Thursday 13 June 2024

The Guardian: Susan Smillie

A link to a post on the Guardian's website that I've just read over my morning cup of tea. It put a smile on my face, so thought I'd share. 

I remember reading Susan Smillie's story, probably in an article on the same website, of how she and her small yacht "Isean" ended up sailing from here to Greece, and have enjoyed many of the photos she's posted of her travels on Instagram, so I'm something of a casual fan.

I'm also quite fond of dolphins.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

great grandad

I've got to admit, I'm not even sure which one he's holding. Think it's Charlie, but could be wrong. As usual. My daughter refuses to let me touch them with either paint or permanent marker. 

I don't think it matters. Which ever one it was, their Great Grandad was enthralled.

So was my brother, their Great Uncle Jamie. Think he got Harry. Could've been Charlie. But pretty sure it was Harry.

I can see we're going to have a lot of fun in the years to come.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Petrella: hard standing

And she's out. 

I made a complete hash of moving her around from her berth to the slip for the lift out. 0800 Monday morning, and a shower had just passed through. Wind was gusting to around 18 knots from the north west, so over the city and onto our port bow as we cast off, which I thought it would make things relatively easy.

I released the mid-ships spring, and Dad slipped the line on the bow. Which then promptly snarled up on the dock cleat before it came clear. I nosed back in, but couldn't get the mid-ships spring back onto its own cleat, so we ended up resting lightly against our neighbour whilst Dad sorted out the tangle and released us.

No big thing, no damage done.

Lines finally clear, I gently eased her back into astern, nudged clear of our neighbour and out of our slip. I'd meant to do my usual turn to port and then reverse down the aisle into clear water, but an unfortunate gust caught me, dampening the turn. I'm not exactly clear on the sequence of events that followed, but I somehow ended up turned 180° but across the aisle, and now fighting against our natural prop walk to try and get her to turn to where I wanted.

What followed were a series of shuffles forward and astern as I tried to get either the bow or the stern to turn into the wind, and we crabbed slowly but inevitably the wrong way down the aisle.

Whilst I'm not seeking to make excuses, the aisle is about 15 meters wide, which is a little problematic when your boat takes up 11 of those meters.

It all turned out okay. At one point somebody from the crew of another boat on the pontoon opposite ran over to stand by ready to fend us off the boats on his side, but short of a catastrophic mistake on my part, I was never really in any danger of shunting another boat, only running out of room as we crabbed our way in the wrong direction eastwards down the aisle before I could get her turned.

But we didn't, and eventually, disregarding the adverse prop walk and just focusing on turning ahead, taking the way off astern, turning ahead again, and so on, I eventually got her lined up to proceed sedately down the aisle to open water, leaving bow first for the first time in our short tenure so far at QAB.

I waved my thanks to the crew of the other boat as we passed. They grinned and waved back.

I reversed up to the pontoon off the slip where we were scheduled to meet the lift to save manoeuvring  in close proximity to the shallows off the university's marine station, as the yard had told me they wanted to take Petrella onto the lift stern-first. The final landing wasn't a particularly elegant piece of boat handling either, but by this point I'd given up on elegance. As soon as we were within reach of the pontoon, I took the stern line and hopped off to secure it. Dad secured the bow.

Everything else went without a hitch.

Despite not having been out of the water for about eighteen months, she's still quite tidy underneath, the coppercoat antifoul still performing well.

We replaced the anodes easily, the anode on the prop-shaft having disintegrated completely, and the one bolted to the hull clearly having given good service. The stainless steel nylocs on the latter made swapping it for a new one very simple.

The headsail had to come down for the duration she's on the hard, so I handed that over to the local sail makers on site to launder for us. If nothing else, it was easier than trying to neatly fold the huge thing for storage by myself. Dad's always willing, but relatively immobile at the moment as he's suffering with his knee. I also removed the bimini from its frame and gave it to them to repair a few seams that have come unstitched.

Next weekend we'll rub over the coppercoat, which seems to be all it needs at this point, and renew the antifoul on the keel and few odd patches on the hull where the coppercoat has had to be removed for previous work, and a company called Choppy Seas is going to clean and polish the hull for me above the waterline, to see if they can't clean up some of the staining and yellowing.

With all that hopefully done, she's due to go back in on Monday 24th. Hopefully I'll make a more elegant job of putting her back in her berth than I did getting her out of it.

