Sunday, March 11, 2007

Simple things

click photo to enlarge
"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking", John Masefield (1878-1967), English poet

I find it both a wonder and a delight that, despite the technological progress that mankind makes, people still cling to the simple things in life. Take the bicycle. It is frequently voted the favourite invention of all time, yet it remains, essentially, the same classic, human-powered design that was perfected in the nineteenth century. Sinclair C5s and Segways may come and go, but the humble bicycle rolls on, evolving in small ways, but never forsaking its fundamental features.

So too with sail boats. I suppose paddled canoes came first in evolutionary terms. But it can't have been long before an alert sailor noticed the wind's effect on his upright body, and from there it would have been a small step to rigging up a sail. So, sail-powered boats of one sort or another must have been around for millennia. And they still are. The delight that sailors get from being propelled by the wind, from learning how to sail against it, and from feeling at one with the elements is palpable to anyone who has watched dinghies whizzing over the water. Yes, you can go faster with an outboard, and there is a certain sort of person to whom the motorcycle of the waves - the jet-ski - is the ultimate thrill. But the fun of slapping through the water accompanied by the sound of flapping sails remains a draw to sailors young and old.

The dinghies of the Blackpool & Fleetwood Yacht Club on the tidal River Wyre at Skippool race when the water is high. This area of estuary with its wildlife, mudflats, reedbeds and saltmarsh is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Yet the gentle passage of the dinghies and even the larger yachts create little disturbance, and the plants and animals co-exist happily with their human neighbours. I took this contre jour photograph early one morning as the dinghies were being readied on the slipway prior to launching at high tide. The cloud and vapour trail patterns, the light through the sails, and the silhouettes presented an evocative sight. I recorded it with a wide zoom lens at 22mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f8 at 1/2000 second), ISO 100, with -1.0EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen