Map of Smith's voyage
We received an order for a Potter for Sweden in the late winter of 1964-5 after a Swedish Tanker Captain called on us. It was my intention to find time for a fairly ambitious cruise during the summer, and this seemed a good opportunity to combine business with pleasure. The Captain agreed, like the good sportsman he is, to accept the boat on arrival in Sweden. During the ensuing six months a great deal of careful consideration was given to the requirements of the voyage. It would indeed be courting disaster merely to step into such a boat and sail away on such a voyage. Details of the preparations and the special equipment carried are described in the appendix. The original intention to set sail during June was defeated by pressure of business. All was ready by the early part of September, but at this time a persistent spell of Easterly winds began to blow, and it was useless to attempt to beat up Channel against these in so small a boat. Eventually (as it happened, for only a short interval) there came a change of wind and I set out from Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, late afternoon of the 12th October in company with friends of mine in another boat. We arrived at Cowes after dark that evening. For the next few days the wind was back in the East again and it was not until the 14th that I was able to get under way. Even so it was a poor beginning because of very thick fog. Visibility about 100ft. Setting out from Cowes harbour, under power, at 0830 that morning, I " felt my way " from buoy to buoy, past Ryde and across to the Looe Channel at Selsey Bill with a favourable tide. At this point the fog cleared, a light breeze from the South set in and helped me slowly out across the wide bay towards Beachy Head against the ebb. I passed between Beachy Head and the Royal Sovereign Light Vessel about 0400 hours on the morning of the 15th. By this time the wind had risen to Force 4 from the West. I was tempted to think conditions showed promise for the rest of the trip. Alas, what optimism ! During these early hours of the morning, one begins to feel the strain of a long watch-I had been motoring and sailing continuously since 0830 the previous day-so 1 was not surprised to find myself startled time and time again as my head fell forward and woke me repeatedly from momentary sleep. Later, however, after I had enjoyed the sight of dawn and sunrise, this feeling passed and I was able to sail, alert and active for the remainder of that day. An hour or so after lawn at 0730 hours there was a sharp change of wind and conditions. For about an hour it blew from N.N.W Force 7 and I had to bring down the main. 1 sailed for a thus under the fores'l and mizen, but a little later I reefed the mails'l and brought down the mizen as the wind settled to Force 6 from N. It was hard, brisk sailing for the rest of that day and I sailed inshore to avoid getting too wet in the seas that were beginning to mount off shore. Dungeness was passed about 1700 hours and 1 began to think I would be in Dover soon after dark. The wind died however and for two hours or more I made little headway off Folkestone. When I did reach Dover I hall to fight a strong West-going stream with insufficient wind, and I eventually picked up a mooring in the outer harbour at exactly midnight. I slept well that night, for I had been actually underway without a break for twenty-seven-and-a-half hours. In total my last sleep had been more than thirty hours before. To my intense chagrin, when I awoke later that morning, I found the wind had again swung round to the East. It remained strong in the East for the next six days. At last on the 22nd, after poking my nose out of Dover harbour once or twice to find conditions impossible for getting clear past the South Goodwins, I could contain my impatience no longer; I got under way at 0930 hours. On getting outside 1 found there was just enough "Southing " in the wind to allow me to slip through into the North Sea. What a joy it was, on clearing the South Goodwins, to "square away" and find a fresh wind on the beam for a few hours. Again I indulged in undue optimism ! As it turned out. It seemed that Easterly winds had become a permanent weather characteristic for Northern Europe and Britain. Rather like the " Trade-winds." Just in case this proved not to be so, I decided to get Northward as far, and as quickly as possible. It should be mentioned here, for the benefit of those readers who like a fully detailed account of cruises, that my log-book and charts were lost later under somewhat harrowing circumstances, therefore most of what follows is from memory. From the time I sailed out of Dover until the 27th, I sailed the boat twenty to twenty-two hours out of every twenty-four (one must not casually leave a small boat to fend for herself). Throughout the whole time-22nd through to the 25th-it was a hard thrash for such a light craft in quite considerable seas, with the wind always forward of beam, never the longed-for fair wind. Then, on the 26th a change did come. The wind died to nothing and I enjoyed he luxury of five consecutive hours of sleep ! With the change I got an