Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Pragmatism is the conscious or unconscious philosophy that most of us adopt for our survival. We tend to look at what is practical and what is not practical and make choices accordingly. Outside forces intervene and they have a significant influence on our course through life, but where we are born and who are parents are determine most profoundly the start of our earthly journey. We have genes inherited from our mother and father and there’s no escape from that relationship. To a certain extent we are moulded in their image. In our early days we are shaped by the teaching of our parents before we are influenced by our friends, associates, teachers, and others with whom we come into contact.

We cannot divorce our likes and dislikes, our prejudices and preferences from those who have shaped us; indeed we are grateful to individuals who have taken an interest in us, those who have helped us on our way, who have contributed to our understanding, the people who have seen our potential and have encouraged us in our walk. Without nourishment, without feeding, without love we would not have made it.

All these pieces of the jigsaw make up the whole picture in which we can see how we have achieved our ambitions and what they were; within the total picture we can see our development, growth, maturation, and fulfilment before contentment and understanding leading to enrichment of life; finally comes a gradual realization of decline, a lessening of our physical prowess and sometimes our mental ability, leading to an acceptance of partial dependence on others, until perhaps a time comes when total dependence upon others arrives. Finally, the inevitable occurs when dust becomes dust and life enters the eternal realm which is the eventual purpose of our being.

Some people think hard and long about eternity, but they do not use their philosophical pragmatism to determine a choice as to how they would like to enter the inevitable state of eternity. Only now in our present life can we do anything about how we shall be at the moment before the sap that runs in our veins finally runs no more. What sort of persons do we want to be? Surely what we are is far more significant than who we are. I may be the Prime Minister, the Queen, a nurse or a dustman, but the nature of my occupation has little to do with my desires, my wants, my needs and most importantly my motivations.

How do these things impinge on the time I set aside for relaxation? What is the best form of relaxation for me? Those who know me will immediately say by sailing yachts. That is true, but now I wish to share my sailing more than in the past and to that end I’m planning on buying a half share in my next boat. This sharing is not just pragmatically practical for the reduction of costs, but for the imparting of skills and knowledge I have gained over the years, so that my new sailing buddy will indirectly learn from my mistakes and successes. Initially, we looked for a trimaran, but we have come to the conclusion that it will be better for us to have a traditional Bermudan sloop with good accommodation and a reasonable performance.

Follow this Blog to learn how we get along.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Shedding Branches

Yes, it’s true. I’m going to simplify my life by shedding a few branches. Over the years one collects all manner of junk until there is so much clobber there is no room for standing. Walking and running are out of the question! Immobilisation is the result. There’s a time for renewal and simplification, a time to discard all unnecessary impedimenta and invent a new uncluttered future. To this end I am retreating from the subtle Internet entrapment into which I have drifted. I shall undo the self-imposed handcuffs and chains attached to my ankles.

What does this really mean? Well, I shall be closing down my web sites that demand lots of my time, effort and energy, not to mention enthusiasm and fresh creativity. There will be a sense of loss, almost bereavement, but the pain will be worth the relief when I can skip happily again, to be free without encumbrances having abundant energy to spare. I shall shed my self-imposed burdens and seek a new, freer and simple life.

None of the foregoing implies that I’ll abandon sailing or yacht ownership, far from it. In fact I’m planning on sharing ownership of the next boat, a trimaran, because I’ve never had one before, although I was terrified while sailing a F 32 which went like the clappers or should I say clippers. To my mind, for excitement and speed, trimarans are unsurpassed. They have disadvantages, such as their wide beam, which makes manoeuvring in marinas and confined waters more difficult than the usual run of yachts with less beam and their movement in certain sea states can be bumpy, but generally they sail fairly upright, and a well-designed cruising trimaran has excellent accommodation and ample deck space.

Unlike my web sites, I have no intention of closing this blog, so watch out for new entries.

Friday, October 17, 2008

using the Mobile Phone

This was an abortive attempt at copying and pasting a document from the QuickOffice application on my mobile phone. There must be a way, but I haven't found it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Access by mobile phone

This is my first attempt at posting to my blog by using a mobile phone. I shall be pleased if it works because I only need to carry the phone rather than my Asus EEE laptop.
I am currently sat at a table in a MacDonald's using the free WIFI.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Jogging Along

It's quite a while since my last entry on 24th July 08 and I just want to keep in touch to maintain use of the blog.

To obtain a CD with a user-friendly presentation of my two month cruise aboard 'Faith', my Paradox sailboat, please visit my Small Sailboats web site at http://www.smallsailboats.co.uk; then click on the link to the Editorial page for for the CD page.

Thank you for your interest in this blog which I may take up again for regular postings, especially in connection with my adventures aboard 'Faith'. If my health, time available, finances and good weather allow opportunities for cruising in the future, I'll make efforts to let you know here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

‘Faith’s’ Cruise CD’

I have written up the account of ‘Faith’s’ Cruise to the Scilly Isles from the River Crouch in Essex UK. Al Law joined me in his Paradox at Plymouth and we sailed in company to the Islands and back to Plymouth.

You may obtain your copy of the CD by visiting my web site http://www.smallsailboats.co.uk . Click the ‘Faith’s’ Cruise CD logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the Home Page, or enter the Editorial page where you can click the appropriate link.

By making a donation in appreciation of your copy of the CD, you will be helping to pay for the maintenance of the Small Sailboat web site.

The account is illustrated with 22 photographs and 3 maps. It comes in Microsoft Word (82 pages) which is a popular format.

This link may take you directly to the CD page: http://www.smallsailboats.co.uk/cd/cd.htm .

Best wishes,


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Signing Out

This blog forms a page of the Smallsailboats web site which has now become an archive, but I’ll occasionally make an entry here, particularly if I do another extended cruise in my faithful micro sailboat, ‘Faith’ - perhaps Holland next year, where the inland waters have great appeal.

Meanwhile, I would like to thank those who have followed these pages and perhaps we may be reunited next year (2009).

I think it is fitting to provide you with a link to YouTube where you can see a video of ‘Faith’ sailing along the Cornish Coast:



Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Cruise - Part 21

The Cruise – Part 21

Wednesday 4th June

I spent the major part of the day driving to Plymouth with the road trailer to collect the boat from Plymouth Yacht Haven, but I decided it would be better to use the slipway at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina. Accordingly I parked the car at the latter and caught the ferry to Mount Batten.

Crossing the water to Queen Anne’s took about 15 minutes, and 15 minutes later ‘Faith’ was secure on her trailer. Unstepping the mast, emptying the water ballast and making her ready for the road required another 45 minutes.

Thursday 5th June

After retrieving the boat at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina yesterday afternoon, John and Josephine, both longstanding DCA members, invited me to their place to have a meal and I spent the night with them. We had an enjoyable time and Josephine did us proud with a tasty and very filling meal - lashings of cream on the sweets!

I was not in a hurry to get home; therefore I stopped 3 times at motorway services which brought the total time from start to finish on the road to 8 hours.

That surely brings ‘The Cruise’ to an end. I hope there will be more cruising to look forward to, but my aim now is to keep ‘Faith’ at the Marconi Yacht Club by the River Blackwater so that she can be used for day sailing and the occasional long weekend.


Virtually all of the objectives were achieved; in particular reaching and exploring the Scilly Isles. I saw the start of the Artemis Transat Race at Plymouth on 11th May. Al Law joined me there with his able Paradox, ‘Little Jim’ and we cruised in company to the Beautiful Islands and back to Plymouth. Unfortunately the weather prevented us from getting to Plymouth by the last day of May to see the start of the Jester Azores Challenge Race. Apart from that disappointment, I measure ‘The Cruise’ as being a very successful and mainly enjoyable experience. I particularly thank Al for his company and support and I would also make mention of Nigel Davidson who shared the first stretch of the cruise by meeting up with me at various marinas and harbours as he cruised his superb ‘Nancy Rye’ westwards.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Cruise - Part 20

The Cruise – Part 20

Sunday 25th May (Continued)

After lunch the weather remarkably improved, which meant Al and I could walk the paths of the southern end of Tresco around the Heliport and to Oliver's Battery where the quay at Carn Near is being rebuilt. The Quay is an essential part of the infrastructure because most of the ferry boats from Hugh Town on St. Mary's use it when transporting trippers between the islands.

There are two freshwater pools at Tresco: The Great Pool to the north of the Abbey, and the smaller Abbey Pool to the south east. Both of them are natural habitats for migratory and indigenous birds. From Oliver's Battery we looked down at the smaller pool and across the water to St. Martin's which we hoped to visit before we left the Islands.

This afternoon the Meteorological Office issued a severe gale 9 warning with winds from the north east for later tonight.

Monday 26th May

High water is due at 0910 and the boat is anchored fore and aft at New Grimsby Harbour; rain is lashing down and Scilly Radio has just given a severe weather warning for later this afternoon when winds of 48 knots are expected. As a result, the 'Scillonian' will be sailing early for Penzance. It is Bank Holiday Monday and to celebrate the event the local gig boats are due to race, followed by festivities at the New Inn, the only pub on the Island, but my guess is that the racing will be cancelled. There's a gloomy report that the weather will not improve until Thursday - even so, a temporary interlude.

Both Al and I would like to return to the mainland, hoping for Newlyn as the first port of call, but we cannot do it without the right wind – anything will do providing the wind is not too strong and it is not from the east. With a high pressure system to the north of England and lows sweeping across the South Coast, nothing can change. Furthermore high pressure over the North Sea is blocking new systems from the west. This pattern is unusual for May.

The lot of the UK coastal cruising sailor is to be patient; he cannot afford to get it wrong - because of lack of sea room hazards are always present: headlands, tidal races, rocks, sandbanks, separation zones and the presence of other vessels. The ocean sailor is not bothered by these, except when he closes with the land.

At mid-day the rain was still bucketing down. As soon as the rudder touched the sand I jumped from the stern into the water and heaved on the anchor line before setting the anchor higher up the beach in preparation for the expected force 9. Within minutes the boat was firmly aground and I retired to the cabin where I removed my wet gear.

Inter-island boats came and went – the foul weather had little effect on their schedule. I felt sorry for the gig racers, as their event was cancelled.

Until midnight the strong wind gave no letup; I just had to grin and accept the onslaught as it attacked the boat.

Tuesday 27th May

By late morning the sun was shining and there was a gentle easterly wind. Al and I were pleased we could get out and about. We both shopped for essentials at the well-stocked Post Office Store. When lunch was over I took our washing to the Laundry which is not a do-it-yourself one. The assistants wash and dry it for you.

Our intention for the rest of the day was simply to relax and that's what we did while our boats remained high and dry on the beach at New Grimsby Harbour.

