Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wednesday, 29th and Thursday, 30th June


This morning there was an indication that sea mist was in the offing, but other yachts had headed off around Portland Bill for the west, and ‘April Folly’, to which I was moored was leaving at 0800 to follow them. My intended departure for Poole Harbour had been planned for 0900; therefore leaving an hour earlier would make little difference, because tides inshore towards Lulworth Cove were weak.

Once outside Weymouth Harbour I was immediately hemmed in by dense mist; perhaps visibility was less than a quarter of a mile. The compass course for St Alban’s Head was 110 degrees. As there was only a zephyr from the east, I rightly anticipated ‘Donk’, the engine, would be doing all the work. My adrenaline had a rush when out of the whiteness ahead, a very fast motor yacht, almost on a reciprocal course, headed for Weymouth. The skipper must have been out of his mind, or have little understanding of the possible consequences of his recklessness.

As visibility was so poor, there was no live firing at the Lulworth Range, which meant I could save at least seven miles by not going south around it. Near the Atomic Buoy, about halfway between Weymouth and Anvil Point, visibility slightly improved, and there I saw an outboard rib boat flying the ‘A’ flag, indicating diving was in progress, but there were no diver’s floats ahead, so I proceeded with caution. Next, the Firing Range Safety Vessel came into view, and I made a sigh of relief when it did not speed in my direction to shepherd me south beyond the boundaries of the range.

The further east we motored, the better the visibility became, and by 1315, as we were being rapidly sucked and buffeted through the St Albans Head race, I could clearly see a warship at least five miles to the south. By the time we rounded Anvil Point, three miles further to the east, there was bright sunshine.

Thankfully, a gentle south west wind allowed me to turn off the engine; from there on we had a pleasurable sail as far as Poole Harbour. As we rounded the white cliffs of Handfast Point, and the eighteen metre chalk pinnacle ‘Old Harry’, we were overtaken by several graceful racing trimarans.

When entering Poole Harbour one needs vigilance and anticipation, because the Chain Ferry that runs between South Haven Point and Sandbanks has a ‘captain’ who is no respecter of persons or craft. Having hoisted his black ball and set his white strobe light flashing, nothing will stop him proceeding. This I know from experience, because I had to make a smart turn around with ‘Bumper’ to ensure the safety of all.

After passing through the Harbour entrance we turned to port into South Deep, where I anchored ‘Bumper’ within a stone’s throw of a smart German yacht. Her skipper helpfully directed me to a safe position for anchoring. I invited him and his wife for dinner which we all enjoyed before turning in for the night.


I woke to find a dull and uninviting scene with heavy drizzle, which almost blanked out Brownsea Island and its two neighbours: Furzey and Green Islands.

Today will probably be a time for just keeping my head down, but I have made preparations for sailing this afternoon to Newton, on the Isle of Wight, or Cowes, if the weather improves.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Tuesday, 28th June

The time is 1415, and by now ‘Bumper’ and I should have been more than halfway on the leg to Poole from Weymouth, but cruising under sail does not always go according to plan. In fact, I’m back at Weymouth moored beside other yachts which were here when I arrived last Saturday night.

Yesterday afternoon I had this brilliant idea to spend the night at Portland Harbour, which at first had all the promise of being something special. I had paid for two nights at Weymouth and I didn’t look forward to parting with yet another £13.30 for a further one. With this in mind I cast off the lines and said farewell to my affable neighbours aboard their Westerly Centaur, ‘Syklops’; only fifty minutes later ‘Bumper’ was snugly moored at Castle Cove.

The evening was idyllic with hardly a breath of wind as the Castle Cove Yacht Club’s Lasers and others were racing while making every effort to complete a triangular course through lack of wind, but before the race was out, crews were straining to keep their dinghies from capsizing.

A dazzling yellow setting sun heralded a beastly night to come. I guessed things would be a bit lively, because we were on a buoy in only nine feet of water at low tide and Portland gives no protection from the wind. Some sailors are aware that Portland was chosen as a venue for speed sailing because Chesil Beach, a natural mound of large pebbles cast up by storms raging from the south west over Lyme Bay, provides protection from the swell and larger waves of the English Channel.

Last night I learnt the truth of what happens when a strong wind comes from the south east over the artificial man-made breakwaters which complete Portland Harbour. There are three entrances to the Harbour; the southernmost is partially blocked by an obstruction, but the other two allow the swell to invade Castle Cove. Any yacht moored at the Cove is open to the wind’s onslaught, which meant ‘Bumper’ was like a cork in a washing machine. The motion was positively evil – diabolical in its bestiality. That sort of torture I was subjected to through the dark hours should be reserved for the worst sinners. (I suppose I deserved every bit of it and more!)

This morning, stubborn as I am, I determined to follow the usual ritual of having a shave and a strip wash, before my customary breakfast of Alpen and toast. Every action required me to hold on to something solid while performing the required task. Using the razor was a delicate manoeuvre; despite it was supposed to be a ‘safety’ razor. Unusually for me I felt a little queasy, and I made every conscious effort not to give in to full-blown seasickness.

Desperately wanting to move eastwards for progress up the English Channel, I listened to the 0535 shipping forecast, which gave me little joy. An easterly 5 to 7 was not what I wanted to hear, although later it should veer to the south west. (‘Later’ in technical terms means in about 11 hours – too late for me.)

For confirmation I waited for the Coastguard forecast at 0720, but the VHF reception was poor and I couldn’t hear the complete forecast. The next best thing to do was to sail outside the Harbour to ‘test’ the situation. A wave slammed right over the boat drenching everything, and breakers stretched to the south east in the direction of the East Shambles buoy which was to be my first waypoint. Unknown to me the Weymouth lifeboat was on her way in answer to a distress call, but I had tasted the salt water and my spectacles were temporarily rendered useless by salt encrustations.

The decision to return to the comfort and protection afforded by Weymouth Harbour was not a difficult one to make. Here I am until the weather becomes favourable.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Monday, 27th June

The sun is shining this morning, but the forecast 3 or 4 wind, occasionally 5 or 6, will be right on the nose for the next planned port of call at Poole Harbour. Thunder showers have been predicted for this evening, and, as the final slog around Anvil Point with its race would be against the tide, my decision to delay my start until tomorrow or the following day was not difficult to make.

I may have mentioned the topic of marina or harbour authority showers before, but the experience of using them is always different. You are seldom alone when using the facilities, as was the case for me today. People were not communicating, because the general mood was, ‘Let’s get on with it.’

Showers at various marinas are never operated with identical systems; some are automatic – you put your money or a token in a slot, then everything is preset - off you go, but sometimes there’s a time limit; if you don’t wash off the lather before the water stops, you have a problem. Some have two operating knobs, one for the water outflow and another controls the temperature, but no marina uses the same system. If you don’t take your spectacles to see what’s what, you could end up with a painful scolding experience!

Have you every caught ‘Portitis’? That’s a condition you can acquire after being in harbour for a day or more. Every excuse is found not to put to sea, such as it’s too windy; the tide is wrong; there’s a need to do some shopping, or the crew is not feeling too well, plus a number of other creative reasons. At Weymouth there is an additional incentive to stay in harbour for at least four days, because the fourth day is free, courtesy of the Harbour Authority. The way I’m feeling at the moment is that I’m coming in for a bout of this yachtsman’s ailment.

What do I do with the time at my disposal? What is there at Weymouth, apart from holidaymakers, fish and chip shops, pubs, restaurants and boat trips? At least, the ‘boat people’, my immediate neighbours, are very pleasant. We can always while away the time conversing about our experiences on the water.