ominous warning, though. The " permanent" high pressure area over Northern Europe was collapsing at last. Although there was no gale warning for the Fisher-German Bight area, where I was, it was clear gales should be expected shortly. When the wind returned (from astern at long last) I made use of it to gain as much sea-room as I could, commensurate with getting North towards Tyboron harbour, or even the Skagerrak in case of need. Unfortunately there wasn't time to gain enough sea-room, or enough Northing to save the situation as it developed. During the 26th the wind gradually veered to the West and gained in strength so that by the early morning of the 27th it was blowing Force 7 - 8 and the seas became too wild for a boat of the Potter's size to sail through in safety. I had to put out the sea-anchor and hope that my erstwhile confidence in the new idea would be justified. Low clouds hurried across the sky and the seas built up into great moving hills of water, with occasional quite heavy breaking tops. Soon after the first gale warning, there came grim portents for me when neighbouring areas were given forecasts including Force 9 gales ! To say that I was unperturbed would be the biggest, fattest white lie of the year. Indeed, I felt quite concerned as I watched my hands shaking ! The inevitable Force 9 warning came to my area a few hours later. The wind howled a higher note through the rigging and seas became positively "Atlantic" in dimensions. Even so, the new sea-anchor arrangement, together with the little riding mizen, behaved so well that, after a few hours highly attentive observation on my part, with particular reference to occasional electrifying heavy breaking tops, I went into the cabin and slept well, as if only the rates and electricity bills were somewhat overdue for settlement. Nevertheless, my hard-won sea-room was beginning to shrink, I hoped most fervently that there would be a " spell " before another gale struck. Careful monitoring of my drift during the next two days (which I almost halved on the second day, by putting out a long warp with my spare rudder blade on the end) showed a rate of drift of slightly over one knot. During those first three stormy days, I felt almost sure that the wind would lessen in lime to allow me to gain an oiling again. On the evening of the 29th however, soon after dark, I saw the loom of Blaavanshuk Lighthouses and shortly afterwards the loom of Lyngvig Lighthouse. On taking bearings of these I placed myself between eighteen and twenty miles away from the coast. Unless I got a more moderate weather forecast later during the evening, my reading from the North Sea Pilot of the shore I was approaching gave me a very slender chance of survival. When later I got the forecast, it told me my area could expect a further twenty-four hours of Force 8 - 9 ! It seemed I had about fifteen hours left to me. There was simply nothing more I could do to avoid the coast, and the consequences on reaching it. I spent most of the remainder of that dark and awe-inspiring night trying to rejoice over the hefty life insurance policy I had taken out on behalf of my children. I had done this on the advice of my friend and legal adviser, Mr. Anthony Gale, just before I set sail ! I slept for a few hours, but my heart wasn't in it, I had rather a lot on my mind. In contemplating the situation, I drew some irrational comfort from the knowledge that it would happen in daylight. I even allowed myself a very, very small ration of hope. I thought it just faintly possible that I might drift right into the entrance of Hvide Sande Harbour. I actually laughed aloud when this possibility struck me, and I went on to think how I would grin at the local fishermen and pretend that everything had gone according to plan ! Long before dawn I could see the actual lights, including the leading lights of Hvide Sande Harbour. I began to wonder if after all I might be fated to play my game on the local fishermen. Later, however, I could see my point of contact with the shore must be about half-a-mile further North. This was fortunate; later when I saw how complicated the entrance was, it was quite clear I would have been quite unable to negotiate it, and would certainly have been lost. As I got nearer to the beach my reading of the North Sea Pilot as to the likely conditions was grimly confirmed. The coast is low lying and is mainly sand doles, the water is fairly deep until within a quarter to half-a-mile of the beach, there arc sand bars-from two to three-at intervals lying parallel with the shore-line. These ridges cause the seas, kicked up by Westerly storms, with a fetch right across the North Sea, to break very heavily indeed. The " Pilot " advises shipping to avoid these breakers. I most ardently agree with the " Pilot " ! When I was about one-and-a-half miles from the shore I had a severe argument with myself. Should I, or should I not fire my distress signals ? My feelings over this are strong. When I am in trouble at sea I like to feel my troubles are entirely mine, that no-one else shall be involved, that no-one else shall risk their lives on my behalf. On the other hand, I thought, suppose