Steeple Point

It has been well over a year since I last posted here. There are reasons for this and I will talk about them in time.

But now that I am ready to start again, I find that the title  ‘bill’s boatblog’ does not adequately cover what I want to say.  I want to reflect wider horizons. However, I don’t want to start a new blog – life’s too short.  Hence the new title.

I have changed the font but kept the general layout – there is a lot of historical material that I have posted over the past six or seven years that I would like to keep and one or two readers may find  the book references useful.

WordPress has developed into a much more sophisticated software package since my first timid attempts at posting.  This is a good thing – we all like to move forward. My first thoughts were that more sophistication means more complication – the process taking over the content. In fact, the changes have made it easier to post on this site. I look forward to more posts.


Steeple Point - standard

I have chosen Steeple Point – a place I have mentioned often. It plays an important part in my story and now that I am moving on from my day job, I want to have a physical base with a long personal connection from which to develop the blog.  I could have used a street we have lived in – Belle Vue or Cavendish Road or South Pallant or Martins Lane  or Clonbern Road or Nayland Rd South or Stockbridge Gardens or Paradise Road or others. Yes, there are more but none have the nautical connection I am looking for. Steeple Point stretches into the sea. I knew this place before I was old enough to know I knew it.

And there’s more. If the Earth were flat and your eye a perfect instrument, you could stand on Steeple Point, look due west, and see, first of all, very slightly to the north, Cape Clear Island and Fastnet Rock and then, on the southern tip of Ireland, Mizen Head , followed by no land at all until Quirpon Island with L’Anse aux Meadows beyond on the very northern tip of Newfoundland some 1,900 nautical miles away. All between is sea and ocean, wide horizons swept by wind and weather,



I will still talk about the boat, and I still have an eye for Greek fishing boats particularly those in Crete. They will feature, as will the past, especially the trading ketches of North Cornwall and the Bristol Channel. But there will also be occasional notes about what is going on around me as a I age in an increasingly complex world. Like it or not, all our horizons are changing. We need to recognise those changes.

On Steeple Point – prevailing wind

AA comments:

It has been proved that the weather is unpredictable in the short term. One more reason for Britain lying directly below a jet stream delivering storms from the Atlantic. (If only Fitzroy knew that 🙂 )We can only establish some long term (seasonal) trends.
For example, in Greece it is known that “The ‘weather’ always comes from the West” whereas over here (UK) the direction is SW….There is evidence for this on the way that older trees are bent.

Do you mean bent like this? 🙂

Stowe Barton, Christmas 2009

On Steeple Point – two images from Duckpool

Two images from Duckpool.

The first taken last Christmas – the pebble ridge in winter:

This one taken in heavy rain at 1045 this morning – the pebble ridge in summer:

Lands End to St Davids Head including the Bristol Channel
Strong winds are forecast
Inshore waters forecast
24 hour forecast:    1900 Fri 17 Jul     1900 Sat 18 Jul
Wind     Westerly or northwesterly becoming cyclonic, 5 to 7, decreasing 4 in north.
Sea state     Moderate or rough, but slight in east.
Weather     Rain or showers.
Visibility     Moderate or good, occasionally poor.

This is this evening’s inshore waters forecast.  It was right for the whole day.

The heavy rain has swollen the river and once again altered the shape of the pebble ridge, the same ridge that presented such a peaceful scene last December.

This is the weather that makes this coast exciting and invigorating.

The only problem is that this is July. Why can’t it wait until the Autumn?

On Steeple Point – a shared world

I was climbing the path to Steeple Point.

Towards the top, the land falls steeply away, rapidly becoming a cliff face that drops vertically to the rocks below.

With the tide in, these rocks are covered by sea – Atlantic rollers reaching their nemesis on the Cornish coast.

From up here, you watch those big swells roll in.

They build, curl and crash forward in a welter of foam, sparkling in the sunshine. Piling over the back-tow of their predecessors, they waste themselves on the pebble ridge.

There are intricate patterns of foam, constantly changing, highlighting myriad currents and cross-currents.

That morning, there was nobody in sight.

I was enjoying the aloneness. . . the warmth of the sun . . . the smell of salt in the air. . .  the sound of waves on rocks.

The sea was still heavy from an earlier gale

There was a slight breeze, I remember.

And then this guy appears below me on a surf board.

The waves were sweeping in from around the Point. He had been hidden out there as I climbed.

So, it wasn’t my sole world after all. There were two of us – the one holding a camera and idly watching, the other intently doing.

It was so totally unexpected. I felt a little shocked – a bit put-out.

Then I felt admiration – what a great ride in such a beautiful place.

And then a change of mood –  sudden concern because of what I could see from my vantage point.

A moment of doubt burst into this memorable day.

The concern was all mine, of course.

Whatever I saw, whatever I thought might happen, was way beyond my control.

He didn’t care. He knew what he was doing. He was having a ball.

I could only watch, my concern pointless.

Let him get on with it.

He paddled out to catch another wave. I continued my walk.

Two separate lives enjoying  the same space, viewing it through different eyes.

On Steeple Point – Low tide, Duckpool

Here are four images taken yesterday morning at Duckpool on the coast of North Cornwall.

A combination of low tide, bright sunshine,  and a cold, easterly, offshore wind.

This is a wreckers’ coastline – to be avoided on a lee shore.

Yesterday it was a place to take the air after Christmas.

