10 April 2015

I is For


...INTO HARBOUR
(and Instow and Appledore)

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I have several scenes of my Sea Witch Voyages set on the North Devon Coast, particularly at Instow, which is a village overlooking the estuary where the Rivers Taw and Torridge meet before heading out to sea.

Instow Beach
On the opposite side is the lovely little town of Appledore with its quaint cobbled streets and 'opes' (alley-ways)
Appledore

Instow Beach (from Wikipedia)
"Instow Beach also known as Instow Sands, is used widely during summer months at the peak of the tourist season. The beach is suitable for families as it enjoys few waves because of the sandbanks at the mouth of the estuary cancelling out most of the ocean swell. 
There is a large number of boats anchored on the sand. Many are only accessible at low-tide or via a dinghy or what is locally known as a tender."

Instow
River Taw Estuary
Appledore (from Wikipedia)
"The name Appledore is usually considered to be Celtic in origin. There was a Saxon settlement, and a Viking raid in 878 AD. The settlement prospered as a port in the Elizabethan period, and some cottages date from this period. The construction of a quay in 1845 further developed the port, and as a result Appledore has a rich maritime heritage from the second half of the 19th century."

Appledore from Instow
(photos: Simon Murgatroyd)
Me with Appledore in the distance
But here's what I have to say about the estuary in 

ex-pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, has sailed from Virginia to England. He is anxious to get ashore because his wife, Tiola, is ill. His long-term friend, Captain Henry Jennings is aboard - although Jesamiah does not know why he is heading for England. He suspects that Jennings is up to something... but frankly it is none of his business. All he wants is to see Sea Witch safely anchored...