when it is too late, they find my unfired distress signals. What would the lifeboatmen feel if, through local knowledge and from a bigger, more powerful boat, they knew that a call for their assistance would have enabled them to save the life of the idiot who didn't fire his distress signals ? In spite of appearances, I dislike being thought of as an idiot. So I fired my signals. It turned out after all that these were never seen. I now began preparations for what I thought would be my final and forlorn struggle with the sea. I carefully stowed my movie-camera in a plastic bag and fastened the top to make it watertight. Then the film record I had made of the journey. My passport, and papers, the Nova Pal D.F. radio which had aided my navigation so faithfully and well. I stowed these smaller bags inside all my best clothes which were inside a much larger, heavier plastic bag, then I bound the top of this. I felt quite certain that, if the boat was smashed to matchboard, as looked so likely, these items at least would be found almost immediately. In the event this bag simply disappeared. I then hardened up the air in the four Sea-Esta Roll-a-Boats, to ensure maximum buoyancy through the breakers. Of these I kept one for myself as a form of lifebelt (partially inflated is best for this), the remainder I tied together and placed in the roof of the cabin to help keep the boat from being rolled over. I sealed the plugs with insulating tape. About a quarter of an hour later I was very close to the first of the breakers. They looked absolutely terrible, I was appalled. I stood up for one last look round then, about half-a-mile to the North, to my amazement and delight I saw a small ship with a very business-like look about her. I thought it was a lifeboat, although I knew for certain it could not, so soon, have come in answer to my signals. In any case it was coming from the wrong direction. There is no harbour for many miles to the North of Hvide Sande. This little ship bore down towards me so I put out a long line from forward (Ulstron, which floats !) so that she could hook it up and hope to tow me clear of the breakers. As she came near I signalled the presence of my line, frantically-I was afraid she might foul her propeller in it, and be in as perilous a position as my own. Fortunately my signal was understood and three times her skipper risked everything to get my line. We were now among the first breakers. Huge and hideous, and with immense violence they rapidly filled the Potter. Only the sea-anchor kept her head to and saved her from being rolled over and over and smashed to pieces within the first few minutes . The third time round the fishing vessel got my line, but the next breaker threw the Potter back and simply tore the samson post straight out of her. The skipper of the fishing boat would have certainly lost his ship, his own life and the life of his crew if he had tried again. So he simply had to leave me to my fate. I learned later that he sent out a radio distress signal on my behalf. This action quite certainly saved my life, as I shall tell. Meanwhile, as I got closer to the shore the intervals between the breakers became less and less, until the whole sea was a vast roaring, boiling mass of white water. I was fastened to the boat with my lifeline, but each breaker nearly battered me sens eless. I never before had to fight so hard to live. After each breaker I found myself, legs one moment. head and arms the next, tangled up in the running rigging. I had to cut myself free time and time again. By the time I and the boat, had got to within a few hundred feet of the beach the sea-anchor probably dragged on the ground beneath I could occasionally feel my feet touch the ground and I knew I had to break the general golden rule. The boat was not getting into shallow water fast enough to save me. I had to cut myself free and make it by myself. I could see several men running along the beach now. I cut myself finally free and swam, and was hurled towards them, then dragged back again into deeper water by the powerful under-tow. This happened it seemed interminably, as in a nightmare. Somehow I remember I was stood up looking at them, waist deep in seaward swirling water. I expected the next breaker to carry me off my feet at any moment. I did not look behind me, only at the men on the beach, safe and secure. only a few feet from me. If they could not reach me. I certainly could not reach them. My entire energy had been used up. They waded in and I collapsed, unconscious, just as they reached me. I recovered consciousness in hospital in Ringkjobing, nine or ten miles away from Hvide Sander where I was given emergency treatment for exhaustion and cold. Complete exhaustion and almost fatal cold. I owe my life to those three brave men who risked their lives for the sake of a stranger, but they would not have been there to save me if Peder Sorensen, the skipper of the fishing vessel Tyrola (who has since become my friend for life) had not had the presence of mind to radio a distress call on my behalf, after his own heroic efforts to save me had failed. Unknown to me at the time the Potter washed in and was