Thursday, May 19, 2005

Thursday, 19th May

Thursday, 19th May

There are 10 days to go before the start of the OSTAR (The Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race) at Plymouth, and arriving at Torquay this evening puts me within a comfortable time frame to be there by mid-day on Sunday, 29th.

‘Bumper’ left her borrowed mooring at Starcross at 1040 today, only an hour after low water, but by the time we arrived at the bar there was a 6 foot clearance under her keel

With the force 3 wind from the South, getting out against the incoming tide was not at all difficult, because the buoyed channel runs East by South for about 2 miles and with sail and engine providing drive we were able to make steady progress to the E Exe buoy which marks the outer limit of the estuary. From there we made our departure and we could hold a course seaward to the South East for 3 miles, before tacking towards Teignmouth.

At first the visibility was poor because of low cloud and drizzle, but as the afternoon progressed the clouds lifted and I could see the rich pastureland of the rolling Devon countryside two miles away on our starboard hand. I always find the Devonian dark red soil contrasts with the complementary green hedgerows and fields, and for me such vistas are truly beautiful. Man and nature work together to create a wonderful tapestry. Why ever did I forsake Devon for Essex? Everything here is so fresh and clean and the air is so pure.

‘Fred’, my faithful Windpilot self-steering gear, did all the hard work as we bashed into the waves for an exhilarating thrash to windward. (I decided to call the windvane steering ‘Fred’, because years ago my brother Fred used to share the steering with me. Now he no longer goes boating.)

When we were near the Diffuser buoy, a mile and a quarter to the East from The Ness, which marks the entrance to the River Teign at Teignmouth, we tacked to the South East, but as we did so the wind suddenly died. Reluctantly I started the engine and headed for Babbacombe Bay on a course of 200 degrees true.

If the weather had been settled I would have anchored for the night in the bay, which provides excellent shelter from the prevailing South Westerly winds, but as the forecast gave the chance of a force 7 in the Plymouth region I thought it would be wise to continue for Torquay or Brixham.

As I held a course between the Ore Stone and Hope’s Nose I was surprised to see a trawler dragging her nets there at the same time. I thought perhaps her nets may get snagged on rocks between the two craggy features. I was particulary vigilant being on the lookout for divers, because the venue is popular with sub aqua enthusiasts and, as expected, there was a boat flying the ‘A’ flag which signals divers in operation.

Heavy drizzle and poor visibility helped me make up my mind to aim for Torquay rather than Brixham. A mile south of the Ore Stone, and under sail again, I tacked ‘Bumper’ and freed off her main so as to make a course to the West where the narrow entrance of the Harbour lay about 2 miles away.

As usual I prepared the boat for berthing by having two lines forward, one, either side of the bow, and lines attached to each quarter cleat. I placed two fenders on both sides of the boat, so that she could berth on either side.

When a quarter of a mile from the Harbour I called up the Marina on channel 80, but for some unknown reason, they could hear me, but I could not hear them. At least they expected me and they were ready to take the lines, for which I was grateful.

At £19.00 a night Torquay is not a place I really want to stay, but being able to plug into the electric and have a mains supply is a luxury. For the first time on the cruise I’ve been able to sit in the boat without a sweater, because the blow heater is pumping out lovely warm air and drying out my wet waterproofs.

I’m hoping for a good night’s rest, although strong winds are expected from the South West, which will make a howling noise in the rigging.

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