The Cruise – Part 20
Sunday 25th May (Continued)
After lunch the weather remarkably improved, which meant Al and I could walk the paths of the southern end of Tresco around the Heliport and to Oliver's Battery where the quay at Carn Near is being rebuilt. The Quay is an essential part of the infrastructure because most of the ferry boats from Hugh Town on St. Mary's use it when transporting trippers between the islands.
There are two freshwater pools at Tresco: The Great Pool to the north of the Abbey, and the smaller Abbey Pool to the south east. Both of them are natural habitats for migratory and indigenous birds. From Oliver's Battery we looked down at the smaller pool and across the water to St. Martin's which we hoped to visit before we left the Islands.
This afternoon the Meteorological Office issued a severe gale 9 warning with winds from the north east for later tonight.
Monday 26th May
High water is due at 0910 and the boat is anchored fore and aft at New Grimsby Harbour; rain is lashing down and Scilly Radio has just given a severe weather warning for later this afternoon when winds of 48 knots are expected. As a result, the 'Scillonian' will be sailing early for Penzance. It is Bank Holiday Monday and to celebrate the event the local gig boats are due to race, followed by festivities at the New Inn, the only pub on the Island, but my guess is that the racing will be cancelled. There's a gloomy report that the weather will not improve until Thursday - even so, a temporary interlude.
Both Al and I would like to return to the mainland, hoping for Newlyn as the first port of call, but we cannot do it without the right wind – anything will do providing the wind is not too strong and it is not from the east. With a high pressure system to the north of England and lows sweeping across the South Coast, nothing can change. Furthermore high pressure over the North Sea is blocking new systems from the west. This pattern is unusual for May.
The lot of the UK coastal cruising sailor is to be patient; he cannot afford to get it wrong - because of lack of sea room hazards are always present: headlands, tidal races, rocks, sandbanks, separation zones and the presence of other vessels. The ocean sailor is not bothered by these, except when he closes with the land.
At mid-day the rain was still bucketing down. As soon as the rudder touched the sand I jumped from the stern into the water and heaved on the anchor line before setting the anchor higher up the beach in preparation for the expected force 9. Within minutes the boat was firmly aground and I retired to the cabin where I removed my wet gear.
Inter-island boats came and went – the foul weather had little effect on their schedule. I felt sorry for the gig racers, as their event was cancelled.
Until midnight the strong wind gave no letup; I just had to grin and accept the onslaught as it attacked the boat.
Tuesday 27th May
By late morning the sun was shining and there was a gentle easterly wind. Al and I were pleased we could get out and about. We both shopped for essentials at the well-stocked Post Office Store. When lunch was over I took our washing to the Laundry which is not a do-it-yourself one. The assistants wash and dry it for you.
Our intention for the rest of the day was simply to relax and that's what we did while our boats remained high and dry on the beach at New Grimsby Harbour.
Wednesday 28th May
There being a gentle wind from the north and plenty of sunshine, the sandy beach was well-populated with people sunbathing while several youngsters swam around our boats; others made fantasy castles with the damp sand as the tide ebbed. About mid-afternoon we moved into deeper water to avoid grounding.
Early evening we again went ashore to eat and after comparing prices we ended up with excellent fish and chips cooked in a mobile van. Al was identified as 'red and blue' because of the colour of his jacket and I was described as the man with the 'white hair'.
Thursday 29th may
With a south easterly force 3 coming directly into Porth Cressa Cove the motion on our boats was becoming uncomfortable; therefore we set sail for Porth Conger, a little cove separated by an isthmus from The Cove between the islands of Gugh and St. Agnes; there we anchored as the tide was rising. Yachts on the exposed side in The Cove moved to our more sheltered position. Tripper boats landed their passengers at the new quay below the Turk's Head pub.
