NOT THIS WAY IT'S NOT!
When I was a young lad running unfettered in the gentle folds of England's Chiltern hills, I was told that a sure sign of impending rain was to see cows gathering to lie down in the corner of a field. Actually, on further observation, I realised that dusk also brought them together and learned later that what I was seeing fell under the general description of the ‘herd instinct’. Whereas they might munch their way independently during daylight hours, daring the now non-existent wolves and hyenas to bring them down and ambling around browsing on buttercups and the like, the threats of drenching or darkness always brings them together.
So much for rural wisdoms, my entire stock of which I have just revealed. Having long since quit landlocked Buckinghamshire due to its regrettable lack of a coastline, I have become a creature with a seaward partiality in which cows only rarely feature. Indeed, I can barely remember when I last saw one, and can say with all honesty that, apart from this wholly uncharacteristic and never to be repeated rustic spasm, they don’t play a large part in my reflections at all and certainly are not numbered among my enthusiasms.
Now, just in case you are wondering by now if you’ve just logged onto the site Offshore Cowboy by mistake, I must offer some reassurance. It’s just that I’ve concluded that there’s a bovine streak in all cruising sailors.
There, I’ve said it. And no doubt a salvo of emailed cowpats will be frisbeeing their way in my direction. But I have evidence, you see – empirical in some sense but also evidence based as can be seen from the photo on this page. The truth is that boat crews show a marked inclination to congregate towards day’s end. Offer them a sheltered and gently shelving shore of great – or even infinite – length and you will find that, instead of stringing themselves equidistantly along it, thereby enjoying the serenity of being alone, you will find little clusters building as the day draws on. I believe the sequence goes something like this.
First one boat anchors and then another comes along, sees the first and, after joyful whoops of ‘that looks like a good spot!’ or some such, the skipper homes in and drops the hook as close as he or she dares. From seaward, another scans the coast and sees it deserted, save for a pair of masts tucked in close to the beach. Although the unblemished strand is alluring, a twinge of anxiety nibbles at confidence. ‘Bet they know something we don’t,’ is the conclusion, and thus it is that a third member joins the group.
Two or three boats more and the flotilla is approaching a critical mass. At this point I suspect my bovine analogy is wearing a bit thin. But this doesn’t matter for the flotilla is approaching the moment where gravity takes over, so we can turn to physics. Now, my theory goes, any boat straying anywhere close to it will be drawn into orbit and will spiral inwards until it’s in tight with all the others – in much the same way as decaying satellites fall to earth. So, will it take the rising of the sun the following day to re-energize the individual elements and prise them loose?
Unfortunately, there’s a flaw in my conclusions. When we were in the Mediterranean we found that anchorages tend to empty at dusk. Often I have settled in for a late afternoon siesta to be awakened by the clanking of windlasses as the fleet gets underway again – a paradox that drove me to further thought. Having taken so much trouble to pack themselves in, why should they be abandoning the protective embrace so soon?
It saddens me to report that it’s the high life. For there is an impulse more potent than simple conviviality and its pulse can be felt in the throb of low frequency amplification. For just around the corner will be the restaurant and nightclub scene, throbbing with excitements that overrule all the other attractions.
And am I perturbed? Not one little bit. In the still of dusk there are fish to be caught, books to read and a peaceful night to contemplate.
Just what one needs. After all, so much theorising makes a man weary.