Monday, 4 August 2014

Sunday 27th: Fowey, Polperro

Slightly cooler, a little overcast, but with a building southwesterly promised.

At last a day for some proper sailing. Rain was forecast for Monday, so we decided if that were so, we'd haul out and head back first thing. The day was looking to be the perfect conclusion for our long weekend. On previous visits, we've always turned right leaving the harbour to explore St Austell's Bay. Turning left, aside from Lantic Bay, there wasn't much else in reach. Except for Polperro.

As we were preparing Ondine alongside the pontoon, a lady ambled over from her boat and struck up conversation, remarking on how lovely Drascombes were. She was from aboard a lovely Cornish Crabber 22 that was moored alongside the pontoon a little behind us. Retired and now in her early sixties, not that you would guess, B kept the Crabber on a mooring in Plymouth, and had sailed up single-handed on the previous Wednesday.

As we were sat in the cockpit of her Crabber discussing the various merits of Drascombes, Crabbers and Cornish Shrimpers, she mentioned that whilst she was in no rush to head back, she'd not left the mooring since arriving the previous Wednesday because, it being high season and a popular spot, she was anxious she'd loose her place on the pontoon. Dad said we were heading out to Polperro and back for the day, and if she was happy downgrading from the Crabber to the discomfort and confines of a Lugger, she'd be very welcome to join us.

With the wind on the nose, we motored out of the harbour. As soon as we were clear, I set the sails and silenced the outboard, then with the sea burbling beneath her nose, set Ondine a course to take us further off shore and out of the shadow of the cliffs. The wind filled in as we left the shore, the sea becoming a little more lively. My sunglasses, perched on top of my head, went overboard in a moment of inattention, but the retaining band I'd fitted them with kept them afloat despite its failure to keep them on my head, which was an unexpected bonus. B kept her eye on them for me, whilst I hardened up to a beam reach, tacked around, then sailed back down below them to come up and stop alongside with an RYA textbook executed man overboard drill, trying not to look too smug. Or surprised that I'd pulled it off apparently so well.

Sunglasses restored to top of head, I eased away back onto a broad reach, keeping it as deep as I could go before the lack of boom on the Lugger became problematic, angled slightly away from the land. Ondine skipped along enthusiastically, picking up beautifully with the occasional gust, giving just a hint of wanting to surf. We gybed once to get further out into better air, before gybing back to our intended course. The wind built up consistently as she ate up the miles. Our new friend B was suitably impressed at how well the small boat handled and performed, noting that we seemed to be keeping up happily with a couple of bigger yachts a little further out, heading in the direction of Plymouth. In advance of Monday's promised rain, viability was crystal clear; we could see as far as Rames Head, unreachable to us on the distant horizon.

We came abreast of Polperro within a little over an hour and a half, the snug little harbour revealing itself from it's sheltering cleft in the steep cliffs of the shore. Only a couple of hours beyond low tide, I knew the harbour would still be dry, so toyed with the idea of pushing on to Looe as the going was go good. B encouraged us to head in for a look however, so we did, dropping sail and starting the outboard as the winds became fluky and unreliable under the shelter of the cliffs.

We navigated around the few boats moored in the outer entrance, and a large, expensive gin-palace with a bevy of passengers that was trying to pick up a mooring buoy whilst keeping off the rather uninviting rocks in the narrow entrance. A sleek, white RIB stood by patiently to pick up the punters and ferry them ashore. I vaguely noted it had black wheels at the bow and stern held on struts out of the water, similar in theme, I incredulously assumed, to the wheels you get built into the back of some purpose built tenders to make dragging them up the shore a little kinder.

We found a shallow, gritty beach uncovered by the tide below some steps up the harbour wall on the left hand side of the entrance. Ondine slipped up the sand amidst the curious tourists paddling, sunbathing or scrambling enthusiastically on the rocks. The entrance was so sheltered by the cove that there wasn't the slightest swell on the water. Ondine grated to a stop, and I pulled the anchor up the beach to secure her. The RIB we'd previously noticed nosed onto the beach alongside, lowered the wheels fore and aft, then drove up the sand, before curtseying down to off-load its passengers and finally returning to the water.

We climbed the steps into Polperro. A classically picturesque Cornish fishing village, but thronged with sightseers as it was the height of season. Fortunately, the Blue Peter pub was only a short step away way from the harbour wall. B refused to let us buy her a drink despite Dad's attempted insistence, and instead offered us one. Hot and thirsty, I asked for a lager.

The landlady enquired which, and in quest for something simply cold and wet, I nonchalantly replied "Any old lager will do".

"We don't do any old lager. You'll have a pint of Korev. That's a proper Cornish lager!" was the prim retort.

Duely chastened, I settled down gratefully with my pint. It was quite lovely.

The sail back was bracing, and everything I love about sailing the Drascombe. With three of us in the boat, I didn't bother with a reef as she stayed quite stiff despite the wind increasing steadily into the top end of a F4. Old hands apparently advise never to cruise upwind in a Lugger, but I've got to say that close hauled is my favourite point of sail with the boat. She doesn't point exceptionally well, and doesn't stay at all dry in even the moderate swell we found ourselves facing. But heeled over with waves crashing across the bow, the boat feels alive; as playful and as madly enthusiastic about life as our Jack or Lilly in full spate charging after a ball.

Having a couple of crew sat as a spray shield between yourself and the bow also helps with the helm's good humour, it has to be said. The sky was beautiful. The sea was beautiful. It was exactly what we needed. Morphine for the soul.

The beat back to Fowey took a little over a couple of hours. Entering the harbour mouth, the wind once more became fluky and unreliable, so we dropped sail and motored back to the pontoon through the Sunday evening peace and quiet of the harbour.

Back in Penmarlam, we rafted up alongside B's boat, and made Ondine good for the night. We then retired back to the Old Ferry, joined by our new friend for supper. B mentioned to Dad how handy it was that he had such a useful assistant for his boating and offered to buy me; not the first offer he'd had all weekend, it has to be said. When Dad said that would be fine, but in addition to food and a little space in a cupboard to sleep, my prospective new owner would also have to cover my bar bill, she, like all the other prospective buyers of the weekend, withdrew her offer.

The following morning, the rains came in as predicted, so we hauled out and headed for home.

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