Chapter Seven
(February 1719)
Capricious winds, combined with a solid bank of sand inconveniently placed by nature at the entrance to the Taw and Torridge estuary were not favourable to shipping. The hazardous difficulties in negotiating the Bar were well known to West Country seamen; even on calm, windless days the waters churned uneasily, while in rough weather the breakers raged in a fury of white foam.
  Ships found it hard to beat in and harder to beat out of the estuary. To do so with a modicum of safety daylight was imperative –  negotiating the Bar at night in a tide running at six knots was a fool’s game for the ebb was a mere three fathoms deep, rising to six on the flood. Equally, to attempt anything without a pilot was madness. Jesamiah, however, was hesitant of hoisting a signal flag and dropping anchor. The tide was in flood, with about half an hour or so to meet its height, the wind was right; were he to wait, by the time a pilot came aboard both would have changed. Not to wait could wreck his ship and drown everyone. 
  “Permission to come on the quarterdeck?” Henry Jennings was part way up the ladder, head cocked to one side, following etiquette to the letter. The Quarterdeck was the holy of holies aboard ship, only those about their business or with the captain’s permission stepped on to its decking.
  At the helm, Jesamiah sniffed, squinted a moment at a slight shiver along the edge of the foremast sail. “This ain’t no Navy frigate, Henry. We don’t stand on daft rules and regulations here.”
  Gesturing a salute, Jennings scrambled up the rest of the ladder with a degree of difficulty, failing to mask the throb of pain from the gout in his foot. “Maybe not, but I have never been one to assume or push my weight about.”
  Jesamiah put the helm down half a point, his firm hands gentling his ship back to where he wanted her. “Is that so?”
  Jennings grinned as he went to the binnacle box, checked the compass heading.   “Well, not that often. You want to bring her up a point.”
  Waiting a full half-minute, Jesamiah also glanced at the compass, then complied.
   “Rue said something about fetching the pilot?” 
  “Did he, Henry?”
  “He did. You’ve no need for a pilot. I know these waters.”
  The wind was whipping Jesamiah’s hair about his face, the blue ribbons he customarily wore tied into it, stinging his skin like needle pricks. He looked at the man sceptically. “You do, eh?”
  “I do.”
  A long pause while Jesamiah doubtfully considered the implications. “How well is well?” 
  “Well enough to get us to harbour in one piece, and a damn sight quicker than waiting for that pilot.” Jennings patted Jesamiah’s shoulder and grinned. “Son, I was sailing these waters when I was knee high to a foremast jack. I did a fair bit of smuggling in my youth – and even more with your father. You’ll not find the Gentlemen of the Trade waiting for a pilot!”
  The doubt lingered. The thought that his father had been often in these waters was unsettling Jesamiah slightly. “I don’t know, Henry.”
  “Trust me. I’m no more interested in drowning than are you.”
  Growling something that vaguely sounded like, “I don’t trust anyone who says trust me,” Jesamiah graciously stepped away from the wheel. If they were to end up aground on the Bar… but it was obvious that, for whatever reason of his own, Henry Jennings was also eager to make landfall. Jesamiah shrugged and walked away to lean on the rail. Henry’s business was not his business.
  With Jennings at the wheel and all sails clewed up, except topsails and jib, the Sea Witch slid as meek as a lamb towards the Bar. Jesamiah peering over the side, pretending not to be anxious about the churn of foam beneath her keel, the swell, the strength of the current, and that he was not listening intently to Isiah Roberts, for’ard in the bows, solemnly calling the cast of the lead line. The bank of sand was visible as a lighter area, the sea above it an agitated froth – even the sound was different as Jennings nudged Sea Witch over, taking her slow, but steady and straight. 
  Jesamiah held his breath, could all too easily imagine how a sudden change in wind would send them, helpless, on to the hard sand to their doom, but the tide was nigh-on full in and Sea Witch glided forward almost disdainfully. Ahead, two sandbank ridges created by the confluence of the two rivers, the Taw and the Torridge, but the severest danger was negotiated. Direct ahead the coastline of North Devon with the huddle of cottages that was Instow, dominated by the ruin of an old windmill that squatted on the hill behind the village. Over to starboard, the wharfs, boatyards, warehouses and the straggle of Appledore clinging to the wind-beaten hillside.
  Safe within the calm part salt, part fresh water of the bay, Jennings stepped away from the helm and gave Jesamiah a slight bow. “She is all yours Captain. I would anchor over there, direct opposite that white-limed inn. Used to be a good place. I cannot guarantee it still is, of course.”
  The crew were at braces and halyards, the usual eager chatter buzzing along the deck. Landfall was always exciting, no matter the destination. A chance to spend the silver burning holes in pockets and money belts, to find and bed a pretty whore. To get drunk in earnest. There was none of the pleasure for Jesamiah, though, as he curled his hands around the spokes and took possession of his ship.   All he wanted was to get Tiola ashore and make her better again.
  Nearly there. Nearly there… “Lee braces! Hands wear ship!”
  Bare feet thudded along the deck and blocks squealed as men threw their weight to the snaking lines.
  “Tops’l sheets! Tops’l clew lines! Come on you lubbers, look lively there!” Jesamiah’s voice rang out, impatient, although the crew were working as fast as they were able.
  Steadily, he brought the helm a’lee and a smile finally creased his tense face as the ship came slowly round and into the wind. Her remaining sails were already beginning to disappear as her way fell off and the men began to drag and fist the canvas into submission.
  Sea Witch drifted a yard or two… “Let go!” Jesamiah shouted and a great splash followed almost immediately as the anchor was freed and the sound of the cable running out rattled and rumbled through the hawse-hole. Sea Witch came to a sedate and serene rest next to a deep-water marker, directly opposite the white lime-washed inn. The Full Moon, according to the sign swinging backwards and forwards in the wind. Three storied, stone built with a slate roof; a large place, kept in good repair – two windows each side of the low wooden door, the paintwork recently freshened. A narrow, alleyway tottered uphill beside it; on the companion corner, what appeared to be a chandler’s. In front, a wide cobbled quay with individual piers pointing outward into the full tide. Appledore looked a busy place, men and women about their business, others standing talking. A cart, laden with barrels rumbled into motion, the rattle of its iron wheels on the cobbles audible even at this distance. A group of children were playing with a hoop further along, seaward. A few more houses beyond the chandler’s, then two large warehouses, and the quay came to an abrupt halt as the river meandered around the hump of the hill, the tide surging onward towards Bideford.
  Jennings pointed as he spoke, “Boatyards are around the corner where it’s more sheltered, though Sea Witch will do well enough anchored here; you might find her keel rests on the sand for a while at low tide, but the channel’s deep enough to support her - as long as you set your anchors right to ensure she doesn’t swing. If you intend to go up to Bideford, wind’s never in the right direction this time of year. Go up on the next flood, it’ll not be too difficult."

Sea Witch
Want more?  Ripples In The Sand is the Fourth Sea Witch Voyage...
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4 comments:

  1. Wow, looks like a very cool place! Thanks for sharing :)
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - yes it IS a cool place!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Very beautiful - I love living in Devon. :-) Thanks for leaving a comment

      Delete

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