July is a crazy month for the band, with seven gigs booked, but I do have the first weekend free so will hopefully manage a trip out to somewhere and back. If workloads with the day job permit, I might sneak a Monday or two off across the month, again to sneak out for a bit of sailing. If we don't have Nikki along with us, I quite fancy just anchoring out somewhere overnight, weather permitting, rather than simply trekking the miles harbour to harbour in Fowey and back as usual.

Then come August, the band goes quiet and Nikki and I have a couple of weeks off work at the end of the month. I'd like to make it around the Lizard to Penzance, but would be happy settling for Falmouth. Of course, we could go the other direction, and head back to Brixham and Torbay. 

But I do love Cornwall.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Petrella: Plymouth Sound local

A good weekend, but to be fair, they usually are. It's an almost routine formula: 

Quiet night in Friday, and by that I mean very quiet. The twins are now home, so if they're asleep in their Moses baskets in the living room, as they usually seem to be, with their mum and their nan watching over them, then any noise in the house is deeply frowned upon and immediately chastised by both. 

"Don't wake the babies!"

So the house is as quiet as a chapel with only the church mouse in residence. Which suits me fine, as I am fond of my peace and quiet. And mum and babies are all doing well. As is their nan.

Saturday was karate in the morning, which I was pleased and relieved to manage without further injury; the kumite (in our style, essentially "light contact" free sparring) seems to have become quite intense of late, and I've been left sporting bruises along with their commensurate aches variously to my instep, hip, and most recently the ball joint of my right thumb. Most of these seem to be the result of clumsy or ill timed technique on my part, rather than actually getting hit.

In the afternoon I had lunch with Nik at our favourite Greek restaurant in town, which was followed by a very enjoyable gig at a club in Cheltenham on Saturday night. 

Sunday morning was an ingloriously early start, and by 0730 I was heading down to Plymouth with Dad. We got to the marina and were aboard the boat just a little before 1000 to find, as hoped, clear blue sky, light winds and a gently rising neap tide.

Boat tent down, instrument covers off, shore power disconnected, lines shortened up. Engine oil checked and topped up, sea cocks opened, stern gland greased, electrics on, wind turbine on. The routine took a just under an hour, and we were ready to cast off.

The first few attempts to start the engine failed. Just a click, as if the battery were dead. Which made no sense, as it should've been charging off the shore power all week.

A pause as we ran back through the routine, making sure I'd missed nothing obvious. Like turning the electrics on. But no, nothing. Wind was picking up nicely, I could hear the blades of the wind generator spinning on its pylon at the stern of the boat.

Back through the starting sequence, and this time the engine started without hesitation.

Uncertain as to why, and a little uneasy, I let it run for a few minutes, then stopped it, and started it again. Again, no problem. A couple more stops and starts, then stopped it and let it stand quiet for fifteen minutes. Through the starting sequence again, and again, it started without any hesitation.

Mystery unresolved, we put it aside, and cast off.

About 8 knots of wind on our tail was blowing us into the berth, so I held her astern against the bow line, removed the midships spring, and Dad cast off the bow. I'd hoped to back out and across into an empty berth opposite and a little to our starboard, but half expected the prop walk to work against me. As it did.

So I turned astern to port as far as I could go without hitting the aisle opposite, then shunted forward, letting the inertia of the boat continue the turn. Back to neutral, centred the helm, checked space behind and put her astern again. Waiting for rudder authority so that I could complete the turn, puzzled as to why we weren't moving back, fed in more revs. And then horror as I realised I was actually pushing the throttle into full ahead.

It's a bit of a hazard with the position of the throttle. It's set up on the bulkhead at the rear of the cockpit to the helm's left, so for throttle ahead you push it away from you to port, and throttle astern you pull it towards you to starboard. It's reasonably straight forward, but clearly easy to muddle yourself when overloaded with other considerations, such as not hitting any of the other boats in close confines around you.

That said, I honestly thought I'd got over that one. But clearly not.

Fortunately, feedback from the helm and the boat not turning in the direction I expected quickly alerted me to my mistake, and I put her hard astern in plenty of time to arrest our forward movement, and so avoid ramming our erstwhile neighbour. Senses realigned, the rest of the manoeuvre completed without mishap and we reversed down the aisle, out of the marina and into clear water.