hauled clear by other men I did not see. I found later that she survived almost undamaged. A lot of her equipment and my remaining provisions were washed out of her and never found. What did it matter ? I am alive ! I was taken to the hospital on Saturday and released on Monday, fit and well, but stiff and aching in every muscle, and with a permanent memory of lavish kindness from doctors and staff. A few days later numerous large areas in various parts of my body turned blue, yellow, green and purple as unsuspected bruises came to the surface. My first day out of hospital was a very busy one indeed. The police and C.I.D. detectives escorted me everywhere. They took me to see my poor beloved little Potter. What a dejected little thing she looked. Half filled with white sand (Hvide Sande), water, and the sodden remains of my gear, all tangled up with frayed ends of rope which I had had to slash and cut during the time in the breakers. I was delighted however, to find all the sails intact. The only structural damage, a minor break in the deck where the Samson post had been torn out of her. In the evening I had to appear at a special Court before a Magistrate (or equivalent), to conform to Danish Law by explaining my presence in the country without money or passport ! The Court-Room was the most pleasingly proportioned and decorated I have ever been in. But then I have only been in one before ! Apparently my excuses for diving into Denmark without a passport or money were accepted. I was released and told that I had been invited, by the Skipper of the fishing vessel who had initiated my rescue, to stay with him as long as I needed to do so. Peder Sorensen, a wonderful friend, who during the next few days was unbelievably generous in so many ways. He had visited me in hospital, and by outward appearances looked as tough and as hard as a man could possibly look. Short and square, with a vice-like grip, he struck me as a perfectly adapted man for his job. His house was comfortable, clean and beautifully furnished. But there was no-one living there but he and his old father. So we lived roughly as a trio of " bachelors " should. Most evenings we were invited out for an evening meal by one friend or another, and when we did not go out we went aboard Tyrola and had many bottles of Tuborg Lager to wash down fried eggs. Peder, speaking Danish in a loud rasping kind of thunder, and I English, till one o'clock in the morning, "skolling" furiously, shaking hands every few minutes or thumping each other on the back. We had a gloriously friendly time of it. But many people were very kind indeed, and I now have numerous good friends in Denmark. At last the boat was ready to sail again. Never one to disdain the advice of local seamen, I decided to avoid sailing the last forty miles along the coast to Tyboron. Peder arranged the necessary road transport to Struer on the Lim Fjord, so that I could sail the remainder of my journey in comparatively sheltered waters. We went overland to Struer on the Saturday following my landing, and I found myself alone once again. On Sunday morning I got under way but had hardly gone more than a mile out across the fjord when thick fog came down, and I had to return to Struer before I lost sight of the leading marks. Monday morning, though grey and hazy, so that I could barely make out the shadow of the coast a mile away, commenced with a light Southerly wind. I decided to make for Nykjobing at least. Before an hour had passed the fair wind turned S.E. then E. again and I had to motor the whole way. On nearing Nykjobing I proudly hoisted my Red Ensign and my Ocean Cruising Club burgee for the first time on the trip. I felt the little boat had earned this privilege ! A number of large car ferries, plying their back and forth courses from the Island of Mors to Salling sounded their sirens in friendly greeting, and their officers waved to me from their high bridges. On reaching Nykjobing harbour entrance I decided to seek shelter there for the night. The wind had died and the motor was behaving like an invalid; also, it is hardly advisable to negotiate at night the complicated, unlighted channels through the narrower part of the fjord beyond Logstor for one's first passage through. On landing at 1645 I immediately sought out a supply of fuel for the motor for the next day. The following day came, cheerless as before, very thick grey haze, almost no wind, and my poor ailing motor hardly able to give me three knots against the West-going stream. I barely saw the islands of Fur and Livo as I passed close by and it was approaching an early dusk when I passed the town of Logster. It was clear that the faster stream in this part of the fjord would prevent me reaching the harbour at Nibe. Navigation would be impossible here after dark, so I headed across the fjord to a place the chart described as a landing near the village of Haverslev. I could not find this landing so I had to anchor off and try to steep on board. The cushions were heavy with sea-water. T had no blankets. The Primus was out of commission. The fog descended so that visibility became less than fifty feet. Almost freezing water dripped