On Steeple Point – Memory of the Sea 3

Facing the sun

A small, rugged headland in North Cornwall

On my father’s shoulders. How old? Around two, I guess.

We have climbed the path from where we lived, two hundred yards from the beach below.

I can’t speak for him, he has passed on now, but for me this is the place, and that was the time I first knew it.


You know you have a place too, don’t you? A place from which you measure every other place.

You think you haven’t? Look back. It may take time to recall and it may not be the first place you remember, but, believe me, it’s there.

For you, it may be a room, or a house or a patch of country. It may even be a place at someone’s side.

For me, it’s Steeple Point, Duckpool, North Cornwall.

And what I saw that first time was not the coast, or the rocks, or the waves, or the sun on the water – but the horizon.

That horizon

“See the ship, Bill?”

Ships where we lived were occasional smudges on the horizon.

You could just see them, maybe not the full ship – just a funnel or two, working their way to or from the Bristol Channel.

And that was the magic.

Where had they come from? Where were they going to?

What lay over that long, magically curved line?


From that moment, I have never stopped searching horizons.

I have stood on the shores of four continents.

You would think each horizon would look the same. But each has a subtle twist – just out of sight.

We left Duckpool when I was seven.

Over the years, I have returned and climbed the path to Steeple Point many, many times.

I have felt the ground beneath my feet and searched that same horizon with the same sense of excitement.

And every place I visit is measured against this view.

Towards Trevose

I have often tried to put these feelings into words, but it needs a poet.

Some words by Philip Larkin, (“Here”, The Whitsun Weddings, Faber and Faber), came close, when he wrote about reaching the coast:

” . . . . . . . . Here is unfenced existence:

Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.”

I feel comfortable with this.

I am even more comfortable with Mendelssohn, who, in writing about music, said:

“Music cannot be expressed in words, not because it is vague but because it is more precise than words.”

I have the same sense with my feelings about Steeple Point.


As I said at the beginning, a sense of place is unique to each one of us.

Like everyone who was born in Cornwall, I feel Cornish blood stirring in me.

This coast has an innate beauty. People are drawn to it.

They come to live here, to holiday here, to retire here.

Many fine words are written about it and, wherever I am, I am cheered by them.

But, and it is important to be honest about this, this place is not the end of the journey for me, but the beginning.

And Steeple Point is not so much a place I am always going back to, but one I am always leaving.

That horizon has always been and will always be there – stretching out before me.

On Steeple Point – Memory of the Sea 2


Aged twelve, on another beach, body surfing on the residue of some distant storm. A wave begins to swell and move swiftly towards the shore. I sense it will break just after it reaches me. As I feel the water begin to lift me, I launch myself. But, starting too soon and swimming too weakly for this particular wave, I feel myself tipped forward and dumped headlong into the water. A quick breath before submerging, I bounce on the sandy bottom only to be rolled over and over. Eyes wide open, I relax and see the frothy surface many feet above me and the sun shining through the water. I feel calm, enjoying the tremendous strength of the wave buffeting me. I know it will move on. Pushing to the surface, I gasp for breath and see its frothy peak speeding away to waste itself on the distant beach. I turn to find the next wave almost on me. A deep breath and a dive, dolphin-like, beneath it. Meeting its energy head on, my body is buffeted again, but this time I am in charge and it washes swiftly over me, leaving me to resurface and prepare to surf again. Have I mastered the sea in those years? No, only myself in this one situation. To the sea I will always be insignificant – just flotsam and jetsam. As years go by, I will learn different ways of relating to it, but the sea is the sea . . . is the sea . . . is the sea . . . is the sea . . .

On Steeple Point – Memory of the Sea 1

We had a great sail on Saturday – one leg being a long beam reach out to sea to a point well south of the Mewstone. The sea was a little lumpy and had taken on a deep greeny blue colour in the sunshine. For me, this was just perfect. My crew had different opinions as to the state of the sea and I started wondering why I liked it so much – where did it come from? A couple of early memories came to mind and I hope to recall a few more over time.

Memory of the Sea 1Aged 2, on the beach. A lone rock stands out in the sand, a pool has formed around it. It seemed deep to me then.

Feeling wet sand between my toes, I stand on the water’s edge, watching ripples on the surface reflected on the sand below. They drift across the water in wavy lines, dissolving into the rock beyond. Shiny seaweed, with the bubbles of sticky liquid that burst over your fingers when pressed, wave back in the clear seawater. I am entranced. The sun shines hot on my back and all is childly contentment. All at once, I am tumbling in the pool, mouth wide open sucking in water, eyes smarting with water and salt. I cry out only to take in more water. A stray wave, for that is what it is, bounces me onto the sand and rolls me over and over. I see sand, then frothy white bubbles, then blue sky as I hit the surface and then the bottom as I am sucked down again. The rock comes towards me. I flail legs and arms, and fail to find my feet. All is water. The helplessness is overwhelming. Suddenly, bright sunlight, nose running with seawater, mouth coughing, spluttering, dribbling, throat hurting, eyes stinging, Mum’s comforting arms around me, my chin on her shoulder – a brief moment of peace. Concerned faces appear behind her, relieved smiles, then laughter apparently at my misfortune. And the tears flow – not just with my own fear, but more with frustration, indignation, embarrassment and humiliation at the unfair laughter. Yes, it was all there – aged two, and remembered today, 56 years later . . . as if it happened this morning.
End of the Wave