Messing About In A Boat Off Of Ventnor
The offer of a boat trip from Ventnor Haven last week was too tempting to turn down. For a very reasonable rate* with Ocean Blue you get to tootle down the coastline looking at all the nooks and bays, motor out a mile and drop down lines to catch mackerel and then speed back to Ventnor with the wind in your hair.
Organised by our good friend Anthony Churchill, who was wearing his Morning Cloud polo shirt for the occasion (he was Ed Heath's navigator you know) the trip had been hastily arranged because it was such a fantastic day.
Down at the Haven for 1.30pm we all piled onto the boat that Ocean Blue are using for their coastal tours – the last one has been sold to Sierra Leone as a water taxi from the airport we were told by Lucy Strevens who with husband Sean were taking us on this trip. This one is 0.6m wider than the previous one and more economical to run and it certainly seems very stable. We wandered with ease around the boat as it made its way down the coast, with Lucy giving us a very interesting commentary on the history and geology of the area.
Just out of the Haven we stopped to pull up a lobster pot and the kids on board were thrilled to find the blue lobsters (their usual colour before they are cooked) and snapping crabs within its interior. Most were too small and had to be thrown back, but I think we got one full sized crab that was put into the ice box. Everyone was keen to have a look at the creatures and a couple of the more daring amongst us had a go at picking them up for a photo opportunity.
Then it was off again along the coast towards St Catherine’s Point and lighthouse, passing the converted coastguard cottages that make up Orchard Bay’s beautiful house with its own beach. Famous for being the base of a drug smuggling operation that was foiled in the year 2000, those on board remembered the stories associated with one of the largest drug hauls of recent years. Was there a wet-suited diver who spoke only French found in Pelham Woods? And were the police undercover in nearby hotels impersonating scout masters? We’ll never know for sure…
Binnel Bay was another interesting story and the remains of the harbour built by the German dilettante William Spindler in the Victorian era is still very in evidence just off shore. It didn’t survive for long as a working harbour, but it’s become quite a curious folly.
Next we turned 180 degrees and headed straight out to sea. Apparently we went about a mile out but it hardly seemed more than a few hundred yards. Sean and Lucy then unpacked the mackerel lines and showed us how to drop the weight into the sea – the fish would be caught on the two or three feathered hooks on the line as long as we pulled the line upwards and then dunked it down again.
It looked so simple and Lucy and Sean caught two or three fish on every line they put down. Others on the boat were having similar luck. I, however, was useless on the fish catching stakes and almost gave up for lack of interest. But eventually I caught a little one, and then ten minutes later I got a slightly bigger one. (Taking pity on me they did give me four to take home though, which was kind of them and they were delicious grilled with a little butter.)
Lucy showed the little ones (and us) how the beautiful skins of the fish helped to disguise them against predators – green, blue and black on top to fool birds that they were just part of the sea and silvery white underneath to make them invisible to those swimming beneath them.
Mackerel lines wound up and put away and fish safely stowed in the ice box and we sped back to the Haven, posing at the back of the boat with the wake churning behind us. It was pretty exciting – the boat does go at a pace and it has two large engines.
Just outside the Haven we stopped for Sean to bait one of the lobster pots with the guts and heads of the mackerel we had just caught that had been expertly filleted by him before we sped back. And then we were back at the mooring, all too soon, with cold drinks beckoning from the nearby Met Bar. Of course you can also buy top quality freshly caught battered fish from Blake’s up above if you can’t wait to get home and cook your catch.
*see website for details
28 May 2016