down from the rigging. I smoked cigarettes because I had not yet found a Danish pipe tobacco which suited my taste. I shivered energetically all night. But I did not sleep. By the first faint glimmer of the following dawn I was under way again, relieved and happy to bc on the move. The course between marks-average distance perhaps three-quarters of a mile-had to be set each time by compass because of the fog. I reached Aalborg with great joy late that afternoon. I learned there, from several new-found friends, on the following day what the consequences of a mistake in navigation might have meant. A local fisherman had found two men that very day, stranded in a small motor cruiser in shallow water two miles from the shore, along the route I had just completed. They had been there without heat, food or bedding for three days and nights, and were in a very poor shape indeed because of the continuous penetrating cold. And I had been bleating loudly to myself all the while about my own misfortunes ! I was very kindly treated at Aalborg, particularly by the Harbour Master, Captain Plougheld, and others I would like to name. On this account, though I now found myself trapped again by the weather, my stay in this fine port was to prove rewarding, if almost unbearably frustrating. The night of my arrival saw the wind increase with determination and stubborn vigour from E.N.E. It brought the first snows of Winter and the temperature got firmly stuck below zero. The short hop of seventy-six miles, past Hals at the Eastern entrance to Lim Fiord, and across the Kattegat to Sweden began to look impractical. Strong headwinds, icy conditions and a tired little outboard motor represented to me the near approach of defeat. Eventually I telephoned my good friend the Swedish Captain and explained my predicament. That same evening he was travelling to Goteborg to catch the ship to N. Denmark to join me the following day. There was only one way to get the boat across the Kattegat. Buy a more powerful outboard motor. To my amazement and joy, he did just that! A 6 h.p. Swedish twin cylinder " Archimedes ". Monday, the 15th, the Captain and I started our busy day of preparations for the final stage of the journey at 0630. All day trudging about in the snow, back and forth, while engineers overhauled the old pre-war Seagull 1 had been using. We organised the bringing into town of a number Of motors from the surrounding countryside which might suit our purpose. We bouquet petrol, plugs, spanners (mine were lost at Hvide Sande) and attended to numerous now forgotten details. At 20:00 hours we finally got under way from the snug little yacht harbor where I had moored the boat, scraped under the low railway bridge with inches to spare above the mast, past the cheerful lights of Aalborg and into the darkness and biting cold of the empty fjord. At midnight we moored past Hals out onto the bitter Kattegat. Wind Force 3 - 4, E.N.E. dead ahead, a short, choppy wet sea for our further discomfort. Temperature&emdash;10° C (we learned later). A multitude of brilliant stars, and frequents silent explosions of light from the brightest display of meteors I have ever seen, for our entertainment. Only sixty shuddering, shivering miles to go ! The late sunrise, shortly blotted out by thickening banks of snow clouds found us out of sight of land, Thirsty, our can of water frozen solid hungry, we had, in our anxiety to get away, forgotten to put aboard the food we had ordered, and paid for! Wet from the wind-driven spray. Astonished, I at least, to see the fore-part of the cabin-top covered with a beautiful quarter-inch coat of the smoothest, most slippery ice I have ever seen. On and on we crashed our way through those infuriating short seas. Unable even to tolerate spells in the shelter of the cabin. We had tried this during the night, and on emerging to face the wind and spray again found we could hardly bear the misery of our comfortless situation. In any case the bunk cushions were board stiff now, having frozen solid! We had with us a small half-pint bottle of Carlsberg "Elephant" ale, left over from the evening of our meeting in Aalborg. We had agreed to drink this on sighting the Swedish coast. All the afternoon we competed for the pleasure of shouting " time to kill the elephant", hut the horizon was still empty when the sun closed down toward the sea astern. The Captain now suddenly remembered something he had in the cabin. In a few minutes he came out with a vast brown sausage. He cut off two large chunks and handed me one. It proved to be a thick smoke-darkened skin packed with salt; mingled with the salt was minced raw bacon. We ate several lumps of this and quickly developed a raging thirst to add to our collection of unhappy things to think about. It became rapidly even colder and the wind began to rise a bit. The ice started to build a little thicker and the Captain soon transmitted his growing anxiety to me by his tales of " the black death ", as he called it, which murdered fishing vessels off Iceland by building ice faster than it could be cleared, until the ships became unstable with the weight and rolled over. He had seen the death of