Dad, coming back into the cockpit from the bow, even complemented me on the departure. When I mentioned my mistake, he was surprised and explained he'd thought it was just confident boat handling and had just assumed it was me being assertive on the throttle.

Just goes to show, appearances are everything. As is not hitting anything.

Out into the Sound, we found a light south westerly, 8 to 12 knots, blowing in from the western entrance, and the flood tide pushing quite assertively against us into the Sound, despite it being neaps. At around around 18°C it was a pleasantly warm morning in the sun, and the wind didn't carry too much of a chill even when you were in the shade of the sail, so for the most part it was tee-shirt sailing weather, although I did keep my fleece handy.

Sails up and engine off, we beat up the Sound towards the eastern entrance, then along the inside of the breakwater over towards Cawsands and the western shore with lots of other yachts for company doing the same thing. The ample short handed tacking practice was good for us. The first few tacks saw me getting the clew of the genoa repeatedly snagged up on the baby stay. 

This used to happen on Calstar until I substituted the two separate jib sheets attached to the clew with conventional bowlines with a single jib sheet attached in the centre with a cow hitch, in the same way I'd rig a dinghy's jib sheet. Petrella's sheets are, of course, the conventional two separate sheets attached with bowlines. I don't think the single line cow hitch solution would work for Petrella, everything is scaled up. I think the increased loading would make the knot almost impossible to loosen and remove at the end of the season. If the knot itself didn't slip.

Turns out that technique is the answer. As it is for most things. For our first few tacks, like the diligent dinghy racer that I am, I'd instruct Dad to release the old sheet as the boat went through the wind and the sail backed, then frantically sheet in on the new leeward side as quickly as I could. Which saw the clew of the sail, with the sheets essentially under continual tension, first hook up on the baby stay, and then once free of that, snag up on the leeward shroud.

So, instead of frantically sheeting in immediately on Dad's release, I instead let the sheet take a little slack, essentially flying the clew of the sail forward a bit and then over to the new leeward side, before then sheeting furiously in. It worked a treat. I'm clearly getting better at this whole sailing thing. One day I might even be good.

Over onto the western shore, my initial intent of bearing away and running back to the other side was complicated by a cargo ship departing and another, with attendant tugs and a pilot vessel, entering the Sound, so we loitered for a while over on the western side of the bay until they both got out of the way, and then turned back for Jennycliff Bay, started the engine (without any difficulty) downed the sails, and, after setting lines and fenders, turned for the marina.

Coming back into our berth was textbook, and more than made up for my letting myself down with our departure. I judged the turn to port just right, the wind on my left shoulder encouraging, if not actively assisting, a nudge astern but with the helm kept locked over just to arrest our movement ahead and tighten the turn, and then finally nudging gently into our berth. I secured and then powered gently against the mid-ships spring, and Dad got his line neatly onto a dock cleat at the bow.

In total, 2 hours and 40 minutes underway, 8.1 nautical miles covered. 

By way of postscript: we plugged the shore power back in, but nothing came on. With the marina's help, found a trip switch gone on the fuse box, flipped it back, still nothing, suggesting it was us that had tripped it. Traced the likely cause of the problem to the boats shore power socket, which is sited on the outside the of the cockpit rope locker. The wiring connections at the back of the socket, which are inside the rope locker, are suspiciously loose. Knocked or pulled loose by our rummaging in the locker, I would imagine, which is a liability we'll have to address. 

We lacked the tools to take it apart and rewire it, so left the boat with the wind generator running and the shore power unplugged. We shall fix it when we return next Sunday, in preparation for Petrella's lift out on Monday 10th and storage on the hard for some TLC over the couple of weeks following. As an aside, I'd originally booked this for so late in the season to coincide with my grandchildren and daughter coming home and the inevitable impact this would have on my sailing. But, of course, they came early.

Anyway, putting the two and two together, I think the engine might have been reluctant to start at the beginning of the day because the battery, which we had thought had been on charge all week, was actually run low as the shore power had previously tripped out. My turning the wind generator on in preparation for sailing put, over the fifteen or twenty minutes we puzzled over it, just enough juice back into the engine's battery to finally get the engine to turn over.

Hopefully, it's as simple as that. Although that does leave me a little worried over the state of the batteries, if they can't hold enough of a charge to start the engine after a few days or so of being off shore power.