Wednesday 28th May

There being a gentle wind from the north and plenty of sunshine, the sandy beach was well-populated with people sunbathing while several youngsters swam around our boats; others made fantasy castles with the damp sand as the tide ebbed. About mid-afternoon we moved into deeper water to avoid grounding.

Early evening we again went ashore to eat and after comparing prices we ended up with excellent fish and chips cooked in a mobile van. Al was identified as 'red and blue' because of the colour of his jacket and I was described as the man with the 'white hair'.

Thursday 29th may

With a south easterly force 3 coming directly into Porth Cressa Cove the motion on our boats was becoming uncomfortable; therefore we set sail for Porth Conger, a little cove separated by an isthmus from The Cove between the islands of Gugh and St. Agnes; there we anchored as the tide was rising. Yachts on the exposed side in The Cove moved to our more sheltered position. Tripper boats landed their passengers at the new quay below the Turk's Head pub.

St. Agnes is an island only a mile from north to south and, including Gugh, the same distance from east to west. Nine ship wrecks are shown on my guide book – obviously a notorious place for vessels in fog or bad weather. Features of note are the Old Lighthouse, the Old Man of Gugh (a Prehistoric standing stone), Obadiah's Barrow and the Troy Town Maze. There's also Beady Pool where beads from an old wreck are washed up on the beach. The Old Man of Gugh is thought to be a standing stone associated with rituals in the Bronze Age and Obadiah's Barrow is an ancient burial place. The Old Lighthouse is no longer used, being superseded by the Bishop Rock Lighthouse to the south west of the islands. Troy Town Maze is a labyrinth of small stones arranged by the lighthouse keeper in 1729. Superstition has it that those who walk the maze feel a renewed sense of wellbeing.

Late afternoon we went ashore and walked the length of St. Agnes from east to west and back. Landing was an interesting procedure that Al devised. He took 'Little Jim' close to a rocky shore in the lee where the swell was less than where we first anchored; there he dropped an anchor before sculling to shallow water at the base of the rocks where he laid a second anchor in a crevice above the water line. When that was accomplished I anchored 'Faith' nearby and sculled her to Al's boat and after getting aboard her let my boat drift back on her anchor. I was then able to wade through the shallow water to the rocks and push Al's boat away from the shore so that she drifted back to be brought up on her shore-based anchor.

The most notable thing that happened during our walk was to avoid a small herd of cows on their way to a farm for milking. Three of the Jersey cows were frightened by something and ran past us, but the Angus cows ambled along. In response to my question a farmhand informed me that their milk was pasteurized.

Having re-anchored in deeper water for the night I was surprised to find a snorkeler swimming near the boat. He informed me he had been given time off from working at the bar of the Turk's Head Hotel and he was interested in our boats, as he had never seen anything like them.

During the evening the wind was still coming from the south east, but the Coastguard forecast for the Scillies indicated that the wind would back to the north west. That was encouraging news which gave us a glimmer of hope that we may be able to sail for Newlyn tomorrow.

Friday 30 May

We spent last night at Port Conger, St. Agnes, and at 0540 this morning we set off in a dead calm using the engine bound for Newlyn. A few miles out Al spotted a whale and a handful of dolphins. The day was dull and grey with the occasional fog bank. What little wind there was came from the dead ahead; therefore it was a matter of plodding along under power. Very little of note occurred except a large container ship passed ahead of us going south in the shipping separation zone. By 1130 we had reached the halfway position between St. Agnes and the Runnel Stone to the south of Land's End. Further on there was a spectacular display of gannets diving for fish. Their plummet from the sky was like cascading rockets. They folded their wings after power-diving and pierced the water so as to leave very little spray marking the spot. Inevitably they surfaced with their catches and took to the air again for more of the same.

The whole crossing was done using the outboard engine with the advantage that in the final stage passing along the southern shore towards Newlyn we had time to admire the beauty of the place. Lamorna Cove looked particularly attractive with trees nestling between outcrops of grey rock and the white painted houses following the contours of the surrounding hills.

Several yachts were berthed at the jetty we had previously occupied on the outward leg. Choosing one with her crew on deck we sought permission to tie alongside. We needed petrol for the next stage to Fowey, therefore we walked towards Penzance where there was a garage and a Lidl. At the latter we bought a few provisions. Like other places in the South West, Lidle discourages the use of plastic bags by charging 3p a bag. On the boat I use plastic bags for my rubbish and I was beginning to get short, so I bought one.

One of the fishermen at the Port was desperate to get rid of haddock and in an attempt not to throw them away he notified the yachtsmen that they were going free!

Saturday 31st May

We had a superb sail with a beam reaching wind for part of the way to Lizard Point. At 1050 the wind became light which meant we had to use the engine for rounding the notorious rocky hazard. This time the Serpent Beast was sleeping and she didn't notice our passing. The Honda 2.3 continued to purr all the way to the Helford River via the Manacles buoy. Two miles beyond the buoy we were pursued and intercepted by the skipper of 'Gypsy', a Hurley 22; he had seen our boats on the Scilly Webcam and was desperate to take photos of them.

A short distance into the Helford River on the southern side there is a delightful tiny inlet where we anchored for the night. Nearby there was a purposeful looking 37' trimaran belonging to a gentleman named Richard. He and his wife invited us aboard for coffee and cake. We didn't leave until after 2200 having enjoyed the evening chatting mainly about boats and the Scilly Isles where they had lived for a while aboard their Swedish Folkboat. We agreed the Islands were beautiful, but over time they had lost some of their charm because of development and the very noisy jet boats used for ferrying people. The jet boats in particular disturb boat users, unlike the graceful, very long open launches still used by some boatmen. These boats hardly leave a wash, whereas the very inefficient jet boats spread waves and havoc wherever they go.

Sunday 1st June

This was yet another almost windless day. Anchors away by 0610 we headed out of the River towards the rising sun in Falmouth Bay; there 'Awaiting Order' were two huge ships at anchor. Our first objective was Dodman Point, a distance of just over 13 miles. At first, progress was slow, because we had to head across the running ebb which was moving towards Lizard Point, but by the time St Anthony Light was abeam it had slackened a little.

There were more yachts on the water than we had seen before since Al joined me at Plymouth. While passing Dodman Point one of them came directly towards our boat which caused me to steer to starboard to avoid a collision. (Technically both boats under power should have turned to starboard when on reciprocal courses.) The yacht's name was 'Privateer'.

Approximately at mid afternoon a light breeze filled in from the sea and increased sufficiently for us to sail, but not for long until it petered out. While we were enjoying the quiet we were overhauled by the 'Nancy Beckett' (I think that's the name of the yacht once owned by Arthur Ransome. On board her there was a young lady called Sarah who was a member of the Dinghy Cruising Association; she recognized Al's 'Little Jim' and engaged Al in conversation.

By 1535 both of our boats were moored safely on buoys at Polruan, opposite the larger town of Fowey to the north west across the River.

Monday 2nd June

The morning started with fog at Polruan, but that did not deter our start at 0620 with the engine on. When clear of Punch Cross Rocks at the entrance of the River we hugged the cliffs towards Udder Rock, and I steered a course between it and Shag Rock. I suppose the shallow draft of Paradox gave me the confidence to do so. The high granite cliffs close to port somehow seemed to be protective - quite the contrary of what I would have expected. Normally I prefer a good offing in case of an emergency, but the wind was negligible and the looked sea like a purple mirror reflecting the image of the sun as a bright mauve orb through my sunglasses. Now and again there were glimpses of fishing boats when they emerged from the mist.

By the time we were abeam of the picture postcard Polperro, visibility had vastly improved. I laid a course almost due east towards Rame Head, some 12 miles away. As Looe Island came abeam we were overtaken by a small black tug that made a hug wash which fanned out over the otherwise smooth, placid water. Shortly before mid-dy a plastic bag became caught in the propeller, but it was a simple matter to clear it, which wouldn't have been the case with a fixed propeller. We were passing through a submarine exercise area; therefore I kept a very vigilant watch. When about three miles from Rame Head we could hear firing at the Tregantle Rifle range. There was no need for any concern for our safety because the firing was contained within enormous walls.

Distinctive Rame Head with its conical top and chapel-like building at the summit lay abeam at 1245. There was a certain chill to the air which gave a hint that rain would follow, which it did as we rounded the eastern end of Plymouth Breakwater. To port a sleek, and rather sinister looking submarine accompanied with tugs and a Police launch, made her way to sea – no doubt to carry out training in Whitsand Bay where I had been watchful for submersibles.

Much earlier than we anticipated would have been the case we found shelter near Plymouth Yacht Haven where we had anchored before we left for the Scilly Isles. The time was 1425. I was not sorry to get there, because it had been a case of motoring all the way from Fowey - approximately 23 miles in just over 8 hours – not bad considering the tiny Honda outboard had moved both boats (Al's being towed) at a speed of nearly 3 knots.

Tuesday 3rd June

Early this morning I moored ‘Faith’ at a pontoon at Plymouth Yacht Haven before helping Al put ‘Little Jim’ on her trailer. Together we went in Al’s car to his place where we parked his boat on his drive. He then took me to his local train station so that I could return home for ‘Faith’s’ road trailer. Tomorrow I hope I’ll make it back to Plymouth to retrieve my faithful boat.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Cruise - Part 19

The Cruise – Part 19

Friday 23rd May

Another sunny day with the wind from the east – ideal for coming to the Islands, but no good for returning, and the forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, except there will be rain and showers along with stronger winds. Therefore we made the best use of the calmer conditions to sail to Samson, an uninhabited island to the south west of Tresco.

First we went ashore for fresh water and to dispose of our rubbish shortly after high water. There was no problem navigating between Great Crabs Ledge and Plump Rocks. Ahead lay the tiny Puffin Island, providing shelter at the official anchorage near the north end of Samson. Bar Point, a steeply banked sandy beach was an ideal spot for landing, and by laying two anchors, one on the beach and the other further out, the wind and current kept our boats from grounding on the foreshore.

Samson is only three quarters of a mile long from north to south, and no more than four tenths of a mile wide at the southern end where a hill rises to 40 metres above sea level. We followed the winding path up the incline and noted areas that had been fenced off for the protection of nesting birds. From high up the extensive views of the islands were the best to date. On the way we observed several brown furry caterpillars which one should not touch because they sting; we also saw loads of black beetles, nearly an inch long. The many grey backed gulls took no notice of us whatsoever and I was surprised to hear the distinctive song of wrens - my surprise was because there were no trees and very little foliage on the island, mainly grasses and ferns. Traps marked by poles with blue ribbons had been set for rats.

