Sheepy Lamb to the Rescue
Heading for the slipway, I realised this was one I hadn’t used before - shorter and steeper than the one we’d been using all week. Approaching an unknown landing area is always a challenge. Speed, gradient, camber, wind direction - many factors affect a successful landing. The normal procedure is always to approach with caution; then if you are too tentative and the craft doesn't make it all the way up you can always have another go. Better than coming in too hot and crashing into something. I didn't follow normal procedure. The skirt shift wasn't working, so full control was compromised, with the craft pulling to one side. The tide had now just covered the mud presenting the worst conditions for an approach. In shallow water the air pressure under the craft displaces the water, creating a big bow wave that the craft can't climb over. This dictates the speed of approach. And the engine wasn't running properly. It was surging, losing power then picking up again. We were only doing about five knots, not enough speed to climb the slope. If we couldn’t get up, we would have to just nose onto the land and either be towed up or wait till the tide was high. I kept the throttle wide open, willing the craft on.
The shallow water had given way to mud and the engine roared up to full power. I glanced down at the speed display and my stomach lurched: 16 knots! Far too fast. We shot up the slipway, swerved into a 180 degree turn and put down in the middle of the landing pad facing the way we had come. It looked like a slick and skillful move as we came to a stop exactly where we needed to be. If I hadn’t been shouting 'Shit! Shit! Shit!' at the top of my voice, there is no question that I would have got away with it.