The sea is a great leveller. No matter what boat you own or sail in, the sea affects the sailor the same way – he is at its mercy - but an ocean has no feeling. The vastness of an expanse of water can be benign when it is not acted upon by the wind, or when it is not forced around an obstruction such as a headland or sandbank by the gravitational pull of the moon.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Saturday, 25th and Sunday 26th June

There was too much going on yesterday for updating the log.


The forecast north-westerly wind of force 4 to 5 was fine for attempting a Lyme Bay crossing, but the prediction also mentioned the wind could veer to the north east. Such was the case, making it that much more difficult, especially passing south of the infamous Bill Race.

When setting off from our anchorage outside Torquay Harbour, the visibility was not all that brilliant, but I was more interested in taking photos of a rakish French brig anchored further out; at least that’s the term I would use to describe her. She had a square sail in addition to her fore and aft sails. Her mainmast was raked astern considerably and her very long bowsprit was angle upwards.

All was fine until late morning when the wind veered and became almost not existent, which meant using the engine. Indeed from there on, it was a case of motoring all the way to Weymouth, where we tied up to a raft of yachts at 2205.

During the day, visibility decreased until I could only see about one mile. One container ship passed ahead, presumably to anchor off Exmouth. Another made her way up Channel, and during the course of the 44 mile crossing of Lyme Bay, three larger and faster yachts overtook ‘Bumper’.

Sailing in sea mist is not my favourite activity and although I was not anxious, because I had the GPS providing a constant update of the yacht’s position, I can’t say I enjoyed it.

Some relief was provided in the early stages of the ‘voyage’, by the appearance of the French brig, which was en route to Portsmouth for a Festival of the Sea. Sailing as close to her as I thought pertinent, gave me a chance to take some photos, but I suspect we were not really close enough for good pictures.

We arrived off the Bill at precisely the wrong time when the fierce three and a half knot ebb started to run, which only permitted ‘Bumper’ to make headway at around one knot. Steering in the right direction was critical; if I was slightly out, the effect of the current was devastating by putting us way off course. A high degree of concentration was required. I sadly missed the Autohelm which would have done the job well, leaving me free to concentrate on navigation. As it was, topping up the fuel required dexterity.

One thing I thankfully managed to do was to keep south of the tidal race, in the safe zone, but between 1530 and 1800 we only made one-and-a-half a mile’s progress! That shows how critical it is to arrive at the Bill at the right time. I had it all wrong, but there was a degree of satisfaction in arriving at Weymouth after a difficult passage taking fifteen hours.

Today is a rest day, when I am expecting my brother Fred and his wife to pay a visit. I shall do very little, other than recuperate and enjoy the sunshine.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday, 24th June

Today has been eventful. I was rudely awakened by the sound of yacht bumping into ‘Bumper’s’ port quarter! The owner was dressed in his underpants while the rain lashed down. He and his wife managed to get their yacht clear, but anchored yet again too close to ……. You guess right, ‘Bumper’. He said in a calm voice, “Our yachts have an affinity for each other.”

During the morning there were tremendous thunderstorms when the rain bucketed down. By lunch time my dinghy was half filled with water, but the rain was good because it thoroughly cleaned the yacht.

Dartmouth was even busier than normal – every boat was in a great hurry, causing wakes to crisscross with one another. What with the noise, the stench from diesel engines, much activity and the humidity, I needed some sea room, so I remedied the situation by putting to sea.

A wind came from the south west, but it was not enough to drive the yacht over the ebbing tide. With the engine ticking over, by mid afternoon, we drew abeam of Mag Rock which is mile or so south of Berry Head. Motoring around the impressive headland was interesting because of the currents and a minor race. Afterwards we headed west to Elberry Cove. As I expected, the water skiers were there in force. They were camped on the beach with their gazebos, and they made a point of circling ‘Bumper’ for the fun of it – not much fun for me.

I cooked dinner and listened to the shipping forecast which predicted north westerly winds of force 4 to 5, veering north easterly 3 or 4, occasionally 5 or 6 later. Under those circumstances Elberry Cove was not suitable for an overnight stay.

As the north westerly wind set in, I raised the anchor and made for the western breakwater of Torquay Harbour, where I anchored among a host of crab pots in 30 feet of water.

As I prepare this entry for the log, it is relatively calm. Let’s hope that remains the case throughout the night. You might ask why I was reluctant to use the facilities of the Marina; well, at £19.75 a night, that’s a bit much. However, if this anchorage become untenable, I have the option of using the Marina if there’s a vacant berth.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thursday, 23rd June

The ‘Amerigo Vespucci’ is still at Dartmouth, and by implication, so is ‘Bumper’. High pressure is the dominant theme, which means little wind. As I’ve needed to replenish stores for the next leg of the cruise, I’ve made this a day for doing those things that need attention, but at the same time, I’ve treated my stopover as a time for relaxation.

Having obtained diesel and Gaz, and having bought my groceries, I rowed around the harbour taking photos of the visiting Italian ship and a rather insignificant ‘British Steel’, which was looking a little bit neglected.

When lunch was over I wandered around Dartmouth in search of a cheap flame gas lighter – an impossible mission at this holiday town, but I found one for a little more than I wanted to pay, at a candle and soap shop.

Dartmouth is absolutely packed with summer visitors, most of whom are keen on window shopping; a good many of them have been enjoying boat trips and the steam railway, on the Kingswear side of the River Dart.

As I compare ‘Bumper’ with yachts in general, she is smaller than most, yet I consider her as being quite large. I suppose her internal usable living space is similar to that found on bigger yachts, but her waterline length can’t be much more than twenty feet. The reason I mention this is that when I arrive at a new port, much larger yachts that I’ve seen before turn up again. We’re doing the same thing, i.e., cruising along the coast; maybe the bigger yacht arrives at a destination before ‘Bumper’, but ultimately we end up doing the same thing.

This evening I may take a stroll around Kingswear and perhaps to the Dartmouth Day Mark, north of Inner Foreland Point, overlooking the Mew Stone.

The forecast for tomorrow has predicted thunder showers – typical of the time when strawberries and cream are being served and eaten at Wimbledon; therefore a decision about moving on up Channel cannot be made until early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wednesday, 22nd June

By far, today has been the hottest since the outset of the cruise. There’s been a cloudless sky from early morning until now, as I type this before turning in for what I hope will be a refreshing sleep.

We are anchored in one of the few spots where it is permissible to anchor at Dartmouth, that’s next to number five large mooring buoy.

Down river, about two cables, is a large square-rigger, the ‘Amerigo Vespucci’. She’s an impressive vessel with two under decks and one upper, each defined with alternate bands of black and white. Her bow and stern are decorated with much ornate gold, and her upper cabin, masts and yards are brightly varnished.

Once the routine of ablutions and breakfast was over, and before saying farewell to Salcombe, I did the usual distribution of five Christian tracts by placing them in the cockpits of random yachts. As I was about my business, I became aware of a film crew in a rubber dinghy with their cameras following my every move! When I asked them why they were filming me, they were reluctant to give a straight answer, but I guess they were from some local newspaper or magazine, doing a report on Salcombe.

It remained calm throughout day, so we used the engine to follow the coast all the way to Dartmouth. I’ve never before been so close to the shore while rounding Start Point. At the time of rounding the Point, the ebb had not set too strongly; therefore we were able to skim over the outermost rocks so as to avoid the worst of it.