more than one ship from this cause when he had been a fisherman in that area. I did not know he had lived in Iceland. To pass the time he told me more of his fantastic past How, once, he had spent three years alone with a tent in the mountains of that forbidding country. This explained, to the comfort of my ego, how it was that he could stand the intense cold without (much) complaint. while I ached with long continued shivering and felt almost paralysed. The Captain saw something ahead. We thought it was a lightship and agreed, in view of our thirst, that we should call this our first sight of Sweden. We enjoyed that ale ! The " light-vessel " proved to be a fishing boat and we found this very depressing. I was very unhappy at the prospect of yet another long cool night in the open. Not long afterwards, when it had become properly dark, the Captain saw and recognised the loom of the lights of Varberg on our starboard bow. Shortly afterwards the faint loom of Kloster village, dead ahead. Our course had been a good one, even if our estimate of progress had been optimistic. With the wind increasing, our fuel getting dangerously low, and our destination still a long way ahead to windward, we still had our worries. Then our motor stopped and could not be re-started. With grim pessimism we shipped the poor little Seagull. Our hopes were low because we had not gained great confidence in the engineer who had overhauled it the day before. We were mistaken, and I apologise sincerely to that young fellow. The motor showed all the old vigour and, though not so powerful as the other motor, it got us into Kloster Fjord with less than an egg-cupful of fuel left in the tank! We found a small harbour, partially frozen over, and moored up as well as circumstances would allow. I stepped on to Swedish soil for the first time at 0015 hours, Wednesday 17/11/65. We then had a mere four-mile stagger through the snow to the Captain's home at the head of the fjord ! We arrived there at about 0145 hours. I was astonished at the delighted welcome we received from the Captain's very charming wife. I had a hot bath, a change of clothing, a large hot meal. Then we had a few drinks of something new to me, a cross between vodka and nectar, and went to bed. Our first sleep for forty-five hours.
Preparations Physical Fitness: The first, and most important, preparation I made for the voyage, undoubtedly saved my life. I thought the trip might turn out to be a rough one, so I decided to make myself as fit and strong as possible. Every day I did physical exercises. I soon found I could do twenty press-ups without even changing my normal breathing rhythm. Exercises opposing muscle against muscle in various ways soon built a tough covering of hard-working sinew around my shoulders, arms, back, stomach and chest. When I set sail I was stronger and harder than I have ever been in my life before. Undoubtedly the extra endurance this gave me enabled me to fight my way ashore far enough for my rescuers to reach me at Hvide Sande. It is quite certain I could not have done so otherwise. I am one of the very few men to survive those breakers in gale conditions. Sea Anchor: Some months before I sailed, my friend Mike Patterson described a new type of sea-anchor he had thought of. I mulled over his idea, in the light of past experience, and eventually, with a number of modifications, I worked out the sea-anchor I felt would suit the Potter best. Mike's principle was for the sea-anchor to be so rigged that, should a boat be caught off the bow by heavy breaking tops, the arrangement would require the force of the roller to lift the weight of the sea-anchor before it could turn the boat over. Although the Potter was attacked many times by the odd sideswiping breaker in the North Sea, it was soon apparent that the idea worked. Before such a sea could act on the boat its force was expended in partly lifting the weight of the sea-anchor and partly throwing the stern round so that she. came about almost head-to-seas. Time after time this happened. I gained great confidence in the arrangement in heavy breaking seas twenty feet or so high, during the gales 27-30th October. Riding Mizen: One of the greatest assets in wild seas is for a little boat to stay head-to-wind. If she cannot be made to do so there is a very strong possibility that she may be smashed in or filled by the heavier breaking tops. Lying a-hull may suit some people. I would be very unhappy ! The riding mizen fitted to the Potter was arranged as illustrated. The advantages of this are as follows: (1) The stresses as the sail fills are transmitted as compression stresses into the hull. (2) The arrangement calls for no modifications to the steering gear in order to avoid a central mast. (3) No standing rigging is required. (4) The aft part of the boat is clear for action and gear. (5) It can be carried on board in pieces and rigged at sea. The riding mizen, as fitted to the Potter, was a very important safety factor. It made for considerably more comfort and peace of mind than I could otherwise have enjoyed. Life-Line: The life-line was arranged as for the Atlantic voyages in the Nova Espero. A length