It was not the best of forecasts, but it was now or never, therefore I left the Brixham Marina pontoon at 0640. With the prospect of a South Westerly wind of force 5 or 6, occasionally 6 or 7, I knew parts of the trip would be hard going.
The start was idyllic; bright sunshine, excellent visibility and a gentle South West wind taking me to the tip of Berry Head, where I could see the lighthouse Harding and I had walked to the day before. A brightly painted red trawler was working towards the South. Anchored a mile or so to the North East was a large freighter.
I was thrilled by the magnificent cliff scenery which can only truly be appreciated by seeing it from the sea. There were many buoys marking crab pots which always seemed to be in exactly the position ‘Fred’, (‘Bumper’s’ self-steering gear) wanted to take the boat. Therefore I was vigilant and ready to disengage the gear in order to steer around these hazards.
Keeping warm and having an input of energy is important, therefore I made a mug of coffee and ate a Mars. I exchanged my peaked cap for my Russian imitation fur cap which protected my ears from the bitterly cold wind. Occasionally spray came over the deck and landed on my spectacles which became caked with salt. Frequently I went below to clean the lenses so that I could read the GPS to ascertain our progress.
By the time we were adjacent to Druid’s Mare, a small rocky island two miles south of Berry Head, our speed dropped to less than two and a half knots which prompted me to turn on the engine. That made a dramatic improvement to our speed by increasing it to three and a half knots.
At 0900 we were two miles east of the Mew Stone where we tacked inshore. Our track brought us to the Mew Stone South Cardinal Buoy which warns of the danger to the north. The Mew Stone has the appearance of a dinosaur’s head with spikes running from its nose to the back of his neck.
A mile and a half further to the West there’s another south cardinal buoy marking West Rock, which forced us to put in another tack.
Having passed Castle Ledge, our final hazard, we had a clear run into the Dart though the narrow entrance flanked by Dartmouth Castle to port and Kingswear Castle to starboard.
By then the wind had increased to a good force 6 and I had taken in three panels. I thought there was no need to have the engine running so I turned it off, but as we entered ‘the narrows’ we lost our wind and the ebb tide ran swiftly against us. There was no option; we had to use the engine again.
Once inside the natural harbour I chose a mooring near the west bank, opposite Kingswear, where I had lunch and took a well earned rest. We had taken just over 5 hours to sail and motor sail a distance of 13 nautical miles.
Mid afternoon we moved to the Dartmouth Sailing Club pontoon which is by the Harbour Master’s Office. This is very convenient, right near the town centre.
After an early evening dinner I took a stroll to Dartmouth Castle where I had a view of the beautiful deep sided valley through which this part of the river flows. Geologists claim the valley was gouged out by ice thousands of years ago. I could also survey the entrance leading in from seaward.