A tripper boat came to the island after our arrival, but only a handful of people landed and we encountered none of them at close quarters.

Returning to New Grimsby was more problematical than going to Samson because there was only an hour left on a falling tide before low water. Al chose to sail to the east of Puffin Island where many rocks were exposed. He shortened sail and at one point was forced to wade with his boat for a short stretch. I elected to motor north to Yellow Rock where there was deeper water and there joined Al who had made it past the shallows. We both took our boats between Bryher and Tresco with no less than 3 feet of water under their keels. In places long trailing weeds brushed the bottoms of the boats. Finally we arrived at the beach near the new slipway by a recent housing development at New Grimsby.Later in the afternoon we went ashore for shopping at the Post Office which is well stocked with goods – a little on the pricey side, as one would expect, because everything has to be brought from the mainland.

In the evening we plan to visit the New Inn.

Saturday 24th May

Not a great deal going on today, except sheltering from the north easterly wind; for that we drew our boats onto the beach at New Grimsby Harbour.

For most of the morning we tramped the paths of the northern end of Tresco. From the quay at Old Tresco we could feel the wind and see breakers between us and the islands of St. Helen's, Tean and St. Martin's. Nearby there was a spectacular display of mauve rhododendrons. Search as we may, we could not find 'Piper's Hole, a cave with a pool where a small boat can enter. High up at Kettle Point we stopped for a rest and to reward ourselves with chocolate and nuts. A small motor boat below twisted and turned as the waves heaved and fell on the swell; she appeared to be making her way towards Old Grimsby.

On the sheltered western side of the Island we met several other walkers, no doubt interested in visiting Cromwell's Castle and Charles's Castle. As we had seen them before we gave them a miss.

When we had finished lunch we took to the paths again, but this time to see the trees adjoining the Garden at Tresco Abbey. This woodland of special scientific interest has a large variety of trees and plants. Many of them were brought to the Island by sailors when returning from overseas. Al and I were amazed at their beauty and intricate design. We called into the Cafe for tea and coffee and to wait for the drizzle to stop, which it didn't, so we returned to our boats a little damp, in time for an afternoon snooze.

As I was resting I heard the voice of a female who enquired of her companions how the boat could be steered; whereupon I sat up and surprised her. She made an apology for snooping, but went on to ask the usual questions: “How old is the boat?” and “How far have you come?”

Sunday 25th May

Al and I have been in the Scilly Islands for a week, and it's time for us to make a move to the mainland, but without the right wind we are 'trapped' by the Syrens. So far we have explored four islands: St. Mary's, Tresco, Bryher and Samson. Each have their own characteristics. St. Mary's by far has the most to offer the tourist; it's from here that boats take visitors to the other islands for beaching, walking, bird watching, or at Tresco to see the Abbey Gardens which are rather special with their enormous variety of plants and trees. We have not yet been to St. Martin's, which according to the guide books is the 'softer' of the islands with long white beaches and a less challenging terrain, although at the eastern end the Daymark is at the top of a high promentary.

The way the weather is going with gale force winds from the east, it is unlikely we'll have a chance of visiting St. Martin's.

I've been whiling away this wet and windy morning by reading and watching any nearby activity, either on the beach or along the road leading to The Quay. The 37' Sun Odyssey 'Maximus' lay alongside The Quay to take on water. Her crew of at least four ran to and fro between the yacht and the tap outside the Gents carrying the essential liquid in plastic containers. For my personal amusement I observed the antics of various birds at the water's edge as they preened and cleaned themselves; first there were two Oystercatchers who bobbed up and down in the water; next there were a couple of ducks who fled along the beach from three children playing with the sand; then there was a lesser Black-backed Gull who repeatedly submerged his head in the water before using his feet alternately to scape the sides of his neck.
At 1100 'Faith' dried out on the sand and two Bryher Boat Services water-jet inter-island boats simultaneously arrived at The Quay to offload passengers and take on new ones. Five minutes later the more stately old-fashioned launch, 'Kingfisher of St. Mary's' disembarked her trippers curious for the delights of the Island.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Cruise - Part 18

The Cruise – Part 18

Tuesday 20th May

Al lent me detailed charts of the Islands. I had been relying on the diagrams in Reeds Nautical Almanac and the electronic charts in my Lowrance GPS, but the latter are rather too detailed to be of much use in this location because of clutter on such a small window. Finding the way over the shallows between Tresco and Samson was made easier with Al's charts. We had a beat to windward in a fresh wind with the current helping us at first, but by the time we were to the west of St. Mary's the current was ebbing to the west and with the south east wind, making progress was slow. Our intention had been to visit the islands of Gugh and St. Agnes which are joined together by an isthmus of sand at low water, but after consulting one another on the VHF we though it more prudent to sail to Hugh Town, the main harbour of St. Mary's.

Tacking between the boats and buoys in the harbour was quite taxing, as there was no room for error, but the water was smooth, which helped because the boats carried their way. Both boats beached simultaneously as two interested people had noted our arrival and were waiting to satisfy their curiosity. They turned out to be Keith and Jack from a huge ketch beached with the aid of legs; it happens that the splendid vessel is used for trading between the Scillies and the mainland. Keith is a sailmaker.

We went to the Harbour Master's Office, but the man in question was not there; however we discovered that a person nearby was his assistant. He informed us that staying in the harbour would cost £18.00 a day per boat, plus the fact that we would not be allowed to beach them. Getting ashore with a boatman would incur more expense; we therefore moved to Porthloo beach were we set them high and dry above the boulders on a sandy incline.

When the evening meal was finished we had a walk along a narrow road to the telegraph tower and the old Coast Guard base. More visitors continued to examine our boats, including two from a stylish sloop anchored in the same bay, and a lady named Joan who owns a Tideway dinghy.

Wednesday 21st May

We had the whole day before us for exploring St. Mary's; little did we know that the rain foreast for the evening would arrive early in the afternoon.

There was a leisurely start as our boats dried out on Porthloo Beach and it wasn't until 0945 that we showed any sign of action. We ambled towards Hugh Town where we had planned to board the red open-top bus for a grand tour of the Island. At the time of departure around mid-morning the bus was full of elderly people, some with knapsacks, two or three with binoculars, and most with cameras. Our driver, who was also the commentator and owner of the bus, had a great sense of humour which helped liven up the dull historical facts of who owned the Islands and how they were governed in 1832 when the Goldophin family relinquished government to a Select Vestry. In more recent times Harold Wilson, the then Labour Prime Minister, owned a bungalow on St. Mary's which he frequently visited; indeed his wife continues to do so. At the end of a long decline with Alzheimer while being nursed at a local nursing home Lord Wilson died and he was buried in the graveyard of Old Town.

Cafes are hard to resist, and after our bus tour we found the Delicatessen cafe suited our pockets. Suitably refreshed, it was more shopping at the Co-op before returning to the boats for lunch and an ice cream on the way.

Early afternoon rain brought disappointment, as we did not fancy 'Walking in the Rain'; instead we passed the time in our hermetically sealed boats – that's apart from the open ventilation system designed for hotter climes!

Drying out our boats on the beach was debatable because of the surge, but in the end we elected to do so, which wasn't as bad as it might have been. We observed that the sandy beach had changed shape by becoming steeper than yesterday; therefore we waited for a full hour-and-a-half before letting them take the ground on less of an incline further out, but there were a few small boulders that needed missing.

Thursday 22nd May

Rain and showers were forecast, but the whole day was sunny and warm. Al and I made an early start at walking to the Longstone Heritage Centre where we hoped to find a famous small boat that had sailed across the Atlantic and perhaps further, but she was not there because the owner had fulfilled his promise and sailed her further still to his home port. Neither of us could remember the name of the boat or the name of the owner whom we believed was Scandinavian. Perhaps the name of the double-ender in ship's lifeboat style was 'Solvig', which rings a bell. No doubt a reader of this blog will know the facts. I remember sending a photo of the boat to the Microcruising Yahoo group about three years ago. Coffee and cake at the Centre made up for our disappointment. Displays of photographs showing the aftermath of a few of the many shipwrecks on the Scillies were sobering and underlined our respect for the sea.

Close to the Heritage Centre are the Carreg Dhu Gardens, although not expansive, they are intimate with displays of sub-tropical plants and trees brought there, planted and natured over several years. Nearby there's a Nature Trail that follows a stream to Porth Hellick on the south west coast of St. Mary's. Bird life in that area is prolific and I was encouraged to see and hear song thrushes which are rare in Essex where I live. The coastal cliff scenery in this area, including Peninnis Head, is spectacular; huge rocks pilled upon each other and interlocked resembling gigantic sculptures of the Henry Moore type, rounded and shaped into weird forms by the elements; colourful lichen, grasses and numerous flowers delight the eye. We found the local police and coastguards were engaged in a mock missing person search with youngsters from the Island's school. Building relationships with youth in this way is highly commendable.

At the Old Town Cafe we fortified ourselves with yet another cream tea which almost reached the high standard of the Bryher Cafe.

Back at the boats we found man passionately interested in them who took many photographs. He had seen us when we tacked into Hugh Town Harbour and had subsequently discovered photos of the boats on the Library computer.

Before we knew it, the time arrived for us to assist in floating the boats by tugging at their anchor lines when waves surged onto the beach. Sailing to New Grimsby at Tresco was a simple downwind run. There we anchored in the lee, fairly close to the shore, so as to dry out briefly before re-floating on the rising tide next morning.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Cruise - Part 17

The Cruise – Part 17

Sunday 18th May

Having eaten breakfast we set off at 0830 under full sail for the island of Tresco. The drizzle wasn't too off-putting and the force four wind was more than ample to push us along with the current at a good rate of knots. From the south side of The Garrison, which is a walled fortification containing forts built in 1901, we shaped a course north towards Tresco. As we approached the saddle shaped uninhabited island of Samson we could make out the beacons marking the pass between it and Crow Point at the southern end of Tresco. Getting over the shallows on a falling tide was just possible, with both boats scraping their rudders on the golden sand below.

The sheltered area of water between the island of Brhyer and Tresco is a favorite spot for visiting yachts, but apart from our Paradoxes there was only one yacht at a mooring flying a red ensign indicating the owner was aboard. By the time we beached our boats on the gently shelving beach at New Grimsby the sun was shining. We left them there at anchor for a walk around the southern end of the island where the Abbey gardens attract holiday makers. Close by there's the Heliport, but no flights are allowed on a Sunday. We saw sandmartins which look like swallows and heard the beautiful song of a thrush - the bird itself was so well camouflaged we failed to see it.

