Heriot Toun in autumn

7 Short Sails - Sail 1

Ian Stephen was born in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. He still lives there but travels widely to tell stories, perform poetry and take part in projects across different art-forms. Often his work includes navigating his own wooden sloop or, as a volunteer skipper, traditional Lewis sailing boats.

Charlotte Watters enduring interest in landscape, outdoor environments and related equipment, has fed much of her work, perhaps more specifically it is human engagement and dislocation in hostile or impressive outdoor environments which has inspired her recent work.

Martin Green is an accordion player and composer. Originally from Cambridge he now resides in Pathhead, Midlothian. Most widely known as part of experimental traditional folk trio Lau.
www.lau-music.co.uk / www.themartingreenmachine.com

Alex Patience is a theatre collaborator - performer, director, writer - who trades off time to create audio art, and enjoys telling and hearing a good story told with heart and humour. She lives on the North Coast and coming from a fishing family still manages to love the sea.

Tom Lyne (bass), Sophie Bancroft (voice), Corrina Hewat (clarsach) and Tom Bancroft (bodhran) are four professional musicians/composers who all reside in Pathhead, Midlothian and are members of the Pathhead Music Collective. They have all worked together in different settings, situations and musical styles both performing and teaching.

Birta Gudjonsdottir (1977) is an artist and curator, based in Reykjavik, Iceland. She has participated in groups shows such as at The Living Art Museum in Reykjavik, BUS Gallery in Melbourne, Australia, Glasgow Project Room, Scotland and TENT in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In 2008-09 she was the artistic director and chief curator of exhibition space 101 Projects. Birta has produced her own home-gallery Dwarf Gallery since 2002

Anne Bevan works in a variety of media and her sculpture and installations explore invisible or hidden structures that are part of everyday life; the flow of water through pipe systems, the movement of the tide, objects uncovered from the history of obstetrics and modern birth practice. She exposes and reveals spaces, forms and methods normally unseen by us, but which are fundamental to our daily environment and existence.

Artists Involved

Ian Stephen (Scotland)
Charlotte Watters (Scotland)
Martin Green (Scotland)
Alex Patience (Scotland)
PathheadMusicCollective (Scotland)
Birta Gudjonsdottir (Iceland)
Anne Bevan (Orkney)


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Ian Stephen was sent the following text and images to respond to:

Watchful Eyes

Mariner's support team: the sun and the stars, the landmarks and lights - quiet dependable guiding angels. The lights now without the human element. Instead of old-fashioned human watchfulness, there is remote control. No hearth brushes or tea kettles needed now, asbestos wicks long gone, red lead and ochre a cry from the past. No call for Japan Black. No watchful eyes.

Pat Law Image 01

Pat Law Image 02

Ian Stephen's response:

This is how we navigate. The boat has a fixed GPS. This is a box run by power from the boat’s batteries, charged by the alternator fixed to the engine. It has an antennae clamped outside on the stern rail. There is a lead from the receiver to a laptop computer, also running from the boat’s battery power. Fine. The computer runs software which contains most of the world’s charts. You can see a larger picture or you can zoom in to details like the pontoons in a habour. Or sandbanks and buoys. The boat’s position is constantly updated on the chart from the GPS feed. You can put the cursor anywhere and a display on the screen will contain that position and the boat’s bearing and distance from it. As long as it’s working. This system and the engine have not missed a beat since our real departure from Stornoway after the false start.

But this is an alien environment for electronics. The boys’ lost the whole works before entering SY, at night after their Faroes/Iceland adventure. And I saw the position fall off the screen during our first attempt at getting clear of my home -town. So I like to make sure there are paper charts, a pencil, dividers and a hand-bearing compass aboard. It’s also good to have a mechanical log – that’s a wee wheel that turns with the boat’s movement through the water. It clocks up parts of miles as it turns.

That’s also good because the turning log will give you the boat’s speed through the water. But the GPS will tell you the difference between one satellite fix and the next so the speed given on that one is called the ground-speed. Imagine a line drawn on the sea-bed, as the distance you’ve travelled over it. Speeds shown on the mechanical and electronic instruments are often not the same. The difference is water-current. In our case that’s mostly tidal current and that’s mostly the pull of the moon but with the sun also a factor.

Lighthouses by day or night can confirm or question the information you’ve gathered by these other means. We’ve long passed by Dubh Artach, out southwest of Iona. That’s a tapering grey column with a broad red band. And the enameled ironwork of a structure on the Scillies, set into rock that could be Paul Nash paintings. As we pass 10 miles west of the great lighthouse of Cre-Ach, Ouessant, our speed through the water is 5.5 knots. Not bad for a 30 ft boat quite close to the wind when there’s a bit of sea running. But the GPS says it’s 2.7 knots. So there’s a current of 2.8 knots holding us back. And it’s also setting us in a slightly different direction so our automatic steering has to buzz away to compensate for it.

The evidence that Ouessant is there, that distance, that direction is compelling. But I can’t see the rock or any of these major lighthouses. I see the black and white architecture of Cre-Ach only in my memory of it. This island known as Ushant to British mariners was a death-trap. Ships which could not fire up motors or set sails to go closer to the wind – they were doomed if they were caught in these currents. Close to rocks sharper than those of Mangersta, Lewis or Fetla, Shetland. The chart shows wreck after wreck amongst the soundings which note the depths found from surveys over the years.

Charlotte Watters' response to Ian Stephen's work:

Night Navigation

Charlotte Watters

Martin Green's response to Charlotte Watters' work:

Leaving | Alone in Storm | GPS

Alex Patience's response to Martin Green's work:

Bright Spots in Shades of Grey

back and back
looking back
you're there

barked into it all
steering me gentle
never realised til now how much was inside me

Gale force 8

inside me
Martin's music rises and rises

the sea, the grey reaches
the reach of your hands
I look up to a face of a statue
hands so large, brown, hewn with such tender heaviness

Bring Her Up

tender heaviness o this passage

aye licht touch arcs us back on course
wi degrees o seein;
close tee a bittie aff
far awa an intae the distance

but you're so clearly still here

The PMC's response to Alex Patience's work:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The Birta Gudjonsdottir's response to Alex Patience's work:

Birta Gudjonsdottir 01

riding the crystalwaves
the light touch
armonica in the sun

Birta Gudjonsdottir 02

have acclimatized
have adapted
have proved useful

Birta Gudjonsdottir 03

salt from sea
all darkness cured
dissolved into the waves

Anne Bevan's response to Birta Gudjonsdottir's:


Anne Bevan - Seal

Klondyker’s flotsam
Franklin’s poisoned seal

dissolving memory

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