By 1000 we were close to the beach and low cliff at Hallsands Village, parts of which were swept away in a severe easterly gale some years ago.

There’s a beacon marking a point at the northern end of the glorious Slapton Sands, and I used it as a marker for setting the anchor while I made lunch and had a snooze. Afterwards, as it was so calm, I took the opportunity to check out the engine.

Just before 1400 we were underway again, and we hugged the shoreline to avoid the worst of the ebb. En route, we passed Stoke Fleming, which looked so lovely in the bright sunlight. The elevated village was surrounded with fields, copses and isolated dark green conifers, each shaped by the prevailing wind.

Below the hamlet there were cliffs of textured grey and mustard coloured rock with wild acid green foliage clinging to it in the upper regions.

On our arrival at Dartmouth I launched the dinghy and bought provisions for the next leg up Channel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tuesday, 21st June

Here we are at sunny Salcombe, the jewel of the South West. ‘Bumper’ is anchored at Smalls Cove where we’ve just been rammed by a plastic dinghy, being sailed by learners, under the supervision of the Island Sailing Club. There doesn’t appear to be any damage to either boat - just a frightened young crew who needed assurance.

We anchored at 1510 to seaward of the Salcombe Yacht Club’s start line, which is adjacent to the prestigious Marine Hotel. The tide really zips in here on springs, two or more knots. Everything is so clean and fresh. The air has that sea tang. There’s a lot going on at this particular spot, because all incoming and outgoing vessels have to pass nearby.

I woke at 0515, in plenty of time for the shipping forecast which predicted West or North West winds to Beaufort strength 3 or 4. In fact, the land breeze had supremacy, providing us with a gentle beam wind for most of the trip.

The local mist lifted to reveal my friend the Sun who always makes everything that much more cheerful. When the anchor had been stowed we drifted away to the east, heading for the Great Mew Stone, marking Wembury Bay and the River Yealm. There was enough wind to avoid four frigates making their way to sea from Plymouth Sound and the Brittany Ferries ship on her way in.

When we were south of the eastern end of Plymouth Breakwater the wind died altogether, but after using the engine for an hour, a gentle breeze from the south came to our aid. ‘Fred’, our windvane self-steering gear became a willing slave, enabling the skipper to relax and enjoy the scenery of Bigbury Bay. I could clearly identify the deep sided valley of the River Erme, and to the east I could see the unmistakeable outline of Burgh Island. When I was a child I spent a day there on the sandy beach and recollect seeing an electric powered canoe. At the time, it was mind-boggling experience for me; even now, it’s an intriguing proposition.

While out at sea I was not short of company, because there were so many yachts sailing along the coast today. As we ‘voyaged’ on opposite courses we made the usual courtesy wave and examined the other boat for things of interest. Bigger yachts invariably overhaul ‘Bumper’, but I accept that, as a boat’s speed is mainly determined by the length of her waterline. The question most asked by yachtsmen is, “What class is she?” I provide the answer, “A Newbridge Virgo Voyager,” then they signify their understanding or approval by nodding their head.

Sailing into Salcombe is something special. On your port hand is Star Hole Bay; it’s a semi-circular cove with high cliffs. The name for the Bay presumably comes from the experience of those who have seen stars at night from this particular anchorage. I’m told that from this viewing point they are exceptionally bright and colourful. Continuing northwards, the steep cliffs on ones port hand side softens, and becomes totally covered with rich green trees and foliage. Ahead is the western limit of Salcombe town with houses, guesthouses and hotels perched high on the north western side of the River. To ones port there’s Sunny Cove, Mill Bay and Smalls Cove, where we are anchored.

There’s so much to see from the boat, I doubt I’ll make the effort to have a walk this evening, but that decision can be made after dinner.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Sunday, 19th and Monday 20th June


Another 24 miles were covered today when we arrived at Cawsand Bay where we anchored at 1450. As a lad I had anchored here with John Dykes while aboard his converted St Ives lugger. I owe a great deal to John for all that he taught me in seamanship.

Coming to Cawsand from Fowey was effortless; the wind was from the north enabling ‘Bumper’ to beam reach virtually all the way. We took six hours from start to finish, at an average of four knots, and that includes plugging the ebb and working to windward at Cawsand.

En route, as we ticked off the miles, we passed close to the illusive Udder Rock buoy (always difficult to spot), Polperro, that picturesque village nestled in a natural amphitheatre, Looe, protected by her Island to the south, and finally Rame Head, with its distinctive sloping probe, reminiscent of the head and nose of an anteater. Lurking, camouflaged against the natural shades of Rame Head, Frigate F222, was on a ‘stealth’ exercise, perhaps searching for submarines, as we were in a submarine exercise area. She headed straight for us, but then made a dramatic change of course to the south west. Ten minutes later I could hear firing which seemed to come from the frigate. Two other naval vessels were out and about on the horizon.

As I needed to top up my mobile phone with credit I went ashore at Cawsand, where a young man, obviously intoxicated as he held a can of beer in his hand, asked if his friend, who could not row, could have a go with my dinghy. You can guess what my reply to him was, particularly as the wind was offshore.

At ‘The Shop at the Square’ I was fortunately tempted by the glorious vision of a real steak and onion Cornish pasty. When I ate it later that exquisite creation more than met my every expectation.

As I prepare today’s log I’m not sure whether to stay here for the night or to move to Barn Pool, a favourite anchorage which has served me well in the past. I’m being buzzed with jet skies just now, and they may tip the balance, encouraging me to up the anchor and leave.


Today is Fathers’ Day. For me it’s a time for reminiscing on my three daughters, the times we had together and the things we did, and with my wife too.

Choosing St Just for an anchorage last night was a good choice. It was peaceful there, and a fairly full moon brought some magic to the place. Breaking out the anchor this morning was a case of removing weed from the chain as it was hauled in.

A brisk wind from the north soon had ‘Bumper’ out on the open sea. At 1100 we rounded St Anthony Lighthouse and headed to the east for a mile, so that a course could be laid for Dodman Point, that formidable headland marking the eastern end of Veryan Bay, but first we had to avoid ‘The Bizzies’, a race off Greeb Point. This first stretch of water is dotted with many small buoys marking crab pots, which calls for vigilance on the part of the skipper, lest the keel, rudder or propeller becomes snagged on a line.

The fierce race south of Dodman Point stretches for a mile-and-a-half, and the southernmost part flows over a shallow spot, only seven metres below the surface at low water. My plan was to avoid the Race altogether by cutting close inshore in the lee of the land. At 1400 we rounded the Headland without difficulty. There was no sign of a race because there was very little movement of the water at that time.

Quite often yachts meet at a headland, especially if it is approximately halfway between two safe harbours, as was the case when ‘Bumper’ was at Dodman, which is a little more than halfway between Falmouth and Fowey when travelling up the English Channel.

The wind remained fairly constant at around force 4 from the North West – almost ideal for our passage of 20 miles. Two reefs were necessary to enable the boat to be balanced for the self-steering gear to cope. Remarks in my navigation log remind me that the sea was a slate grey in colour, flecked with white breakers. A ketch to the south was painted bright yellow in keeping with her sails, which added spice to the scene.

An hour later the sun broke through the haze, transforming the seascape into a wonderful blend of blues, areas of which were tinted lighter by reflected light from wispy clouds.

