A West Country Cruise in Willow 2013

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Submitted by Martyn Graham on

Friday 21 June

Journeyed to Deacons Yard, well laden with clothes, supplies and bits for the boat by train in the morning and persuaded Aladdin’s Cave to check out the rigging of Willow, a Sadler 32, which was completed within the hour. Alja arrived a later and shortly afterwards we started the engine and slipped moorings just after mid-day picking up diesel (40 litres) from the Hamble Marina refuelling point. With two reefs in the main and two thirds genoa we sailed into a stiff south westerly force 5, in sunshine, with forecasts of stronger winds to come. We arrived at Yarmouth and chose a walk ashore berth and were tied up by 7pm. We had supper on board and examined the weather forecast to see if there was a chance to sail the following day – there wasn’t.

Saturday 22 June

By the morning the wind was a steady F7 and we decided to explore and caught a bus to the Alum Bay amusement complex and walked to a viewing platform overlooking the Needles, adjacent to an old rocket engine testing facility. The seas on the Ledge and Shingles were particularly turbulent. Back on the bus to Newport for a quick look at the capital, passing Carisbrooke Castle a large medieval structure on the outskirts. The wind was constant and showed no sign of abating. We had lunch and returned to Yarmouth.

Sunday 23 June

Alja went off exploring the castle near Newport and I spent the day sorting out a few loose wires going into the back of the chart plotter which had been misbehaving during our sail to Yarmouth. The radar reflector needed adjustment to prevent it from continuously winding and unwinding in the wind resulting in the line parting. The visit to the castle had been a success and we had supper in the Kings Head joining, afterwards, the Sunday Quiz night. With some help from an adjacent table we managed to achieve a good score.

Monday 24 June

The weather improved overnight and Graham arrived on the Lymington Ferry just after midday. The marina was happy for us to wait on the pontoon – it was pretty empty after all. We departed and motored up the North Channel before setting sail and tacking across Poole Bay. We passed Bournemouth Pier and noticed a tan sailed boat further out to sea that we took to be the Jolie Brise which had been moored along the dock wall in Yarmouth. The falling tide prevented us from using the passage close to the shore, at Sandbanks, to enter Poole harbour. We downed the sails and motored against a moderate ebbing tide to the Dolphin Quay Haven and were efficiently allocated a berth. Following canapés and a glass of wine we had fish and chips in the restaurant behind the Antelope close to the harbour.

Tuesday 25 June

Graham and I changed the foresail in an awkward easterly wind and we departed in overcast conditions and motored towards Weymouth being intercepted by the Lulworth Range safety boat and given a course to clear their safety template for the day. Once clear we sailed to Weymouth and were allocated a berth opposite the Royal Dorset Yacht Club. Alja cooked a magnificent stir fry and Mike Shaw arrived shortly afterwards. We, as the only customers of the Royal Dorset, had an interesting conversation with the barman, a young fisherman. He kept us all entertained explaining issues affecting small boat fishermen on the south coast.

Wednesday 26 June

We left mid-morning topping up with diesel (8litres). In overcast and windless conditions we motored round the Bill in a flat calm and after a few hours picked up the ebb tide that pushed us westwards across Lyme Bay. By late afternoon the weather had improved, the skies cleared and a south westerly breeze had strengthened.  We tacked across the rhumb line to Brixham until sunset and then motored direct and picked a berth on the visitor’s pier. It was dark when we arrived.  We noticed in the morning it was littered with Keep Off signs which did not concern the marina duty watchman to whom we paid our mooring fees.  

Thursday 27 June

Following a small shop we left in warm sunshine in the late morning in a F2 which dropped completely once off Berry Head. By early afternoon good progress was being made in a westerly F4, clearing Start Point with ease, there being no sign of the over falls. We continued westwards sailing in between Bolt Head and Prawle Point, dropped the sails and motored into Salcombe clearing the bar at 2.7metres. The harbour master allocated a buoy opposite the quay and we were joined by a Moody later in the afternoon. In the evening following a walk we had supper at the Fortescue Inn serving a fine selection of ciders, beers and an excellent fish pie.

