Maiden voyage – Falmouth to Fowey

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Helen arrived on Friday afternoon (we ended up not doing anything very much on Thursday… not really sure why!), to join us for our first passage out of Falmouth marina.  I’d spent a mere two hours doing the passage plan to Fowey (which involved accessing information buried deep within my brain of the Day Skipper tuition – tides, tidal streams, variation) and produced a plan which more or less acceptable to my skipper!  Pete was worried about the current around Dodman Point, which the Tidal Streams book (reference data, Cherbourg high water times) made no particular incidence with.  The pilot book (reference Plymouth high water times) gave very clear instructions.  What turned out to be more critical, was the Falmouth Marina low tide times!  Pete had told me this was not relevant to us, but the depth meter hovering around 0.1m and then 0.0m gave me much angst, particularly as there was more lowness to come.  We had agreed a departure time of 10:30 to make most of the favourable current around Dodman Point, but we didn’t leave until 12:30.  Pete asked the boatman of Falmouth Marina, and he said that we’d scrape the bottom getting out (a mud bank on the outer edge of the K-hammerhead) and he wouldn’t do it in a new boat!  He gave us two hours, so we had to absorb the time sitting reading the papers.  Our skipper was a tad frustrated – and when he checked the West Country Pilot (reference Plymouth high water times) it did warn us of the fact.  It goes to show that very thorough reading is of benefit.

At 12:20, we slipped our mooring and headed out.  Finally!  The weather was grim to begin with, but was certainly brightening as we headed towards the bay.  Pete was giving Helen some sailing instructions, which I think he really enjoyed – and Helen certainly did.  Helen was at the helm when we were first sailing.  Watching her struggle to maintain the heading with the tug of the wind (and here tide, which I never had in the Med) reminded me of how tricky it is – and also how far I’ve come.  We were treated to a fairly steady southerly breeze, probably a F3.  We tacked out of the bay towards my first way-point off St Anthony Head, then we turned west, and sailed along the Cornish coastline in a glorious beam reach.  Helen and I had eased out the sails, and Pete had first sail.  Helen took to the helm again, and more coaching in holding a course – which was made more tricky without anything other than the compass to steer to.  What land there was was wrapped in the haze over the land.  We were in lovely warm sunshine!  I made lunch, a ham and hummus wrap, which we ate as AutoDoris steered.  She did a good job!  That done, it was my time to take the helm, and it was just magnificent.  The skies were blue, sun shining and a super wind.  A beam reach, where the wind is at 90 deg to the boat, is one of my favourite sailing points.  It’s generally quick, not too bouncy, but requires a fair degree of skill to hold a course.  Very satisfying.  Helen was on lobster marker watch (and generally looking out and about) and Pete was up and down checking on various things and marking our passage in his log.  Dodman Point provided no obvious issues, despite us probably arriving at the worst time, but that’s something to do with Pete’s prudence at taking a course 3-4 miles off shore.  It was here we made another heading change as we headed more northerly towards Fowey.  The wind was not quite behind us so we were on a broad reach (very broad), which is  not so pleasant.  The sea was a bit rolly, so we rolled towards Fowey at a much slower rate of knots.  Pete predicted that we would enter the harbour around 16:30… we probably did.  No issues or dramas in taking down the sails, despite the rolling sea making it harder for Pete to zip up the scoop that catches the mainsail.  Our drama would be in mooring.

I was on radio duty, which I was pleased to manage competently (another course dredged from deep within my mind), to be told we had to raft up to another boat of similar size on a mooring buoy because they were busy.  Pete chose a silver hulled boat, with a fender out, which suggested they wouldn’t mind.  They weren’t on board.  First job to secure the fenders, then secure a warp to the port bow, with me leaping across to the target boat (very long warp in one hand, leaving no hands for any boat at one time as I climbed over their guard rails).  I did this, but then got yelled at for having the fenders at the wrong height (it is very difficult to judge, and I’d misjudged it).  Pete was on the stern line, and I had tied up the stern to their boat, then had to readjust all the fenders as their boat was much lower in the water than ours.   Then was the task of getting a mooring line through the mooring buoy – I tied my first bowline in action – and had to lower it down to the mooring buoy to thread through the ‘eye’ and hook it out the other side with the boat hook.  All sounding very easy?  Add the complication of our neighbour’s boat bouncing up and down and the fact that I was leaning over the anchor around the foresail.  Helen cheered when I got it through – after about 4 attempts.  Then we noticed that the stern line had come lose, so I had to rush back to our boat and tie us off again, Pete and Helen fending off.  We then decided to use our monster fenders, which involved pumping them up and tying them on.  We had about as much as we could do.  Our masts were swaying, and although not touching, were at risk.  Pete was not happy.  Our neighbours came back, and they were concerned but generally cheerful.  I was just chatting to them when the harbour patrol came alongside (Either Florence or Dougal) and Pete asked him to put another warp through the buoy.  He actually told us he wasn’t happy, and suggested we moved.  We had selected buoy S7, which was just about the rockiest given the swell of the sea and the wind.  He suggested we head further up river, which we both decided to do – us and our neighbour!  They showed us the way.  As we left, he told me that he’d had to move 3 times in the night at 03:00 because of a fear of masts clashing and had seen masts destroyed before now.  Not ideal.  Coming off the mooring was easy by comparison, the only thing giving me a shock was the sound of the bow thruster!

We headed up river, the effects of the sea and wind becoming less the further we went upstream.  There were additional buoys just beyond the china clay works!  There were two free, one for our new friends and one for us.  I tied a bow warp, and prepared to moor.  It completely threw me that there was no additional float to scoop up… and my mind went blank and I was in stress-mode.  I had the buoy hooked, but couldn’t work out how to get my line down to it.  Pete was yelling things that made no sense to me.  We tried the bowline trick, but that didn’t work.  I was swearing away, and was then rescued by a bearded knight in shining armour, who had seen my dramatics and come across in his dinghy.  He simply looped our line through leaving me to pull it through (all 18 metres) and cleat off.  I absolutely loathe those long blue warps!  It just adds to the stress.  Pete reminded me of my famous lassoing, which I’d done in Maine, but in my moment of stress my memory banks failed me!

Still, at 18:30 we were secure and in a quiet mooring – except for the sound of the generator from the china clay works!  It had taken two hours to moor up successfully, but with good lessons along the way.  The ying and the yang of sailing…