At 1430 we passed close to Gwineas east cardinal buoy marking the visible Gwineas Rock and Yaw Rock which breaks surface at low water. Brightly painted houses of Mevagissy and Portmellon contrasted with a backdrop of rolling green hills. Fine reaching across a sparkling Mevagissey Bay was sailing at its very best. Waves danced as we creamed along at five knots; now and again spray landed on my spectacles causing them to ‘frost’ over with salt flakes.

To the north were the ‘mountains’ of St Austell. They are useless conical piles of inferior clay brought up from the china clay mines; they remind me of my father’s Cornish roots because he and my mother lived for a while at nearby St Blazey and prior to that near Bodmin.

The red and white multi-striped Gribben Head Daymark is an easily seen navigation aid, only a mile or so from the entrance to the River Fowey. Lying to the south is Cannis Rock buoy which warns mariners of the lurking danger between it and Gribben Head. Here the wind became fluky and gusty, but I kept on sailing until Fowey Castle was abeam.

There I turned on the engine and we made our way to a substantial buoy north of Polruan, where the Harbour Master quickly found us and extracted £8.00 in dues for the night. Just before 2100 I was surprised to see ‘Snowfire’, the Loch Broom Post Boat owned by Chris and Lorna, come close astern in search of a vacant mooring. They must have had a magnificent sail in such a tiny boat, much to their credit.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Saturday, 18th June

This evening ‘Bumper’ is anchored in the lee at St Just, which is on the other side of the River Fal from Falmouth, but to the north east. There are 14 yachts here, making the best of this super weather. On the sandy beach to windward, people are still sunbathing although it’s 2000. A couple of barbecues are in progress.

What a picture Carrick Road has been today - so many yachts romping along in the fresh north easterly breeze.

Falmouth is surely the place for classic yachts, many of them fine workboats from the past, renovated and kept Bristol fashion. Down in this part of the West Country, the major sport is sailing, both racing and cruising.

This morning I managed to find a gentlemen’s hairdresser salon where, for the princely sum of £4.50, I had a Senior Citizen’s cut – sufficiently short to last until about mid July, when I hope to be back at the end of the cruise.

Before I set off sailing in the afternoon I saw two interesting boats at the Falmouth Harbour Commission Marina; they were a Loch Broom Post Boat belonging to Chris and Lorna, who are Dinghy Cruising Association members, and the other was a super junk rigged yacht named ‘Water Bear’. The Loch Broom is an open ballasted gaff rigged sloop with a bow sprit, and ‘Water Bear’ is a sleek plywood yacht especially set up for short-handed sailing.

Sailing to St Just was great fun. It was a beat with two reefs set, but at the start before hoisting sail, I had a fright, because the propeller picked up something, perhaps a piece of rope or a plastic bag. By reversing the prop I managed to shed whatever caused the problem. There had been a loss of drive and a juddering. This has only happened to me once before, and that was at Newhaven, when some fishing net caught on the propeller. My crew at the time, Richard Wells, very bravely went into the cold, horribly dirty water and cut it free. I remain grateful to him.

Two large square rigged sailing vessels are moored at Falmouth; one is a Russian Training ship and the other flies a Dutch flag. I managed to get my digital camera working again so that I could take pictures of these grand vessels.

Late in the afternoon I set up the folding dinghy and rowed to the creek at St Just; then I walked along the National Trust footpath to St Mawes, where I bought a Walls Magnum dark chocolate, ice cream – delicious.

At St Mawes Harbour I admired two sleek sea kayaks which were very narrow, maybe having only a 19 inch beam, with an overall length of approximately 19 feet. They reminded me of the kayak I built from plywood on similar lines back in 1970. While practising Eskimo rolling in that kayak that needed balancing like a cycle, I managed to get stuck in the cockpit while upside down! Brian Davies, who had also been practising rolling, helped me breath by swimming me and the kayak to the beach while I held on to him. Perhaps I owe my life to him.

While on my walk to St Mawes I noticed some very attractive houses with beautiful gardens; they were situated on the headland facing west, not far from King Charles Fort. The occupants have a wonderful outlook over Falmouth Roads, where, whenever the weather is fine, they should see glorious sunsets and reflections off the water.

A wedding reception was being held at the Fort and security guards were making sure no strangers were getting admission to the Fort, which is usually open to the public. I could see guests on the veranda in their attire. It could be that some celebrity and his newly wed wife with their relatives and friends where having a lovely time. How fortunate they were with the weather.

Back at the boat I grilled a tasty pork chop, boiled some rice and heated a can of baked beans. My favourite yoghurt with fruit completed the meal.

Tonight, I hope the waves will gently rock me to sleep and my guardian angel will keep an eye on the boat, making sure the anchor will not drag, and that another boat will not collide with ‘Bumper’ in the dark.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Thursday, 16th and Friday, 17th June


Conditions are seldom perfect for sailing, but the prospect of a force 4 to 5 southerly wind was too tempting to reject; I could not allow the opportunity of reaching the mainland to be forfeited, despite the forecast mentioning mist, fog patches and an occasional force 6. Under such conditions a GPS is a miraculous aid, but reliance upon it must never be assumed.

No one feels like waking up in the early hours of the morning before dawn, donning waterproof clothing in preparation for the off, but that’s what I did at 0240 as I was about to hear the Coastguard forecast. ‘Force 6’ in the dark was what made me decide to wait until the 0640 forecast which mentioned the wind would decrease to force 4.

Procrastination caused me to remain in the bunk until 0700, when I plucked up courage for the ‘voyage’, and by 0800 ‘Bumper’ was on her way. Very quickly, yachts which had been her companions for the night at Windmill Cove were lost to sight in the mist, but soon I glimpsed rocks to the south west of Great Arthur. Then there was nothing, just ‘Bumper’ and me on the swirling sea.

Being out in the Western Approaches is really like being in mid Atlantic. There’s no sight of land; waves and swell roll in from the open ocean. Sea birds take turn to check us out.

By 1000 we were on the western limit of the south-going shipping lane and right ahead, in the dark gloom, a freighter was on her way to the Atlantic. That quickened the rate of my heart beats and alerted me to keep a particularly good lookout for the next ten miles until crossing the north-going lane.

The wind strength increased and filled in a little from the stern which caused me to take in two reefs so that ‘Fred’ the windvane self-steering could cope. He can’t manage excessive helm movements when breakers knock the boat off-course, especially when there’s too much sail.

Wolf Rock lighthouse is a good marker for establishing the yacht’s position, and despite the poor visibility I wanted to see the it. Perhaps, here my judgment was not at its best, as, when only a mile from the Rock (as shown by the GPS), I could not see it or hear its horn. Prudence told me to bear north sharply, rather than south, because in that direction there are some nodules rising from the seabed which can cause the sea to boil. I had not realised how strongly the flood current was setting us towards the Rock, but as God was on my side, ‘Bumper’ was carried north of the fearsome trap. Only then did the mist open out enough for me to see the tall granite structure with a helicopter platform at the top. At the same time I was surprised to see a large white yacht a few hundred yards to the north, while both of us set our course to the west.

Lizard Point for the coastal sailor is like Cape Horn for the ocean sailor; they seldom let mariners pass easily. Today was not exception as the wind died. Had I arrived two hours earlier, all would have been well, because the flood tide would have carried us northwards past the Manacles and into Helford. As it was, the ebb started its return journey, which it has repeated for aeons since creation, but this time was predestined to frustrate our progress to a safe haven. My salvation was ‘the Donk’, that’s the Buhk 10 HP diesel, which has so often ‘thumped’ us along when there’s been no wind.