Friday 28 June  

We slipped lines at 0845hrs, the owner of the Moody assisting at the closing stages. We motored across the bar into the lee of Bolt Head and raised the main with one reef and a reduced genoa. . We made slow progress westwards against the wind and tide, but patience bore fruit as the wind shifted to the south and we sailed across Bigbury Bay in glorious sunshine. The wind strengthened and we tacked out to sea to skirt the Great Mew Stone and entered Plymouth Sound through the eastern entrance. We negotiated The Bridge between Drakes Island and Mount Edgcombe, in Cornwall. The Mayflower Marina was on hand to assist us with coming alongside a hammerhead berth. Mike Shaw packed his belonging and following farewells made for the station and onward to an event in Wales the following day. We had an enjoyable meal on board prepared and cooked by Alja.

Saturday 29 June

Received a message from Christopher advising an arrival time after 4pm which gave us scope to explore. We caught the Cremyll ferry to Mount Edgcomb, an old country house destroyed by incendiary bombs in the 40s but which has now been fully restored. The Orangery in its delightful walled garden was being prepared for a wedding. We caught a bus to Cawsand and Kingsland, both on the water’s edge and being enjoyed by boaters and trippers alike. We had a Cornish pasty lunch and continued our bus journey across Whitsand Bay, high above the beach, before heading inland for the Torpoint chain ferry. Further bus jouneys took us to Brickfields, a stone throw from the marina, and indeed where as a boy the author had lived. Our home, Dameral House, had been replaced by a new imposing dental training centre. A short walk down Union Street to an Aldi store enabled us to re-victual the boat. Christopher had arrived with an enormous red bag which we loaded on board and we had supper at the Jolly Jack marina restaurant.

Sunday 30 June

Slipped moorings in the morning and motored up the River Tamar to inspect the Navy, one type 45 destroyer, one type 23 frigate and two submarines were on view. Further upstream we saw the Brunel railway bridge at Saltash, in the shadow of which the author had attended his first school. Under genoa we sailed downstream crossing the Sound and leaving the Great Mew Stone to port entered Wembury Bay en route to Newton Ferris for a short visit. There were a few empty buoys and surprisingly the pontoons were un-crowded. We departed and had a lovely sail to Cawsand Bay and anchored close to the wooded shoreline. The bay emptied throughout the evening and the anchor alarm was set and a good night’s sleep was had by all. Graham slept head first in the navigator’s berth which helped reduce the “vibrations”

Monday 1 July

Left Cawsand early and once clear of Rame Head sailed westwards into a F3/4 with sunshine along Whitsand Bay and past Looe Island; an interesting and attractive coastline. The large red and white beacon marking the headland beyond Fowey was easily identified. We arrived in the early afternoon and motored up the harbour exploring the different visitor pontoon options and observing the ships that bring in aggregates and export kaolin clay. We moored on a pontoon opposite a distorted but well-kept cottage on the water’s edge. The Welsh speaking harbourmaster explained this to be the Bonded Cellars used by the Revenue in olden times. We had an excellent meal at Sams - strongly recommended.

Tuesday 2 July

Attempted to leave early but the boat batteries were flat. A helpful engineer came alongside in a work boat and given us a slave start. So off we set in drizzle and a chilly wind. All was not well the batteries were losing their voltage and certainly would not have lasted for our passage.  We returned and explained our technical problem to the Harbour Master office who recommended a particular engineer who quickly diagnosed the problem as operator error.

We charged up the batteries on the Harbour Master’s pontoon and bearing in mind the weather remained in port. We had supper at The Royal Fowey Yacht Club, which has a commanding position overlooking the harbour and the evening races. The showers are quiet reasonable and Wi-Fi is available.

