Tag Archives: sketchbook


DovecotWe saw this rather attractive but vacant dovecot and wondered whether Health’nSafety had put a demolition order on the old place as it did have a roof shingle missing. We imagined the Dove family carted off to some bleak high-rise with dank, urine-scented stairwells while the local council allocates this bit of Greenbelt land for a large housing estate in order to meet latest government targets.

Our fanciful musings segued into memories of bird meetings at sea. Our first close encounter was with a booby  that took refuge on the mizzen boom as we sailed in the south Atlantic towards Brazil. Our cat crouched immobile below the spar, his tail lashing. After an hour he came below for his dinner and as the moonless night drew in he curled up on our bunk and we thought he’d lost interest. At midnight unearthly shrieks and squawks had us fumbling for the spotlight to find the cat trying to push the large bird through the small cockpit porthole to the cabin below. We rescued the unfortunate creature, checked that it was quite unhurt and encouraged it to fly off into the night. It declined and returned to the boom and no amount of shooing would remove it from its perch. We closed the cat below and resumed our watch keeping. That darn bird stayed with us for 3 days, returning from its fishing forays to the boom to preen and scratch and drop foul deposits on the deck below until the sun sank and it settled its head under its wing to slumber. The cat watched it obsessively, distracted occasionally by flying fish on the deck and we monitored him closely and closed him below at night. We well understood how this stupid bird had got its name!

To be continued …


Water, water everywhere!

Overflow ©If there is anything positive to the flooded English countryside it is the interesting flows of water that can be so appealing to the artist’s eye. In this sketch, an overflow under a fence looks like a benign stream rather than the destructive channel that is washing away the soil around the tree roots. Reflected in its rushing momentum, the dark and lowering clouds are ready to release a further deluge on the soaking earth.


As our shore-side neighbours slosh around in their flooded homes we ride the high tides, dry and warm. Rain lashes the decks, we heel to savage gusts of wind and feel grateful to be moored safely in the river. Portugal’s west coast is ravaged by giant waves, as is the UK, and 7 boats are damaged in a storm off Cape Town.  To restore our balance after such weather-related drama here’s a sketch of the river at low tide on a still day. And happy new year to you all!

Low Tide

Cascais, Portugal – visit if you can

On Portugal’s western Atlantic coast, near the Tagus river estuary, is the town of Cascais. From ancient and humble beginnings as a fishing village, in the late 19th century it became the cool hang-out for European royalty after Portugal’s King Luis  turned the citadel into his summer residence. The town’s popularity with the rich and noble continued on through the next century, thereby blessing it with an architectural heritage of magnificent mansions.

From our place at anchor in the bay we spied, through the binoculars, a large poster advertising a Goya exhibition. And lucky that was too, as a walk around the town and a visit to tourist information gave no clue that such an exhibition was on locally. Unless one had actually walked up to the Cultural Centre hosting the exhibition (and on whose wall the poster was affixed) which is situated on a rise outside of the central town area, one would never have known about the exhibition. That’s probably why we had the place to ourselves and we were able to enjoy a’ private viewing’ of Francisco de Goya’s lithos and etchings including his famous Disasters of War. Congratulations to the Cascais Cultural Centre for hosting and presenting such an excellent exhibition (with free entry) but if you want to draw people away from the beaches, the pavement eateries and the tourist shopping you need some promotion!

Here’s a sketch of Cascais from a boater’s point of view:

Cascais, Portugal

Cascais, Portugal


fishermen-huts-ibizaWe were enthralled with our first view of a fisherman’s hut! It was a modern sculpture of timber and stone, bound together with twine and wire and reachable from the land above by a long tree limb with crosswise treads nailed every half metre. A good-sized hemp line dangled helpfully alongside. We saw many more of these huts while sailing around the Balearic Islands. Ranging from a few bits of wood nailed to a crosspiece and wedged across the mouth of a cave to elaborate double-storied structures with terraces, many of the huts are only visible from seaward. Crammed between rocky outcrops, dug into an overhang or built into a sheer cliff, the huts are practical, secure boat shelters … once you get your boat in them! Using manpower alone to push a small but hefty fishing boat up a series of tree crooks set into stone or, sometimes, concrete and then to negotiate wet and slippery rocks to get to a scree-ridden track heading upwards to a dirt road where, hopefully, someone waits with transport home does not seem like any kind of fun at all. This vital necessity to protect the means that feeds the family isn’t about fun anyway but it is a precious cultural heritage that should be protected.  There aren’t many fisherman’s huts left on the mainland: waterside property is far more precious. We can only hope that the Balearics don’t get sucked up by the EU’s health and safety rules, regulations and other requirements that are used to leach places and people of their individuality and their freedom to choose for themselves. Viva España!

Rio Formosa, Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s southern coast is subject to the tidal stream so passages need planning with this in mind. We wanted to visit the lagoon formed by the Rio Formosa and planned to be off the entrance just before high water in order to transit the bar with maximum depth and least tidal turbulence. Sometimes, nature takes no notice of the weather forecast and we had paid it too much attention …  we were late off the entrance to the lagoon and the tide was turning. All the water that had entered the river during the previous hours was now hell-bent on leaving but it wasn’t running too fast just yet … what to do! We watched the seas for a few minutes; there was a big swell but the water was deep in the centre. We considered turning back to sail with the current westwards; we debated continuing eastwards punching against the running water. It was already late afternoon and either direction meant a further 7 hours to an alternative anchorage. There wasn’t much wind and we would be motor-sailing in the dark with the pitfall of fishing buoys,  mostly invisible at night. A few hundred metres away was perfect shelter.

We agreed to give it a go, knowing that once committed there could be no turning back – shallow water lurked either side of the channel.  Our bows were pointed between the red and green light towers, engine throttled up to maximum speed and racing like our hearts. Entrance-CulatraWaves raised by the shallow sands crashed on  the rocks and sent great plumes of spray arching over the starboard lighthouse. We hit the turbulence: it was like a washing machine tumble cycle and our boat was thrown on her beam-ends. We clung on, plunged down into a chasm and the propeller roared as the stern was raised above the sea. It was over in a minute; it felt like an hour. We entered the flat water of the lagoon and followed the channel buoys to our anchorage.



Just finished and ready for the shop, these books have marbled covers, endpapers and fly leaves, good quality 110gsm laid paper  pages and are bound in German long stitch. Check out the sea in the background of these pics .. nature marbling!