The Cruise – Part 12
Monday 28th April
A swan flew in and landed by the boat on the dot at 0630. He swam near the boat, looked at me and guessed correctly that tidbits were unlikely when he took to the air again.
Just after seven I was at the Esso petrol station for 5 litres of unleaded, but finding the place was difficult because the people I asked had different ideas as to where it was!
Back at the boat, Lee, the Brixham Yacht Club Bosun, hailed me for his dinghy and by 0830 'Faith' was underway. The south westerly wind quickly took us to Berry Head where there was a fisherman bobbing and reeling in mackerel. Around the headland the wind was fine on the starboard bow and the ebb tide pushed 'Faith' to windward at a good 3.5 knots, but at the Mewstone the tide turned and the picture was quite different. The wind freshened to force 5 which caused the tops of the waves to break and we began to loose ground. I started the engine and powerd into the wind; sometimes wave tops swept the deck and crashed into the cabin front, but I was dry, warm and secure below. I observed 'Patsy Rye' close inshore under the cliffs motor-sailing. She quickly sped ahead while I pressed on for an hour before tacking towards Dartmouth.
Having cut the engine and tacked, 'Faith' sailed well between the troughs, and the breakers had little effect. Soon we were able to bear off towards the port red can buoy near the entrance between the castles. Reaching against the ebb from the River Dart was truly exciting, but in the narrow entrance the wind faded and became fluky. I could not make the engine start, and it was later that I discovered it had run out of fuel. A friendly chap in an open launch towed 'Faith' to Warfield Creek where I picked up a mooring and sorted the boat out while having a coffee.
Mid afternoon I motored up the River past the twin car ferries which are floating platforms shunted by miniature tugs. The public ferry swished ahead of 'Faith' and I was dismayed that the pontoon normally provided by the Dartmouth Yacht Club was not set in place. Finding a pontoon where I could moor was almost impossible, but the Yacht Taxi man showed me one.
After I had secured the boat I took the Yacht Taxi to the Town Quay so that I could do my shopping. While I was away the Taxi man filled my water tank. He returned me to my boat and shortly afterwards the Harbour Master's assistant collected dues; he also told me where I could moor so that I could walk ashore.
In the evening I visited Dartmouth Yacht club for a shower and to use their Hotspot, but I was unsuccessful in accessing the Internet.
Tuesday 29th April
There was time for an early morning walk to the nearest public toilet before the rain belted down causing a drumming sound on the Polycarbonate window in the hatch. Breakfast was therefore a leisurely affair with porridge, bacon, egg and marmalade on wholemeal bread helped down with tea and coffee.
A cold front was responsible for the rain and a sudden drop in temperature which had me back in my sleeping bag to keep warm. The morning went surprisingly quickly as I dozed and read alternately until lunch, after which the sun made and appearance inviting me to explore the walk to the Coast Guard Cottages high up on the cliff overlooking the bay to Start Point. There I observed the effect of the south easterly wind on the sea and I was glad not to be out sailing. I watched a motor yacht as it moved slowly to round the Mewstone, presumably on its way to Brixham against the ebbing tide. The boat plunged and rolled and I felt sorry for the crew who may have been sick with the violent motion.
Back at the waterfront I saw a Falmouth oyster boat and spoke to her lone crew who was delivering her from Guernsey to Mylor where she will pass into new ownership and for the purpose she was originally built. Those old working boats being gaff rig with long bowsprits and having straight stems are so easy to control under sail because of the versatility of the rig. The mainsail can be triced and the peak dropped while the staysail can be backed to control the speed and course for dredging.
The weather pattern is such that 'Faith' is unlikely to sail from Dartmouth until Friday - most likely for Salcombe.
Wednesday 30th April
As I suspected, the weather does not allow us to move on because of the possibility of a force 8 wind from the south west. Early in the morning I took the lower ferry to Kingswear to test the Hotspot known as Blackspot which is a pay system, but I could not complete the transaction owing to a technicality with PayPal. Even had I been successful I would not have been able to continue using the laptop because I was outside sitting on a pavement when the rain came down.
I returned to Dartmouth and did some shopping before walking back to the boat. Rain continued until mid-day when showers alternated with sunshine, but the wind was very cold from the north. I observed the movements of the ex-Brixham sailing trawler named 'Provident'; she's a fine looking wooden ketch with a distinctive varnished doghouse amidships. During the night she had been moored to the public pontoon and when the ferry needed to use the pontoon she anchored by number 6 buoy out of the fairway in the designated area. Later she re-anchored just above the Upper Ferry where I had seen her before.
With this sort of unsettled weather punctuated with showers and rain there is not a great deal one can do other than tog up well and enjoy a walk or explore the town.
Thursday 1st May
Early this morning the wind would have been right on the nose had I set off with a forecast of 4 to 5 south westerly, backing south. 'Faith' could have made it to Salcombe, via a waypoint outside the Start Pt. race, at the cost of being heeled at around 30 to 40 degrees and only making 2.5 knots with a lot of movement as she bobbed over the waves. Instead, I preferred to wait until tomorrow when the wind may be less strong and perhaps it may have some easting in it. Besides, I wanted to visit the launderette in Market Street to freshen my dirty clothes. In fact, I brought far too many clothes for the cruise, several of which I'm convinced I shall not use, but because of their weight they help trim 'Faith' by keeping her to her planned waterline.
