Admiral Henry Charles Otter, RN

To mark the laying of the club's racing buoy on Otter Bank, members of the LBSC might like to read about the man who first surveyed the loch and whose name the bank bears.

Henry Charles Otter was born in 1808 (+/- 1 year) in Bolsover, Derbyshire which is roughly midway between Liverpool and Skegness and therefore a good distance from the sea. 

 In 1845, having been engaged to undertake a survey of the waters of, and off, Western Scotland, Henry Otter buys the Manor House in Oban (now a hotel).

In 1845 a very distinctive personality became the owner of the mansion. This was Admiral Otter, who was most aptly named, for he could swim and dive like that amphibious animal. The Admiral was appointed to carry out the Hebridean Survey of dangerous waters of the West Coast, a task that took twenty years to complete. He was a deeply religious man and belonged to the sect of the Plymouth Brethren.


When visiting the Islands in his naval vessel it was his custom to conduct evangelistic services at the ports. He and his sailors painted Bible texts on the rocks of Lorn. The sea has obliterated all of them except the one on the rock face near Tobermory Pier, where the huge letters of the text “God is Love” have been kept freshly painted every summer by seafaring men for well over 100 years. There is no doubt at all that it was Admiral Otter who, while in occupancy of the Manor House had the Hebrew words “Jehovah Shammah” (the Lord is here) engraved over a door of the house.

The Admiral was the first person to organise Christian Youth Fellowship in Oban, open to both boys and girls. Their meetings were held on Saturdays in a local hall. He was very popular with the boys whom he taught swimming and diving. His young converts he often baptized in the Manor grounds at a spring well there, in what the Oban people called the Plymouth tank.

1851 finds Henry C Otter, Commander RN, and his wife on Portsea Island, Hampshire, visiting John Birch, a General in the Royal Engineers. As it was this branch of the Army that provided services to the Ordnance Survey, it is extremely likely that the General and the Commander were discussing matters relating to surveying, whether on land or at sea.

In 1858 the first Transatlantic Telegraphy cable was laid and Captain Otter pilots the final stages of the journey into Trinity Bay, Newfoundland from HMS Porcupine, a paddle-steamer that he is also using in his survey of the waters of the Western Isles. He notes the peculiarities of the tides in the Sound of Harris at this time, too, and no doubt his survey played a pivotal role in the later cabling of the isles.

By 1871 Henry is an Admiral (Retired List) still living with his brother in Hanwell, Middlesex.

He is believed to have died in June 1876 in Hampshire at the age of 68

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Lock up?

The club's socially distanced Flying Fifteen racing sorry, cruising in synchronicity is off to a cracking (literally in the case of Morgan vs Osborne, and Copestake vs (another) Osborne last weekend) start and the season, for all its uncertainties generally, could see a record turnout, numbers not seen on the water since the Flying Fifteen heyday.

Eight boats, and to be precise, eight competitive boats are now cavorting around the loch of a Friday, Saturday and even Sunday (those of us who don't go to church).

What is noteworthy is the appearance of a new racing mark at Otter Bank (named after the Capt HC Otter RN who first surveyed the area in 1849, unless anyone has seen any otters there recently).

We have to thank Paul for making it and more which are under construction at the factory and manufacturing complex formerly know as Peacock House.

The courses are now posted on the FF WhatsApp, which makes for no excuses unless your name is Morgan, in which case you will assume the second mark of the course is Otter, despite the rest of the fleet heading back to the starting mark.

Of club news in general, there's not much to report. The club is still closed, the shed lock has been changed (someone messed with the combination, and it had to be cut off). Donald alone has the Key to the Underworld, in whose dark recesses lurk strange objects of dubious worth, the odd Seagull outboard, many pots of solid paint, rope, fenders etc.

The club house roof has still to be fixed, but never fear, it's not going to fall on your head, and someone has been tasked to expedite things (which usually means nothing's been done). But who needs a clubhouse when we have boats to sail and the water upon which to sail?

This post was suggested by the Commodore, by the way, as nothing much has been said since lockdown, but then there's little to be said.

Other than, if you do go down to the Wee Pier today, please keep your distance. It is by no means over; young people are now being hit hardest; your best friend might well be the one who kills you and, as Janey Godley says (or should that be Nicola Sturgeon?) WEAR A F***ING MASK.

Sailing on Hold?

No one knows how long we will be in isolation or when sailing can start again. The advice to members is exactly the same as that given by governments and scientists: be brutally conscientious in avoiding risks, and we all know what they are by now.

The club remains open, but quite frankly there's little point in suggesting anyone goes in until work on the refurbishment recommences. The ceiling's down in the clubroom, and the changing room choc a bloc with stuff. We'll be in good shape, however, to get cracking again as and when with much of the work either planned or completed.

In any case, it would be nigh on impossible to keep surfaces, handles etc disinfected. As for the loo...

There might be scope to launch a few FFs before too long but the advice seems pretty clear: avoid all activity in close company, and unless you can be sure your crew is clean, then you'd be a bit daft to launch and might even draw down the wrath of those ashore.

The club officers, rest assured, are as much in the dark as anyone, and in the same boat (albeit 2m apart!)

One thing that is clear: despite no AGM to date, the Commodore, officers and committee remain in place for the time being.

Keep an eye on Facebook for news which will, inevitably, be few and far between.

And please, keep posting on Facebook if you have anything to lift spirits, or get off your chest.

Time now to brush up on the racing rules: NB there is no Mast Abeam Rule

THERE WILL BE (VIRTUAL) PRIZES...!

Club Update


This weekend saw much activity and progress as the new distressed oak vinyl floor was laid by a team of skilled craftsmen, volunteers from our very own ranks (NB it's much easier than it looks).

Reactions have ranged from "it's a little too dark" to "it's far too light", with some people even suggesting we'd have been better just replacing the old carpet. You can't please everyone, but most have expressed approval, and once the furniture is chosen, the club room will come alive; bright in the summer with sun streaming through the windows, and cosier in winter when we hope to have more social get togethers, curry nights, lectures and one suggestion, for which the new floor will be admirably suited, a ceilidh.

We also have acquired a (fairly) large screen TV for the watching of Scotland being thrashed by Wales, or England being slaughtered by Ireland (next time that is), France walking over Italy, or any combination thereof.

We might even watch some yachting, or play sail training videos (but probably just the rugby...).

There is much more to be done, namely reflooring the rest of the club, excluding the changing room for the time being, renewing the ceiling, electrical work and stripping out the kitchen. We are also planning to have an outside hot shower plumbed in for those suffering from imminent hypothermia, or simply to wash off salt from wetsuits and hair.

Other structural work includes a temporary fix to the leaking S/SW side/corner of the roof, once the weather makes that possible, a rack for the skiff oars and a secure locker for LBSC members' oars.

If you have a skill that can be employed, do step forward as there is much to be done before the season, fast approaching.

LIFEJACKETS AND WETSUITS

NOW, PLEASE an appeal to all members. Could those who have lifejackets and junior wetsuits at the club claim them as soon as possible. Some are worn or otherwise past their sell by, but others look serviceable. In every case, the lifejackets need checking, but first they need to be claimed.

And for those few who have yet to change their subscriptions to reflect the new increase, now's the time.