Wednesday 3 July

The weather had improved but we decided to remain in port and assist Alja in her departure arrangements by bus to a railway station. She left and had an agreeable journey home. Graham and Christopher decided to explore and I had lunch with Richard and Dinny Hews who live in Polruan. It was fun catching up with an old army chum and exchanging notes on the activities of our colleagues. We had supper in The Ship – not bad at all.

Thursday 4 July

We asked the NCI lookout at Polruan for a weather update as we left Fowey which was most helpful. We motored out and raised sails in line with Gubbin Head, tacking into a cold SW 4 towards Dodman Point which we eventually cleared. The wind became variable and for a while we motored until a sustained westerly blew and we had a cracking sail in warm and sunny conditions into Falmouth. St Mawes looked a bit exposed for a night anchorage, our initial choice, so we headed further into the harbour and berthed on the outside of the Mylor marina. I met John Codner who keeps Shamm his 28 foot racing yacht at Bursledon. He was off to the Scilly Isles on Manitou a mature 48 foot racing boat. What a surprise! Had supper ashore in a restaurant on the front and a few drinks in the yacht club where the barman referred to people as from “up country”. It is indeed a pretty place protected from the west but with the disadvantage of having shops at Mylor Bridge a 30 minute walk across the fields.  

Friday 5 July

Motored up the Carrick Roads the next morning beyond the King Harry ferry and saw not a single large commercial vessel out of service waiting for the economic situation to improve. A beautiful cream coloured Edwardian steam yacht was undergoing repairs. The Smugglers Teashop and Restaurant appeared to have closed with fences surrounding the premises. We unintentionally touched the bottom near a green buoy off Turnaware Point checking the calibration of the depth meter. We received a call from the Pendennis Marina with details of our berth which we then proceeded to occupy. We had supper at a nearby Rick Stein Restaurant which was pretty good, but nothing really special.

Saturday 6 July

Christopher and Graham departed by train and I had a relaxing day walking in Falmouth and exploring the contents of Trago Stores, a budget warehouse that sell most things at reasonable prices and did a few minor jobs on the boat.

Sunday 7 July

Took a walk up towards Pendennis Castle and looked across the bay at the Laser racing taking place.  

Monday 8 July

Checked the engine, gearbox and stern gland and noticed a large nut holding a newly fitted exhaust elbow had come loose. The application of a plumber’s stilson, acquired from Trago Stores at a reasonable price, fixed that. Some minor repairs to the gel coat in the bow were initiated. Ron and Debbie arrived in the early evening and after a few beers we adjourned to a nearby Pizza Express for supper. Debbie’s friend Tony, an ex-employee of Patak bilge pump manufacturer now living in Truro, joined us.

Tuesday 9 July

Following a short shopping trip in town we departed and refuelled (31 litres) and motored up the Carrick Roads raising the sails before leaving the harbour on our sail to Fowey. The wind dropped soon afterwards and we motored having our lunch of Oggy Oggy Cornish pasties. The wind remained weak and fickled and we motored to Fowey and picked up one of the few remaining visitor buoys. Following a couple of stiff G&Ts we caught the water taxi and had a pleasant meal at Sams.  

Wednesday 10 July

Slipped moorings in Fowey and motored out into a flat calm sea with some breeze near the coast. We tacked along the coast in a light breeze entering Lantic Bay a delightful anchorage providing protection for three yachts near a small beach. We continued making slow progress negotiating Udder Rock, close inshore, before the wind dropped completely and the iron donkey was resorted to. The tide was still falling as we entered Polperro and picked up a visitor’s buoy for lunch. Following instructions from a local fisherman we picked up a permanent stern line strung between two visitors’ buoys which kept a passage clear in the small harbour for tourist boats collecting and landing their customers on a nearby quay. The tide was still falling and was approaching Willow’s draft of 1.7m which we could see in lovely crystal clear water. We departed and as we approached Looe Island an easterly 4 sprang up and with one reef and some furls in the genoa we sailed across Whitsand Bay in glorious sunshine.  We followed a larger boat, which was clearly over canvassed, but gave us an idea as to what to expect. As we cleared Rame Head the wind dropped and we motored through the Bridge to Mayflower Marina where a member of staff helped us tie up. Debs went off to Aldi in Union Street before we had supper in the Jolly Jack marina restaurant. What a surprise to meet Andy and Avril Ormsby who had just arrived having crossed the Channel in Shearwater from Treberden in Brittany.