After lunch we anchored our boats with ropes attached to the crown of the anchors for retrieval from the beach; thus the boats would be kept away from the beach on the rising tide. Then we walked along a footpath close to the shore to Cromwell's Castle built in the 17th century overlooking the northern end of the Tresco Channel. From the top of the Castle there's a magnificent view overlooking Brhyer and Samson. Higher still from King Charles's Castle the view is stunning with panoramic views towards the Bishop Rock lighthouse, in fact most of the islands and outcrops from the north, westwards and to the south, can be seen. The colours of the sea were like those of a tropical island, so clear the areas of rock, sand and weed were visible.

Back at the boat I had a snooze before cooking a stir-fry. Later, we re-anchored our boats so that they would remain afloat to give us options the following morning.

Monday 19th May

At 0815 there was a falling tide, but we needed water and to use the shore toilets at New Grimsby; therefore we briefly beached our boats to carry out our tasks. Back afloat at anchor I used the chance to tend to my personal hygiene – an important matter when cruising for days at a time without access to showers or a bath.

While making the porridge for breakfast the Gaz for the stove ran out and needed replacing with a new 190 gram canister. It had lasted 8 days which was very good – mostly they last a week.

Around 0930 we arrived at the sandy beach by Anneka's Quay on the island of Brhyer after a sail downwind lasting only 10 minutes. I ran 'Faith' straight onto the beach with reduced sail and took the anchor to secure her in readiness for when she would float again in 4 hours.

Al and I set out for a walk around the Island in a clockwise direction. Moving south to begin with, we took the path around the shoreline below Samsom Hill where there are ancient tombs and chambered cairns. Continuing around rocky, weather worn outcrops like those found on Dartmoor, we found our way to the Island Hotel in time for morning coffee. The setting was quite sumptuous, obviously designer styled and the lounge was adorned with oil paintings; naturally, our discussion revolved around the subjects of the Fine Arts and artists.

Suitably refreshed, we continued our saunter northwards high up on Shipman Head, where we had a magnificent view overlooking the many islands; directly below us, across from the rocky islet of Hangman Island, tethered to a visitor's buoy, there was an old, rakish ketch with at topmast and long bowsprit – a really characterful vessel having a straight stem and counter stern. Her ensign was the Welsh flag sporting a red dragon.

On our way back to the boats we stopped at a cafe in 'The Town' for cream teas, and they were the very best, the scones having been freshly baked for us.

When we returned to our boats they were awash on a lee shore, which didn't really present a problem, as it was easy to push them off and set a small amount of sail for working to windward while dropping the rudder. Out on the water things were a little more challenging because the wind freshened and there wasn't a lot of room for maneuvering. The sandbanks and moored vessels made things awkward, but after a short battle with the wind and tide we re-anchored in the shallows of New Grimsby, Tresco. There we spent a relaxing afternoon after our morning exertions. I once again cleaned the interior of the boat, especially making sure there was no trace of sand in her bilges.

For a quiet night we shifted our boats south to a more protected position from the easterly wind, and Al elected to beach his boat, whereas I remained afloat.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Cruise - Part 16

The Cruise – Part 16

Post script for Monday, 12th May.

John and Josephine Perry, distinguished members of the Dinghy Cruising Association, visited both Al's boat and mine late in the evening at the anchorage behind Plymouth Yacht Haven and we had an enjoyable time discussing things, mainly boats, as you can imagine.

Tuesday, 13th May

This was a day of total relaxation for me. I wanted to spend most of it ashore exploring the old haunts of Plymouth I knew when I was a lad. I started by taking the boat to Saint Anne's Battery Yacht Marina, but they would not give me a berth because all visitors were being cleared out in preparation for the Mini Tansat boats. As I was next to Sutton Harbour where the Artemis Transat boats had been berthed I called them on the VHF, but they also said there was no room for visitors. My only option was to return to Plymouth Yacht Haven and find a berth there. I was in urgent need of a shower and I wanted the facilities of a marina – water and electric.

When I had sorted myself and the boat I took the ferry to the Barbican and started my exploration by looking at the Mayflower Steps from which the Pilgrim Fathers departed for Newfoundland; I think their ship the 'Mayflower' set sail in 1620, or thereabouts. Then I explored the Hoe where the old Smeaton lighthouse stands and old cast iron canons face seawards.

The day was sunny, but very windy – too windy for sailing to Fowey, the intended next port of call. The panoramic view over The Sound brought back memories of when, at the age of 14, I sailed a small canvas canoe there while on holiday. I took the canoe I had built by train from Taunton and initially kept it in the corridor of my uncle Charles's house, but when the local sailing club saw me with the canoe they let me have one of their haul out moorings free of charge. Back in 1948 little thought was given to safety equipment, things like life jackets or internal buoyancy for boats and I wonder how I survived, because I didn't wear a life jacket or have buoyancy bags in my canoe. Incredibly the tiny boat had two foresails, a mainsail, a small keel, a plank across the cockpit for sitting out and an extension tiller for the rudder. I was inspired by Uffa Fox, that inventive sailor and designer who lived on the Isle of Wight and who used to cruise open sailing canoes across the Channel to France and back.

I treated myself to a meal at a pub and further explored the Barbican where there are excellent examples of genuine Tudor houses. I also visited the National Aquarium which was a bit of a let down; on the other hand there were some beautiful fish and shells on display. Before returning to the boat I enjoyed a real Devonshire ice cream mixed with cream.

That evening Al and I had a very long walk along the coastal path to Staddon Point, very high above The Sound. From there the view was stunning. We could see the River Tamar beyond Drake's Island, the River Plym, the Breakwater and beyond to Rame Head. A large group of canoeists where heading towards Mount Batten and they looked like tiny water beetles.

Wednesday 14th May

It was still a little too windy for sailing, but Al and I decided to go anyway as it would be downwind trip. At the western end of the Breakwater the seas were breaking and the ride was bumpy. A warship was heading into port, but we were well clear of her. Another navy vessel was out at sea on a firing exercise. By 0915 we were rounding Rame Head and a large yacht overhauled us. We had to be vigilant and take care with the steering to avoid gybing. In the first part of the passage to Loe Island our average spead was 5.6 knots with the tide helping us.

Running close to the Udder Rock buoy the seas became a bit tricky because of the shallows. At 1300 we rounded Punch Cross Rocks to enter Fowey Harbour; there the wind failed because of lee caused by the high land of Polruan. I started the engine and towed 'Little Jim' towards the Town Jetty, but only a cable form it the engine stopped for some unknown reason. By using our yulohs we reached a nearby buoy and rafted alongside one another for a cup of tea. Later the engine started with no problem and we tied up at the Jetty for a short walk through the Town.

Next we went up the River to find a quiet anchorage at Wiseman's Reach. Not long afterwards the Harbour Master's Assistant came to collect the dues, but he was called away for urgent business which may have been in connection with the arrival of a ship for a cargo of China clay. On the instructions of the Harbour Master's Assistant we tied up to mooring buoys to eliminate any possibility of dragging our anchors.

That evening there was a heavy downpour of rain with thunder and lightning.

Thursday 15th May

When I woke it was still raining and the bucket containing the anchor and warp that I had left on the stern deck was one third full of water! Because the wind was still from the east the opportunity of sailing to Falmouth could not be wasted; therefore, although it was raining, Al and I elected to go. I started the engine at 0800 and took 'Little Jim' in tow. By 0950 we were off Gribbin Head, on which there is a very visible day mark that looks like a gigantic barber's pole striped in red and white. Here we made sail with the wind and tide pushing us towards Dodman Point which is a very formidable headland towering above the waves. The race that runs to the south has brought about fatal tragedies, the most notable when a tripper boat from Falmouth was overwhelmed and all aboard were lost.

As our little boats kept a mile and half south of the Headland to avoid the race, the waves built up and we reduced sail, because the wind also increased in strength. Two yachts were approaching the headland, both motor sailing because they were going against the wind and the tide. We set a new course for a point south of St. Anthony Head, eight and a half miles away. Steering directly downwind required concentration, because the seas were doing their best to fling our boats too and fro and as the wave crests were breaking, we both closed our hatches to be secure and dry below. We communicated now and again by VHF on channel 8 - one of the four official ship to ship channels for the UK.

We made a very fast passage, arriving at St. Anthony Head at 1240, where we gybed to starboard to reach into Falmouth Roads; then on the wind we proceeded towards the picturesque village of St. Mawes. Using the engine we rounded Amsterdam Point at the entrance of the Percuil River and anchored in a delightful cove named St. Antony, which was surrounded by woodland. Pity the sun was absent, but the place still had great charm; a heron stood at the water's edge and there was a welcome peace, away form the cold east wind.

Later in the afternoon we rafted alongside and enthusiastically compared our boats in detail; there were slight differences with the sails and yulohs; mostly they were identical, apart from their colour. We also discussed a sailing plan for the next morning when we might opt for the challenge of rounding the Lizard Headland while attempting to reach Newlyn – a good starting point for a crossing to the Scilly Isles. We wonder if the easterlies will hold, because the weather pattern is slowly changing.

Friday 16th May

With the prospect of a 35 mile passage around the Lizard to Newlyn we took up our anchors at St. Anthony and motored out to sea, but there was very little wind; therefore we continued using the engine with 'Little Jim' in tow. Unknown to us we were to continue thus until arriving at the fishing port of Newlyn.

At 0835 we arrived at The Manacles which is an off-lying reef 9 miles south of Falmouth Harbour entrance. We had passed idyllic Porthallow nestling in a natural cleft within the high coastline. Because there was calm weather we took the inshore passage around the Lizard which gave us a superb view of the off-lying rocks. Running down the coast we ticked off salient marks such as the Black Head, Kennack Cove and Cadgwith, the latter identified by a church tower.

Rounding Lizard Point was painless, but a close inspection of the rocks that resemble the spiky spine of a primitive lizard it was plain to see that getting it wrong could be very painful indeed!

Drizzle towards the end of the passage had us down below with the hatches closed. As we approached Newlyn several fishing vessels overhauled us and showed us the way in. Just before 1630 we tied up to the first pontoon for smaller boats and we were greeted by the Harbour Master who at first wanted us to move our boats further into the harbour to leave room for fishing vessels, but he changed his mind and said we could stay where we were if we rafted alongside. His assistant only charged for one boat. The assistant and another port employee were very interested in our boats. They told us that the Town Council were considering allowing planning permission for a smart marina just down the coast.

