Tuesday 20 December 2016

Lifeboat News

I have recently started writing for West Mersea Lifeboat and will, from time to time, post my Lifeboat News here.   If you happen upon a lifeboat post, fret not, artier etceteras will resume in due course. 

West Mersea Lifeboat news.                                                         
by Leafy Dumas,  Lifeboat Press Officer,   December 2016.                               

There have been some glorious high tides lately, cutting us off and affirming our island status.

There are often stories in the local news about cars stranded on the Strood at high tides, and our lifeboat often gets called out to hapless motorists stuck mid-way across.  For readers from far away, the Strood is the causeway (and only road) linking Mersea Island to the mainland.  It is sometimes covered by very high tides and there are always a foolhardy few who make the expensive mistake of trying to drive through despite our regular pleas not to.  Our mission at the RNLI is to save lives at sea.  A swamped vehicle stuck on the Strood is an uncomfortable problem for the driver and passengers but rarely life-threatening.

A more serious threat to life lies in the inability for an ambulance or a paramedic to drive onto the island when the tide covers the Strood.  This is where we come into action. These shouts, or medevacs, are some of our most crucial.  Our normal modus operandi is to take the lifeboat up the Ray Channel, meeting the ambulance at a rendezvous point on the mainland in Peldon.  From there we pick up the paramedic and take him –or her- in the lifeboat to the hammerhead pontoon on the island where our Coastguard friends will be waiting with a vehicle to rush the paramedic to the stranded casualty.  The ambulance follows by road once the tide has subsided.   In some cases we do it the other way around, taking the casualty in the lifeboat to a waiting ambulance on the mainland.

Beyond Ray Island the Ray Creek twists and turns it’s way to Peldon.  It can be tricky to navigate at speed on a dark night so we have placed a few marker posts in the saltings to help us.  Some of you eagle-eyed sailors may have noticed them shining out at crucial points along the edge of the channel.   Hanging over the bow of the lifeboat on a dark night holding a spotlight pointing low over the water, it is very reassuring to be able to pick out our posts and know we are on the right track.  With medevacs in mind, on a recent training exercise we checked the posts, replacing reflective tape in preparation for the dark winter nights ahead.  Photo by lifeboat crew, Tim Marshall.

What’s up next? 

Lifeboat Carols.  Sunday 18th December 2016.
Come and sing with the lifeboat crew!   Carol Service at the West Mersea Lifeboat Station,  Sunday 18th December 2016 at 3pm. Open to all.  There will be mulled wine and mince pies.

Boxing Day Dip.  Monday 26th December 2016.
This will be our eleventh year of dipping for the lifeboat. Come snow, come ice, come gales, come rain, come and test your mettle and wash away that Christmas fug! 

What is it?  
On Boxing Day morning brave souls from far and wide will converge on the beach by the houseboats. Some in fancy dress, some in swimming costumes or wetsuits, but all with the common goal of a bracing dip in the December North Sea to raise much needed funds for our lifeboat.  

Come and join in the fun; have a dip in the sea or support the dippers on the shore; meet Stormy Stan; see our lifeboat, Just George, and our flank station Clacton Lifeboat which will also be there.

Mulled wine and hot blackcurrant will be provided by the Victory to fortify the dippers, and marvellous Lyn and Heather from the Poop Deck will be running a tea tent providing refreshments to sustain us all.

This event is open to everyone. Fancy dress is optional. There will be prizes for the best fancy dress.  Dippers call 01206 382874 for a sponsorship form or you can enter on the day with a £5 donation to the RNLI.  Meet at 1100am on the Monkey Beach by the houseboats.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Rumblings afoot

I am rubbish at keeping up with this blog.  It's a proven fact.  To all the loyal followers I once had, I am SORRY.

Self promotion is an ugly thing. Week in week out selling requires bullish drive and a hardened soul. I must try harder.  O the drama!  I must muster all stamina, endure the failures and quash my angst and doubt.

What is it all for?

On a similar theme Nick Cohen (on speaking at literary festivals) once wrote,
"As a well brought up Englishman, it has taken me years to overcome my instinctive nervousness at asking to be paid.  It felt sordid, not the sort of thing nice people do...
...I agreed to work for nothing  then resented the festival organisers and despised myself for going along with them."

Sharing his sentiment and stealing his words I write,

As a well brought up Englishwoman, I struggle to overcome my instinctive nervousness at self promotion.  Every now and then I give it a go, but cringe with embarrassment at every post and despise myself for being a brazen show-off.   It feels sordid, and not the sort of thing nice people do.


Important Stuff;

Christmas cards are available to buy from my Etsy shop.

I am now stocking the new shop, No.4 in Mersea.  Please support it, I'd like this shop to stay.

I am also at the Salty Dogs Show in Maldon which runs until Dec 31st and is in full swing. Do go.

Something Extra;
I have a new role at the lifeboat station.