Friday 24 May 2024

tash & co

I've had the week off work, but haven't got down to the boat yet. There was a small chance that the kids would come home today, so my week away sailing took a rain-check. But Charlie needed support with his feeding again last night. There's a small chance they might come home tomorrow. It's very close, but remains a waiting game. 

In any case, they're both doing well. As is their mum. Though she's a bit stir-crazy with cabin fever right now and really, really wants to bring the little ones home. When they're ready.

So maybe tomorrow. Maybe, if they come home, and we get them settled in, then maybe I'll get down to the boat for a night or two before I'm back to work next week. Though if I do, I expect Lottie will come with me, so any sailing, if we sail at all, will only be local. 

But I'd settle for that. 

Though I'd settle just for having them all home.

Did get to sail on the lake Wednesday. Raced the Laser, Amanda was put off by the rain (to be fair, she actually cried off with a sniffle of a cold, so maybe it wasn't just the rain). Was a great race. And actually, the rain, which had been a deluge all day, stopped just as I got to the club and set about rigging the boat. 

It was a good course, a shifty 10 knots, gusting up to about 17, a couple of decent beats. 18 boats on the start line, I guess more than a few put off by the weather (unlike Amanda, who had a sniffle!) I finished first in my fleet, but 4th overall. Which was annoying. But the sailing was great, the boats ahead deserved their win.

Thursday 16 May 2024

a morning cup of tea

Thursday morning and I'm sat at my desk with my morning cup of tea. Just had a call from my daughter, Tash. Twins are doing well, and she sounds happy but exhausted. They're both now out of their incubators and in cots in her room with her. Harry is feeding well, Charlie still is still struggling to take to the bottle so has the assistance of a feeding tube.

She tells me that once he's past this and coping with a bottle like his brother they they'll be coming home. A photo she sent me from this morning:

The reason for her exhaustion is that Harry is currently on three hour feeds, whereas Charlie is every two hours, and she's now doing all their feeds herself. I told her a sleep pattern like that was good training for long distance solo cruising in the UK. I think, sometimes, my sense of humour leaves her feeling bemused, rather than amused, but I like to think it at least shows I care.

The above photo was from Sunday, when I raced the Laser. It was a bit of a drift and the course lacked a decent beat which was frustrating, although in defence of the race committee, it would've been hard to set given the conditions.

However, had a good race at South Cerney last night with Amanda and the Albacore. An impressive 33 boats turned out on the starting line, which was exceptionally port biased; an unfortunate but necessary compromise as they're having to run the racing from the committee hut on the shore at the moment, as a pair of nesting coots have taken up residence in the Club's shiny new committee boat.

We started at the favoured end, close to the pin, furthest away from the shore, where it was just about possible to edge over the line on starboard if the wind didn't shift against you. We were lucky, it didn't, and we timed it sweetly, crossing the line and moving nicely just as the final gun cleared the start.

photo: camilla g

For reasons I can't fathom, most of the fleet chose to start mid way down or further to other end of the line, heaping themselves upon each other and spoiling each others' air. From our own end of the line, the opening leg to the first mark was a simple windward fetch after we tacked early on to port as soon as the solitary Aero and Laser above us allowed.

Now in the dirty air to our lee, neither of them felt the lift we enjoyed about a dozen boat lengths or so out from the mark, and both fell away to leeward, the Aero overhauling and taking the wind from the Laser behind us.

photo: sophie d

We rounded the mark cleanly, settling onto a starboard biased beat to the next buoy, meanwhile astern the Merlin came barging in on port to the Aero's starboard, upsetting the Aero's intention to do the same. We left them to their squabbles and threats of protest and sailed away into clean air, keeping our early won lead for the rest of the race and eventually finished almost three minutes ahead of the nearest boat, beating two Aeros into second and third place respectively by more than a minute even after correcting our times for handicap.

More than that, the sky was blue, the sun was warm, with enough wind to keep us moving, shifty enough to make the race challenging. It was a lovely evening, and very nice to be sailing in shorts and tee-shirt again.

Nikki and I both have next week booked off work. I'm hoping to go sailing. Without considering the forecast, I'm thinking of heading out to Falmouth, spending a day or three in Falmouth town and around the Fal and the bay, then making our way slowly back to Plymouth, via Fowey and, perhaps Mevagissey. 

Or we could go east to Dartmouth, and do the same but heading back west. It would be nice to see Brixham again.

