Saturday 19th April
Mylor Yacht Harbour – Fowey
Winds E f4-5 and lumpy seas (short channel chop whipped up by the easterlies)
We decided that we would set an alarm and leave around 07:00. It was glorious first thing (as shown by the photo), taken just before sunrise and had the promise of a really good day, although you wouldn’t believe how different it would be at sea! Now, for my first serious sail in a couple of seasons, you thought that the sailing gods would be kind to me. Na. They must’ve gone ‘well, let’s have her just where we left her…’
There was barely a breath of wind as we slipped our berth, no dramas. We motored out into the Carrick Roads, and I was beginning to think that was going to be the pattern for the day. The sea was so calm, the winds puffing around. At the Percuil, a sniff of a breeze, funnelled down, I thought. I was right.
We had raised the mainsail driving out to sea, irrespective wind, not even heading to windward (technicality for all the non-sailors), there was that little wind. That would change when we approached St Anthony’s Head. Hello wind, as the easterly was there to greet us. Pete was expecting a F3-4 today, but we were given more like F5-6. And that glassy sea? Gone. Straight into a very lumpy sea. It was the word that best fitted the conditions, we decided. Not exactly ‘moderate’ given the wave heights, but the waves kept coming and coming as if they were in a hurry, making this lumpy, choppy, nastiness. Fortunately, Whinchat makes short shrift of it, slicing through it, so that we weren’t stopped in our tracks (as some boats we know of would be, as was the Moody 50 that Pete and Chris delivered a few weeks back). Nevertheless, it felt a bit wild out there. Wind on the nose, heeled over, bouncing through waves. There was a a Grimaldi ship to distract me for a while, and then I caught sight of the water running over the toe rails and along the decks. Holy Moly! I decided that it was better to laugh about it, because it must’ve been happening for a while given the conditions, but it meant that we were at quite an angle. Laughed? Yes, because it was exhilarating and because had I noticed it earlier, I would have freaked, demanding a reef (a sailing technical term, and not a demand for drugs). Whinchat had me totally fooled, and totally in awe of her.
Pete had gone down below to attend to something and had come up a little pale, so I was gracious and put him on the helm. It was earlier than I’d planned to, as I had wanted to see out the long tack (Pete had said L’aberw’rach next, and I hadn’t known if he were joking or not), but his paleness and my nearly being frozen to the wheel saw an end to that. So, after an hour or so, my husband timed the tack perfectly, and we turned through the wind and headed back to alnd. I say he timed it perfectly, as will be revealed…. Agh, a brief divergence. Our destination was due east, exactly where the wind was coming from and it is impossible to make this course when the wind is coming straight at you, on the nose, as we say. Don’t ask me to explain it, please. It’s mechanics, physics probably, but all’s I know is that you can get to about 30deg off the wind, so in order to head in an easterly direction, when it’s on the nose, you have to head 30 to the south (else the sails start flapping and you go dead slow) and then you steer through the wind (tack) and sail about 30 off the wind to the north… and you have to do it that way around because if you didn’t, we’d have sailed straight into the Cornish coast, so we had to head out to sea before we could make land. Follow?
Anyway, my generosity in handing over the helm meant that I had the wench-winch role, and that wasn’t exactly fun with your nose looking at the water hoping that the sea wasn’t going to wet your boots… It’s a miracle that I put to sea, really it is. Whinchat sails so much better on a starboard tack, and I was a little envious that Peter might have all the really fast stuff. However, I was bone cold at this point and needed my feet and my hands to remember what circulation was so I was content to huddle under the spray hood to catch some sun…
Actually, I didn’t really get much warmer, and I had a bad need for a pee, so I gave in and headed down below. Relief was brief before I paid for it. It was very bouncy and way beyond my sea-legs acclimatisation process. It’s just such a pfaff with the layers, and I’d decided to add a layer of waterproof trousers to ward off the cold. I came up with a slight hue of green, so that was that, Pete put me on the helm… and there I stayed.
I had reached the point of the metallic taste in my mouth, which is a sign of being well on the way to sea-sickness. However, being at the helm can really help and it was a good move for me. We were flying along. The wind began to increase, and Pete turned to me and said ‘do you think we should reef?’ It hadn’t occurred to me, and it’s usually me that’s screaming for one. He was right, because with a reef in the main, we didn’t lose any speed and we were more consistent, stable through the water. All good fun, particularly helpful because the sun was shining and the sea was trying to be blue, or I think it was, I didn’t really look long at it. Occasionally I would catch sight of a wave looming at us, and they did seem to be growing as the day went on.
Pete and I reckoned that out of five hours sailing, I was on the helm for four of them. It was very physical, because of the forces involved, so by the end of the day I was pretty tired and cold. I should have opted for another layer sooner, as I would struggle to warm up.
Our destination was Fowey, a very pretty harbour, and as we approached a whole flotilla seemed to be leaving port. Plenty of mooring buoys to be had! The entrance to the harbour is quite tricky, with rocks all around, so Pete was giving out instructions as I helmed us into the calmer waters (a relief) and we began the process of stowing the sails away and preparing to moor. We moored very neatly under the southern banks of Fowey harbour, looking towards the town, the sea was calm and although the wind was still blowing, it felt warmer. We decided that we’d go ashore, which meant pumping up the dinghy, which I offered to do in an attempt to get warmer. Usually it is a real hassle to launch the dinghy overboard, but Kate (my wonderful PT) and I have been working on upper body strength for sailing. I surprised Pete and myself when I picked up the dinghy and went to toss it aside. “Bloody Hell Kate!” were Pete’s words.
We went ashore, merely to get the paper. Fowey was rammed with holiday makers, wearing too few clothes and consuming either pints of lager in plastic glasses or massive ice creams. It somehow spoils the charm of the place, but at the same time I understand the appeal. We decided to head back to Whinchat and read the papers. Lovely.
The excitement of the evening was the failure of the Ebesbacher (??) boat heating system. Bone cold by now, and deciding that I needed the effect of the diesel heating system to help me out, I fired it up. Nothing. After searching for the manuals, Pete discovered that it was error code 20 – the glow plug. He said it was a bugger to change, and descended into the bowels of the engine room. He emerged shortly afterwards saying that he’d dropped part of a socket set in it, and couldn’t retrieve it. It was nearly time to start cooking, which needed the generator (in the engine room and that would have deafened Pete totally), so we decided that we’d be brave and go without the heating…. It wasn’t so bad with a belly full of my spicy Spanish chicken, chorizo and chickpea stew. In fact, with the bed being the potentially warmest place to be, it was an early night.