Lunch on River Fal

Friday, 21st June. Crew meet up. Miranda is a Hanse 385 chartered from Liberty Yachts in QAB, Plymouth. I had arranged an early handover at 2 pm and Debbie Wheeler and I drove down from leafy Buckinghamshire early on Friday. Unfortunately, we hit roadworks on a large portion on the M4 and then we drove into stationary traffic on the M5. Two ambulances with sirens and blue lights rushed past on the hard shoulder and so I can only assume there was an accident ahead. If there was it had been cleared by the time we reached it. We had to stop on the outskirts of Plymouth to buy our fresh food with the result that we didn't arrive at QAB until 4pm. Our American crew, Roger and Donna Clapp were already at QAB and had done the inventory check, the result of which I had no idea where anything was. Debbie had arranged a Waitrose delivery of our main and heaviest (mostly booze) supplies and waited at the pier-head to receive it whilst I attended to the handover procedures. In the meantime our fifth crew member, Steve Midgely appeared and organised a taxi to take the 5 of us to Mayflower Marina for the cruise briefing and welcome supper.

Saturday, 22nd June. Wind SW to W 10 to 15 knots. Passage to Fowey, 24 miles. The ambiance on the boat was set early over breakfast when I was asked a mass of questions by all of the crew. My response of "I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition" established that our American crew were Monty Python fans and the rest of the week was riddled with "beautiful plumage", "pining for the Fjords", "'tis merely a scratch", "is this a 5 minute or half hour argument?" and Lumberjack quotes. After the rush on Friday evening it took forever to make the boat shipshape and ready for sea and we passed the breakwater, the start of the fast cruise at exactly the end of the starting window at 10:30:00. Of course it was a beat all the way to Fowey but Miranda has a self tacking jib. Tacking was extremely strange with only the helms (2) person doing anything. The rest of us just had to rebalance ourselves for the opposite tack. We crossed the finish off Punch Cross Rocks at the entrance to Fowey at just after 14:40 and were tied up on pontoon 1 at the entrance of Pont Pill just after 15:00. This gave us time to call the water taxi and go ashore to buy some stuff for the "safari supper" later that evening. Unfortunately our crew split into 2 groups and both returned with 5 of the biggest pasties I've ever seen. Lunch was sorted for the rest of the week! The American section of our crew was desperate for some ice but someone had already been to the supermarket in Fowey and bought all the ice they had. We later discovered it was the Commodore in preparation for the pontoon cocktail party onboard A Day at the Races. Undaunted, Donna chatted up the bar staff at Haveners pub on Town Quay and acquired an ice cream tub of ice for free. After the pontoon party we paired up with Bruce and Dorothy Evans and their American guest, Sharon Bell on Strumpet for the Safari Supper. Strumpet has a banqueting hall comparable to that at Windsor Castle! Dorothy prepared an excellent first course of salmon with couscous which we followed with strawberries and cream (clotted of course) and cheese and crackers with port to follow.

Sunday. 23rd June. Wind W but 1 or 2 knots Passage to Helford River. Not enough wind to sail and the Fast Cruise was cancelled. We motored all the way to the Helford River. We crossed Falmouth Bay in bright sunshine but as we approached Helford dark clouds appeared to the west and by the time we had reached August Rock green buoy a light drizzle had started to fall and visibility became poor. It was a shame to enter one of the prettiest rivers in the west country without being able to see any of it. When we arrived there were very few visitor moorings available. I thought that by 15:00 on a Sunday evening most boats would be heading home but it didn't seem to be the case. Almost as soon as we had picked up the buoy Ventis Secondus rafted up to us. We had booked supper at the Ferry Boat Inn in Helford Passage and so the rather inadequate dingy was inflated  and the rather dodgy 2 stroke outboard attached.  Roger volunteered to ferry us ashore 2 at a time in the drizzle. Lady MaDONNA deserves a mention in dispatches after wading into the muddy Helford in her new trainers to push the dinghy, complete with rather dry skipper, into deeper water. On the way back to the boat the outboard stopped and it took many attempts to restart it.

Monday 24th June No wind again. Passage to Falmouth. Strictly speaking this was a lay-day. As HW Helford was around 0740 we decided to motor inland until we ran out of water. This happened just beyond the entrance to Frenchman's Creek. We then headed towards Falmouth, past Black Rock at the entrance then headed up the River Fal. We turned around just beyond King Harry's Ferry and tied to some pontoons just downriver of the ferry for lunch. We then motored back downriver to Mylor Yacht harbour where we spent the night right by the pier head. After 2 nights on mid stream moorings the harbour fees came as a bit of a shock being about double that of the previous nights. But at least we had easy access to showers.

