Soggy summer solstice blues.

Blog time : it’s Midsummer’s day 2021 and we are at camp just to the south of Poole harbour, it’s raining steadily and blowing briskly from the north…..straight onto the front of the tent so we’re shut down completely and contemplating abandoning camp and heading into town for cafe and shelter.  Later….i was just thinking of the many years when we did the same thing at midsummer except that we packed the car, took the overnight ferry to Roscoff and drove down through western France to the Biscay coast and camped in a region called Les Landes ; basically a region of pine plantation and small villages behind the extensive beach and sand dunes that stretch from the Gironde estuary all the way to the Spanish border.

So….instead of a long walk on the endless beach and a naked swim in the sea (it’s a naturist site) i’m in shirt, sweater and fleece plus beannie….but still so achingly cold that i’m going to wrap myself in our thick trade blanket to try and get warm.   It’s not just raining and blowing either but somehow it’s also blowing all of the area’s grass pollen through the camp so i’m not just miserably cold but iv’e got hayfever as well ; does summer in the UK get any better than this ?…..actually it does because the very next day we gave up and packed up, headed home and of course we sat in a traffic jam for over an hour just because the usual idiots decided that summer is a great time to re-surface a road at a crucial pinch point in the main east-west route home !


On our last night at camp i took a short walk around the site in between the squalls and showers, as much as anything else to try and stop myself stiffening up with the cold – on one corner of the camp there was a modern Bell tent complete with a stove flue and producing a satisfying plume of woodsmoke….i don’t think iv’e ever been as jealous at camp !.  

I thought i would use the time away from home and my boatbuilding project to do a whole load of reading and to start some new posts not about the project – well, i did read a lot which was good but my mind kept coming back to the project and not just in what i need to do next but mentally wandering down the line as it were and thinking about how, one day, i’ll set the boat up for us to camp aboard.  Unlike our last little boat which had a cabin big enough for both of to stretch out in……and i note a charcoal stove that kept us toasty warm on the dankest of nights…..the Pathfinder will be much closer to a camping experience and iv’e not done that with a small boat before. 

To read my post introduction today you wouldn’t think that we’re both highly experienced campers, able to make ourselves comfortable in the wettest and coldest conditions – be that mountain, moor or woodland and with anything from a minimal bushcraft style kit, canoe camp next to a windy lake to a simple life on the road….but we were.

At the start of my Pathfinder build i was pretty convinced that i was going to build a cabin just like the pretty blue boat that iv’e often featured – now and i’m not so sure even though it would mean being able to get out of the weather quickly.  Today, i think that a small cabin would divide a small boat into 2 even smaller working areas such that we would be climbing over each other to get anything done so instead iv’e been thinking a lot more about having a ‘soft-top’ of some kind that could be all the way down in nice sailing conditions, partially up at the forward end to act as a sprayhood and then all over the cockpit to make a comfortable and dry ‘camp’ overnight.  For a while i was thinking about having the centerboard case off-center to create a larger living space one side and a small semi-permanent galley and stowage on it’s narrow ‘outboard’ side , once again though now i’m not so sure but neither to i want to end up with the messy arrangements that i see in many cruising dinghy’s.

Going right back to the start of this project, when i was trying to define the parameters of the boat, i kept thinking of it as my bushcraft boat – and that might sound odd as most people would associate bushcraft with woodland ; at least in the UK.  What i’m thinking though is that i’m going to spend a lot of time around the estuaries and tidal rivers of this coast and Brittany rather than offshore say…..and that we’ll spend some time camped aboard when we have to or want to……but equally i want to set us up such that we can have stealthy camps in the hidden areas at the waters edge just like we did with canoe’s and sea kayaks . There’s an entire world hidden there down beyond the edge of farmers fields where grassland gives way to scruffy woodland at the waters edge just above the high water mark and where , mostly, nobody goes.


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