Since last glimpsing those rocks of the Eastern Scillies I had not seen land until visibility improved near the entrance of the Helford River. Then what a joy it was to drop the hook at my special spot, my quiet place at Pensence Cove, and there I had a very peaceful night.


This is a time to refresh and to prepare for returning to the East Coast. Perhaps I’ll spend a couple of days in the Falmouth area? I’ve heard that the Tall Ships are having a gathering here until Monday. If that’s the case I’ll look forward to seeing them.

Then I have the usual ‘chores’ to do, such as watering the boat, rubbish disposal, laundry and this time I’ve got to get rid of the contents of the Porta Potti! That’s a first time, because I successfully repaired the pump. I must say, using the Potti is much more civilized and better for the fishes than the ‘bucket-and-chuck-it’ facility.

If there’s anything of note to be written up for the rest of today, I’ll add it to tomorrow’s log.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Wednesday, 15th June

Last night there were strong winds and an inch of rain (Confirmed by Cornwall Radio). This morning brightened up for a time, but this afternoon dark clouds rushed over the horizon and white horses galloped out at sea. ‘Bumper’ was and remains protected by high land to windward at Watermill Cove.

I found little to do this morning other than enjoy a time of quiet reading.

This afternoon I tramped tracks and roads leading to Hugh Town, where I shopped for groceries and sipped coffee and ate a cake while watching yachts rock and roll in the Harbour. I was thankful not to be there in my boat.

One reason for going to HT was to take photos of ‘Arrander’, Sebastian Nasland’s ocean micro-sailboat, at the Longstone Heritage Centre, but I had forgotten to check the batteries of my digital camera! On my way back to the boat, having purchased new batteries, I still could not take any photos, because the camera’s memory had been used. Perhaps I shall not have an opportunity again, because I may decide to sail to the mainland tomorrow. On the other hand, if strong winds persist, I shall have another chance of photographing ‘Arrandir’.

Now, there are four yachts at Watermill Cove; one has a live-aboard who emanates from Troon. In the morning he sets traps for lobsters and crabs; then he retrieves them before nightfall.

I should have mentioned that a seal was curious about the boat and maybe me. He surfaced only a few yards from the stern of ‘Bumper’ so that I had a good look at him, not that I could see much, except his black head and his mottled black and white throat.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Monday, 13th June and Tuesday, 14th June


Last night turned out to be very uncomfortable. A wind against tide situation while on a mooring between Bryher and Tresco had the buoy banging against the hull, which caused a drumming sound. Sleep was not possible. I tried making the line short, then long; finally I drew the buoy up tightly to the bow, but with little effect. The dinghy needed a bucket on a stern painter to act as a drogue; otherwise it also banged the boat.

Instead of waking at 0530, as is my custom when cruising, I was surprised to find the time was 0800, but that didn’t matter, as the day was mine to do as I pleased.

During the morning I enjoyably whiled away the time by reading, attending to personal hygiene, checking the lockers, sitting in the cockpit while observing activity on the water, feeding two gulls and preparing lunch.

In the afternoon I explored tracks and roads in the vicinity of Tresco’s famous gardens; then I had a look at the helicopter port which is meticulously kept; it’s so well looked after, the keeper at Lord’s Cricket Club would be envious. The flowers, shrubs, bushes and trees are at their very best, providing a stunning show, a real feast for the eyes.

One big improvement since my last visit to Tresco is the village shop. Now one can buy most groceries there - even my favourite yoghurt, Muller Corner, which has a section for fruit. Another new facility is the cart for yachtsmen’s rubbish, near the fresh water tap at the quay.

To complete a day of relaxation I accepted the invitation of Martin and Roma Morris to visit them aboard their Nick Skeats 32 steel cutter. We spent the evening chatting - surprise, surprise, mainly on the topics of sailing, sailors and their boats.


The early morning forecast predicted winds for the next two days would be between south and south west, force 5, increasing to 6 or 7. It also stated the sea would be very rough around Land’s End, which means I’ll need to stay at the Scilly Islands until this coming Friday, at the earliest. I would like to make it back to Falmouth for the weekend, because the Tall Ships will be there from Friday until Sunday.

Because of the forecast I decided to sail ‘Bumper’ to Watermill Cove, on the north east side of St Mary’s. For the first time on this cruise I made way under sail after retrieving the anchor.

I can recommend the anchorage at New Grimsby, which is a cable to the south of the power cable laid on the seabed between Tresco and Bryher. The water only has a depth of about 8 feet at low water neaps, but there is very little current there at any state of the tide, which means boats remain wind-rode. Being near the jetty, the distance to row to the beach it protects is only about 400 yards, i.e., approximately 2 cables.

When it comes to a choice of where to walk St Mary’s is difficult to beat. There are many pathways, some bridleways and several minor roads. Unlike Tresco, cars and motorcycles are permitted.

When lunch was over I used the dinghy to take me to a hidden landing ramp; unless you know it’s there among the rocks to the south eastern end of the cove, you would assume the only practical way of getting ashore would be to land on the small boulders of Watermill Cove directly to the south east.

I found the coastal path of the eastern side of the Island was full of surprises. To begin with, I saw two separate pairs of cormorants; they are far less common than the smaller, rather dull shags. Other birds I saw during my 4 hour walk were a pair of peregrine falcons, several oystercatchers, turnstones and a goodly number of stonechats.

There’s a beautiful golden sandy beach which links Toll’s Island to St Mary’s at low water. When the sun is to the south, as it was this afternoon, the colour of the sea by this beach would probably rival anything in the Bahamas. The colour of the submerged kelp was a deep purple, and areas around it, free of weed, were a pale cobalt blue, tinged with a smidgen of viridian green.

I could see no signs of the wreck of the Lady Charlotte that floundered off Porth Hellick Point in 1917 - not even a hint of a rusted hull.

Poth Hellick is not really suitable as a port, because there are so many rocks within the cove. Some oddly shaped rocks marking the boundary between land and water have appropriately been given the name ‘The Loaded Camel’; from the north I could recognise the shape of a camel’s head and neck and behind there are some boulders resembling a load on the animal’s back.

Two aeroplanes with twin engines took off while I was walking around the perimeter of the small airport to the east of Old Town.

In the Middle Ages this village was the principal centre of population; now it is taking on a new lease of life. At the Old Town Café I treated myself to a cream tea and that cream was delicious.

My trek back to Watermill Cove took me northwards across the centre of the Island where I had the biggest surprise of all. In some nettles and bramble bushes beside the café of the Longstone Heritage Centre I spied a tiny blue double-ended boat with the name of ‘Arrandir’, and that rang a bell! I found out from a gentleman named Mick, who works at the Centre, that Sebastian Nasland had used the boat to undertake some epic voyages. I remembered Sebastian had his own web site, which I must visit again to reacquaint myself of all the facts.

Back at Watermill Cove the sea was as flat as a pancake, and yet to the south of St Mary’s I had seen it flecked with breakers.

Tonight I am expecting rain, but I hope the wind will remain in the south west or to the west.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Saturday, 11th and Sunday, 12 June


This morning we sailed to ‘The Cove’, which lies between Gugh and St Agnes. At low water there is a golden sandy isthmus linking the two, making them one island. To the north of the isthmus there is another cove, known as Porth Conger; its here the inter-island tripper boats dock at a small jetty.

On our arrival at this spectacular anchorage surrounded by rocky outcrops and open to the south, I recognized three boats encountered elsewhere; one in particular was of note, because it seemed wherever she went, I later visited the same places. She’s a Hillyard nine ton yacht, named ‘Kishya’; I first saw her at Yarmouth, which is her home port; then I came across her at Weymouth, Dartmouth, Hugh Town and finally at St Agnes.

