The nicest thing about lingering somewhere is the people you meet, such as Wendy and Dave on the Moody 38 next door in Penzance. They were very kind and invited me to dinner where we swapped memories and told salty stories. Just before I left for Padstow, Wendy kindly presented me with age-defying (well it looks like the same stuff!) insect repellent cream for Scotland! Thank you Wendy!
The nasty low that threatened to incarcerate Team A-Jay a little longer seemed to have moved off NE faster than previously forecast though more bad weather was predicted for Thursday, but for now Barry the barometer was optimistic so it was time to check over the passage plan notes, which went something like this:
“LEG to PADSTOW 12/05/2015
Expected forecast 24 hours before; deep low moving NE over Scotland to Iceland. High pressure expected Tuesday 12/05. S/SW 5, slight/moderate, occasionally rough, Moderate/Good. Following 24 hours; W/SW 4/5, becoming variable 3 / 4, slight/moderate, occasionally rough.
Updated forecast inserted here …..
Milford Haven Dover Plymouth Penzance Padstow (13/05)
HW 1329 0605 1254 1154 0107 (enter 2307-0307 )
HW – 1842 – – 1348 (enter 1133-1548)
LW 0719 1306 0636 5636 0619
LW 1953 – 1912 1650 2014
Padstow anchorages; Stepper Point (W), Quin Bay (E), the Pool. Padstow VHF 12
Tidal streams; inside counter tide North running round Land’s End from Dover -3 (1542)
1100 – 1200
1200 – 1300 ETD 1230 128° M
1300 – 1400 HW – 5h 42m to – 4h 42m 200° M past Penzer Pt.
1400 – 1500 HW – 4h 42m to – 3h 42m Runnelstone 1445 245° M to Runnelstone
1500 – 1600 HW – 3h 42 to – 2h 42m North running counter tide starts 1542
1600 – 1700 HW – 2h 42m to – 1h 42m Longships 1615 312° M to Longships
1700 – 1800 HW – 1h 42 to – 42m 33° to clear Cape Cornwall
1800 – 1900 Dover HW 1842 49° M to Trevose Head
1900 – 2000 HW + 18m to + 1h 18m
2000 – 2100 HW + 1h 18m to 2h 18m Sunset 2055 (approx. St. Agnes Head)
2100 – 2200 HW + 2h 18m to 3h 18m
2200 – 2300 HW + 3h 18m to + 4h 18m
2300 – 0000 HW + 4h 18m to + 5h 18m
0000 – 0100
0100 – 0200 ETA between 0100 – 0230; Tidal stream NE at Padstow, 0.4 kts
Dover HW 13/05 0734…
Secondary port = Milford Haven 63 nm N. VHF 12. 13/05; HW 0207, 1448; LW 0839, 2114. Dale or Sandy Haven Bay.
On the reverse I always draw a sketch of the destination, highlighting key lights, buoys, approaches etc…. Waypoints are also input into the main and back up GPS.”
It’s time to get cracking because we have only done 300 nautical miles in getting on for 4 weeks, an average speed of about minus 1 nautical mile per hour; but that’s fine because much time has been spent with many special people, which has been wonderful. I’ve almost run out of UK friends and relatives now, so the next 2,000 miles should be rather faster.
A quick bilge check takes no time and will show if there have been any leaks of engine oil or other vital fluids – a little soapy fresh water was discovered this time, so from inside or above the waterline, not from the sea and unlikely to be a major problem. The other usual checks and fixes were done, before I concocted an eclectic stew (recipe available, if I can remember it) for the journey. No alcohol the day before (although a modest slug of ‘hair restorer’ found its way into the stew) and porridge for breakfast; all systems go.
The tough Cornish skipper of the nearby gaffer told me as I cast off, that he had just come back from the World gig racing championships in the Scilly Isles where he came 30th in his race – I must confess he looked remarkably fresh, particularly given the tons of liquid refreshment I had seen being shipped out for the event.
We departed under the friendly, cheerful gaze of Clive the duty harbour official and I was profoundly grateful that Team A-Jay made it out through the narrow entrance without embarrassment; as ever, I switched into Saga Mode and took my time, pause two, three … getting ship shape and the sails up. The start looked promising with a good breeze gusting 21 knots, though the steep hillsides might have contributed.
