually getting out of the estuary. The river channel changes position from time to time and over the winter it moved significantly, now running all the way along the beach and out to sea at the north end of it. it looks pretty shallow too, so there will be a shorter window for trips over high tide.

It’s also difficult if there is some surf. We got drenched going out one day last year when a wave broke over the bows, soaking us both! – That was not our best trip. The spare outboard had already gone overboard in the channel when the mounting broke (fortunately retrieved later on when the tide went out) . We weren’t out for long. Despite reports of lots of mackerel, we couldn’t find any . There was a bit of a swell, which made the boat roll a bit when we cut the engines to start fishing – that left me feeling slightly queasy.

To add insult to injury, the following day K took a couple of friends out and there was no surf, a flat sea and lots of mackerel. They came back with quite a haul. That meant a busy evening of cleaning, filleting and smoking the fish. We have a home smoker, which is basically a glorified biscuit tin with a grid in it. The freezer was filled which meant that I had a plentiful supply to make my favourite smoked mackerel pate. Here’s the recipe.

Smoked Mackerel Pate

Ingredients:-

  • 2 smoked mackerel, skin and bones removed
  • a large tub of creme fraiche
  • juice and rind of one or two lemons (I like it lemony and use two)
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste.

To make it you simply whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor. Use the pulse setting until it reaches the right consistency, processing for longer if you like it smooth. It’s delicious on toast or oatcakes. I can’t tell you how long it keeps in the fridge because it never stays around for very long!

With our stock of mackerel in the fridge running low, I hope we’ll be back at sea and able to catch some more soon.!