St. Agnes is an island only a mile from north to south and, including Gugh, the same distance from east to west. Nine ship wrecks are shown on my guide book – obviously a notorious place for vessels in fog or bad weather. Features of note are the Old Lighthouse, the Old Man of Gugh (a Prehistoric standing stone), Obadiah's Barrow and the Troy Town Maze. There's also Beady Pool where beads from an old wreck are washed up on the beach. The Old Man of Gugh is thought to be a standing stone associated with rituals in the Bronze Age and Obadiah's Barrow is an ancient burial place. The Old Lighthouse is no longer used, being superseded by the Bishop Rock Lighthouse to the south west of the islands. Troy Town Maze is a labyrinth of small stones arranged by the lighthouse keeper in 1729. Superstition has it that those who walk the maze feel a renewed sense of wellbeing.
Late afternoon we went ashore and walked the length of St. Agnes from east to west and back. Landing was an interesting procedure that Al devised. He took 'Little Jim' close to a rocky shore in the lee where the swell was less than where we first anchored; there he dropped an anchor before sculling to shallow water at the base of the rocks where he laid a second anchor in a crevice above the water line. When that was accomplished I anchored 'Faith' nearby and sculled her to Al's boat and after getting aboard her let my boat drift back on her anchor. I was then able to wade through the shallow water to the rocks and push Al's boat away from the shore so that she drifted back to be brought up on her shore-based anchor.
The most notable thing that happened during our walk was to avoid a small herd of cows on their way to a farm for milking. Three of the Jersey cows were frightened by something and ran past us, but the Angus cows ambled along. In response to my question a farmhand informed me that their milk was pasteurized.
Having re-anchored in deeper water for the night I was surprised to find a snorkeler swimming near the boat. He informed me he had been given time off from working at the bar of the Turk's Head Hotel and he was interested in our boats, as he had never seen anything like them.
During the evening the wind was still coming from the south east, but the Coastguard forecast for the Scillies indicated that the wind would back to the north west. That was encouraging news which gave us a glimmer of hope that we may be able to sail for Newlyn tomorrow.
Friday 30 May
We spent last night at Port Conger, St. Agnes, and at 0540 this morning we set off in a dead calm using the engine bound for Newlyn. A few miles out Al spotted a whale and a handful of dolphins. The day was dull and grey with the occasional fog bank. What little wind there was came from the dead ahead; therefore it was a matter of plodding along under power. Very little of note occurred except a large container ship passed ahead of us going south in the shipping separation zone. By 1130 we had reached the halfway position between St. Agnes and the Runnel Stone to the south of Land's End. Further on there was a spectacular display of gannets diving for fish. Their plummet from the sky was like cascading rockets. They folded their wings after power-diving and pierced the water so as to leave very little spray marking the spot. Inevitably they surfaced with their catches and took to the air again for more of the same.
The whole crossing was done using the outboard engine with the advantage that in the final stage passing along the southern shore towards Newlyn we had time to admire the beauty of the place. Lamorna Cove looked particularly attractive with trees nestling between outcrops of grey rock and the white painted houses following the contours of the surrounding hills.
Several yachts were berthed at the jetty we had previously occupied on the outward leg. Choosing one with her crew on deck we sought permission to tie alongside. We needed petrol for the next stage to Fowey, therefore we walked towards Penzance where there was a garage and a Lidl. At the latter we bought a few provisions. Like other places in the South West, Lidle discourages the use of plastic bags by charging 3p a bag. On the boat I use plastic bags for my rubbish and I was beginning to get short, so I bought one.
One of the fishermen at the Port was desperate to get rid of haddock and in an attempt not to throw them away he notified the yachtsmen that they were going free!
Saturday 31st May
We had a superb sail with a beam reaching wind for part of the way to Lizard Point. At 1050 the wind became light which meant we had to use the engine for rounding the notorious rocky hazard. This time the Serpent Beast was sleeping and she didn't notice our passing. The Honda 2.3 continued to purr all the way to the Helford River via the Manacles buoy. Two miles beyond the buoy we were pursued and intercepted by the skipper of 'Gypsy', a Hurley 22; he had seen our boats on the Scilly Webcam and was desperate to take photos of them.
