Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wednesday, 25th May

This has been the best day by far.

After an early breakfast the engine was turned on at 0615 to plug the tide and wind to gain open water. Low cloud and a little drizzle gave a sombre note to the steep sided River Dart. Tops of the hills were lost in grey cloud. A couple of trawlers bustled seaward.

As we passed Homestone Buoy, visibility was down to a mile. A large sleek yacht came into view and quickly overhauled ‘Bumper’. Wind and tide were from ahead, which made progress painstakingly slow. Even by 1050 we had only made three and a half miles from the entrance to the Dart, but things quickly changed; the wind sprang up from astern and the tide slackened. Before we knew it we were halfway along the south east side of the Skerries Bank where there were several rod fishing boats, not to mention lots of buoys marking crab pots.

The wind petered out, but excellent progress was made under engine towards Start Point where we had a harum-scarum ride through the race. Things were so hectic I had no opportunity to write up the log until Prawle Point came within a mile to the north.

By 1350 we were racing along with the tide in our favour as Hamstone Rocks were a mile or so to the north where the swell broke on the granite crags. From there we could make a direct course to the Great Mewstone near the entrance to the River Yealm. With the ebb tide in our favour we were making 5.7 knots and by 1400 a force 3 wind was directly behind us; therefore I turned the engine off and was surprised to find ‘Fred’, the windvane self-steering, was able to hold the course.

With my hands free I prepared and ate lunch. Without a doubt this was the best sailing so far. Our course took us across Bigbury Bay. The sun was shining and visibility was good. Burgh Island and the village of Bigbury could clearly be seen nestled among the orderly fields which looked like a variegated green and grey tapestry contrasting with the bluest sea imaginable. Wisps of trailed white cloud high in the sky provided an overhead veil. A large white motor sailer named ‘Selina’ overhauled ‘Bumper’ while more yachts were on opposite courses heading up Channel.

There was no need for pinpoint navigation as everything could be eyeballed. Keeping an eye on transits enabled us to steer a straight course toward the Great Mewstone, which we passed to the south at 1630, while the current hurried us along. Plymouth and the Breakwater came into view, and by 1750 we were only a cable from its eastern end.

I laid a course for The Bridge, which is a dredged channel marked by beacons to the South East of Drake’s Island, but a huge bulk carrier was being escorted up the fairway to anchor nearby to the south east, so I changed course and passed astern of her. Just as we were about to shoot through The Bridge a sumptuous and very fast motor yacht hurtled through in the opposite direction causing a commotion with her wake.

Originally I was intending to anchor at Barn Pool, close inshore under the protection of Mount Edgecombe, but that’s only suitable for west or south west winds; therefore I pressed on up the Hamoaze to where there are some moorings under a bluff between Looking Glass Point and Carew Point near the entrance to the Lynher River. There I found a free mooring which was very peaceful; only the note of wren could be heard to accompany the sound of ripples running around the hull. This was an ideal spot to cook my first chips, because there was little chance of the fat being spilled from the pan, and so I had chips, baked beans, egg and bacon, with tinned peaches for afters.

I used the mobile phone to let Geoff know I was on his doorstep and by the tone of his voice, I could tell he was delighted, because he would be joining ship the day after next for the leg to the Scilly Isles.

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