Another of the yachts, a Hunter Impala, was at Porthcressa, where I met her young man and wife crew, but the people I was most pleased to meet again were Martin and Roma Morris in their Nick Skeats steel boat from Yarmouth. They had helped me when I most needed it by taking me in their large car to Cowes where I hoped to have my Autohelm repaired. Having built their boat over a period of two and a half years, they are now reaping the benefits while on their way to southern Ireland after exploring the Scilly Islands.

When lunch was over, I walked across St Agnes towards the west, passing through Higher Town, Middle Town and Lower Town. These names are rather grandiose, but in fact these three towns are composed of a handful of houses; some of them of historic note, due to their age and construction. The Island school is a little jewel, the sort of place all young children should experience before attending a senior school.

An adventurous part of my walk was climbing over rocks and boulders which link Burnt Island to the north western corner of St Agnes. At high water a significant section of these fantastically shaped multi-coloured boulders are covered by the sea. I doubt many people make the effort to reach this isolated part of the Island, but I was curious, because it was here the sailing vessel Charlotte Dunbar was wrecked in 1881. Sadly I didn’t find any bullion, but I did see a traditional lugger moored in Penglis Cove. I also accidentally disturbed an oystercatcher with her young chick, which she boldly protected by attacking me!

On my way back across the Island I met Martin and Roma again who gladly accepted an invitation to have tea later in the afternoon. They were eating Magnum ice-creams, a favourite of mine, and they told me they I could buy one at the Post Office in Middle Town. This wizard of a shop conjures up every type of food and drink a yachtsman would want.

Arriving back at the boat I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a large French yacht had anchored right next to ‘Bumper’ – it seems the French are very neighbourly. You’ll remember the same thing happened yesterday at Porth Cressa, but they were a friendly bunch who provided me with freshly caught fish. These aloof people will not even look towards ‘Bumper’; it’s as though the boat and I do not exist. I only hope our boats do not bump in the night.


This is turning into one of those memorable cruises, for all the right reasons. Today couldn’t have been better.

At 0710 the anchor was taken up, somewhat with relief that the French yacht close to ‘Bumper’ did not collide into her during the night. Under engine we made our way to a point just south of Taylor’s Island, which is half-a-mile to the north of Hugh Town Harbour. There we anchored again. Then I took the usual things ashore i.e., rubbish, water bottles, my computer and mobile phone. Between 1000 and 1200 I sat on the quay observing all the hustle and bustle one would expect when new visitors to St Mary’s are setting off on their first boat trips. While all this was going on I used one of the yachtsmen’s charging points to replenish the batteries of my laptop and phone.

Sunday on the Scillies is no different to any other day. In fact it is one of the busier days for the boatmen, although all five of the main islands have Church of England churches; on St Mary’s and St Martin’s there are Methodist churches, and there’s a Roman Catholic Church at Hugh Town. Things are no different to the mainland where only a minority attend church on a Sunday. Sadly, as far as I know, there’s no Baptist or Evangelical church on the Islands.

When lunch was over I took ‘Bumper’ for a sail, simply for the pleasure. Conditions were superb – bright sunshine, a gentle wind, excellent visibility and so many islands to explore. Firstly I concentrated on sailing around the southern and eastern shores of Samson, an uninhabited island which was last farmed in 1855, supporting around thirty people, but life became too hard for them and a benefactor of the Scillies, Augustus Smith, took pity on them and evacuated them from the island.

Next I had a look at the southern shore of Tresco, taking care to avoid numerous rocks, some of which were under the water.

As the tide was rising I sailed ‘Bumper’ to windward through the shallow channels that lead northwards to New Grimsby, the main town of Tresco, nothing more than a small village.

According to the echo-sounder ‘Bumper’ should have touched bottom, but I conclude it underestimates the depth of water. This sort of navigation is mostly done by sight, because the water is so clear one can see the rocks, sand and weeds.

As the sailing was so pleasurable I continued northwards between Bryher and Tresco until I reached Shipman Head, which is the most northern headland of Bryher. From there I returned to the moorings south of Cromwell’s Castle, which is a preserved ruin dating from 1651.

Once the evening meal was finished I rowed the Seahopper dinghy to an incredibly white sandy beach near Cromwell’s Castle. Then I climbed to the higher King Charles’s Castle where I could see the whole archipelago stretching from the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, to the south west, to the Round Island Lighthouse to the north east, and St Martin’s Island to the east.

It’s no wonder Augustus Smith leased all the Scillies from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1834 to set up a utopia, building the Abbey on Tresco as his home. Smith established the famous gardens where he brought plants, trees and shrubs from semi-tropical parts of the world, and because of Tresco’s equitable climate they survive to this day.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Friday, 10th June

My radio is working again, but I can only pick up local broadcasts on FM; therefore I listened to the early morning Coastguard weather forecast on VHF channel 23, which predicted north or north easterly winds of between 3 and 4, occasionally 5, and that’s what happened.

When there is any northing in the wind, the little bay of Porth Cressa is in the lee of Hugh Town; so I sailed the boat around the peninsula of land known as Garrison Hill and anchored at Porth Cressa in 27 feet when it was high water this morning. Because it’s a spring tide there’s a 17 foot rise and fall of water which gives a depth 10 feet at low water.

On my arrival at Porth Cressa I found three other yachts anchored there - two English and one French.

The state of the clothing I had been wearing since leaving Brixham was not clean to say the least, so I took it to the local laundry and they did a good job. Now my smalls, shirts and trousers have a wholesome smell once again.

While the laundry was being done, I found a chandler’s shop where I bought two super wooden oars and a pair of galvanised rowlocks to replace my old ones. Now I have to dispose of the old broken oar and its partner which are of no further use. While ashore I also took the opportunity to buy an Isle of Scilly guidebook which will help me to learn more about these wonderful islands. In addition to the guidebook I bought a postcard for the staff at Rice and Coles, to let them know I had arrived at the Scillies.

After lunch I rowed ashore with comparative ease against the wind using my new oars. The objective was to have a shower at the public facilities on the quay at Hugh Town Harbour. The shower was excellent, and after having a shave I felt like a new man.

You’ll have to imagine how satisfying it is to be snugly anchored in Porth Cressa; to the south west I can see the bright green islands of Gugh and St Agnes. At low water they are joined by a white sandy isthmus and around them there are outcrops of granite. To the south west there is the steep-sided headland of Peninnis with its lighthouse, and to the south is the Atlantic Ocean, a purplish blue, above which there is a cloudless light cobalt sky. As the boat pirouettes on her anchor line while being blown this way and that by the wind, bright evening sunlight dances through the cabin windows as it sharply contrasts with adjacent shadows.

By now, I’m used to the movement as ‘Bumper’ responds to wave and wind. Moving about the boat has become automatic, so that balancing requires no thought and little effort.

A French yacht recently anchored ahead of my boat and she is a little too close for my liking, but the crew seem not to care; instead they are successfully pulling in mackerel for a fresh feast, which no doubt I shall smell as the wind wafts it to me.

When I’ve listened to the1840 Coastguard weather forecast I’m planning to walk around Garrison Hill, which is a fortified bastion containing the Star Castle Hotel - one of five hotels on St Mary’s. From the western side of the Garrison I should see a spectacular sunset; silhouetted against it there will be many rocky islets resembling sea creatures swimming in the ocean.

