Friday, 29 June 2012

Bristol Channel

We were rescued from a potentially very booring day out of sight of land ( except for a tantalising view of Lundy ) by a very special experience. At 11-45 a pod of dolphins came to visit us, and play in the bow wave of the boat. They continued to make appearances on and off all day, sometimes staying for half an hour or more. I managed to get a 6 minute video from the pulpit, and have attached a shortened version ( 2 minutes ) to this blog.

We arrived at Milford Haven at dusk, and made for Dale, where there is an anchorage. However, a floating pontoon had been provided, which we shared with one other yacht from a sailing school.


The passage from the Scillies had been quite hard work, with some big seas, and generally light following winds. We had a visit from a pod of dolphins at about 10-00, just before we turned to 090degrees to cross the traffic separation scheme off Lands End. Once clear of the TSS we turned up to about 060degrees towards Padstow. We arrived at Padstow just about spot on the HW-2Hr opening time for the flap gate installed across the inner harbour entrance.

By 19-50 we were moored up against the harbour wall, with a pub just at the top of the ladder!

The Camel Estuary is a very beautiful place, with large expanses of drying sand at low water. Unfortunately, this attracts masses of people, and the town was very busy, most of the time.

One of Padstows claims to fame is the seafood restaurant empire built up by Rick Stein, this is now supplemented by a deli, pattiserie, fish & chip restaurant, a bistro, and at least two hotels - we sampled the delights of the fish & chips ( very good ! ), and the pattiserie ( twice !!! ).

Pasties seemed to be de rigour, and near the town centre we spotted three purveyors of pasties next door to one another - we sampled Rick Stein's from his patisserie.

After three nights in Padstow we decided it was time for a change of scenery. The tide was getting later and later, delaying our escape. Looking over the charts, the anchorages off Lundy, and Clovelly looked good, and the timing of the exit from the harbour meant that we could not reach Swansea before the locks closed at 22-00. In the end the weather made the decision for us, with a nasty burst of E or NE wind forecast - this meant that Lundy and Clovelly were untenable, so a course was set for Milford Haven, unfortunately missing out most of the Bristol channel. The harbour gate opended at 09-50 on 27th June, and we were through by 10-00 ready for a long day at sea.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Isles of Scilly - Another World

As we were undertaking a more 'offshore' passage, we logged our intentions with Falmouth Coast Guard when we left the Helford River. It rained slightly to start but by 09-25 we were off Lizard point and the rain had stopped. At 12-20 the 'Wolf Rock' was on our starboard side, and the Scillies were in sight. We approached St. Mary's Sound at 15-15, and started the tricky pilotage across Tresco Flats. With Sue steering, I took up position on the bow looking out for shallow spots - this was no mean feat, as even with nearly four metres of water on the sounder we felt that we were about to go aground the water was so clear! Anyway, we successfully got through the shallows, and picked up a visitor mooring in New Grimsby Sound. When we paid the harbour master for our stay he suggested moving up the sound a little as strong SW winds were forecast, and we would be less susceptible to swell further up the sound - this proved to be really good advice, as we ended up riding out two gales during our stay !

The next morning we took the dinghy ashore to Tresco, did a little shopping in the Tresco Stores, then had a wet walk around the northern end of the island, taking in New Grimsby, Old Grimsby, Ruin Beach, and the twin castles ( King Charle's Castle, and Oliver Cromwell's Castle ), with some fantastic views over the anchorage from the former.

 That evening we were treated to a fantastic sunset - the rain having dried up by late afternoon.

The following morning we hunkered down in the boat waiting for the occupants of one of the other moored boats to make the first move ashore, as the wind was blowing very strongly. Our neighbours finally made a move, and we followed shortly, beaching the dinghy on Bryher ( the other side of the sound ). Even though the wind was blowing, it was a lovely sunny day, and we had a very pleasant walk around the southern half of Bryher. The vegetation on the Scillies is very lush, and quite exotic. Many of the hedgerows were full of succulents, which were in full flower, with vivid colours.

