Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tuesday, 21st June

Here we are at sunny Salcombe, the jewel of the South West. ‘Bumper’ is anchored at Smalls Cove where we’ve just been rammed by a plastic dinghy, being sailed by learners, under the supervision of the Island Sailing Club. There doesn’t appear to be any damage to either boat - just a frightened young crew who needed assurance.

We anchored at 1510 to seaward of the Salcombe Yacht Club’s start line, which is adjacent to the prestigious Marine Hotel. The tide really zips in here on springs, two or more knots. Everything is so clean and fresh. The air has that sea tang. There’s a lot going on at this particular spot, because all incoming and outgoing vessels have to pass nearby.

I woke at 0515, in plenty of time for the shipping forecast which predicted West or North West winds to Beaufort strength 3 or 4. In fact, the land breeze had supremacy, providing us with a gentle beam wind for most of the trip.

The local mist lifted to reveal my friend the Sun who always makes everything that much more cheerful. When the anchor had been stowed we drifted away to the east, heading for the Great Mew Stone, marking Wembury Bay and the River Yealm. There was enough wind to avoid four frigates making their way to sea from Plymouth Sound and the Brittany Ferries ship on her way in.

When we were south of the eastern end of Plymouth Breakwater the wind died altogether, but after using the engine for an hour, a gentle breeze from the south came to our aid. ‘Fred’, our windvane self-steering gear became a willing slave, enabling the skipper to relax and enjoy the scenery of Bigbury Bay. I could clearly identify the deep sided valley of the River Erme, and to the east I could see the unmistakeable outline of Burgh Island. When I was a child I spent a day there on the sandy beach and recollect seeing an electric powered canoe. At the time, it was mind-boggling experience for me; even now, it’s an intriguing proposition.

While out at sea I was not short of company, because there were so many yachts sailing along the coast today. As we ‘voyaged’ on opposite courses we made the usual courtesy wave and examined the other boat for things of interest. Bigger yachts invariably overhaul ‘Bumper’, but I accept that, as a boat’s speed is mainly determined by the length of her waterline. The question most asked by yachtsmen is, “What class is she?” I provide the answer, “A Newbridge Virgo Voyager,” then they signify their understanding or approval by nodding their head.

Sailing into Salcombe is something special. On your port hand is Star Hole Bay; it’s a semi-circular cove with high cliffs. The name for the Bay presumably comes from the experience of those who have seen stars at night from this particular anchorage. I’m told that from this viewing point they are exceptionally bright and colourful. Continuing northwards, the steep cliffs on ones port hand side softens, and becomes totally covered with rich green trees and foliage. Ahead is the western limit of Salcombe town with houses, guesthouses and hotels perched high on the north western side of the River. To ones port there’s Sunny Cove, Mill Bay and Smalls Cove, where we are anchored.

There’s so much to see from the boat, I doubt I’ll make the effort to have a walk this evening, but that decision can be made after dinner.

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