Saturday 17th May

With a good forecast for the passage to the Scillies we set off at 0610. Once outside the harbour we picked up a fine northerly wind that had us racing along to Tater-du light and the Runnel Stone. That part of the coast is all rather fine with high granite cliffs. Many fishing and crab boats were about their business. The Runnel Stone south of Land's End marked the beginning of the crossing of 27 miles to St. Marys at the Isles of Scilly. Beam reaching all the way gave us a very fast trip. The 'Scillonian' passenger and freight vessel on her outward leg to the Islands reported us to Falmoth Coastguard who asked us to let them know when we arrived at our destination.

Entry through St. Mary's Sound was against the flood which meant our speed dropped from 5 knots to 2, and the final approach from the craggy Peninnis Head to sandy Porthressa Bay was on the wind, so I put the engine on for both boats to make it easy. There in clear water we chose a bottom free of weed for setting our anchors.. Totally protected from the northerly wind we rafted alongside and discussed the passage. The time was 1420 and only a few cumulus clouds hovered above the Islands. We resolved to let the boats dry out on the beach to allow us ashore for the evening.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Cruise - Part 15

The Cruise – Part 15

Saturday 10th May

I had a really peaceful sleep last night with boat tucked in behind Plymouth Yacht Haven and I woke to a gorgeous morning, there being just a gentle wind from the east. When breakfast was finished I beached the boat to take a postcard to the mail box and to dispose of my rubbish, then I used the yuloh to move the boat to a nearby pontoon where there was access to a fuel bay, but I discovered that the Yacht Haven only sold diesel. Petrol was not crucial, as I had a full can of 5 litres which would last for quite a while.

The day couldn't be wasted; therefore I decided to have a sail for the joy of it, with no particular destination. What a fabulous time I had! When clear of the Mount Batten Pier I hardened in the sheet and made for the western end of the breakwater. Speed to windward was on average 3.5 knots and the boat consistently sailed herself. A German Auxilliary, A 1412, armed to the teeth lay on our course and temporarily she took our wind. A quarter of a mile further along we came very near the lighthouse that marks the end of the pier and slightly ahead to starboard was the picturesque seaside town of Cawsands with its golden sandy beach. The cliffs nearby are cloaked with trees that overhang the low granite shoreline.

The Channel tide lee-bowed 'Faith' which eliminated any leeway. With nothing in our path I simply relaxed and let the boat look after herself. When about 2 miles out to sea I counted 43 yachts sailing their various courses; several of them were racing - colourful too, with their spinnakers and cruising shoots. Undoubtedly, the sailing was the best of the cruise so far. When approximately 6 miles offshore I tacked to port to lay a course to the east of The Great Mewstone.

When well to the north east of the River Yealm I brought the boat round onto a run for the return passage, but on the way while on the starboard tack a crossing yacht on the port tack failed to give way, and I had to alter course to avoid a collision. I made sure the skipper of the other yacht, by the name of 'Anodyne' knew he had infringed the rule for which he apologized,

Back in The Sound I anchored near the north side of Drake's Island where there was a lee and after a snooze I set sail for Millbrook Lake to the north of Mount Edgcumbe where I anchored in 6 feet of water, and there I spent the night.

Sunday 11th May

This was the day I had been waiting for, and it more than lived up to my expectations. To begin with there was very little wind, so I started the engine and headed through The Bridge. There were a few other yachts on the water, but there was no indication that there would be anything special. I and hundreds, if not thousands knew the Artemis Transat yachts would be leaving Sutton Marina for the start of their single-hand race across the Atlantic, with the start at 1400.

By 0950 'Faith' was anchored off Cawsand beach along with many others who had already arrived. As yesterday, it was sun hat weather and there was a festive atmosphere with the local sailing and rowing clubs on the water testing their skills at racing.

Throughout the morning more and more yachts anchored in any available space they could find, and beyond Plymouth Breakwater surrounding the start line there were thousands of yachts sailing or motoring. Tripper boats full of spectators, motor yachts, dingies and even canoes criss-crossed tracks while taking photos of the competitors' yachts. One or two of them tried making trial starts, but it was an impossible situation. Helicopters hovered overhead, presumably filming the event. At the eastern end of the line one of Her Majesty's vessels was the platform for the start line flagstaff and at the western end there was a large black inflatable buoy advertising Artemis.

I joined the many vessels gilling around the line to take photos and I succeeded with some crackers which I'll make available on the Internet when my cruise is finished. I anticipated incorrectly that the majority of the racing yachts would exit by the western entrance, but instead they made a leg through the eastern passage which meant I did not have a close-up view of them racing. Nevertheless, the whole thing was a spectacle, the likes of which I have never seen before. As I was so engaged with watching the event I didn't realize the ebb had taken 'Faith' as far as Rame Head, and the wind fell light, which meant a slow sail back to Cawsands where I anchored for tea. There I encountered a problem with the bolt fixing the mainsheet tang which had worked loose, so that it fell out. I was grateful the mishap happened when the boat was at anchor.

I could not mend the fitting, because I needed epoxy which I did not have in my tool kt; therefore I started the engine and motored to the peaceful anchorage by Plymouth Yacht Haven where I stayed last Friday night. This was a convenient spot because it was near the slipway at Mountbatten where Al plans to launch his Paradox on Monday.

Monday 12th May

My priority was to link with Al Law when he launched his Paradox, 'Little Jim'; therefore mid-morning I took up the anchor and motored to the large public slipway at Mount Batten where I anchored to await his arrival. The boat needed a thorough clean on the inside and this was the opportunity to do it. As I finished the task Al arrived and I pulled alongside the slipway to anchor the boat in shallow water so that I could wade ashore and give a hand.

The launching was a painless affair and by 1315 we were anchored alongside one another back at the Plymouth Marina backwater that I felt was becoming my territory.

We had lunch and around 1500 we set out to beach our boats so that we could go in Al's car to John Perry's place where the trailer was to be stored. Unfortunately my anchor was caught under a cable; therefore Al went ahead to buy some petrol and deliver the trailer. A half-an-hour later I managed to free the anchor by contriving a hook from a pair of pliers attached to a piece of rope which I used to lift the cable and drop the anchor at the same time to drag it free.

I beached the boat and took the ferry to Plymouth for shopping and to post this blog. Al and I will probably spend tomorrow in the area before setting off westwards the next day.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Cruise - Part 14

The Cruise – Part 14

Wednesday 7thMay

I spent the morning at Plymouth doing shopping and catching up on my emails. The clothing store 'Next' were having a sale where there was a bargain for a pair of jeans which I bought and my other needs were satisfied at Tesco.

Before shopping I spent a while looking at the Artemis Transit yachts in the basin at Sutton Harbour Marina. They are like enormous racing dinghies with lids to provide a modicum of protection for their single-handed crews. The smaller 40 foot class didn't seem to have the same prestige as the 60 footers, as they were mostly placed in positions well away from where the public could view them.

The start of the Race will be at 1400 on Sunday 11th May, but competing boats will start leaving the Marina from 1000. It will take that amount of time to sort everything out. I am hoping to sail to Cawsands to watch the competing boats set off. That will depend on the weather and John Perry with his partner Josephine, longstanding and well known DCA members, have planned to meet me there in their much travelled 'Grey Boat'.

Back at the boat I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a bottle of Valentia white wine by the Berthing Master of the Queen Anne's Battery Marina. Apparently, a gift of wine is always given to skippers of a visiting yachts that have 'come from far'. For the record he took a photo of me and 'Faith'.

Bookings for a berth at the Marina always run until mid-day from whatever time a yacht arrived the previous day; therefore I set off for the River Yealm. As the wind was on the nose I used the engine which gave me time to look at things, one of which was the three-masted ship 'Kaskelot', registered at Bristol. She was anchored to the south of Mount Batten where her crew were busy at various maintenance jobs. She certainly looked resplendent and I thought perhaps there may be a tall ship gathering, as another sailing ship was in Sutton Harbour Marina.

I had planned the trip to the River Yealm with the ebb tide taking us as far as the Mewstone where the last of the east flowing current would not be too strong for us to enter the River. Two yachts were anchored outside the bar, awaiting sufficient water, but since 'Faith' only draws 9 inches that was not a problem. I discovered there were 8 feet of water in the passage and the new flood tide helped us on our way. Initially the River has a narrow steep-sided rocky entrance which, as one proceeds, gives way to a softer skyline of rolling wooded hills and beyond Warren Point northwards it opens up to an area of protected open water where there are several moorings, one of which I picked up. I was not there for long before the quiet-spoken and welcoming Harbour Master arrived for harbour dues. Besides the beauty and peace of the place, nearby there are toilets, showers and drinking water at the Newton Ferrers Jetty.

The Yealm is a haven for wildlife; besides the many birds which include heron, egrets, shags and oystercatchers the guide book tells of bass, Atlantic salmon, and sea trout. Shortly after arriving I was fascinated with fish swimming under 'Faith' and occasionally they purposefully slapped themselves against her bottom. I have never observed such behaviour before. The area has been designated as a site of special scientific interest and it is a coastal preservation area. Species such as pipe fish, seahorses, and rare sea slugs inhabit the water.

Thursday 8th May

I woke to a gorgeous morning warmed by the early sunshine peeping over the trees. Now and again gusts sweeping down the valleys blew 'Faith' sideways to the current. In response my DCA pennant rattled its staff as it vigorously snaked its tail in the wind. Here I was in a world of my own with time to spare and nothing to do but enjoy the gifts provided by God. I just lazed away the morning while admiring the views and soaking up the sun – at last a spot of real cruising.

To while away the time before sailing for Plymouth I reinforced the repair of the hole in my jeans and I felt satisfied with my achievement – not as pretty as my wife would have done it, but passable.

It became so hot that I changed into my shorts! Little did I know that by the evening there would be a cold front bringing heavy rain. Somehow I missed that in the weather forecast. I also took the opportunity of the sunshine to scrub the topsides and along the waterline. 'Faith' was looking resplendent. Passersby in their yachts waved with delight.

Just before I was due to sail I observed a man wearing an apron who was carefully dropping what appeared to be sacks of a heavy material into the river near the bank. I can only assume he was preparing a base for a jetty and he was doing it 2 hours before low water so that he could place the sacks precisely where he wanted them.

By 1330 we were moving fast under reefed sail towards the Great Mewstone. With a fresh easterly wind we bowled along, and within half-an-hour we were passing the Shagstone, complete with half a dozen shags, and ahead lay the eastern end of Plymouth breakwater. In the lee of Ramscliff Point the wind became fluky, so I started the engine to combat the ebb from the Sound. When a steady wind was found again I cut the engine and shortened sail even more, because it was becoming boisterous.