of stout line with a long eye splice is passed round the mast and through the eye and remains in place throughout the trip. A second short length is attached to a large stainless steel snaphook. This can be fastened around the body without inconvenience. When leaving the cockpit it can be either snapped on to the mast line or to any preferred part of the standing rigging, or to both when forward. Fore-sail Downhaul: This was very simple and very effective. A length of courlene hambro-line was fastened to the top cringle of the sail, entered into each hank down the fore-stay, passed through a twisted shackle at the bottom thimble of the fore-stay and led aft to the halyard cleats within reach of the cockpit. It was never necessary to get out of the cockpit to work the boat. Compasses I carried two compasses. The "Sestrel Minor " by Henry Brown & Son which we used for the second Atlantic crossing in the Nova Espero, and an ex-Government light aircraft compass with the rotating verge-ring, for use at night in case my batteries for the "Sestrel" light failed for any reason. These were mounted on a slide-down, portable Shelf in the cabin doorway, unaffected by deviation with the centre-plate in the " down " position. Charts and Pilots One Stanford folding coloured chart of the Channel. All the remainder Admiralty Charts for all coasts along the North Sea and Kattegat and through Lim Fjord. The appropriate North Sea Pilot and Baltic Pilot with supplements, including new buoyage code for Denmark. The Admiralty Consol Chart. All were spoilt or lost at Hvide Sande. Navigation Equipment: All lost at Hvide Sande. Most important and most regretted, my "Nova Pal" transistorized direction finder, and three band radio. Along the English Channel 1 only used this little set for checking positions already known, so that I could evaluate it for the North Sea. Marine Radio Beacons and Consol were received and translated into quite accurate positions, which 1 could verify by observation along this part of the route. I gained more confidence in the set the more I used it. It was mounted on a kind of portable pillar which raised it just above the aft end of the cabin-top, and could be quickly stowed out of the way immediately after use. I had numerous spare batteries, so could afford lo use it for entertainment as I felt like it across the North Sea. Buoyancy: Four Sea-Esta Roll-a-Boats were kept inflated and tied in place throughout the journey. That is, until I felt the need to adjust their positions on approaching the breakers at Hvide Sande. If those breakers had been less heavy (twenty feet high, half mile offshore) and severe, and myself not battered senseless by them, I could probably have rolled the boat right up to the beach, single-handed on the Roll-a-Boats, using the special handy-billy and the anchor I carried. As it was, they played their part well in keeping the boat upright and saving it from very severe damage in those terrible breakers. Distress Signals: I carried two daylight distress orange smoke signals, and six night hand flares. The smoke signals were used off Hvide Sande, but none of the flares. I regret to have to say that these were not seen and that Peder Sorensen cracked on all possible speed on seeing my Red Ensign flying upside down ! Spirits: My friend Mike Patterson was horrified to learn that 1 wished to carry none at all. He wanted me to take some brandy for emergency. I am glad I resisted the temptation. My argument was that one may well think the time is ripe for " rejuvenation " some time before the real crisis arrives. It is well known that, although spirits will " warm the cockles of your heart " for a short time, they leave a man a little less able than he was, when the effects have worn off. This would have been fatal at Hvide Sande Motor I borrowed a Seagull 100 longshaft from my brother. For most of the journey of course this was stowed under cover in the aft locker. Unfortunately it was flooded at Hvide Sande and lay unattended for several days while I was in hospital. It was then overhauled but did not run well, probably owing to some slight maladjustment, until the final spurt of about twenty miles into Kloster Fjord. This saved us from an ordeal indeed ! Cooking: Primus. Good old Primus ! Provisions: Nothing special to report. Except that a friend supplied me with a flagon of strong homemade lemonade. This cleansed the mouth wonderfully in the " small hours " out at sea. Cockpit Cover: A very heavy canvas cover, with strong-backs under, laced around the coamings. This was hardly used at all; but it might have been needed if the sea anchor/riding mizen arrangement had not been so effective. Radar Reflector: A portable, fold-flat reflector was carried. Miscellaneous: Numerous items of equipment were carried, i.e. hand-bell for use during fog. A simple peloras for snap-bearings from the cabin top, self-made. Our special sliding multi-purpose outboard bracket. And others too numerous to list here. Sails The normal standard terylene sails as supplied by our sailmaker. No spares were carried. The sails were in perfect order on arrival in Sweden. They set beautifully and worked very efficiently. The little riding mizen had had to take a terrific hammering and is still as good as new. One could not ask for better than this !