Of course, if the babies do come home, that might shoot all plans in the foot. I'm not sure why they'd need me around, I'm just a granddad after all, but I'm not sure their Nan (to whom I happen to be married) will see things that way if (when) I suggest that maybe I just go sailing with Dad instead if she doesn't want to come.

Monday 13 May 2024

of dreams of Pelagia

"And you don't poison a musician, not even an Italian;"

This line made me chuckle.

I am about halfway through reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières, finding myself totally enrapt in the book and wondering why I haven't read it before. I started it last weekend, after I'd finished reading Unknown Soldiers by Väinö Linna but had then abandoned Brian Moynahan's Leningrad: Siege and Symphony after hardly scratching the surface. I simply found it too dark for my mood at the time, but will likely return at some point.

At the point that I decided to put it down however, I was afloat in Fowey Harbour and my phone without connection. Unusual these days, even at sea, as long as you're within sight of land, but then this was Cornwall. So I had to settle for whatever I could find already on my Kindle.

And there it was. I don't remember when or why I bought it. I certainly don't remember downloading it. But I must've done both, and am happy that I did.

Petrella: Fowey and back

On the weekend of the 4th, Dad and I got to the boat for about 2030 Saturday evening. It was a bank holiday weekend, and I'd cut a deal with my wife whereby if I took her and our daughter out to lunch Saturday and then gave Tash a lift back to the hospital to look after the twins, I could go sailing with Dad for the next couple of days.

Nik had to work Sunday and Monday anyway, so my argument was that she probably wouldn't miss me, and Tash and the hospital had between them everything in hand with the twins.

Still not entirely sure how I got away with that.

Sunday 5th : Plymouth to Fowey
(22.8 nautical miles, 4 hours 42 minutes underway)

Sunday morning. 
Low water Plymouth expected 1031, so tide would run fair to the west until approx 1330.
Forecast 11 knots gusting 17 from south south east, showers, 13°C

High Water Fowey 1627 4.9m, low 2248 0.9m.

1017: Cast off Queen Anne's Battery, motor-sail across the Sound under main.

Leaving the berth was relatively straight forward; a series of shunts back and nudges forward with the wheel hard down to starboard, more astern to take the way off, more forward, and so on until I was lined up to reverse down the aisle and out to clear water.

It wasn't what I'd originally intended, as I'd hoped to get enough steerage to turn the other way and leave ahead, but it worked, and the best plans are those that can cope with adaption as they progress.

Our neighbour remains absent, so the only risk was knocking ourselves against our own pontoon. The wind was light on the port beam, so gave no trouble and we made clear water without mishap.

Almost on queue the rain set in and visibility dropped to less than a (very wet) mile.

1059: Penlee Point to starboard. Engine off, full main, 1x roll in the genoa.
COG 244° SOG 6.7kn Log 4.5nm; rain stopped, wind 11kn

We raised the main in the shelter of the Sound as we motored towards the western entrance. The sky was grey and low, the air thick with rain. Dad sheltered under the sprayhood, whilst I kept watch at the wheel, but let the autohelm tend to our direction.

We pushed on out of the entrance, Penlee falling off to our starboard side. At the point when we would've been able to see Rame Head were it not for the rain, I unfurled the genoa, cautiously leaving a couple of rolls in, stilled the engine and let the course fall away onto a heading for Fowey some 20 miles still distant.

As we passed Rame Head the wind veered until we were on a close port reach, but held to a steady 10 or 11 knots or so, so I released the rest of the genoa and we continued along under full sail, the boat making good speed over ground courtesy of a fair tide.

1210: Squall just through. Dolphins. Wind 17kn.
2x rolls in genoa, full main
267° 5.9kn 10.9nm; SE of Looe
Close hauled on port tack

The squall came through quickly and without much warning, the wind increasing and veering further until we were having to fall off our course to remain close hauled as it quickly climbed to around 18 knots. The rain, persistent through out the morning, increased dramatically in a thick crescendo and Petrella began to heel sharply, trying to round up, the autohelm struggling to hold her down to her course.

I let the genoa go, it's loud flogging summoning Dad up from whatever he'd been doing below as I hauled in on the furling line to put a couple of judicious rolls back into the sail. Headsail appropriately reefed, Dad tailed the sheet whilst I ground the slack in on the leeward winch to retrim the sail.

