Clouds were forming over a sea breeze front which was developing over us. We had watched some birds merrily thermalling in the distance whilst I bored the company with the shape of the thermal and how the said birds found the best lift. We watched them gain height, then swing over to the dunes to carry out a patrol along the shoreline.
I may have pointed out that sailing and gliding makes you the very worst form of weather-wonk.
The birds were using the ridge lift over the dunes to maintain effortless flight - allowing them to soar along the ridge and scan the various beach users for scraps.
They were Herring Gulls.
Great soarers are Herring Gulls, if a little sarcastic. They spot you joining a thermal with them, and fly off leaving only your seat of your pants and your instruments to find the core of the thermal. Other birds are more gracious with nature's free flight, and will happily share with you. (More on this to come)
However, we clocked the Herring Gulls on their patrol and the inevitable conversation cropped up: Are they edible?
There have been many articles in the Yachtie press as to the suitability of the Gull as a source of dinner.
We concluded - after much discussion - that whilst theoretically you could one should ask if one should?
Pelagic or littoral Gulls would have dined on nature's bounteous table - and whilst fishy in flavour should be wholesome. Gulls that dine ashore - in our landfills and our bins along busier beaches or marinas should almost certainly be avoided. Apparently they taste somewhat like Crows do: bitter and stringy.
None would certainly be suitable for barbecuing - but possibly for slow cooking.
We would have to be very desperate, or very drunk to consider such a meal.
Even my chum who sailed the Pacific did not stoop to such horrors - despite the fact he confessed to consuming three sacks of onions during his crossing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas.
I have been doing my Jonathan Livingstone bit today.
An hour's soaring in 4 knot thermals. Utterly delightful day, even if they were breaking up before cloud base at 3800 feet.
Aviation has moments of terror, muck-sweat hard work and very occasionally moments of totally sublime beauty.
I joined my first thermal at 900 feet from the winch over the local village - the instability kicked off by a combine harvester.
Twenty yards in front of me there was a Red Kite.
He was circling in the core of the lift - so I had only to follow him to sit in the core of the lift. From my position I could see his feathers curling around the wind as he moved his head and flew in a relaxed circle. I trimmed the aeroplane to as slow a speed as I could and held station behind him as best as I could, at least trying to stay below him. At one point he was above my canopy from around ten or fifteen feet.
I followed him to about 2500 feet, when another glider barged in and came up behind me.
Two gliders were clearly to crowded for him, and he peeled off. I held the thermal to 3800 feet, and had another two climbs off the source later - but my day was complete. I have never been this close to a bird when solo - and it was a magical experience. Akin to sailing with Whales.
Not many of us get a chance to actually fly with the birds - I am privileged indeed.
Article in the Times thanks Kate!