Thursday 11 July

Slipped lines early in the morning and motored across the Sound in overcast conditions with a NE3 which strengthened as we exited the eastern entrance on our passage to Dartmouth. The wind increased to F5/6 and a reef in the main and 3 rolls on the genoa had Willow in a comfortable balance.   

Good progress was made on a flooding tide; however the motion became distinctly uncomfortable as we tacked along the coast to Start Point which was not good for morale. We diverted into Salcombe crossing the bar at 4.8 metres and were allocated a visitor’s buoy on the town side, whereupon the wind dropped, the clouds disappeared and we were bathed in warm sunshine with Salcombe looking at its best. We had an excellent meal at the Fortescue Inn. A sailing boat bumped into our mooring buoy and became entangled with Willow’s anchor; cutting the lines tensioning their lower stanchion line freed the boat.  

Friday 12 July

Examined the bow for possible damage from our previous night’s encounter and could find none. Breakfasted as we motored out to sea from Salcombe. We encountered turbulent conditions as we tacked into an easterly 5 off Prawle Point. Several other boats were motor sailing in the same direction in overcast conditions. We gave Start point a wide berth and had a pleasant sail across Start Bay and noticed a large luxury schooner anchored off the entrance to Dartmouth. The wind dropped and sun appeared as we approached Berry Head. Had a pleasant sail in light airs across Tor Bay and took up a berth next to a Bavaria 34 called Matika in Torquay marina and exchanged stories. We had supper in an Italian Restaurant overlooking the inner harbour that kept the sun well into the evening.  

Saturday 13 July

Left Torquay at 5.30 heading out into cloudless and windless Tor Bay with the sun appearing over the horizon. We travelled well across Lyme Bay debating as to whether an intermittent N2 was contributing to our boat speed. Lunch included Oggy Oggy pasties that Deborah had sourced in Torquay. Visibility at the Bill improved and sailing boats were heading in both directions and groups of fishing boats were anchored at both ends of The Shambles. Leaving the two cardinals to port we headed north into Weymouth Bay and were able to sail to the north entrance of Portland Harbour. We just caught the fuel attendant and topped up with 23 Litres of diesel and berthed on T pontoon opposite an old wooden Scandinavian fishing boat en route to the Mediterranean. Deborah made arrangements to return home by train and we had supper at the Boat that Rocks where we were lucky to get a table. Surprise, surprise Andy & Avril Ormsby joined us for a small Little Ship Club social gathering having sailed Shearwater from Brixham.

Sunday 14 July

Following Debs departure on a No1 bus to Weymouth Ron and I explored a small kiosk that cooks fresh fish called Quinnels at the eastern most extremity of the Chisel Bank. We had lunch at the Cove Inn on the Bank and then checked out a fish restaurant at Ferrybridge a 30 minute walk towards Weymouth. We had a beer at the Crab House Café, approved of the menu and booked for supper which was most enjoyable.  

Monday 15 July

Departed at 7.15am and motored out into a glassy smooth windless Weymouth Bay heading for our interception point with a flooding tide to carry us to the Solent. The Lulworth Gunnery Range safety boats were busy clearing the bay for a special firing activity. Once in deeper water we picked up the flooding tide and set a course for the Needles passing the Bridge Buoy at 2.05pm. The wind came up and we had a couple of hours welcome sailing in the Western Solent to the entrance of the Hamble. As we dropped our sails the Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth was heading down Southampton water to some exotic destination that our AIS failed to discover. We motored up the Hamble and were alongside at Deacons Yard at 6.20 after an enjoyable West Country cruise helped by Willow’s overall performance.