A short distance into the Helford River on the southern side there is a delightful tiny inlet where we anchored for the night. Nearby there was a purposeful looking 37' trimaran belonging to a gentleman named Richard. He and his wife invited us aboard for coffee and cake. We didn't leave until after 2200 having enjoyed the evening chatting mainly about boats and the Scilly Isles where they had lived for a while aboard their Swedish Folkboat. We agreed the Islands were beautiful, but over time they had lost some of their charm because of development and the very noisy jet boats used for ferrying people. The jet boats in particular disturb boat users, unlike the graceful, very long open launches still used by some boatmen. These boats hardly leave a wash, whereas the very inefficient jet boats spread waves and havoc wherever they go.
Sunday 1st June
This was yet another almost windless day. Anchors away by 0610 we headed out of the River towards the rising sun in Falmouth Bay; there 'Awaiting Order' were two huge ships at anchor. Our first objective was Dodman Point, a distance of just over 13 miles. At first, progress was slow, because we had to head across the running ebb which was moving towards Lizard Point, but by the time St Anthony Light was abeam it had slackened a little.
There were more yachts on the water than we had seen before since Al joined me at Plymouth. While passing Dodman Point one of them came directly towards our boat which caused me to steer to starboard to avoid a collision. (Technically both boats under power should have turned to starboard when on reciprocal courses.) The yacht's name was 'Privateer'.
Approximately at mid afternoon a light breeze filled in from the sea and increased sufficiently for us to sail, but not for long until it petered out. While we were enjoying the quiet we were overhauled by the 'Nancy Beckett' (I think that's the name of the yacht once owned by Arthur Ransome. On board her there was a young lady called Sarah who was a member of the Dinghy Cruising Association; she recognized Al's 'Little Jim' and engaged Al in conversation.
By 1535 both of our boats were moored safely on buoys at Polruan, opposite the larger town of Fowey to the north west across the River.
Monday 2nd June
The morning started with fog at Polruan, but that did not deter our start at 0620 with the engine on. When clear of Punch Cross Rocks at the entrance of the River we hugged the cliffs towards Udder Rock, and I steered a course between it and Shag Rock. I suppose the shallow draft of Paradox gave me the confidence to do so. The high granite cliffs close to port somehow seemed to be protective - quite the contrary of what I would have expected. Normally I prefer a good offing in case of an emergency, but the wind was negligible and the looked sea like a purple mirror reflecting the image of the sun as a bright mauve orb through my sunglasses. Now and again there were glimpses of fishing boats when they emerged from the mist.
By the time we were abeam of the picture postcard Polperro, visibility had vastly improved. I laid a course almost due east towards Rame Head, some 12 miles away. As Looe Island came abeam we were overtaken by a small black tug that made a hug wash which fanned out over the otherwise smooth, placid water. Shortly before mid-dy a plastic bag became caught in the propeller, but it was a simple matter to clear it, which wouldn't have been the case with a fixed propeller. We were passing through a submarine exercise area; therefore I kept a very vigilant watch. When about three miles from Rame Head we could hear firing at the Tregantle Rifle range. There was no need for any concern for our safety because the firing was contained within enormous walls.
Distinctive Rame Head with its conical top and chapel-like building at the summit lay abeam at 1245. There was a certain chill to the air which gave a hint that rain would follow, which it did as we rounded the eastern end of Plymouth Breakwater. To port a sleek, and rather sinister looking submarine accompanied with tugs and a Police launch, made her way to sea – no doubt to carry out training in Whitsand Bay where I had been watchful for submersibles.
Much earlier than we anticipated would have been the case we found shelter near Plymouth Yacht Haven where we had anchored before we left for the Scilly Isles. The time was 1425. I was not sorry to get there, because it had been a case of motoring all the way from Fowey - approximately 23 miles in just over 8 hours – not bad considering the tiny Honda outboard had moved both boats (Al's being towed) at a speed of nearly 3 knots.
Tuesday 3rd June
Early this morning I moored ‘Faith’ at a pontoon at Plymouth Yacht Haven before helping Al put ‘Little Jim’ on her trailer. Together we went in Al’s car to his place where we parked his boat on his drive. He then took me to his local train station so that I could return home for ‘Faith’s’ road trailer. Tomorrow I hope I’ll make it back to Plymouth to retrieve my faithful boat.