We had been contacted by the BBC, who wanted a traditional Humber sailing vessel to use in a documentary about George Eliot’s novel, Mill on the Floss. They initially talked about filming on the Humber, but when we discussed the logistics of this they realised that it might be better to film under sail on the canal, where we were not having to work with the demands of the tides.
Checking the weather forecast, I had chosen a section of the canal where we had the best chance of a fair wind. It was also where they could film against an open rural landscape, without too many obstructions such as pylons or wind generators, both of which abound in this area. Sally was in Staines, so Steve kindly offered to crew for me on the trip from Thorne and on the day. It was extremely windy on the trip and very tricky navigating through some of the swing bridges. We moored up just below Maud’s Swing bridge and I then had a day to get the mast raised and finish rigging out ready for sailing. It was also extremely windy on this day, and I was hoping that the forecast for the wind to drop was correct.
The film crew arrived late after some confusion about our exact location. After we had loaded all their gear on board and I had given them a safety briefing, they set to started filming. The programme involved the actor and director Fiona Shaw reading from, and talking about, one of her favourite books ‘Mill on the Floss’.
They filmed in Daybreak’s cabin and then we set off sailing down the canal with Fiona being filmed on the foredeck. The sailing went well, apart from when a shift in the wind pushed us into the side and we scraped along for a bit before Steve managed to push off the bow.
When we reached the next swing bridge I hauled up the slab line and lowered the sail so we could motor back. We then sailed the stretch again, but this time being filmed from the bank. There was more filming in the cabin and then some close up shots of the cog boat being rocked in the water. The programme should be broadcast in October so we look forward to seeing it.
It was gone 1630 before the crew packed up and left, by which time both Steve and I were exhausted, particularly as we hadn’t had time to stop for anything to eat all day.