Having served more or less 8 years as a member of the West Mersea lifeboat crew I now begin a new role as lifeboat press officer.  I had a thought that I might publish lifeboat news regularly here, in my Art Blog, as well as in the local papers.  Still Leafy's Art Blog, but with added lifeboatyness to spice things up. Watch this space. 

Tuesday 29 March 2016

The making of Rosa and the Seal

Well, Easter has been and gone, the clocks have changed, time flies and now all of a sudden it's 'Get-Your-Boat-Ready-And-Back-In-The-Water' time.

Boatwork is weighing on my mind.  Obviously I should have been doing it all winter but I haven't. There are a few brave boilersuited souls tinkering in the yard but I am leaning towards wimpishness and waiting for warmer days.  The thermometer keeps hovering around six degrees which is decidedly parky.  No matter,  there is indoorsy stuff to do,  an empire to build and a blog to update.

Indoorsy. Isn't that an awful word?

Quite a lot has been going on at Leafy HQ,  a big achievement has been finishing a new picture, Rosa and the Seal.  This is a deep and dreamy classic illustration of friendship and trust. The finished Rosa can be found over in my Etsy shop (click link), do look, but here (nervously laying my soul bare) are her sketchy beginnings.


Tuesday 9 February 2016

Fifty One Degrees North

I have been doing the do in West Mersea Yacht Club this morning moving two little dashes I painted two years ago.  They have been in the wrong place for two whole years.  I am feeling a little bit mortified about this.  I should have known better.

When I was first asked to paint the latitude and longitude over the club bar it was 2014 and no-one could agree what the coordinates actually were.

Quite a few variations were being bandied about so I decided to have go at plotting the position myself.  Using parallel rules I counted out the degrees, minutes and seconds from an old Admiralty chart in the lifeboat station. More likely I think I just stared, sucked my pencil and dreamed of heroically navigating across oceans whilst our LOM (Lifeboat Operations Manager) worked it out. Before I knew it he'd done it.

I was elated and thought I could smugly tell the Commodore,
"Look! These are they",  but back at the Yacht Club they had yet another answer. I was given a new set of correct coordinates with a decimal place.  A decimal place!  There's nothing romantic about a decimal place.  A very clever electronic box and a satellite had worked it out, the computer must be right, this must be where we are.

So, I painted the numbers with the decimal places, with a nice compass rose inbetween.  Now, what with there being a decimal, there weren't any seconds anymore, just minutes and points of a minute.  And me being a stupid artist and not knowing anything about GPS, and not really knowing anything about old school navigation either (despite having passed my Yachtmaster shorebased three times -it's about time I went to sea but that's another story)  I put the little dashy apostrophe mark that denotes minutes right at the end of the number when apparently it ought to go before the decimal.

Either everyone was terribly kind or nobody noticed or nobody cared.  No-one said a word until today.  Anyhow, tis rectified (but a bit squashed in) and all is well with the world.

About the Yachtmaster. I think I'm going to have to do night school and make it a fourth time...    now I have a boat and the whole world is just across the water but I am full of angst and not feeling quite brave enough to leap off and go.   Re-yachtmastering will surely bolster my beans !

This is dangerous talk.   Announcing here that I am going to do something sort of makes me actually have to do it.  And I know that thing that once you begin something it is never quite as terrifying as the thinking about doing it beforehand, but all the same, I might just hop round the island to Pyefleet Creek before I tackle the Horn.


Tuesday 2 February 2016

The Birds of Lady Grace

Hooray! I have managed to change the fontsize (and font) of this blog. It's still nigh on impossible to read on a phone, but hopefully easier on everything else. I really should have done this years ago. 

The New Year has catapulted ahead full of busy-ness.

I have spent a lot of January hunkered down over fiddly teabag-sized watercolours, my colouring pencils and my computer screen.  I did have plans for oil paint and canvas, for chunks of wood, for boats, for Pierhead(ish) paintings and sailor(ish) tattoos but things changed and their time will come.

So yes, lately I've mostly been drawing birds; natives and visitors (birdfolk not humans) to our Essex marshes all spotted from the Lady Grace.

Stacey is the skipper of Lady Grace.  She is a good waterfront ally (it's a man's world out there), you can find her at the end of the hammerhead jetty running boat trips around the creeks and islands.  If you're lucky she'll be dressed as an elf or even a pirate.  You can also find her here.  (And here and here.)

This is Stacey's picture, not mine.
This is Stacey's picture, not mine.

Stacey is having a new kitchen you see,  and the grand plan is to make her some tiles (with birds on).  Not knowing anything about ceramics it's been a bit of a worry finding the right person with the right sort of kiln to do the right sort of tile making.  Every ceramics trail leads us to Stoke-on-Trent, the home of the pottery industry, but surely there must be somewhere nearer?

Well, plans are afoot, the ball is rolling and we shall see.  

I am dreaming now, of tiles and mugs and plates and...   Oh the possibilities are endless!