And so I was hunched over the winch, grinding and staring over the leeward rail into the grey sea as it foamed past us when I saw the first dolphin, barrel rolling as it came out from under the hull to stare up at me with what incredulously felt at the time like a cheeky grin.

It's funny how the mood of the boat changes the moment they appear. I went from wet, bedraggled, overworked and a little stressed to childlike delight, the weather and conditions forgotten, Petrella left to tend herself whilst I spent the next twenty minutes clambering around the boat watching a pod of about half a dozen dolphins play.
1307: Close reach, wind dropped to around 10kn, full sail
270° 4.9kn 15.5nm; Polperro to starboard

At some point before they left us, the rain ceased and the wind dropped back down. Once I was confident the weather wasn't going to throw any more surprises at me, I unfurled the rest of the genoa again. Out to the south west I could see the cloud beginning to break.

1402: Sun out, 8 to 9 knots wind, beam reach
280° 4.0kn 19.8nm; Lantic Bay to starboard

The sun is almost as welcome as dolphins on a chilly day, and has almost as an uplifting effect on the boat's mood. The sea was still rolling with about a meter and a half of swell, pushed in by the weather out in the Atlantic, but the wind had dropped and backed to the south. With the tide turning foul now, our speed over ground was falling away.

Past Lantic Bay, we fell further off the wind to make for the harbour entrance. The rolling of the sea frequently shook the wind from the sails, leaving the main and genoa inelegantly slapping.

Ahead a procession of racing yachts crossed in front of Gribbin Head and made for the river mouth. Most would be clear and out of our way by the time we got there.

1427: Engine on, genoa away. Dropped main a little later in the shelter of the harbour

No longer making any serious way, the sails were slapping annoyingly, so we rolled the genoa outside the mouth of the harbour, sheeted in the main and motored in under mainsail. In the shelter of the harbour we found a bit of space and turned towards the Polruan shore to put Petrella head to wind. Dad minded the helm whilst I rolled the mainsail, winding it quickly onto the boom without any mishap or complication.

The harbour master's launched pulled up alongside and, on confirming we weren't part of the visiting racing fleet, directed us to a visitor's buoy in the moor field on the east side of the harbour.

1459: Pick up buoy in Fowey, engine off

As we picked our way through the field of buoys and moored boats, I jokingly called over to the racing crew now relaxing en-mass in the cockpit of their 36' Beneteau yacht on the mooring next to ours not to watch. Dad made his way up to the foredeck with a line and I nudged slowly up into the current towards our mark.

Dad's first couple of attempts to lasso the buoy failed, but on the third try he got the line around it and made us secure. I left the engine running in neutral "just in case" whilst I threaded a second line through the loop on the top of the buoy. The freeboard on Petrella is twice that of Calstar, and something we're going to have to get used to.

We were in Fowey. We got the tender out, Dad inflated it whilst I fuelled the outboard, and within an hour or so we were ashore and enjoying a beer and the brief company of some old friends at the Fowey Gallants Sailing Club, before heading on to one of our favourite restaurants, Sam's, for supper.

The rain held off until just after we were back aboard the boat, and then it began to pour.

22.8nm covered in 4 hours and 42 minutes underway, engine time 1 hour 4 minutes.

Monday 6th : Fowey to Plymouth
(22.7 nautical miles, 4 hours 58 minutes underway)

Forecast 7 knots gusting 11 from north, showers expected from 1300.
High water Plymouth 0445, so tide fair to east until roughly 0745.
Sunrise expected 0544

We got an early night Sunday evening in anticipation of an early start back Monday morning. It was still dark when my alarm went off at 0400, but the wolf light was just beginning to creep into the sky by the time I crawled out of my bunk fifteen minutes later.

I'd deflated the tender and lashed it to the coach-roof the previous evening, and we'd only put the barest minimum of the cockpit tent up; the bimini, sprayhood and the zipped-in centre piece that connects the two, so taking everything down and readying for departure was a swift affair.

0515: Drop mooring Fowey

Departure was simple. Released the remaining line to the buoy, dropped back a little, then set ahead and turned for a gap in the moored boats to take us out into the main harbour and then towards the entrance and open water.

The town was quiet and still, except for the flashing yellow lights of a utility truck doing its rounds emptying the town's bins. The predawn sky was gently lit with subtle streaks of amber from the east.

