Taking Bude After a Blow – Behind the Painting
The entrances of most North Devon and Cornish harbours were treacherous for sailing vessels except in quiet weather. The reason for this is the persistent groundswell, a feature of this coast, which today provides ideal conditions for young surfers to enjoy the sport.
The West Country term to ‘take’ a harbour is no idle quirk of phraseology, but a meaningful description of something which at times called for considerable experience and skill. In this little watercolour the Salcombe-built ketch Ceres is entering Bude, and it is easy to see how the persistent groundswell could give rise to a bad broach at the wrong moment and put her on the rocks.
One more swell and she will have shot into the quiet water behind the breakwater and then it will be a question of scrambling off all sail to get her way off her. The painting depicts a typical volatile weather situation. A short, sharp south easterly gale off the land has blown itself out and veered to squally south westerlies. Ceres, having battled her way from some northern port, appears somewhat stunted with her topmast still struck and main and mizen still reefed. Conditions at this entrance during, or immediately after a south westerly gale, are extremely dangerous.