The headlands of Carn Du with its Black Rock and Tarn Du above the Bucks passed by as we closed Runnel Stone leaving it close to starboard and thence on to the Longships lighthouse, which again we passed close to the South and West. “There is displayed (at Longships) during storms a wild panorama described by John Ruskin as an entire disorder of the surges… the whole surface of the sea becomes one dizzy whirl or rushing, writhing, tortured undirected rage bounding and crashing and coiling in an anarchy of enormous power”.
Today a big, bully of a 4 metre Atlantic swell was sweeping in from the West which beat up the irritable sea left over from the bad weather in the shallower coastal areas, making for a very lively ride, particularly off Longships reached at approximately Dover HW -3. This meant we then began to enjoy the N running counter current and thence the NE flow up the North Cornish coast. It was no surprise to see on the chart a scattering of wrecks off most headlands.
I had a well-stocked nosebag to hand and plenty to drink as I had become dehydrated on a previous leg, so decided to log my water intake, a good reminder I later found. I have to confess that my stew, enjoyed at supper time with coffee, was rather yummy and “Jamaica Inn” replaced “Beethoven” until darkness descended. I have a little torch on a lanyard for the dark hours, which I thought was a great idea … except I often forget where on earth I last hung it.
There is nothing really to report on the scenery after we left Land’s End – it was off to starboard and was unrelentingly bleak and dull in a dangerous looking way. By now we were in ‘the lull before the storm’ and the wind eased to around 5 knots, so Yanni was engaged to give us a barely audible gentle push. Noting position, speed and conditions hourly established a routine and sunset soon came at around 2100, though it carelessly left a rosy flush splashed across the horizon for quite a while. I picked up forecasts every 3 hours or so, including notice of gales coming up behind us from the South and West later. At one point I focused on an area of the GPS chart-plotter and counted the wrecks shown – 37 and it was by no means the most densely populated area.
Newquay was ablaze to starboard and all the more notable for the extensive areas of coastal blackness elsewhere. Here we encountered an eerie phenomenon for there was a big swell still running. Newquay would sparkle one moment, as we breasted a crest and then disappear, as if all the lights had been switched off, as Team A-Jay sank into a dark trough and the black rising crest ahead blotted out the view of the coast.
The light on Trevose Head that marked my run in to Padstow was clearly visible in the darkness reminding me that in many ways I find night-time coastal navigation easier. You must trust both your own judgement and instruments, but most areas are well lit with navigational lights, some distinguishable over 20 miles away. I will mention radar here as it proved of great value for two reasons. The first was that I failed to spot a fishing boat, but spotted its purple blob on the screen and when I looked there it was, ½ mile away. The second was that it picked up the Quies Rocks off Trevose Point, proving that they really were where the GPS said they were, which is not always the case, very comforting on a black night.
I had planned to anchor off until morning either at Quin Bay or Stepper Point as I was very tired and it is a tricky approach up the Camel to Padstow, but several factors combined to change my mind:
- I didn’t know if the bad weather would arrive whilst I was anchored.
- A-Jay is designed to take the ground.
- I had memorised the entry route and lights for the Camel River and identified Stepper Point Light, visible as you close the Point (which in the darkness looked like the head of a dolphin) from the West and the aptly named Greenaway red light that marked the left side of the channel into the River Camel. There they were, on the button, with one of the green starboard channel markers now beckoning me in.
So Team A-Jay went for it as the little ferry surged out, momentarily bathing us with its searchlight perhaps because he didn’t believe any idiot would be coming in at 0130. There is of course the infamous Doom Bar, which ignored us and I recalled that one should keep St. Saviour’s Point very close to starboard in order to stay in the narrow dredged channel. We did, so close I felt I could reach out and touch its spooky black shape, but the depth gauge never showed less than 3 metres, in an area with sand bars all round. There were many domestic and commercial lights polluting night vision, but we could clearly see the green-over-green and red-over-red of the outer harbour entrance and then we were in, the only night time arrival.
There is a huge sense of satisfaction in achieving a long passage, more so at night and this is one of the best things about solo skippering. It’s down to you – cock up or success; no excuses. It was time to celebrate with another bowl of stew.
This morning, we were joined by some enormous yachts, which I guess did not want to risk a night time entry and I don’t blame them – I wouldn’t either in a big deep keel yacht. I think small is beautiful! I also think Padstow is a lovely spot, though in fairness to Fowey, this might have something to do with the euphoria of a successful night arrival and the sunshine that greeted me later that morning.
It is such a gorgeous place, that I will bore you with some more photographs another time … for now, toot toot!!