Friday, May 09, 2008

The Cruise - Part 14

The Cruise – Part 14

Wednesday 7thMay

I spent the morning at Plymouth doing shopping and catching up on my emails. The clothing store 'Next' were having a sale where there was a bargain for a pair of jeans which I bought and my other needs were satisfied at Tesco.

Before shopping I spent a while looking at the Artemis Transit yachts in the basin at Sutton Harbour Marina. They are like enormous racing dinghies with lids to provide a modicum of protection for their single-handed crews. The smaller 40 foot class didn't seem to have the same prestige as the 60 footers, as they were mostly placed in positions well away from where the public could view them.

The start of the Race will be at 1400 on Sunday 11th May, but competing boats will start leaving the Marina from 1000. It will take that amount of time to sort everything out. I am hoping to sail to Cawsands to watch the competing boats set off. That will depend on the weather and John Perry with his partner Josephine, longstanding and well known DCA members, have planned to meet me there in their much travelled 'Grey Boat'.

Back at the boat I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a bottle of Valentia white wine by the Berthing Master of the Queen Anne's Battery Marina. Apparently, a gift of wine is always given to skippers of a visiting yachts that have 'come from far'. For the record he took a photo of me and 'Faith'.

Bookings for a berth at the Marina always run until mid-day from whatever time a yacht arrived the previous day; therefore I set off for the River Yealm. As the wind was on the nose I used the engine which gave me time to look at things, one of which was the three-masted ship 'Kaskelot', registered at Bristol. She was anchored to the south of Mount Batten where her crew were busy at various maintenance jobs. She certainly looked resplendent and I thought perhaps there may be a tall ship gathering, as another sailing ship was in Sutton Harbour Marina.

I had planned the trip to the River Yealm with the ebb tide taking us as far as the Mewstone where the last of the east flowing current would not be too strong for us to enter the River. Two yachts were anchored outside the bar, awaiting sufficient water, but since 'Faith' only draws 9 inches that was not a problem. I discovered there were 8 feet of water in the passage and the new flood tide helped us on our way. Initially the River has a narrow steep-sided rocky entrance which, as one proceeds, gives way to a softer skyline of rolling wooded hills and beyond Warren Point northwards it opens up to an area of protected open water where there are several moorings, one of which I picked up. I was not there for long before the quiet-spoken and welcoming Harbour Master arrived for harbour dues. Besides the beauty and peace of the place, nearby there are toilets, showers and drinking water at the Newton Ferrers Jetty.

The Yealm is a haven for wildlife; besides the many birds which include heron, egrets, shags and oystercatchers the guide book tells of bass, Atlantic salmon, and sea trout. Shortly after arriving I was fascinated with fish swimming under 'Faith' and occasionally they purposefully slapped themselves against her bottom. I have never observed such behaviour before. The area has been designated as a site of special scientific interest and it is a coastal preservation area. Species such as pipe fish, seahorses, and rare sea slugs inhabit the water.

Thursday 8th May

I woke to a gorgeous morning warmed by the early sunshine peeping over the trees. Now and again gusts sweeping down the valleys blew 'Faith' sideways to the current. In response my DCA pennant rattled its staff as it vigorously snaked its tail in the wind. Here I was in a world of my own with time to spare and nothing to do but enjoy the gifts provided by God. I just lazed away the morning while admiring the views and soaking up the sun – at last a spot of real cruising.

To while away the time before sailing for Plymouth I reinforced the repair of the hole in my jeans and I felt satisfied with my achievement – not as pretty as my wife would have done it, but passable.

It became so hot that I changed into my shorts! Little did I know that by the evening there would be a cold front bringing heavy rain. Somehow I missed that in the weather forecast. I also took the opportunity of the sunshine to scrub the topsides and along the waterline. 'Faith' was looking resplendent. Passersby in their yachts waved with delight.

Just before I was due to sail I observed a man wearing an apron who was carefully dropping what appeared to be sacks of a heavy material into the river near the bank. I can only assume he was preparing a base for a jetty and he was doing it 2 hours before low water so that he could place the sacks precisely where he wanted them.

By 1330 we were moving fast under reefed sail towards the Great Mewstone. With a fresh easterly wind we bowled along, and within half-an-hour we were passing the Shagstone, complete with half a dozen shags, and ahead lay the eastern end of Plymouth breakwater. In the lee of Ramscliff Point the wind became fluky, so I started the engine to combat the ebb from the Sound. When a steady wind was found again I cut the engine and shortened sail even more, because it was becoming boisterous.

Instead of passing through the Bridge on the southwestern side of Drake's Island as before, I chose the big ship channel to the north of the island. Here there were half a dozen dinghy sailors under instruction and two River Boats moving swiftly with their passengers, one on her outward trip and the other on her homeward leg. The SD 'Penryn', a navy catamaran slowed down when overtaking us – even so, her wake was quite considerable causing 'Faith' to violently rock from side to side.

Having dropped the anchor in 6 feet of water close to the wooded shore of Mount Edgecomgbe on the northwestern side leading to Millbrook Lake, I took a snooze for an hour and when I woke it was raining. After I finished the evening meal the boat was disturbed by the movement of tugs escorting the destroyer D96 to Devonport Docks. By then the rain was very heavy and a fully crewed yacht was towed to a buoy astern of 'Faith'. I guess they had problems perhaps with an uncooperative engine as the wind had fallen light.

Friday 9th May

By morning the rain had gone, leaving grey clouds which blotted out the sun, but after washing myself and having a shave my spirits were not dampened. I needed to explore Turnchapel and the slipway where Al proposes to launch his Paradox, 'Little Jim' on Monday. I discovered there are two slipways at Mount Batten which is an extension of Turnchapel - most probably Al will use the wider of the two.

When I left Millbrook Lake there was no wind, and it was an hour before high water. Had I not the use of an engine my exploration of the eastern end of Plymouth Harbour could not have taken place. Indeed, without the engine this cruise would not have been possible. While we proceeded along the waterfront a fellow in a safety boat came alongside to satisfy his curiosity regarding 'Faith'; he had seen her sailing he day before. He told me he was an instructor for the Royal Navy Sailing Centre at Millbay Dock and the dinghies I had seen sailing near Drake's Island were the ones he supervised.

Plymouth Yacht Haven is situated in a natural cove at Turnchapel where, when I was a teenager, an elderly friend and I used to anchor his yacht. To my mind the delightful village and surroundings have been ruined, just as other beautiful places have been blighted by those wanting to make a fortune out of yachtsmen – The Bag at Salcombe is a notable example.

While en route for Mount Batten the huge Brittany Ferries ship arrived at Mill Bay Dock and a submarine was being towed by tugs towards Devonport Docks. there's always something happening on the water – never a dull moment.

I found a landing place with a gentle sloping beach right next to the Marina at Turnchapel and beached the boat at half tide. That gave me time to search for petrol, which proved abortive and to take the ferry to the Barbican for shopping, Internet access and a shower.

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