I hope the wind dies down tonight so that I’ll be able to have a peaceful sleep.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Thursday, 9th June

Here in the Scillies the holiday really begins. These islands are fantastically beautiful. At least five of them are inhabited; St Mary’s being the largest and most populated. Each island has a particular character, although they are all composed of ancient granite that glistens in the sun.

St Mary’s has a network of minor roads, lanes and pathways that crisscross the undulating terrain. The main town, really a village, is Hugh Town, with a few shops, a Post Office and a Lloyds Bank. It boasts a major harbour where the ‘Scillonian’ docks daily. She is crucial for provisioning the islands, being the main means of importing goods and ferrying people and vehicles, not that there are many of the latter. Small motorboats are used to take people to and from the other islands. In the south east corner of St Mary’s there’s a small airport for light aircraft.

This evening I enjoyed a walk to Peninnis Head, where there is a lighthouse, but for me the major attraction is the wonderful natural sculpture, far grander than any manmade creations. Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth no doubt were inspired by the rounded and worn forms of granite outcrops found around such islands as these. Wind, rain and sun have worked on the granite over centuries moulding massive forms, some resembling parts of the human anatomy and one shaped like a primitive giant’s head.

As I marvelled at the jagged rocky islets in the direction of Bishop Rock lighthouse the sea sparkled brightly while reflecting the sun a million fold, nearly blinding me in a fraction of a second. The sun is but a minor star; it is so powerful no human or animal can bear to look at it; how can man possibly look at the Creator of the stars who calls Himself the Light of the World? Don’t tell me there is no God, and that the universe is an accident or a big bang! Nothing could be more ridiculous.

One of my oars for the Seahopper dinghy snapped this morning as I was rowing ashore to buy some groceries. Mending it is out of the question, because it is in such a bad shape - I’ll have to buy a new set.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll take the boat to Porth Cressa, if the wind has any northing. This inlet is to the south of Hugh Town where boats can anchor free of charge, but care has to be taken to avoid electric and telephone cables on the seabed. I’ve found a launderette not far from the beach, so I’ll be able to catch up on washing my dirty shirts, pants and socks.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wednesday, 8th June

‘Bumper’ made it to the Scilly Isles. I picked up a buoy in Hugh Town Harbour, St Marys Island at 1907. The distance travelled was 60 miles in 19 hours, at an average speed of 3.1 knots. A force 4 wind came from the east, making it a run from Lizard Point, but I could not use the windvane self-steering gear because the seas were too large.

There was a spectacular sunrise at 0515 when the sun resembled an orange lozenge suspended in a pale violet haze running parallel with the horizon. Shortly afterwards, visibility dropped and the Lizard lighthouse sounded its mournful note. Fortunately, as the sun rose higher in the sky, visibility dramatically improved.

I made the mistake of attempting to listen to the early morning forecast while in the cockpit. Tragically a wave broke against the side of the boat and doused the radio just as the forecast for Plymouth was about to be broadcast.

Off the Manacles there was a dancing turbulent mass of water; pyramidal waves clashed with one another, but ‘Bumper’ was very happy to waltz through the tumult.

While approaching Lizard Point I saw several gannets making spectacular dives into the water for fish. One ate so much he could hardly take off. Two helicopters were engaged in flying practice; one dropped what may have been a sonar device into the water.

The only respite I had for the whole passage was when I periodically hove-to for making drinks and grabbing quick snacks. It was a hands-on situation, leaving no time for writing up the log.

Wolf Rock Lighthouse came into view around 0800 and we passed to the south of it an hour later. Here I took in the first reef. Two more were put in before entering Saint Mary’s Sound, and it was a good job I did, because the flood tide made the waves very steep as we passed south of Penninis Head. The sea remained turbulent until we came into the lee of Garrison Hill, which is the south westernmost part of St Mary’s Island.

I’ve never seen Hugh Town harbour so packed with visiting yachts. Several were double stacked on the visitors’ buoys, so I elected to pick up a spare local buoy. The problem with that is that I may be asked to move, perhaps in the middle of the night.

We’ll see.

Wednesday, 8th June

‘Bumper’ made it to the Scilly Isles. I picked up a buoy in Hugh Town Harbour, St Marys Island at 1907. The distance travelled was 60 miles in 19 hours, at an average speed of 3.1 knots. A force 4 wind came from the east, making it a run from Lizard Point, but I could not use the windvane self-steering gear because the seas were too large.

There was a spectacular sunrise at 0515 when the sun resembled an orange lozenge suspended in a pale violet haze running parallel with the horizon. Shortly afterwards, visibility dropped and the Lizard lighthouse sounded its mournful note. Fortunately, as the sun rose higher in the sky, visibility dramatically improved.

I made the mistake of attempting to listen to the early morning forecast while in the cockpit. Tragically a wave broke against the side of the boat and doused the radio just as the forecast for Plymouth was about to be broadcast.

Off the Manacles there was a dancing turbulent mass of water; pyramidal waves clashed with one another, but ‘Bumper’ was very happy to waltz through the tumult.

While approaching Lizard Point I saw several gannets making spectacular dives into the water for fish. One ate so much he could hardly take off. Two helicopters were engaged in flying practice; one dropped what may have been a sonar device into the water.

The only respite I had for the whole passage was when I periodically hove-to for making drinks and grabbing quick snacks. It was a hands-on situation, leaving no time for writing up the log.

Wolf Rock Lighthouse came into view around 0800 and we passed to the south of it an hour later. Here I took in the first reef. Two more were put in before entering Saint Mary’s Sound, and it was a good job I did, because the flood tide made the waves very steep as we passed south of Penninis Head. The sea remained turbulent until we came into the lee of Garrison Hill, which is the south westernmost part of St Mary’s Island.

I’ve never seen Hugh Town harbour so packed with visiting yachts. Several were double stacked on the visitors’ buoys, so I elected to pick up a spare local buoy. The problem with that is that I may be asked to move, perhaps in the middle of the night.

We’ll see.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tuesday, 7th June

How would you manage without friends? Chas and his wife Pat have been my friends since we met back in the sixties. Chas and I were teachers at the Episcopal School for Boys in Exeter, and we both shared interests in canoeing and sailing. Although we are separated geographically, because I live in the south east of England and Chas lives in the far south west, we have maintained contact over four decades. I am grateful to Chas and Pat for the generous and practical support they have given me whenever I’ve been sailing in the Falmouth area.

Today Chas met me at Truro Station and took me in his car to the Percuil River where ‘Bumper’ has been moored for the past four days. After making the boat ready for the short trip to St Mawes I took her there to spend the night on a vacant mooring.

The weather seems set for the next couple of days, with a high pressure system over eastern England, and because of that, here in the south west, there should be easterly or north easterly winds which will be ideal for a passage to the Scilly Isles.

From St Mawes to Hugh Town, on the Island of St Marys, is a distance of 60 nautical miles, which includes a track south of the most southerly point of England, i.e., the Lizard peninsula. A tidal race extends two miles south of this notorious headland.

In times past I’ve had many a struggle while sailing around Lizard Point, which most likely derived its name because the rocks that extend south into the English Channel resemble the back of a gigantic lizard. When seen at night by the light of the flashing lighthouse these pointed rocks are most terrifying, especially when glimpsed through gaps in a veiled fog which reflects the light. I know, because I and my brother Fred had just that experience when returning from an aborted attempt to sail around Britain as competitors in the 1974 Around Britain Race organised by the Royal Western Yacht Club at Plymouth.