The fresh morning wind brought large dark colds with the potential for making heavy showers, which made me take my waterproofs in my knapsack. At the launderette there was an elderly lady who could not understand how to operate the washing machines and dryers, therefore she asked me for assistance. Because all the controls were digital I was able to explain how they worked.
Back at the boat a gentleman named David whom I met earlier and who lives aboard a Golden Hind class yacht came to see my boat. He was amazed that I had sailed her from Burnham-on-Crouch. He explained that he was 78 and because of his age-related physical limitations he could not sail the boat to her potential, but if he chose to sail when there were fair winds he could manage. The name of his boat is 'Hesperus' and he mentioned that relatives call him The Wreck of the Hesperus.
I forgot to say that I was woken around the time of the early morning forecast by loud chanting which came from the direction of the Britannia Royal Naval College located at the top of a hill on the west side of the River Dart. As I habitually walked to the nearby toilets I saw many naval officer cadets running along the road – a few were having a really hard time, because they were overweight. Some of these trainee naval officers were young women, unlike when I sailed these same waters in 1950 when I was a teenager. Then, all of the trainees were men who had to undergo rigorous training on the water, including rowing whalers and sailing.
By lunch time the weather was distinctly better with long periods of sunshine. I was taken with the smart appearance of the steam train that runs from Kingswear to Paignton – the carriages are painted in brown and cream reminiscent of the era at the end of the war in 1945. This vision of the past trundled along the eastern river bank leaving a trail of white smoke while blowing a high pitched whistle. There was a lot more movement on the water than of late with several large yachts going to sea. Claude made the decision to set off early towards Falmouth - Mylor being his objective, where he hopes to exchange his boat for cash.
I took the opportunity of an afternoon without rain to retrace my steps of the other day to Dartmouth Castle and to the Coast Guard Cottages; this time I was inspired to walk further along the coastal path for an excellent view of Start Point. There were white crests to the waves, but nowhere near as large as on Tuesday when they willfully crashed on the rocks by the Castle.
At 2005 I was surprised to see 'Patsy Rye' tie up to the pontoon where 'Faith' was moored. Nigel told me he had lost his dinghy at sea while en route for Salcombe and that a fisherman had retrieved it. He learned this from the Coast Guard and discovered that it had been taken to the dinghy pontoon at Dartmouth.
I had another surprise when Joe and Jane who own The Canvas Factory shop at Dartmouth called by in their dinghy. Last year they had been sailing their Falmouth Quay Punt on the River Crouch when they took a couple of photos of 'Faith' and they were intrigued to find her on the Dart where they live aboard their yacht.
Friday 2nd May
Apart from the fact that the wind was from due south everything else was fine; therefore I made a start at 0750. A bright day and an ebbing tide from the Dart with the engine running and a scrap of sail to keep the boat steady we made rapid progress seaward. In the entrance and for a couple of miles the waves were fairly steep and 'Faith' bobbed her way towards a waypoint outside Start Point race. A large yellow cabin cruiser quickly overhauled us on her way to the Skerries Bank for some rod fishing. Our course, directly into the wind, lay a little to the west of the Skerries Bank Buoy.
By 1000 Start Point Lighthouse bore 270 degrees, just over 2 miles away. after another mile and a half we changed course for a point a quarter of a mile to the south east of Prawle Point. The engine was off and it was fine sailing in a force 3. As we drew near to the rocky outcrop of Prawle Point the Coast Guard Station was clearly visible with what appeared to be a red ensign flying at the flagstaff. The radar antenna was rotating, but I could not see anyone; nevertheless it was comforting to believe a duty officer was observing our progress.
While following the coastline I was intrigued with the natural hues of the rock face – greys, greens and yellow ocher. The scenery was stunning. To the west the craggy outline of Bolt Head resembled a giant lizard, similar to those that inhabit a particular island of the Galapagos archipelago. A large ketch followed 'Faith' along the leading line north to Sandhill Point where we changed course to the north east for the fairway. Salcombe was looking her best; to port there were brightly painted houses and a smart hotel and to starboard there were golden sandy beaches between outcrops of rock. Ahead were the moorings where we turned to port to find a place to stay. I started the engine and rolled up the sail. Baston Creek looked promising and sure enough I found a space at the pontoon by the public slipway.
I discovered that a the toilets were nearby and the road following the creek led to the Town Centre.
When I tidied and secured the boat I walked to the Town Jetty to see if 'Nancy Rye' had arrived. There she was motoring in and Nigel smartly picked up a mooring buoy. I could not gain his attention and on my way back to the boat I bought a few more provisions and a needle and thread to mend the knees of my jeans which were ripped.
I'm hoping I'll be able to stay moored to the slipway pontoon for a quiet night.