“Call me Ishmael….whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses….then I account it is high time to get back to sea”.
Herman Melville’s introduction to Moby Dick gives literary form to the longing that has drawn the restless to the sea throughout history.
Low atmospheric pressure, invigorating spray, unfamiliar sounds and the adventure of another world are enough to lift even the most crushed spirit.
And so it was when three Arbroath office workers set off to sample the sea in autumn 1852.
James Smith, his son and brother-in-law launched what was described as a “crazy” boat one Monday and intended to potter about close to shore.
But a fierce wind blew up and they took off like a rocket into the open sea.
When they did not return that night, relatives onshore feared the worst.
Late on Tuesday night, however, they received reports that Bell Rock Lighthouse keepers had seen the vessel dancing around Inchcape, all sheets to the wind.
A passing vessel reported three men with no knowledge of how to handle a boat wrestling with equipment.
Luck was on Smith’s side and late on Tuesday the wind catapulted the boat across the terrifying bar of the Tay where they took shelter in Dundee.
Next morning they were at it again. They tried to sail back to Arbroath and got as far as Elliot.
Nature intervened once more and the craft skimmed the waves back out to open sea.
They endured two nights of struggle before a storm hurtled them past Fife Ness into the Forth. Again, luck was on their side and they made land on the Isle of May.
Residents fed the adventurers and next morning sailed them to Crail where they delivered them into the care of the Kirk.
The minister gave them six shillings if they promised to return home by land.
In Arbroath, loved ones saw their return from afar and welcomed them like prodigal sons. Music and feasting followed.
Monsters, Ministers and Mayhem is available to download at Amazon priced at £1.79. And very good it is if I say so myself.