Presumptive Lecture It may be thought that I am in favour of people making long passages in small boats. In fact this is not quite so. When I hear of a successful crossing of the Atlantic in a very small boat I am delighted (Paul Johnson, Venus; John Riding, SJO AG; Robert Manry, Tinkerbelle). It pleases me that they usually receive an enthusiastic welcome ashore. But at the same time I think there may be a tendency on the part of some people to say, " If tiny boats like these can cross oceans, what's all this time-worn stuff about the terrors of the deep ? " The sea can indeed be terrible. It has terrified me, at any rate, on numerous occasions in my life. It is a fallacy to imagine that, because the safety of the land is near when out for an afternoon's sail, this nearby security will be quickly attained should things begin to go wrong. It may be a dangerous, and sometimes fatal, false comfort, to compare the situation of a tiny boat in a howling gale a thousand miles from the nearest lee shore, to that of oneself in a much larger boat one mile from your own harbour entrance. The off-shore man may well be blissfully asleep. You'd better not sleep ! It is a fact that the sea claims almost all her victims because the shore is there to trap them. I believe many " big-ship " men have a painfully ingrown impatience of the very small boats which put out to sea in ever increasing numbers. I think they feel these boats (and the people in them) are insulting the sea their own hard-won experience has taught them to respect. This lack of " respect " probably hurts the " big-ship " man,. more particularly if he is unaware that many of the small boats are the result of long years of hard-won knowledge and development. I sympathize with his views, but I would hate to have to admit they are invariably justified. My enthusiasm fails me when I hear of some ambitious voyage to be undertaken by people, hair-raisingly flaunting their inexperience. I sincerely hope that they will not come to grief, but I also hope they will not succeed. Their success might tempt more people to "dare the sea." Definitely a short term hobby ! Long passages in small boats should be made only after long consideration. The boat must be trustworthy, the equipment well chosen, the confidence of the crew well founded.
Tips on Handling Your Potter I designed the Potter at the very outset with leisurely pottering in mind as the boat's sole purpose. She is under-canvassed by many people's standards. Generally. however, I sleep at nights ! The Potter's sections were designed for maximum initial stability, and she should not be allowed to heel more than about 10'. If she does, her sections will not allow an increase in speed, rather they will impede her. Also, her peak of stability is exceeded. In all ways the boat handles beautifully in reasonable conditions&emdash;fast and exhilarating in a fresh breeze, close-winded and hard to get " into irons ". About Force 6 one should consider reefing. She handles well and remains dry with full fores'l and reefed main. Downwind in these conditions a jibe is not something to fear, although of course, one must beware of over-confidence. If one is caught out in over Force 6 she can be handled and even brought " through the wind " with reefed main alone. But this needs careful handling and experience, particularly if the wind is unsteady. When all fails and the boat can only be taken downwind, it is sometimes a comfort to know that she can be sailed on to a beach ! I am alive because the Potter draws a mere seven inches with the swinging plate and rudder up ! In light airs, the best tip I can give you is to have her listing slightly to leeward. The lee chine will do a good job of gripping the water and help you up to windward. Never have your sails penned in hard in any conditions. I have always found the boat goes better, and performs properly, with weight in the cabin. Never be afraid to load her with gear and equipment. She was designed to carry masses of people and their gear. But do remember she will be badly handicapped if this is placed too far aft. The forward third of the lee chine must be allowed to do its job. Warnings (1) A light 14ft. centre-board boat can only be a freak if you can tramp about the foredeck without fear of turning her over. Be careful. If you have others on board and need to go forward on deck, see that they move well aft in the cockpit so that the stable sections aft can do their job. (2) Remember always that the Potter is a 14ft. centre-board dinghy, with a cabin. Sail her with your main-sheet free to let run, pass it under the cleat at the aft end of the case by all means, but do not make it fast unless you are very sure of the conditions. (3) Keep the plate down always when you are on board, unless circumstances definitely dictate otherwise. If you do have it up in such circumstances, never forget that it is up, and let it down again without fail when circumstances allow.
Printed in England for Stanley T. Smith by Lightbowns Ltd., Ryde, Isle of Wight.