Confession: The day my Orkney turned into a beached whale

In this month’s Confession, one Orkney owner finds that tides are no respecter of men

Our Orkney 520, called Orca, hadn’t been out for a few weeks, so when we heard that the weekend in question’s forecast was a more clement one of sunshine and showers, we were eager to get out on the water.

So in optimistic mood and possessed of a disposition to match the weather I set sail with my wife, Julie, and our twin five-year-old boys, Ben and Daniel, from Chichester marina. All was going well, until the heavens opened.

We took cover under the canopy on Orca and after about 30 minutes sheltered in Bosham harbour – where King Canute reputedly showed his courtiers that he could not hold back the tide – before making for East Head.

By now there was bright sunshine and we cruised along quite happily at eight knots. As the weather was good, I decided to beach Orca on East Head and let the children paddle.

There were only a few teenagers around, but I was still a little nervous, having never attempted this before. Nonetheless, all seemed fine and we leapt out into the warm Solent, which was only knee deep.

We were soon blissfully splashing around in the shallows and as captain I was silently congratulating myself. My wife was still questioning me, but I assured her that I had checked the tides quite thoroughly and all would be well.

Alas, she was right to be worried. Ten minutes later we were nearly high and dry. I swallowed my captain’s pride and roped the teenagers in to helping me relaunch Orca. It was no use: we were marooned on the beach with the tide rapidly disappearing.

One of the more helpful young lads pointed out that I was stuck here until the next high tide in eight hours.

Our dispositions were no longer sunny. My wife was by now frantic and there was no “for better or worse” dealing with this together. She refused to wait for the boat to refloat and called her mother to pick her and the twins up from West Wittering car park, leaving me to mind Orca alone.

So I sat on the boat with nothing to do but wait. Several dog walkers thought it necessary to call out to me, asking me if I was stuck.

Bitter winds soon kicked up and I retreated under the cuddy for a nap. Before long I was awoken by a dog sniffing my face and decided to put the boat’s cover on and create more of a barrier.

The weather was less predictable than I had thought and the wind ripped the cover from it’s fastenings and tore into it. Suddenly staying marooned on the beach in these winds didn’t seem like a very good idea.

Just as I started to wonder what else could go wrong, the sunshine returned in all its glory, bringing with it the three young lads and their father on a sailboat.

They approached on a tender, pulling four fenders. 
”We can’t leave you here on the beach,” they said. “There’s a Force 8 on the way.”

So, with help from my rescuers, I managed to lift Orca and roll her on the fenders, moving them stern to bow. Slowly we inched towards the sea and finally Orca was freed.

I punched the air with delight, heartily thanked the lads and – cheeks flaming – got out of there as quick my boat could take me… and home to my wife.

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


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