Tuesday, 25th June. Another no wind day. This was just a short hop to Falmouth Yacht Haven but some excitement was had by a nameless crew member dropping a fender overboard thus giving rise to a "man overboard" exercise before entering Falmouth Yacht Haven. All of the crew took the opportunity to explore Falmouth. Tom Cunliffe in the Shell Channel Pilot says if you go into the Chain Locker pub you are bound to meet someone you know. He's right! I did and I did! Mind you, they were all on the same rally as me. Dinner this evening was at the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club at the other end of town.

Wednesday, 26th June. Again very little wind. Passage to Fowey. Not enough wind to sail so motored all the way. Fast Cruise was cancelled again. Spotted a seal on the way, our only wildlife sighting. Arrived just after 1400 and was directed by the harbour master to pontoon 1 in the entrance to Pont Pill again. Dinner was at Royal Fowey YC, while watching local Fowey River Dinghies and the larger Troy's racing in the harbour.

Thursday, 27th June. Wind W 10 to 15 knots. Passage to River Yealm. Fast Cruise on today. Started off Punch Cross Rocks at 0915. Sailing downwind with a self tacking jib is not easy. Such a small jib is easily blanketed by the rather large mainsail and so we had to "tack" downwind. The log on our boat was not working and so we only had the apparent wind angle to go by and we tried to sail with an apparent wind angle of 145 degrees to the wind. Some of the crew (no names) struggled with the concept of steering to a wind angle rather than a compass heading. Even so it was still very difficult to trim the jib effectively. I tried to rig all sorts of barbour hauler arrangements but could not get the lead in the right direction. Photos of us sailing downwind shows the clew sheeted in too closely but the top of the sail flapping like mad. (I do have a simile to use but it's much too rude to publish in writing!). We could have done with one of those large coloured things that A Day at the Races was using.  We crossed the Fast Cruise Finish, the point of Great Mewstone bearing 0 degrees, immediately dropped sails and motored along the various transits into the River Yealm. The sea in Wembury Bay was quite choppy but as soon as we rounded the first bend of the river everything became calm. We were directed to the northern pontoon along with all the other LSC boats. The Yealm water taxi then took us ashore for supper at the Yealm Yacht Club The taxi looked as if it had been abandoned in the river after the troops departed for Normandy in June 1944. I think, though, that it was more recent as it was made of aluminium and had an electric motor.

Friday, 21st June. Wind W 10 to 15 knots. Return to Plymouth. Motored down the Yealm following the transits to and past the bar. Once clear we started to hoist the main. When we had the main half up someone spotted a motor boat quite close to us. When I saw it I also noticed that it was flying flag Alpha, although as it was directly upwind and the flag was streaming directly towards us. It was quite difficult to make out it's shape or colour. It wasn't exactly complying with rule 27 (e) (ii) a rigid replica of International Code Flag "A" not less than 1 m in height. Measures shall be taken to ensure all-round visibility. I was also well aware of Western Ebb Rock that was covered and somewhere behind us. After a number of shouts of "Don't Panic!", "We're Doomed!", "Stupid Boy", "Don't tell him Pike" etc leaving 2 Americans to return home to search YouTube for clips of Dad's Army we managed to clear the situation and hoist the main for a sail back to Plymouth. We had a good sail across the Sound but dropped sail just before Drake Island, then motored over the Bridge and continued up the Tamar, past Devonport and a Portuguese frigate up to the Saltash Bridge before returning to our berth in QAB. Afterwards, Donna, Roger and I walked over the lock of Sutton Harbour to the Barbican and visited the bar in the Plymouth Gin distillery. There I sampled their navy gin (57% ABV) and tonic followed by an ice cream. Dinner was arranged at the officers' mess of the Royal Marine Commandos. A bus was arranged to take us there but as we were in the wrong marina we took a taxi there with instructions from Paul to meet the bus outside the barracks. The bus was delayed and we arrive too early. The guard must have spotted us loitering but as we were wearing jackets assumed we were not locals and called the colour sargent who invited us in to the officers' mess where I had to more G & Ts before the bus arrived. As a result I dozed off during the commodore's speech (sorry Barrie) and was taken completely by surprise when he called out our boat's name. I still have no idea what for! I was told that Miranda had won several crunchy and milky bars for our efforts during the most enjoyable week.

And so ended a wonderful cruise on a chartered yacht, mostly in good weather with good company and with many jokes and laughs and a little bit of leg pulling!