The Mugford Tickle, Part II

Dawn is early in high latitudes in the summer time. It’s a long haul lifting the anchor 70 feet from the bottom to the deck. The bear only a few hours earlier puts a little more urgency into my 2-6-heave of the anchor. That done, I retrace my course back to the south end of the Tickle. This time there is calm on the face of the water brought on by a heavy, damp, soupy fog.


It wasn’t the strong wind that sailors of old feared most. No that can be dealt with, a reef, a manning of the pumps, hove to if need be. No, it was the fog. The fog gave strange magnetism to rocks and shoals, even other ships. How else can it be explained when two ships would cross thousands of miles of ocean only to try to occupy the same small 100 feet of ocean real estate at the same time to the death of both and all it the fog. Bad things happen in the fog.

But things have changed for a sailor like me and I welcome that change. I could not and would not attempt a journey like this in another age. I’m no Amundsen or Shackleton. I’ll take my radar, depth sounder, auto pilot, and GPS, thank you very much. As I’ve said from the beginning, I’m no stuntman. I’m just an old guy living the dreams of his childhood on oceans of the world.

Since I first heard its name, sailing through the Mugford Tickle has been one of those dreams. Having peered into the Tickle in the clear sunshine of yesterday, I’m free to enjoy the intimacy with this wild and wonderful passage that comes with the closeness of the fog. At three knots, there is no hurry. The high fog comes in billows giving glimpses of the massive cliffs towering over the channel before closing in again. My imagination loves the fog and runs wild. I think, as Moses parted the sea and walked on the dry bottom surely some ancient Inuit Shaman of great power came to this rock and struck it with the paddle of his kayak and parted the land to pass through on the seawater.

I strain looking into gray of it seeing nothing after a boat length but mist. The truth is the only weapon in the fight to overcome the overactive imagination in the fog. And the truth is found in the compass, the sweep of the radar and the glow of the plotter. I know where I am. I trust my instruments. Still, the imagination makes a ship’s bow out of a shadow, and I check the radar yet one more time.


When I’m more than half way through and the Tickle seems satisfied it can’t scare me back again, it begins to lift the cold gray skirt to reveal the spectacular. Water falls everywhere. A grounded iceberg at the north end is waiting its turn to transit the Tickle, waiting for the warmer seawater to shorten its keel. Time means nothing to ice waiting to be water again. Icebergs are relentless waiters. I feel as though I’ve sailed through Middle Earth with Frodo and Samwise.

The morning breeze catches the sails just abaft the beam and the Mugford Tickle slides slowly to the south, for the CAP’N LEM want to go north.


Comments are closed.