We had a good view of Tresco flats at a similar state of tide to when we arrived.

This water taxi obviously didn't have any worries about the depth through the shallowest section !

At low tide the whole of the area takes on a different aspect, and you could imagine the dread that this place instilled in sailors over the years; there are jagged rocks everywhere - but it is incredibly beautiful, especially when the sun is shining.

On our last day in the Scillies, we took the ferry from Bryher to the main Island, St. Mary's, had a fine walk from the capital, Hugh Town, to Old Town, and back through a marshy nature reserve, with the first flowing fresh water we had seen on the islands - I wonder where their drinking water comes from ? The ferry we came over on wasn't due to return until about 15-30, but another smaller boat was leaving at 14-00. So, after a very nice lunch in the Mermaid Pub next to the sea wall in Hugh Town,  we booked tickets, and after walking across three or four other boats, we alone boarded the boat. All started as expected, but as we approached 'Nut Rock' the boat made a sharp turn to port. We began to think that it was having to go right around Bryher to get to the landing stage we had embarked from that morning, however, after one of the crew went to pick up one customer off a beach on Sampson Island using a RIB which had been towed behind, we realised that we were going to get our feet wet. Due to the lack of water over Tresco Flats we would be dropped onto a beach on the south end of the island. There was a crowd of about twenty or thirty people waiting on the beach with trousers rolled up, waiting to be picked up. The water was VERY cold, but it was quite an experience, and we did get a good view of the west side of the island. From the beach, it was a twenty minute or so walk back to our dinghy, but we managed to get back to 'NJ', and get the dinghy pulled back up onto the davits before the rain started.

That night was forecast to be wet and very windy, but subsiding by the morning. We saw nearly 40 knots on the anemometer, with horizontal rain - it was truly horrid, and we half thought that the passage to Padstow we had planned would have to be cancelled. By the morning the wind had, indeed, subsided, and the rain had reduced to an annoying mizzle. 

We set of at 07-45 into some impressively large seas which reduced as the day wore on. One major excitement of the passage was a pod of about five dolphins coming to play in our bow wave for a couple of minutes - a great end to our visit to the Scillies which has been the highlight of the trip so far.

Helford River

The Helford river is a truely beautiful, and tranquil place, even with the plethora of boats of all descriptions that inhabit the river.

After supper we took the dinghy to explore Porth Navas, Frenchman's Creek, and Helford Passage - a couple of hours of bliss!

A little later in the evening, the square rigger that we had seen in Falmouth appeared in the entrance with sails unfurled - quite a sight with all the other boats in the foreground.

The weather has now given us the chance to go to the Scilly Isles, with a fairly settled day to get out there. We will make for New Grimsby Sound, between Tresco, and Bryher, which the pilot book assures us is a secure anchorage ( if we can't get a mooring ).


We had a light head wind, and motor sailed to Falmouth. Rounding St. Anthony's head, we turned in and passed to the east of 'Black Rock'. We managed to get a visitor berth in the yacht haven, which was very convenient for a shopping expedition into the town.

We stayed just one night in the yacht haven, then decided to move to the Helford river, three or four miles further down the coast. As we left there was a rather magnificent square rigger in the harbour, which was quite a sight with all the other impressive yachts.

Other notables included three beautiful 'J' class yachts........

........., and this yacht that looked as if it should belong to a Bond villain ( don't know if it had a submarine pen underneath though ! ).

We motored down to the Helford river in bright sunshine, and picked up a visitor mooring just upstream of Helford Passage.


After clearing the marina, we headed out through 'The Bridge' , and out to Rame Head, and Penlee Point. By  10-00 we had turned west towards Fowey, and were sailing.

As we approached Fowey, there appeared to be a lot of new building on the western side of the valley, but as we got nearer, realised that the 'development' was, in fact, a huge cruise liner moored in the entrance, which was busy disgorging passengers via the life boats to Fowey town.