Tomorrow morning if conditions remain favourable I hope to set off for the Scilly Isles. It’ll be a very long day at sea, and perhaps into the night before arriving at the Islands.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Saturday, 4th June

There was no sailing today; instead Chas took me to the Eden Project, which was a feast for the eye. The humidity in the tropical undercover area was almost overpowering. I much preferred the Mediterranean climatic area were everything was so clearly displayed. Countless species of flowers, shrubs, trees, grasses and cacti were arranged in order with excellent descriptions of their origins and conditions necessary for their growth and propagation. An out of doors area was set aside for natural and cultivated plants found in Cornwall.

The controlled areas for foreign species were under huge transparent modular window panels similar in concept to the structure of the eyes of wasps and bees, but magnified on a huge scale, so as to be hundreds of feet above the ground. I have a feeling the structures were designed by the famous architect Norman Foster who was responsible for the Dome in London and the Stansted Airport Terminal Buildings. In addition to the space ship type ‘houses’ for the exhibits, an impressive education centre is currently being built as a complementary asset showing the importance of the world’s natural ecology and demonstrating the need for conservation and environmental friendly practices.

Sunday, 5th, Monday, 6th and Tuesday the 7th will be non sailing days, because I shall be returning home to attend the funeral of my wife’s brother, Donald.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Friday, 3rd June

0530, and the alarm tells me it’s time for the early morning forecast. Winds of 4 or 5 from the south west, with rain and fog patches are to be expected. Anchored at the mouth of Helford River I’d had a peaceful night. Bird song from the nearby woodland that plunges down the steep sided river bank to the sandy beach provided a welcome melody in keeping with the ethereal atmosphere created by the golden sunlight filtering through hazy cloud from the east.

After breakfast, a shave and bible study, it was time to be off while the going was good. Under engine we soon found ourselves in the open water of Falmouth Bay. Sailing downwind our speed was 3.5 knots. Anchored inshore there were two tankers together like Siamese twins; one feeding the other.

A red helicopter started her practise manoeuvres, hovering, then following yachts while only yards from the sea, causing a maelstrom of white water. There was something reassuring about what they were doing and I felt a kinship with them, knowing their dedication and bravery in saving seamen in distress. As the red machine took a pass overhead I waved to a crew member standing at an open door on her starboard side.

In what seemed no time at all, ‘Bumper’ came on the reach as she headed towards Falmouth docks. I disengaged the self-steering gear, downed sail and started the engine in preparation for finding a vacant mooring just below Flushing. By then grey clouds transformed the sky and rain started to fall. When tethered to a mooring I thankfully closed the hatches and took off my waterproofs before having a welcome cup of coffee and biscuits.

By 1100 the rain stopped and I rowed to the Town Quay where I left the dinghy before taking a short walk to Tescos for bread, milk and some flowers for Pat and Chas who had invited me to stay at their place for a couple of days. I was to be at the Percuil Boatyard at 1700 to be collected by Chas.

As soon as I returned to the yacht the heavens opened again, but I was safely below in time for lunch. Then after a snooze the sun obliging brightened the scene and I hoisted sail for a fast ride to St Mawes. A tug was in attendance with a large freighter leaving the docks while another held station waiting to take her place. I gilled around until the big boats had done their thing, then I continued on to St Mawes. Several yachts sailing to and fro added movement to the colourful scene.

‘Bumper’ was rather overpowered; therefore I dropped three panels and proceeded to the St Mawes moorings where I downed sail all together before slowly motoring between the moored yachts. First there was a boatyard on the port hand, then a small creek on the starboard hand. I purposely sailed close to random yachts to throw sealed and weighted gospel tracts into their cockpits. God knows if any will bring a response.

When close to Ian Webb’s Boatyard I looked for him, but as he could not be seen, I made my way to a vacant mooring, but as I did so, his assistant raced out in a motorized dory and showed me the mooring that had been reserved for the next four nights.

Chas was waiting at the slipway at 1700 hours and soon were on our way to his bungalow at the picturesque village of Point near the head of Restrongate Creek. We had a tasty meal and a lovely evening together reminiscing because we had not been together for two years.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have a chance to visit the Eden Project, which is a huge tropical terrain of trees and plants completely under cover so as to provide the appropriate conditions for their growth.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wednesday, 1st June and Thursday, 2nd June


Geoff left ship today because he will be going abroad for a week’s holiday. Maybe he’ll re-join ‘Bumper’ as crew when he returns.

We visited Falmouth Harbour Commission’s Marina this morning so that Geoff could catch a train home from Falmouth Town Railway Station.

Once again I’m on my own, but there are some advantages because I can do as I please and I am not responsible for the safety of a crew member.

Since the boat was at the Marina for a ‘short stay’ visit I made full use of the facilities. The showers, although not elegant, are certainly the most spacious I’ve found so far. I was able to charge the computer and my mobile phone.

Always at Falmouth you’ll find live-aboard characters and those sailors intent upon a major cruise. One live-board was bewailing the fact that he had sold his house 10 years ago and that had he not done so he would have made a fortune because the value of it had greatly increased.

‘Bumper’ being ‘tethered’ to the pontoon was quietly behaving herself, so I took the opportunity to clean out the heads compartment and attempt to mend the pump on the Porta-Potti. I’m not sure if this was a success and I won’t know until the sealer around the leaking pump has set.

It’s surprising how dirty the outside of the boat can get when cruising; therefore I made a special effort to wash off weed on the deck which had got there when I picked up a mooring at St Mawes. I also scrubbed the decks and cabin top.

Late in the afternoon I hoisted sail and returned to ‘our’ free mooring at St Mawes.


As I type this, ‘Bumper’ is anchored at Ponsence Cove at the entrance of the Helford River, on the south side. In a south westerly wind the wooded hills give good protection.

I set out from St Mawes at 0940 to find the wind was on the nose for Helford and visibility was poor because of heavy drizzle, but as time passed the weather improved and there were some sunny spells.

‘Fred’, the Wind Pilot self-steering gear, did most of the work to get us to Helford River. On the way I used my binoculars to watch a naval exercise in which distress flares and life rafts were deployed. Two black and yellow vessels resembling tugs each launched a fast rib. In turn they launched orange inflatable life rafts into which scrambled several people dressed in survival gear.

A large tanker named ‘Halifax’ was anchored in Falmouth Bay as she was been serviced by a supply ship. ‘Bumper’ sailed to windward of her in the direction of Lizard Point. Several tacks later she came near August Rock Buoy to the north east of the Helford River entrance. Here it was necessary to tack again towards the little cove of Gillan, where three or four yachts were anchored.

Our next tack brought us to Ponsence Cove, where I anchored the boat in 20 feet of water.

It’s a particularly lovely spot. Low cliffs with strata formations at crazy angles sprout out of the sea. Tangled greenery drapes between the rocks to a horizontal darkened line that marks where the sea rises at high tide. Very tall trees twist and spindle upwards in a steep ravine, at the base of which there is a small sandy beach. Now and again visitors scramble to the water’s edge, and just now one with her two dogs that dip their feet in the water.

A gentleman who has a Contessa 32 at Port Navas being rowed by his wife in a narrow Cornish punt came alongside to enquire about my Pacific Light Wind Pilot self-steering gear. He wanted to know if I though it would be suitable for his boat. I recommended it.

I’m uncertain what I shall do this evening. Perhaps I may remain at Ponsence Cove, launch the dinghy and have a walk to Gillan church and harbour. Alternatively I could run back to St Mawes, or go on further up the Helford River.