0545: Sails up, engine off, wind 10kn N
101° 5.0kn 2.2nm; Lantic Bay to port

The northerly wind was not harsh, but had a distinct chill to it. The sea state was ruffled but calmer than the day previous, and our course had us set on a comfortable beam reach to port. The sky ahead glowed orange between broken clouds as the sun threatened to crest the line of headlands stretching out towards the east.

I could see a solitary yacht leaving Fowey astern of us and the glimmer of a partial rainbow above them crowning the receding mouth of the harbour. Five minutes to clear the mouth of the harbour and then they too had their sails up.

A fair tide and a light breeze saw us making good way.

0600: 095° 5.1kn 8.4nm; Looe to port
Close reach on port. Wind northerly 13kn

0605: Dolphins

The dolphins were welcome but brief, too brief for the camera. They circled a few times, playing in our wake and on our bow wave, then returned to competing with the circling gannets and gulls for their breakfast.

A little later, I wrote in the log "0624 pos. Basking Shark to starb?"

It was too big to be a dolphin, and solitary, but arced through the waves like a dolphin so I didn't really think it was a shark. I've not seen one (yet) and whilst I know they're about in these waters, I imagine they bask, as the name implies, and don't broach.

Although large, it was too small to be a humpback, and had a definite, crescent dorsal fin, although again, whilst it had the same curve and elegance, it seemed in wrong proportion, too small and too far back to be a dolphin's fin.

Nattering with Amanda about it whilst later racing the Albacore last Wednesday evening, she, who knows about these things much better than I, suggested it could've been a minke whale. Looking up some photos on Google, I think she might be right. I didn't get a photo, it was a hundred yards or more distant, and broached only twice, so the moment was brief and unconfirmed, but the thought that it could've been a whale does make me smile. 

And reminds me that it's a wonderful, enchanting wilderness out there. Sure, it'll break you or kill you if you don't give it due respect, and yes it absolutely scares me, some times more than others but the caution is always there. But it is always a privilege to be a part of it, for however transitory a moment.

That's enough of my waxing lyrical. Sorry, but cetaceans will do that to a fellow.

0800: 088° 5.5kn 14.1nm, wind 13.5kn N

0915: Passed close to a Dutch frigate outbound from Plymouth and rounding Rame Head, winds whilst passing headland close on port bow and pushing past 18kn. Hands very full managing the boat.

It always seems to all happen at the same time. Approaching Rame Head, we watched a warship emerging from Plymouth, passing Penlee Point and heading out to sea. And then she turned, pointing directly at us. For a moment, we were dead on to each other, then she adjusted her course a few points to port and it we could see that, if we held ours, we'd be comfortably clear.

At the same time the wind began to build and veer, and we found ourselves close hauled on port and heeled to 25° or so, the boat trying to round up towards the rocks of the headland as I tried to eased our course down with the header to stay on the wind, conscious I couldn't bear away much without crossing into the path of the warship.

It always feels, in the moment, more dramatic and compressed than it actually is. I eased the main through the worst of the gusts, which stopped Petrella from trying so hard to round up towards the headland, but kept us straight on our course as the Dutch frigate passed under our lee with about a cable's length or two to spare.

041° 3.0kn 19.4nm; Cawsands on port.  Close hauled on port, foul tide.

The eased wind but gave us a lift, backing significantly as we passed Penlee Point, letting us just lay the lighthouse on the western end of the breakwater. Close hauled in light wind and against a foul ebb tide, we were making progressively less way as we closed on the western entrance. We had a couple of close shaves with some perilously placed and very poorly marked lobster pots but, more through luck than judgement, didn't snag any.

0920: Engine on, genoa away, motor sailed the last short stretch into the Sound, dropped main in the shelter of the Sound.

1013: Alongside QAB

Putting into our berth went without significant mishap. Our neighbour was still absent, so we had plenty of room, but in some ways I think that makes it harder, as I had fewer points of reference to aim for. I came in wide again, leaving the final turn a fraction too late, the wind blowing us off our finger pontoon.

A bit of jockeying with the throttle ahead and astern corrected our line however, and I got the midships spring onto the end cleat a fraction of a moment ahead of Dad lassoing the forward cleat from where he stood ready at the bow.

22.7nm covered over 4 hours 58 minutes underway, engine time 1 hour 23 minutes.