We picked up one of the Fowey Harbour visitors moorings just opposite the town, and had a quiet night, once the cruise liner hordes had returned to their floating block of flats !

The next morning, we filled up with fuel at Polruan ( the village on the east side of the river opposite Fowey ), then set out for Falmouth.

Saturday, 16 June 2012


We had intended to return to Leeds sometime in June to bulldoze the post from behind the front door, and make sure that everything was OK at home. In the end we departed just prior to one gale, and   returned a week later, just in time for another ! The Mayflower Marina did us a deal where we got 7 days berthing for the price of 5, and ended up having two weeks in the berth. Having re-stocked the boat, and done a few jobs around the boat, an excursion was in order, as the wind was still very strong.

A short ferry ride from just across the harbour took us to Cremyll where we had a pub lunch, then caught a bus to Cawsand near Rame Head.

Having had a short sit on the beach, we decided to have a walk out to Rame Head. This provided some spectacular views of Plymouth Sound, with waves crashing over the breakwater, and a few Naval vessels moored behind it.

Another bus ride took us to Torpoint Ferry where we sat on the bus, on the ferry - a very peculiar feeling. Another twenty minutes walk saw us back at the marina, all told, a very pleasant day out and about.

It was now Saturday, and the wind was still gusting at up to about 40 knots, the forecast was much better for Sunday, so we had a shopping trip into Plymouth centre, and got the boat ready to depart on Sunday if the weather allowed. The next destination hasn't been decided yet - we will wait and see what the sea is doing when we get out of the shelter of Plymouth Sound. Fowey is a possibility, as is Falmouth, but there is the prospect of a spell of settled weather to allow us to get out to the Scilly Isles, however, that is in the future.

Monday, 4 June 2012

River Yealm : Newton Ferrers & Noss Mayo

Quite and exciting day for wildlife today, spotted several groups of dolphins, and a great view of a pilot whale - unfortunately no photo's though. Motor sailed for the whole passage with no real wind. The entrance to the Yealm is quite interesting, with an initial entrance bearing on St. Werburgh's church, followed by two transits to safely navigate around the entrance bar which, from the ariel photograph in our pilot book, doesn't look as if it is natural at all, a sand promontory sticking out into the river, forcing a sharp turn.

Once inside, we tried to find a mooring but none were free, so we ended up tied up to a visitor's pontoon just upstream from the harbour masters office ( by the end of the evening the pontoon was three deep on the outside, and two deep on our side - lots of rope !

We had a walk into Newton Ferrers in the morning, and then risked one of the causeways ( or Vosses ), which are passable at low water, over to Noss Mayo, returning to pick up a newspaper and some milk before taking the dinghy back to the boat.

In the afternoon we took the dinghy to the end of the navigable river with quite a wind blowing by now. We just got back to the boat before it started to rain - at least the rain meant that the rafted horde stayed in their boats, and we a quiet night !

The following morning we had a lazy get up, planning to leave at 13-00 to ensure we had plenty of water over the bar, and on to the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth. We hadn't felt any of the forecast F5-7 in the river, but we certainly did after crossing the bar, with apparent wind up to 30 knots. We motored hard for a while, then when we had the angle, let out a bit of genoa and sailed into Plymouth sound. After pulling the genoa back in we passed through 'The Bridge between the west side of the sound, and Drake's Island, and on to the marina.


Left our berth in Brixham at 13-10. Had a nice little sail, hard on the wind, most of the way to Dartmouth. Just before 16-00 we were at  'Castle Ledge' off Dartmouth entrance.

We  lowered the sails, and motored into the entrance with some spectacular views of the town.

The plan was to try to pick up a mooring at Dittisham, but in the event there were none free, so we motored a little further up the river and anchored just off Sandridge boat house.

The anchorage was very peaceful, and we had a comfortable night before setting off again, bound for the river Yealm.