The Cruise – Part 11
Thursday 24th April
Unexpectedly I was invited to spend last night with my brother and his wife at their home in Sydling St. Nicholas, and what a change it was to sleep on a bed that didn't move! When I woke this morning and looked at the clouds rushing across the sky I was grateful not be at sea. There had been a band of heavy rain which had passed to reveal a beautiful spring morning - just right for a health-giving walk along country lanes where the blossoming trees proclaimed, “This is Spring at last.” In a fast flowing brook of clear water a trout darted from the cover of waving emerald weeds to hide under a stone until we had passed. Two male mallards clothed with pristine feathers of iridescent rainbow hues accompanied a dowdy mottled brown female swimming with the current to evade us until they conceived the danger was too great causing them to take to flight. Robins, wrens, blackbirds and crows spoke to one another of their territories in tuneful note, but with serious intent.
Back at my brother's home we had coffee in the warmth of the conservatory overlooking gorgeous rolling hills, characteristic of this part of Dorset. The flint built cottages with thatched roofs blend so naturally into their rural setting of farmsteads where cattle and sheep graze in leaf-fringed paddocks. It's and area of great wealth where only the privileged either by money or inheritance can live – a bastion of political and historical conservatism – the homeland of Thomas Hardy who invented Wessex for the settings of his scandalous and often sad novels.
Back at 'Faith' in the afternoon there were a succession of visitor who were interested in the little boat that by all accounts had sailed around the world! Some maintained she had circumnavigated Great Britain, but I countered these wild stories by maintaining she had sailed around the moon. Several visitors even took photos of me and the boat – fame at last. One local sailor when I told him of my problem with the outboard took me to Bussells Chandlery in Hope Street, because he said his friend Bill the owner would be able to sort out what was wrong. He was so bored he left his shop to diagnose the fault which turned out to me! I was not pulling the starting cord in the right way – that's first to find a compression load, then smartly pull the cord.
Friday 25th April
To take advantage of the tide and not be sucked into the Portland Race the best time for rounding the southern most tip of the savage peninsular is 4 hours after high water at Portland itself – that's when sailing from east to west. By adjusting the the speed of the boat we arrived at the crucial location exactly on time, i.e., 1400. The current was still running south against the wind which caused steep, but short waves and one of them knocked the outboard so that it was no longer low enough to provide full thrust which made getting out of the rough water to the west where there was almost flat water an anxious period.
The southerly breeze of force 2 or 3 was almost ideal for a course of 278 degrees true and within an hour we were nearly 6 miles from the Portland's hazards. Sailing south along the eastern side of the peninsular can be quite daunting; not only does the functional stone structure of the enormous ex naval harbour cause one to shudder, but the rocky and boulder strewn shore with the remains of a wrecked motor launch speaks terror. The nerves quiver as the speed of the tide increases while to seaward the race can clearly be seen. It's always a relief to be well clear of the notorious hazard.
An hour later the white lighthouse was barely visible astern through the gloomy haze, and there below it a tiny speck of tan brown which was the mainsail of 'Patsy Rye'. She had made it safely too.
The 33 mile passage across Lyme Bay was almost uneventful. The Portland firing range was not being used and apart from Nigel's lovely gaff cutter I only saw one other vessel, a fishing boat of some sort. Never had I crossed the Bay so quickly before, as on this occasion I used the engine to boost the speed which meant we arrived at the East Exe Bell Buoy about 2130. The navigation into the River Exe was made relatively easy by using the Lowrance GPS; nevertheless the adrenaline ran high because some of the buoys are unlit and the last long stretch is sailed on a bearing to white flashing lights at the entrance to the Marina. On the port hand there are sand banks, but it was high water and by the time I entered the Marina under the open drawbridge there was little movement of water.
Nigel was there to take my lines and help secure my treasure.
Saturday 26th April
What a lovely surprise there was for me shortly after I had eaten breakfast, for there was Al Law who had come to spend the day with me. We reminisced and explored parts of Exmouth by foot, including a coffee cafe and an ice cream vendor. I asked a young couple if there was a MacDonald's and they replied it was a couple of miles out of town on the Budleigh Salterton Road which was for my informants far too far to walk. My question was of little use because the battery of my laptop computer was low and by the time Ii was fully charged it was too late to visit MacDonald's.
I had a second free night at Exmouth Marina by courtesy of the Harbour Master.
Sunday 27th April
At 0700 I took the opportunity to motor the boat to a waiting pontoon on the Warren side of the River Exe. There was very little wind and it was peaceful as the birds made their early morning calls; I heard skylarks, crows and a pheasant!
By 1045 'Faith' was rounding Warren Point over Pole Sand in a depth of 10 feet. A light wind was from dead ahead; to starboard there were a few people walking along the beautiful golden sandy beach of The Warren and ahead lay the pretty seaside town of Dawlish with a road rising gradually up the hillside and colourful buildings in hues of white, yellow, blue and pink.
I motor-sailed the boat inshore, then tacked offshore before making a direct course towards Hope's Nose in the distance around which we needed to go before entering Torbay. As we sailed between the rocky Ore Stone and the headland of Hope's Nose the wind piped up and I shortened sail. To port a jaunty trawler was a work and ahead a large yacht was beating towards Berry Head. I deliberately headed westwards in the diretion of Paignton to avoid being adversely affected by the ebbing tide. The wind almost faded away when I changed course for Brixham. A group of people in an inflatable boat were trying to kite-sail a board. They were learners and there really wasn't enough wind to keep them moving fast enough.
'Faith' arrived at the pontoon of the Brixham Yacht Club at 1615 and I was greeted by Lee, the Bosun of the Club, who kindly let me have his rubber dinghy, to be returned early on Monday morning when he starts work. He also gave me the WEP code for the Club's WIFI.
What will tomorrow bring? – maybe a sail to Dartmouth.