Padstow – Penzance… no Helford River!

Padstow – Helford River

E through NE (1-4) and glossy seas, except the Lizard when ROUGH 

85NM (1,466 cumulative NM)

 The three yachts that were rafted together in Padstow agreed that the weather window was good to go.  We just marginally disagreed on the time for departure.  Pete reckoned on an 08:30 exit – a full two hours after the outer yachts had determined.  This had sent Pete into a spiral of self-doubt over the tidal streams, and he didn’t want to make the long passage any longer for me!  Bless!  He rechecked them, and held to his timing.  Leaving the snug corner that we were in was fine – a kind fisherman from the huge trawler we were next to came to help… we clanked the anchor on the harbour wall, but other than that (and an impressive three-point turn by my skipper) we were on the way.

It would be a day of the most glorious glassy seas,  sometimes with a few waves, and absolutely no wind.  For mile upon mile – it was frustrating for Pete who really wanted to sail, but there was just no point… not even any point to hauling the mainsail!

Oh look how calm!

I was on watch when I spotted something, or things, breaking the water.  It was a massive school of dolphins… really leaping out of the water.  They were on a mission somewhere, and had no interest in coming to play with us, but it was impressive all the same.  I guess they will have been about 50metres away.  We watched them until they disappeared out of sight.  We later saw more leaping dolphins, much fewer, and I have one photograph… if you look very closely you can see a ‘tail fin’!

We encountered some roly swell around 14:00, which wasn’t too bad, but it must have come from the Atlantic.  American waves, perhaps?

We made really good time, despite the lack of wind, due to the tides.  Pete had it absolutely right!  In fact, so much that he eased on the revs so that we’d make the tidal gate around Lands End.  We had overtaken another yacht in the approaches to Lands End, who was motor sailing, and as we were coming around the headland he was catching us up.  It didn’t make much sense to me, but Pete reckoned that he was taking a back-eddy, so we diverted course to follow closer to the one they were taking, and claimed back our lead!

The photo at the top shows how closely we came around Lands End, and the one below shows Long Ships (the lighthouse off Lands End).

Sea all still nice and calm!  As we rounded Lands End, everything was feeling so calm and steady… Pete suggested that instead of going in to Penzance, we might carry on towards Falmouth, perhaps anchoring in the Helford.  We decided that we’d go for it; we thought we’d get in about 21:30, so just about in daylight….

As we were crossing Mounts Bay, we commented that the number of vessels on the water had markedly increased.  There were tankers off shore, the guys we’d overtaken, and another yacht on the outside passage around Lands End… Then some massive yacht, then another, and another!  We found ourselves in the middle of the returning yachts on the Fast Net Race.  Exciting!  These guys were all sailing (of course) but were coming closely into land and tacking around us.  We were motoring, on a straight course, and a Spanish Boat with all the tacking was just about creeping ahead of us…

We made a point of making clear course adjustments, so that the Spanish guys knew we weren’t going to foul their course… receiving big waves (of the hands) for the trouble.  We reckoned they’d been sailing for close on 48 hours.  Eurgh!

As we approached the Lizard, we thought that there might be a bit of tidal effect, but we were both horrified by what we ‘sailed’ into.  The seas were horrible – really scary.  Pete was on the helm as he tried to hold us through the waves… it was really really rough, almost without warning.  We had hit a tidal race, and with an increase in the wind… which was coming from the east, across the tide.  So, the combined effect was some seriously rough seas.  Fortunately the worst lasted only for about 30 minutes…. and just as we were heading out of the worst, Pete heard a clanking from the bow… the anchor had jumped its pin and was crashing around in its holder (still attached by the string), so he disappeared down the bow, with me yelling “don’t you think you should clip on….”  My words were carried away by the wind, and all I could do was watch and hope that a rogue wave didn’t come along and sweep him over board – some of the waves we had really been punching into, so it was possible.  Fortunately he secured the pin and came back ok – not even very wet.    The seas grew less, but it was still very bouncy, not really that pleasant… We were both beginning to wonder about the wisdom of our decision to keep going… I’m not sure that either of us would have done if we’d known about the wild conditions that we’d meet.

I was on the helm as the light from the day faded, trying to ride down the waves in a way not to lose much speed.  We knew that we’d be later than thought, so we’d be anchoring in the dark… 🙁  At least we’d been there before.

We rounded the Mannacles, and towards the Helford in the dark, with a few way markers visible.  Pete took the helm for the approach to the anchorage, and we almost ploughed into a mooring field, but in the end circled back to a gap in the middle of the bay.  We anchored first off, and the anchor set first time.  It was a big relief that we’d made it – until I realised how roly the anchorage was.  It was awful!  For me!  Not for old solid sea-legs skipper, but there was enough ‘east’ in the wind to have the swell rolling into the Helford, with the wind at a slightly different angle, meaning that we were lying across the swell.  It was very uncomfortable.  I slept in the saloon, and Pete in the pilot berth…. It was a completely miserable night for me.