Saturday 2nd June: Fowey to Plymouth
(22.3 miles, 6 hours 10 minutes under way)
High water Plymouth on Saturday morning was 0842. The forecast was for a steady F3 from south of southwest, no rain and, hopefully, no more fog.
Having experienced trying to make way in light winds once the tide turned foul on Thursday, I had no wish to repeat it, so had Dad up bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 0430 to made ready to cast off as close to 0500 as we could get it. We’d make what breakfast we could from tea and the granola bars in the ship’s stores once we were underway.
Grey skies, no fog but instead reasonable visibility as we cast off at 0510 and made our way down the river under engine and main, through the harbour and out into the open sea, regretfully leaving the fleshpots of Fowey behind us. Within half an hour we were clear of the harbour entrance and we set full sail and silenced the engine. The promised wind filled the sails, but was cantankerous in direction, more south of southeast that south of southwest; we initially found ourselves close hauled on port tack and heading off shore before tacking on to starboard and setting a close hauled course for distant Rame Head.
Navigation from Fowey back to Plymouth is terribly simple. Don’t hit Udder Rock on your way to pretty Polperro, avoid Looe Island as you pass the handsome town of Looe, then cross the expanse of Whitsand Bay to round Rame Head and finally turn left and enter the shelter of the Sound, taking care not to get run over by anything bigger that might want to enter at the same time as you.
Little more than an hour after casting off we passed Udder Rock to port, our course now loosened off to a close reach. The sea was slight, the brightening sky melodramatic, the shore to our north shrouded in shadow. By 0720 we were abeam of Looe, the favourable tide just beginning to get a grip of us. The little yacht was heeled happily to about 10 degrees, Dad and I both enjoying the best sail of the week so as Nikki finally awoke and emerged from below to join us.
0830, and the wind increased as the day brightened, the sun beginning to break valiantly out from behind the clouds. Touching more than 4 knots through the water at times, the gusts were tipping us over to 20 degrees now, and the boat’s track through the water was slouching off to leeward, and at risk of not clearing the headland of Rame Head. I pulled a roll into the headsail for the sake of the women and children on board.
I jest; Nik is far more chilled than I ever am aboard, and Dad only ever gets anxious when the boat tips so far over that things start flying about below. In any case, the roll in the headsail cost us half a knot in boat speed, but stiffened the little yacht up nicely. Biting properly into the water, we lost the leeway and our course lifted, once more taking us easily clear of the approaching headland.
At 0928, making just under 5 knots over the ground with the assistance of a fair tide, we rounded Rame Head. The sky was blue over the water, but low cloud was still dramatically shrouding the shore as we turned Penlee Point and ran into the Sound through the Western Entrance forty-five minutes later.
The Sound was a busy place Saturday morning, with powerboats nipping too and fro, a fleet of juniors training with their Toppers in Jennycliff Bay, and numerous yachts milling about, including an not insubstantial fleet of racing yachts preparing for the start of a race from Plymouth to Fowey. I switched the VHF to 39a so I could keep track of what they were up to. Their start line stretched out from the end of the Mount Batten Breakwater, straight across our direct path back to the marina.
At 1045 we started the engine and dropped our sails. Rather than negotiating our way through the milling yachts on their startline, we went out and around the pin end of their line to keep well clear, as much for Dad’s sake as their own.
By 1120 we were home, back alongside Calstar’s berth in Queen Anne’s Battery.
Just over six hours underway, but a good hour of that spent mulling about in the Sound avoiding other boats and yacht race start lines. Just over an hour of that was under power, but for the first time this week, only whilst departing or arriving; the rest of the passage was under sail. A little over 22 nautical miles covered.
The final sail of our week away, the weather had certainly saved the best for last.