From the Editor: October 1999

It was windier than the forecast, but at least it was in the south-west. I'd missed the tide.

It was windier than the forecast, but at least it was in the south-west. I’d missed the tide. Once clear of Dartmouth and heading east, Fidget demonstrated her fondness for quartering seas by trying to scoot sideways down the fronts of them while I worked the wheel and resigned myself to a long slog at 14 knots.

A couple of hours into Lyme Bay I heard Portland Coastguard talking to a worried-sounding Sealine 330 owner: something had gone bang, and they were only making three knots. As they talked I wondered whether the officer I could hear was the same one who’d given me some good local advice the previous weekend about the inshore passage around the Bill. There was the same professional friendliness and calm reassurance which even as I listened was working its magic on the worried Sealine owner: the anxiety in his voice was ebbing away, and by the time the Coastguard had signed off promising to call again in 30 minutes he sounded almost cheerful.

I soon had the Sealine in sight and my offer of a tow round the Bill was graciously accepted – I’d have been most put out if they’d refused. After a couple of hours, though, on the edge of the Race, their windlass started coming loose, and since towing alongside in those seas was out of the question we had to abandon the idea. They plodded wearily into Weymouth as darkness fell, full of thanks, but the real help that day had been rendered by the calm voice of Portland Coastguard on Ch 73.

Over dinner in The Ship we agreed that a South Coast with no Coastguard cover between Brixham and the Solent, as so nearly happened, would be a far more dangerous place. The value we get from our Coastguard is out of all proportion to the paltry savings Governments make when they close stations down. Three more have just gone. Short-term, penny-pinching stupidity might be the height of fashion at the moment, but that doesn’t make it right.

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