We departed North Shields and headed out into the North Sea. Anybody in any doubt to the influence humankind is having in its approach to nature need only do likewise. The entire area is filled with oil and gas rigs which are being slowly supplemented by wind farms. Imagine a virgin area of a grass field then dump Mecano wielding children to build structures HG Wells would be proud of and you will start to get the picture. Now add in huge swathes of windmills and the seascape starts to resemble a scene from the movie terminator. It is perfectly navigable, with caution, and in a perverse way there is some beauty but it is quite clear there is no central attempt to protect how it looks.
In this we worked our way slowly south towards Plymouth until, motoring, our beloved engine died yet again. I managed to get it going briefly but it was obvious we had potential problems ahead for when we reached our destination. So we sailed, three Celtic wannabe’s, strangers melding towards friendship, tacking against a wind pushing us back to our departure point. We spied Flamborough Head and reassuringly it remained alongside, apparently fixed like glue to our horizon, for the next eighteen hours or so. Working loose shifts, or watches, we found ourselves ebbing and flowing like the tide we fought. Hours drifted into the haze, wind came, wind went and our perception of time became something only of a distant memory, like the specific taste of a fine wine, acknowledged but essentially forgotten. I thought of St Cedd.
How on earth did those monks make this journey? Even in modern sailing terms we are attempting a voyage of reasonable length yet there is nothing to indicate any perception Cedd’s voyage was remarkable. It just occurred and in some ways that absence reinforces my notion of these monks being excellent and capable seafarers. Waiting for weather windows to head south is quite possible but I suspect they either headed much further offshore, towards Holland, or they rowed for long periods. They did not have rigs and farms but they did have the notion we share, that feeling of entering the desert. Out here, technology apart, we are in a desert and a very strange but also thought-provoking place it is to be. I wonder if the Celts would have allowed oil and gas rigs? I rather suspect not!