Instead of passing through the Bridge on the southwestern side of Drake's Island as before, I chose the big ship channel to the north of the island. Here there were half a dozen dinghy sailors under instruction and two River Boats moving swiftly with their passengers, one on her outward trip and the other on her homeward leg. The SD 'Penryn', a navy catamaran slowed down when overtaking us – even so, her wake was quite considerable causing 'Faith' to violently rock from side to side.

Having dropped the anchor in 6 feet of water close to the wooded shore of Mount Edgecomgbe on the northwestern side leading to Millbrook Lake, I took a snooze for an hour and when I woke it was raining. After I finished the evening meal the boat was disturbed by the movement of tugs escorting the destroyer D96 to Devonport Docks. By then the rain was very heavy and a fully crewed yacht was towed to a buoy astern of 'Faith'. I guess they had problems perhaps with an uncooperative engine as the wind had fallen light.

Friday 9th May

By morning the rain had gone, leaving grey clouds which blotted out the sun, but after washing myself and having a shave my spirits were not dampened. I needed to explore Turnchapel and the slipway where Al proposes to launch his Paradox, 'Little Jim' on Monday. I discovered there are two slipways at Mount Batten which is an extension of Turnchapel - most probably Al will use the wider of the two.

When I left Millbrook Lake there was no wind, and it was an hour before high water. Had I not the use of an engine my exploration of the eastern end of Plymouth Harbour could not have taken place. Indeed, without the engine this cruise would not have been possible. While we proceeded along the waterfront a fellow in a safety boat came alongside to satisfy his curiosity regarding 'Faith'; he had seen her sailing he day before. He told me he was an instructor for the Royal Navy Sailing Centre at Millbay Dock and the dinghies I had seen sailing near Drake's Island were the ones he supervised.

Plymouth Yacht Haven is situated in a natural cove at Turnchapel where, when I was a teenager, an elderly friend and I used to anchor his yacht. To my mind the delightful village and surroundings have been ruined, just as other beautiful places have been blighted by those wanting to make a fortune out of yachtsmen – The Bag at Salcombe is a notable example.

While en route for Mount Batten the huge Brittany Ferries ship arrived at Mill Bay Dock and a submarine was being towed by tugs towards Devonport Docks. there's always something happening on the water – never a dull moment.

I found a landing place with a gentle sloping beach right next to the Marina at Turnchapel and beached the boat at half tide. That gave me time to search for petrol, which proved abortive and to take the ferry to the Barbican for shopping, Internet access and a shower.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Cruise - Part 13

The Cruise – Part 13

Saturday 3rd May

Still at the Public Slipway in Balsam Creek, Salcombe - definitely a day for staying in port because it was far too windy, although from the right direction for Plymouth. I took the opportunity for cleaning the boat inside and out; then I discovered I could access the Internet via a Hotspot at Blue Water Cafe. That was a relief because of the difficulty I had since my last success at Brixham at the Yacht Club.

A yachtsman who owned 'Cassie' a Westerly Centaur, engaged me in general chat which lasted nearly an hour. He was helpful by giving me local information such as where to buy petrol and find Internet access.

As I suspected, I was asked to move the boat because the rules clearly signposted spelled out that the pontoon was for short stay by attended boats. I took the opportunity to tie up alongside the fuel barge for a meager 5 litres of petrol, then I explored the upper reaches of the River where I found 'Patsy Rye'. Nigel informed me he would be at the floating pontoon in The Bag. Later I joined him and several other yachts, and in the afternoon we enjoyed a circuitous walk to Balsam Creek and back to the hole through the hedge to the beach where we had left his dinghy.

Sunday 4th May

The big day arrived for sailing to Plymouth, but what a shock was in store at the Bar; the ebb was moving fast against a large swell, causing dangerous breaking waves. I steered 'Faith' well port in deep water, but even there we bobbed up and over the waves with the engine purring away. I was relieved to get to out to sea where the wave height diminished, but the swell remained. When well clear of the fearsome Bolt Head I set a course towards the Mewstone off the River Yealm. By 1025 we were adjacent to Burgh Island and with the ebb running in our favour we were doing 3.6 knots without much wind. The sun broke through the gloom to transform the day, to the extent that I shed my layers of sweaters. I saw my first swallow of the year heading for the coast, presumably after crossing The Channel. Six wonderful gannets with their large wingspan flew in formation like the Red Arrows buzzing the boat. The smell of the air was indescribably pure and fresh – the likes that can only be found at sea after crossing an ocean.

By mid-day there was a good force 3 pushing us relentlessly towards Plymouth. There were a few boats in Bigbury Bay, one of which was an old, classic vessel painted in black and yellow once used by the Navy for general use. I could hear her rhythmic engine from miles away.

Arriving at the eastern end of Plymouth Breakwater I could see many yachts on that Bank Holiday Weekend. An enormous white passenger ship entered the western entrance and she was followed by a purposeful looking frigate that anchored in The Sound. I took the opportunity of smooth water for topping up the outboard tank. The incoming tide swept us through The Bridge (a narrow opening between a submarine barrier) south west of Drakes Island towards the narrows by the Cremyll Ferry slipway. The usual swirling agitated waters of the Hamoaze south of Devonport had us changing course.

I was fascinated with the Navy vessels at the Dockyards; there were Frigates, a Pilot boat, three tugs, three large Auxiliaries, a submarine and twelve moored ammunition carriers.

With the flooding tide pushing us up the River Tamar we were doing a good four knots with hardly any wind. Nowadays there are countess numbers of yachts on moorings and I used them as signposts to show me the way to Cargreen and beyond. From there on, the River is beautiful being lined with trees and fields for grazing cattle or sheep. The light drizzle didn't diminish the view, in fact the opposite by providing atmosphere.

At 1750 I tied 'Faith' to the Calstock Town Foating Jetty, and there I spent a very uncomfortable night because the boat settled at an angle on the sloping mud.

Monday 5th May

Most of the day was spent with my friend Geoff who lives in Calstock. Late afternoon I took the boat along the narrow winding river to Morwellham and the views are quite stunning. For a section of the River there's a cliff on the starboard hand when going upstream and at other parts the wooded hills rise steeply and there's such a profusion of trees of many types with their various colourings. Now and again nestled between the trees and fields there are granite cottages by the old industrial town of Morwellham there are remains of building associated with tin and copper mining. A few very tall but deformed chimneys look like religious totems; on had the top split as if it had been struck by lightning.

I anchored 'Faith' in mid stream with hope that I might have a quiet night's sleep.

Tuesday 6th May

Had a really good night – didn't even hear the boat turn on her anchor at the flood. I had no concerns except for a tiny black snail that had found its way to the foredeck. As I didn't want a superfluous crew I determined to set the tiny thing free on one of the branches floating on the water and sure enough one obliged. Once securely aboard nature's raft the wind obligingly carried my unwanted friend to the river bank.

For some unknown reason the engine was not in the mood to continue after starting and therefore I changed the spark plug and all was well. For the first time there was a high pressure system giving a blue sky and much appreciated sunshine. The verdant countryside was at its best. At this part of the River Tamar the beauty is outstanding; there are rolling hills covered with an abundant variety of trees and here and there are hedged fields in which sheep and cattle graze. Birds for ever entertain; a graceful swan, black-headed ducks alighting and skiing in to halt with their feet spread out, moorhens pecking reeds, pigeons darting from the overhanging trees, geese honking to keep intruders away and crows passing the time of day with their raucous call.

At Devonport Dockyard there was a hive of activity; tugs chugging here and everywhere, the Police launch speeding along, men dressed in overalls on the deck of the dilapidated submarine 'HMS Tireless' and sailors aboard Frigate 321 the 'Argyll'.

I berthed alongside the visitor's pontoon at Mayflower Marina, but it was hopeless there because of the continuous waves caused by the washes of passing vessels. I next motored along Plymouth seafront to the Barbican where I gained permission to enter Queen Anne's Battery Marina, and here I leave you here as I take a late afternoon stroll into Plymouth in search of a MacDonald's to post this blog.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Cruise - Part 12

The Cruise – Part 12

Monday 28th April

A swan flew in and landed by the boat on the dot at 0630. He swam near the boat, looked at me and guessed correctly that tidbits were unlikely when he took to the air again.

Just after seven I was at the Esso petrol station for 5 litres of unleaded, but finding the place was difficult because the people I asked had different ideas as to where it was!

Back at the boat, Lee, the Brixham Yacht Club Bosun, hailed me for his dinghy and by 0830 'Faith' was underway. The south westerly wind quickly took us to Berry Head where there was a fisherman bobbing and reeling in mackerel. Around the headland the wind was fine on the starboard bow and the ebb tide pushed 'Faith' to windward at a good 3.5 knots, but at the Mewstone the tide turned and the picture was quite different. The wind freshened to force 5 which caused the tops of the waves to break and we began to loose ground. I started the engine and powerd into the wind; sometimes wave tops swept the deck and crashed into the cabin front, but I was dry, warm and secure below. I observed 'Patsy Rye' close inshore under the cliffs motor-sailing. She quickly sped ahead while I pressed on for an hour before tacking towards Dartmouth.

Having cut the engine and tacked, 'Faith' sailed well between the troughs, and the breakers had little effect. Soon we were able to bear off towards the port red can buoy near the entrance between the castles. Reaching against the ebb from the River Dart was truly exciting, but in the narrow entrance the wind faded and became fluky. I could not make the engine start, and it was later that I discovered it had run out of fuel. A friendly chap in an open launch towed 'Faith' to Warfield Creek where I picked up a mooring and sorted the boat out while having a coffee.

Mid afternoon I motored up the River past the twin car ferries which are floating platforms shunted by miniature tugs. The public ferry swished ahead of 'Faith' and I was dismayed that the pontoon normally provided by the Dartmouth Yacht Club was not set in place. Finding a pontoon where I could moor was almost impossible, but the Yacht Taxi man showed me one.

After I had secured the boat I took the Yacht Taxi to the Town Quay so that I could do my shopping. While I was away the Taxi man filled my water tank. He returned me to my boat and shortly afterwards the Harbour Master's assistant collected dues; he also told me where I could moor so that I could walk ashore.

In the evening I visited Dartmouth Yacht club for a shower and to use their Hotspot, but I was unsuccessful in accessing the Internet.

Tuesday 29th April

There was time for an early morning walk to the nearest public toilet before the rain belted down causing a drumming sound on the Polycarbonate window in the hatch. Breakfast was therefore a leisurely affair with porridge, bacon, egg and marmalade on wholemeal bread helped down with tea and coffee.
A cold front was responsible for the rain and a sudden drop in temperature which had me back in my sleeping bag to keep warm. The morning went surprisingly quickly as I dozed and read alternately until lunch, after which the sun made and appearance inviting me to explore the walk to the Coast Guard Cottages high up on the cliff overlooking the bay to Start Point. There I observed the effect of the south easterly wind on the sea and I was glad not to be out sailing. I watched a motor yacht as it moved slowly to round the Mewstone, presumably on its way to Brixham against the ebbing tide. The boat plunged and rolled and I felt sorry for the crew who may have been sick with the violent motion.

