Monday, June 20, 2005

Sunday, 19th and Monday 20th June


Another 24 miles were covered today when we arrived at Cawsand Bay where we anchored at 1450. As a lad I had anchored here with John Dykes while aboard his converted St Ives lugger. I owe a great deal to John for all that he taught me in seamanship.

Coming to Cawsand from Fowey was effortless; the wind was from the north enabling ‘Bumper’ to beam reach virtually all the way. We took six hours from start to finish, at an average of four knots, and that includes plugging the ebb and working to windward at Cawsand.

En route, as we ticked off the miles, we passed close to the illusive Udder Rock buoy (always difficult to spot), Polperro, that picturesque village nestled in a natural amphitheatre, Looe, protected by her Island to the south, and finally Rame Head, with its distinctive sloping probe, reminiscent of the head and nose of an anteater. Lurking, camouflaged against the natural shades of Rame Head, Frigate F222, was on a ‘stealth’ exercise, perhaps searching for submarines, as we were in a submarine exercise area. She headed straight for us, but then made a dramatic change of course to the south west. Ten minutes later I could hear firing which seemed to come from the frigate. Two other naval vessels were out and about on the horizon.

As I needed to top up my mobile phone with credit I went ashore at Cawsand, where a young man, obviously intoxicated as he held a can of beer in his hand, asked if his friend, who could not row, could have a go with my dinghy. You can guess what my reply to him was, particularly as the wind was offshore.

At ‘The Shop at the Square’ I was fortunately tempted by the glorious vision of a real steak and onion Cornish pasty. When I ate it later that exquisite creation more than met my every expectation.

As I prepare today’s log I’m not sure whether to stay here for the night or to move to Barn Pool, a favourite anchorage which has served me well in the past. I’m being buzzed with jet skies just now, and they may tip the balance, encouraging me to up the anchor and leave.


Today is Fathers’ Day. For me it’s a time for reminiscing on my three daughters, the times we had together and the things we did, and with my wife too.

Choosing St Just for an anchorage last night was a good choice. It was peaceful there, and a fairly full moon brought some magic to the place. Breaking out the anchor this morning was a case of removing weed from the chain as it was hauled in.

A brisk wind from the north soon had ‘Bumper’ out on the open sea. At 1100 we rounded St Anthony Lighthouse and headed to the east for a mile, so that a course could be laid for Dodman Point, that formidable headland marking the eastern end of Veryan Bay, but first we had to avoid ‘The Bizzies’, a race off Greeb Point. This first stretch of water is dotted with many small buoys marking crab pots, which calls for vigilance on the part of the skipper, lest the keel, rudder or propeller becomes snagged on a line.

The fierce race south of Dodman Point stretches for a mile-and-a-half, and the southernmost part flows over a shallow spot, only seven metres below the surface at low water. My plan was to avoid the Race altogether by cutting close inshore in the lee of the land. At 1400 we rounded the Headland without difficulty. There was no sign of a race because there was very little movement of the water at that time.

Quite often yachts meet at a headland, especially if it is approximately halfway between two safe harbours, as was the case when ‘Bumper’ was at Dodman, which is a little more than halfway between Falmouth and Fowey when travelling up the English Channel.

The wind remained fairly constant at around force 4 from the North West – almost ideal for our passage of 20 miles. Two reefs were necessary to enable the boat to be balanced for the self-steering gear to cope. Remarks in my navigation log remind me that the sea was a slate grey in colour, flecked with white breakers. A ketch to the south was painted bright yellow in keeping with her sails, which added spice to the scene.

An hour later the sun broke through the haze, transforming the seascape into a wonderful blend of blues, areas of which were tinted lighter by reflected light from wispy clouds.

At 1430 we passed close to Gwineas east cardinal buoy marking the visible Gwineas Rock and Yaw Rock which breaks surface at low water. Brightly painted houses of Mevagissy and Portmellon contrasted with a backdrop of rolling green hills. Fine reaching across a sparkling Mevagissey Bay was sailing at its very best. Waves danced as we creamed along at five knots; now and again spray landed on my spectacles causing them to ‘frost’ over with salt flakes.

To the north were the ‘mountains’ of St Austell. They are useless conical piles of inferior clay brought up from the china clay mines; they remind me of my father’s Cornish roots because he and my mother lived for a while at nearby St Blazey and prior to that near Bodmin.

The red and white multi-striped Gribben Head Daymark is an easily seen navigation aid, only a mile or so from the entrance to the River Fowey. Lying to the south is Cannis Rock buoy which warns mariners of the lurking danger between it and Gribben Head. Here the wind became fluky and gusty, but I kept on sailing until Fowey Castle was abeam.

There I turned on the engine and we made our way to a substantial buoy north of Polruan, where the Harbour Master quickly found us and extracted £8.00 in dues for the night. Just before 2100 I was surprised to see ‘Snowfire’, the Loch Broom Post Boat owned by Chris and Lorna, come close astern in search of a vacant mooring. They must have had a magnificent sail in such a tiny boat, much to their credit.

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