Conditions are seldom perfect for sailing, but the prospect of a force 4 to 5 southerly wind was too tempting to reject; I could not allow the opportunity of reaching the mainland to be forfeited, despite the forecast mentioning mist, fog patches and an occasional force 6. Under such conditions a GPS is a miraculous aid, but reliance upon it must never be assumed.
No one feels like waking up in the early hours of the morning before dawn, donning waterproof clothing in preparation for the off, but that’s what I did at 0240 as I was about to hear the Coastguard forecast. ‘Force 6’ in the dark was what made me decide to wait until the 0640 forecast which mentioned the wind would decrease to force 4.
Procrastination caused me to remain in the bunk until 0700, when I plucked up courage for the ‘voyage’, and by 0800 ‘Bumper’ was on her way. Very quickly, yachts which had been her companions for the night at Windmill Cove were lost to sight in the mist, but soon I glimpsed rocks to the south west of Great Arthur. Then there was nothing, just ‘Bumper’ and me on the swirling sea.
Being out in the Western Approaches is really like being in mid Atlantic. There’s no sight of land; waves and swell roll in from the open ocean. Sea birds take turn to check us out.
By 1000 we were on the western limit of the south-going shipping lane and right ahead, in the dark gloom, a freighter was on her way to the Atlantic. That quickened the rate of my heart beats and alerted me to keep a particularly good lookout for the next ten miles until crossing the north-going lane.
The wind strength increased and filled in a little from the stern which caused me to take in two reefs so that ‘Fred’ the windvane self-steering could cope. He can’t manage excessive helm movements when breakers knock the boat off-course, especially when there’s too much sail.
Wolf Rock lighthouse is a good marker for establishing the yacht’s position, and despite the poor visibility I wanted to see the it. Perhaps, here my judgment was not at its best, as, when only a mile from the Rock (as shown by the GPS), I could not see it or hear its horn. Prudence told me to bear north sharply, rather than south, because in that direction there are some nodules rising from the seabed which can cause the sea to boil. I had not realised how strongly the flood current was setting us towards the Rock, but as God was on my side, ‘Bumper’ was carried north of the fearsome trap. Only then did the mist open out enough for me to see the tall granite structure with a helicopter platform at the top. At the same time I was surprised to see a large white yacht a few hundred yards to the north, while both of us set our course to the west.
Lizard Point for the coastal sailor is like Cape Horn for the ocean sailor; they seldom let mariners pass easily. Today was not exception as the wind died. Had I arrived two hours earlier, all would have been well, because the flood tide would have carried us northwards past the Manacles and into Helford. As it was, the ebb started its return journey, which it has repeated for aeons since creation, but this time was predestined to frustrate our progress to a safe haven. My salvation was ‘the Donk’, that’s the Buhk 10 HP diesel, which has so often ‘thumped’ us along when there’s been no wind.
Since last glimpsing those rocks of the Eastern Scillies I had not seen land until visibility improved near the entrance of the Helford River. Then what a joy it was to drop the hook at my special spot, my quiet place at Pensence Cove, and there I had a very peaceful night.
This is a time to refresh and to prepare for returning to the East Coast. Perhaps I’ll spend a couple of days in the Falmouth area? I’ve heard that the Tall Ships are having a gathering here until Monday. If that’s the case I’ll look forward to seeing them.
Then I have the usual ‘chores’ to do, such as watering the boat, rubbish disposal, laundry and this time I’ve got to get rid of the contents of the Porta Potti! That’s a first time, because I successfully repaired the pump. I must say, using the Potti is much more civilized and better for the fishes than the ‘bucket-and-chuck-it’ facility.
If there’s anything of note to be written up for the rest of today, I’ll add it to tomorrow’s log.