Back at the waterfront I saw a Falmouth oyster boat and spoke to her lone crew who was delivering her from Guernsey to Mylor where she will pass into new ownership and for the purpose she was originally built. Those old working boats being gaff rig with long bowsprits and having straight stems are so easy to control under sail because of the versatility of the rig. The mainsail can be triced and the peak dropped while the staysail can be backed to control the speed and course for dredging.

The weather pattern is such that 'Faith' is unlikely to sail from Dartmouth until Friday - most likely for Salcombe.

Wednesday 30th April

As I suspected, the weather does not allow us to move on because of the possibility of a force 8 wind from the south west. Early in the morning I took the lower ferry to Kingswear to test the Hotspot known as Blackspot which is a pay system, but I could not complete the transaction owing to a technicality with PayPal. Even had I been successful I would not have been able to continue using the laptop because I was outside sitting on a pavement when the rain came down.

I returned to Dartmouth and did some shopping before walking back to the boat. Rain continued until mid-day when showers alternated with sunshine, but the wind was very cold from the north. I observed the movements of the ex-Brixham sailing trawler named 'Provident'; she's a fine looking wooden ketch with a distinctive varnished doghouse amidships. During the night she had been moored to the public pontoon and when the ferry needed to use the pontoon she anchored by number 6 buoy out of the fairway in the designated area. Later she re-anchored just above the Upper Ferry where I had seen her before.

With this sort of unsettled weather punctuated with showers and rain there is not a great deal one can do other than tog up well and enjoy a walk or explore the town.

Thursday 1st May

Early this morning the wind would have been right on the nose had I set off with a forecast of 4 to 5 south westerly, backing south. 'Faith' could have made it to Salcombe, via a waypoint outside the Start Pt. race, at the cost of being heeled at around 30 to 40 degrees and only making 2.5 knots with a lot of movement as she bobbed over the waves. Instead, I preferred to wait until tomorrow when the wind may be less strong and perhaps it may have some easting in it. Besides, I wanted to visit the launderette in Market Street to freshen my dirty clothes. In fact, I brought far too many clothes for the cruise, several of which I'm convinced I shall not use, but because of their weight they help trim 'Faith' by keeping her to her planned waterline.

The fresh morning wind brought large dark colds with the potential for making heavy showers, which made me take my waterproofs in my knapsack. At the launderette there was an elderly lady who could not understand how to operate the washing machines and dryers, therefore she asked me for assistance. Because all the controls were digital I was able to explain how they worked.

Back at the boat a gentleman named David whom I met earlier and who lives aboard a Golden Hind class yacht came to see my boat. He was amazed that I had sailed her from Burnham-on-Crouch. He explained that he was 78 and because of his age-related physical limitations he could not sail the boat to her potential, but if he chose to sail when there were fair winds he could manage. The name of his boat is 'Hesperus' and he mentioned that relatives call him The Wreck of the Hesperus.

I forgot to say that I was woken around the time of the early morning forecast by loud chanting which came from the direction of the Britannia Royal Naval College located at the top of a hill on the west side of the River Dart. As I habitually walked to the nearby toilets I saw many naval officer cadets running along the road – a few were having a really hard time, because they were overweight. Some of these trainee naval officers were young women, unlike when I sailed these same waters in 1950 when I was a teenager. Then, all of the trainees were men who had to undergo rigorous training on the water, including rowing whalers and sailing.

By lunch time the weather was distinctly better with long periods of sunshine. I was taken with the smart appearance of the steam train that runs from Kingswear to Paignton – the carriages are painted in brown and cream reminiscent of the era at the end of the war in 1945. This vision of the past trundled along the eastern river bank leaving a trail of white smoke while blowing a high pitched whistle. There was a lot more movement on the water than of late with several large yachts going to sea. Claude made the decision to set off early towards Falmouth - Mylor being his objective, where he hopes to exchange his boat for cash.

I took the opportunity of an afternoon without rain to retrace my steps of the other day to Dartmouth Castle and to the Coast Guard Cottages; this time I was inspired to walk further along the coastal path for an excellent view of Start Point. There were white crests to the waves, but nowhere near as large as on Tuesday when they willfully crashed on the rocks by the Castle.

At 2005 I was surprised to see 'Patsy Rye' tie up to the pontoon where 'Faith' was moored. Nigel told me he had lost his dinghy at sea while en route for Salcombe and that a fisherman had retrieved it. He learned this from the Coast Guard and discovered that it had been taken to the dinghy pontoon at Dartmouth.

I had another surprise when Joe and Jane who own The Canvas Factory shop at Dartmouth called by in their dinghy. Last year they had been sailing their Falmouth Quay Punt on the River Crouch when they took a couple of photos of 'Faith' and they were intrigued to find her on the Dart where they live aboard their yacht.

Friday 2nd May

Apart from the fact that the wind was from due south everything else was fine; therefore I made a start at 0750. A bright day and an ebbing tide from the Dart with the engine running and a scrap of sail to keep the boat steady we made rapid progress seaward. In the entrance and for a couple of miles the waves were fairly steep and 'Faith' bobbed her way towards a waypoint outside Start Point race. A large yellow cabin cruiser quickly overhauled us on her way to the Skerries Bank for some rod fishing. Our course, directly into the wind, lay a little to the west of the Skerries Bank Buoy.

By 1000 Start Point Lighthouse bore 270 degrees, just over 2 miles away. after another mile and a half we changed course for a point a quarter of a mile to the south east of Prawle Point. The engine was off and it was fine sailing in a force 3. As we drew near to the rocky outcrop of Prawle Point the Coast Guard Station was clearly visible with what appeared to be a red ensign flying at the flagstaff. The radar antenna was rotating, but I could not see anyone; nevertheless it was comforting to believe a duty officer was observing our progress.

While following the coastline I was intrigued with the natural hues of the rock face – greys, greens and yellow ocher. The scenery was stunning. To the west the craggy outline of Bolt Head resembled a giant lizard, similar to those that inhabit a particular island of the Galapagos archipelago. A large ketch followed 'Faith' along the leading line north to Sandhill Point where we changed course to the north east for the fairway. Salcombe was looking her best; to port there were brightly painted houses and a smart hotel and to starboard there were golden sandy beaches between outcrops of rock. Ahead were the moorings where we turned to port to find a place to stay. I started the engine and rolled up the sail. Baston Creek looked promising and sure enough I found a space at the pontoon by the public slipway.

I discovered that a the toilets were nearby and the road following the creek led to the Town Centre.

When I tidied and secured the boat I walked to the Town Jetty to see if 'Nancy Rye' had arrived. There she was motoring in and Nigel smartly picked up a mooring buoy. I could not gain his attention and on my way back to the boat I bought a few more provisions and a needle and thread to mend the knees of my jeans which were ripped.

I'm hoping I'll be able to stay moored to the slipway pontoon for a quiet night.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Cruise - Part 11

The Cruise – Part 11

Thursday 24th April

Unexpectedly I was invited to spend last night with my brother and his wife at their home in Sydling St. Nicholas, and what a change it was to sleep on a bed that didn't move! When I woke this morning and looked at the clouds rushing across the sky I was grateful not be at sea. There had been a band of heavy rain which had passed to reveal a beautiful spring morning - just right for a health-giving walk along country lanes where the blossoming trees proclaimed, “This is Spring at last.” In a fast flowing brook of clear water a trout darted from the cover of waving emerald weeds to hide under a stone until we had passed. Two male mallards clothed with pristine feathers of iridescent rainbow hues accompanied a dowdy mottled brown female swimming with the current to evade us until they conceived the danger was too great causing them to take to flight. Robins, wrens, blackbirds and crows spoke to one another of their territories in tuneful note, but with serious intent.

Back at my brother's home we had coffee in the warmth of the conservatory overlooking gorgeous rolling hills, characteristic of this part of Dorset. The flint built cottages with thatched roofs blend so naturally into their rural setting of farmsteads where cattle and sheep graze in leaf-fringed paddocks. It's and area of great wealth where only the privileged either by money or inheritance can live – a bastion of political and historical conservatism – the homeland of Thomas Hardy who invented Wessex for the settings of his scandalous and often sad novels.

Back at 'Faith' in the afternoon there were a succession of visitor who were interested in the little boat that by all accounts had sailed around the world! Some maintained she had circumnavigated Great Britain, but I countered these wild stories by maintaining she had sailed around the moon. Several visitors even took photos of me and the boat – fame at last. One local sailor when I told him of my problem with the outboard took me to Bussells Chandlery in Hope Street, because he said his friend Bill the owner would be able to sort out what was wrong. He was so bored he left his shop to diagnose the fault which turned out to me! I was not pulling the starting cord in the right way – that's first to find a compression load, then smartly pull the cord.

Friday 25th April

To take advantage of the tide and not be sucked into the Portland Race the best time for rounding the southern most tip of the savage peninsular is 4 hours after high water at Portland itself – that's when sailing from east to west. By adjusting the the speed of the boat we arrived at the crucial location exactly on time, i.e., 1400. The current was still running south against the wind which caused steep, but short waves and one of them knocked the outboard so that it was no longer low enough to provide full thrust which made getting out of the rough water to the west where there was almost flat water an anxious period.

The southerly breeze of force 2 or 3 was almost ideal for a course of 278 degrees true and within an hour we were nearly 6 miles from the Portland's hazards. Sailing south along the eastern side of the peninsular can be quite daunting; not only does the functional stone structure of the enormous ex naval harbour cause one to shudder, but the rocky and boulder strewn shore with the remains of a wrecked motor launch speaks terror. The nerves quiver as the speed of the tide increases while to seaward the race can clearly be seen. It's always a relief to be well clear of the notorious hazard.

An hour later the white lighthouse was barely visible astern through the gloomy haze, and there below it a tiny speck of tan brown which was the mainsail of 'Patsy Rye'. She had made it safely too.

The 33 mile passage across Lyme Bay was almost uneventful. The Portland firing range was not being used and apart from Nigel's lovely gaff cutter I only saw one other vessel, a fishing boat of some sort. Never had I crossed the Bay so quickly before, as on this occasion I used the engine to boost the speed which meant we arrived at the East Exe Bell Buoy about 2130. The navigation into the River Exe was made relatively easy by using the Lowrance GPS; nevertheless the adrenaline ran high because some of the buoys are unlit and the last long stretch is sailed on a bearing to white flashing lights at the entrance to the Marina. On the port hand there are sand banks, but it was high water and by the time I entered the Marina under the open drawbridge there was little movement of water.

Nigel was there to take my lines and help secure my treasure.

Saturday 26th April

What a lovely surprise there was for me shortly after I had eaten breakfast, for there was Al Law who had come to spend the day with me. We reminisced and explored parts of Exmouth by foot, including a coffee cafe and an ice cream vendor. I asked a young couple if there was a MacDonald's and they replied it was a couple of miles out of town on the Budleigh Salterton Road which was for my informants far too far to walk. My question was of little use because the battery of my laptop computer was low and by the time Ii was fully charged it was too late to visit MacDonald's.

I had a second free night at Exmouth Marina by courtesy of the Harbour Master.

Sunday 27th April

At 0700 I took the opportunity to motor the boat to a waiting pontoon on the Warren side of the River Exe. There was very little wind and it was peaceful as the birds made their early morning calls; I heard skylarks, crows and a pheasant!

By 1045 'Faith' was rounding Warren Point over Pole Sand in a depth of 10 feet. A light wind was from dead ahead; to starboard there were a few people walking along the beautiful golden sandy beach of The Warren and ahead lay the pretty seaside town of Dawlish with a road rising gradually up the hillside and colourful buildings in hues of white, yellow, blue and pink.

I motor-sailed the boat inshore, then tacked offshore before making a direct course towards Hope's Nose in the distance around which we needed to go before entering Torbay. As we sailed between the rocky Ore Stone and the headland of Hope's Nose the wind piped up and I shortened sail. To port a jaunty trawler was a work and ahead a large yacht was beating towards Berry Head. I deliberately headed westwards in the diretion of Paignton to avoid being adversely affected by the ebbing tide. The wind almost faded away when I changed course for Brixham. A group of people in an inflatable boat were trying to kite-sail a board. They were learners and there really wasn't enough wind to keep them moving fast enough.

'Faith' arrived at the pontoon of the Brixham Yacht Club at 1615 and I was greeted by Lee, the Bosun of the Club, who kindly let me have his rubber dinghy, to be returned early on Monday morning when he starts work. He also gave me the WEP code for the Club's WIFI.

What will tomorrow bring? – maybe a sail to Dartmouth.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Cruise - Part 10

'Sunday 19th April

The inshore forecast for Wight was North East 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times, particularly around headlands. With that knowledge I set off from Lymington at 0950 with the engine running, but just as 'Faith' left the inner harbour the engine failed, and it seemed like a case of petrol starvation. With no time to lose before the Yarmouth bound ferry would put to sea I made sail and could hold the wind until clear of the shallow water to leeward. When the depth sounder showed 20 feet I set a course for Hurst Point - just under two-and-a-half miles away. The flooding tide was against us, but our speed over the ground was a good two knots. Through the haze I could make out the white lighthouse and the gaunt concrete and metal structure of Hurst Cast;e which was a fortification commanding the western entrance to the Solent during the war. To the East I could hear the guns for the competitive racing yachts of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.

To the South West of Lymington Spit I observed a peculiar vessel anchored in shallow water and as my course lay along that path I discovered she was the race officer's boat for the Lymington Town Sailing Club.

We arrived too early at Hurst Point as the flood tide was still making against the wind, but 'Faith' was able to maintain just over a knot. By keeping very close inshore we could keep clear of the race to our port. It was exciting sailing, as I had to steer accurately to make sure the the boat did not involuntary gybe. The North Head green starboard hand buoy, distant about a mile-and-a-half, was our objective; once there we would be clear of the infamous shallows known as the Shingles over which the water pours resulting in dangerous overflows. This has been the grave of many unwary sailors.

While making to the West we were overtaken by several very fast RIBS; I assumed their crews were just enjoying the fun of speeding over the tumbling waves, and what for them was playful enjoyment could have been hazardous for the crew of 'Faith'. The well-known silhouette of the white cliffs of the Needles and its lighthouse could be seen through the yellow haze to the South. Soon we would escape the clutches of the Solent that entraps sailors like the sirens of Odysseus. The wind increased as we headed for Christchurch Bay beyond Milford on Sea where I had been entertained by cousin and her husband three days earlier. It was good to be sailing again after being stuck in port because of the excepionally windy weather.

While en route for Poole Harbour I frequently fortified myself by snacking on Cadbury Dairy Milk Whole Nut Chocolate, Brazil nuts and dried fruit. When Hingistbuty Head that marks the entrance to Christchurch Harbour lay abeam to starboard I felt we were on our way. The objective was to find Poole Bar Fairway Buoy No 1 to the North East of the white cliffs of Handfast Point. The nearer we approached the Buoy the bigger became the swell and waves as they rolled over the shallows. By the time we were passing through the narrows of Poole Harbour's entrance the tide was rushing out which meant our speed was reduced to just one knot which did not help when it came to avoiding the chain ferry. Beyond that hazard the wind almost failed which caused 'Faith' to sail backwards and not wishing to be swept to the open sea I tried the engine, but to no avail. Instead I was forced to change course for the South Deep Channel to the west where there would be less current.

In actual fact it was a fortuitous choice, because the sail along the winding channel to Goathorn Point where I anchored was delightful because of its beauty; wooded Brownsea Island lay to tne North, the smaller Furzey Island to the North West and the tiny Green Island to the West. Furzey Island was somewhat scarred by the derrick of an oil well and because of that exploitation the island is visited frequently by various craft to supply it with necessary goods. An extraordinary powered raft-like structure with a high bridge deck on a platform is used for transporting heavy vehicles.

The anchorage was at first peaceful, but when nightfall came the wind increased and it became uncomfortable. I observed a white egret patiently fishing at the water's edge.

Monday 21st April

After a not too pleasant night when 'Faith' was tossed and rolled by the waves I awoke to hear yet again another dreadful weather forecast. I snuggled into the sleeping bag with a resolve not to surface until after 0800 when I would have a leisurely breakfast. Throughout the morning there was a grey blanket of cloud which produced constant rain or drizzle. This did not stop the oyster fishermen doing their work, nor the frequent vessels visiting Furzey Island, or the bright yellow tripper boat named 'Maid of Lakeland' from doing her usual round of the passages between the Islands.

Poole is certainly a major ferry port, because during the afternoon an enormous passenger catamaran resembling the shape of a gigantic shark without a dorsal fin, but with a gaping open mouth ready to swallow anything in its path, entered and left the harbour and shortly after a towering top heavy Brittany Ferry named 'Contention' carried out the same routine.

With the aim of having a restful night I took up the anchor so that I could motor the boat to Bood Alley Lake, a passage between the mudflats south of Brownsea Island, but the engine failed only after a few minutes, possibly due to fuel starvation. I made sail and cut across the shallow water east of Furzey Island with only three feet under the keel until the boat was as close I could take her to the beach where I anchored in five feet. There I removed the cover of the outboard to discover why the fuel supply failed, but I took shy of dissembling the carburetter in case I could not reassemble it or perhaps I may have made things worse. Having an unreliable engine is not bit of use. My Honda had become a temperamental machine willing only to work when it decided.

While eating my evening meal I observed two fishermen walking the mud bank searching for cockles. Later they came close with their open boat PE113 named 'Ivy' and I asked them about their work. They confirmed they were looking for cockles and if they could find them, mullet too.

People may wonder what you do alone on a boat all day long, but I can assure you life is never dull. There is always something entertaining going on and there are jobs that need attention, besides time for reading, listening to the radio and enjoying welcome relaxation.

Tuesday 22nd April

I woke to find a very pleasant morning with the sun shining and a gentle breeze from the north. At 0900 I started the engine and set off for Poole Harbour entrance where the chain ferry was crossing to Sandbanks on the eastern side. There were no cross channel ferries entering or leaving and I had it all to myself. Despite my rude remarks about the engine, for a change it was running perfectly, and it enabled me to plug the flooding tide to Handfast Point and beyond. The wind filled in from the south which meant I could motor/sail past Anvil Point way beyond the famous race which was a non-starter because 'Faith' arrived there just as the tide was turning to the west. It was necessary to hold a course of 230 to avoid the Lulworth Firing Range until beyond the two danger zone buoys east of the Race. I could hear the guns with their booming periodic thuds and there was no way I wanted to get caught out.

When we reached 30 degrees 8 minutes north I set a course to run westwards, but the wind slightly headed us which meant we clipped the edge of the Range, but I noticed several vessels inshore of me, one of which turned out to be 'Patsy Rye' with whom I have been sailing in company. She's a beautiful wooden classic Hillyard 4 tonner.

I smothered myself with suncream to protect my face and hands from the strong sunshine. Haze caused me to lose sight of land. The Lowrance GPS with its charts was extremely helpful for checking our progress. With the tide bowling us along we were doing a good 5 knots. Early in the afternoon the tide set southwards which meant I had to offset to starboard to arrive in a safe position just north of a direct course to Weymouth. One can easily be dragged south around Portland Bill into the frightening race that even big ships avoid.

We made steady progress and arrived at Weymouth where we tied up to a pontoon on the south side of the Harbour opposite the Harbour Office. A group of children showed an interest in 'Faith' and asked several sensible questions about her. As I ate my fish and chips bought only a hundred yards away, two gulls waited patiently within touching distance. I rewarded them with left overs and others tried to join them, but they were driven away.

What to do tomorrow remains to be seen. I could stay in Weymouth or try for Bridport, even Exmouth if conditions are right. Most importantly I have to check the tide for the best time to round the Bill which is a tricky bit of navigation. You have to get it right or you could get into big trouble in the Race. There's a choice – either inside it or outside. I prefer the inner passage because it saves a good many miles and time.

Wednesday 23rd April

With the prospect of strong westerlies I decided to stay put in Weymouth where it is very comfortable, although noisy because of the fishing and tripper boats. I made it a 'get everything clean day' including myself, the laundry and the boat. The town itself is fascinating with such a variety of architecture, the Royal Dorset Yacht Club being an example of ornate design featuring pseudo Gothic arched windows.

I had a chat with a helper on 'Spirit of Weymouth', a 60 Class yacht entering the Artemis Transat. Apparently there had been vandalism on the boat that discouraged the owner, whose surname is White, but his forename is lost from my memory.

Nigel Davidson moored his boat, 'Patsy Rye' on the same pontoon as 'Faith'. We both agreed it was not a day for making west. My intention is to relax and prepare for the next stage of my westward quest which could involve night sailing.

There may be several days before the next posting, as I may reach the River Exe where finding a Hotspot may not be possible, but there may be one at Exmouth.