Up the Tamar with a Paddle

Reveille at 0545 and not grumpy, though frankly I wasn’t sure if it was Christmas or Easter as I fumbled through my mental check list and waved my tea mug at the Penzance harbour chap as we puttered through the lock, following a bluff bowed motor sailer which rapidly disappeared.  We skinned the Lizard (Peninsula) on the tide over bumpy seas at 8.4 knots, not enough to keep ahead of a lightweight Frenchie, genoa down to his toes, lee rail kissing the briny – apologies to all owners of such craft: it’s sour grapes, if the truth be known.

Hercule bossily took charge as the espresso brewed and another light weight Frenchie came up our chuff.  Sitting on its big fat bum it soon slithered past – Pippin is too dignified to slither, or perhaps the skipper isn’t a slitherer.

Later, with the wind in the 20s and tricky quartering waves, I relieved Hercule for some exhilarating sailing,  gull winged, a full sail straining out either side, until things got a little too boisterous for this skipper.  Another squall accompanied tea and brought Cornish rain – masters of mizzle as they are, the Cornish can’t beat the Irish for rain.  Cawsand Bay, tucked inside Plymouth’s wide mouth where the day ended as Mr. Rocna explored in 10 metres of quiet evening water.

Reflecting over my penultimate Fray Bentos pie (Steak & Ale), I felt 2 apologies were in order.  For years I have cursed inshore fishermen for their unmarked bobbers, but never again will I criticise Cornish fishing folk, whose bobbers carry flags, which even I could see through salt stained binoculars.

The second goes to the Gannets of the world, whom I had sweepingly labelled as thicko thugs, many of whom seem to live noisily and messily clinging to a rock off Alderney.  They are in fact quite the most elegant and efficient killing machines, dressed in smart cream, white and black livery.  At just the right height and moment, they fold their wings and dive vertically like a Stuka, with hardly a splash as they pierce the surface.  Their success rate must be good for you don’t see a skinny Gannet, though quite how they spot supper down below I have no idea.  There certainly is no room for a myopic Gannet and anyway, you can’t dive with glasses.

HQ was on the blower vetoing  the name I had awarded the autopilot for good behaviour.  With the Windvane very much the senior steering partner, and called Hercule, the electronic and junior member had to be Hastings, after the dim but nice Captain Hastings. Perfick.  HQ also brought news of an approaching gale, so the skipper hatched a plan to head up the Tamar on the morrow.

The 61 mile long  Tamar divides the masters of the Cornish pasties from their pretenders on the Eastern Bank and was mentioned by Ptolemy in his 2nd Century ‘Geography’, its name said to mean ‘Great Water’.  Now it is a World Heritage site because of the surrounding historic mining activities.

Hastings took us next morning through the narrow Plymouth Gate and on up the Tamar, as a burbling Police launch, for all the World like a waiting Doberman sniffed disinterestedly as Pippin passed. Two more Dobermans lurked as we puttered upstream past the Devenport Dockyards to moor opposite the derelict Crooked Spaniard’s Inn at Cargreen.

The name of the Inn, not surprisingly, is linked to the Spanish Armada and it closed in 2010, and redevelopment plans were rejected.  Sad that it now stands forlorn. Cargreen used to have a thriving industry ferrying flowers to the foreigners on the other bank, but I couldn’t see any flowers through the Cornish mizzle and rising wind.

As ever on a journey, its the people you meet and I was delighted to jump ship and paddle splashily ashore to once again join the previous owners of Pippin.  As things stand, the Willis Master Plan, known as ever  for it’s flexibility, is to overnight in Cawsand Bay before a pre dawn Monday start to make the most of the winds serving the Channel that day, for the 90 mile run to Guernsey.  Thereafter, plans to be made   for another little venture later next month, of which more another time.








By ajay290

Over the Celtic Deep

24/07/17 from the Dolphin Tavern, Penzance

I was down with Gollum deep in the slimy caves and something was bothering me high above on the surface. I did not want to wake up but practice kicked in and Pippin left the Kinsale pontoon with wind and tide in harmony, no throttle out into a diamond blue morning.  For once the autopilot was back from unauthorised leave and by the time bacon and potatoes were frying, Pippin was on her way to England. She stole every whisper of the phantom wind and slipped silently into the sun. Meanwhile Hercule was doing all and more than I could do, so I left him to it.

Pippin ghosts in 3 knots of wind, stirs in 6 and takes off in 9 and I harnessed every scrap of mental wile to persuade the wind guage beyond 6, to no avail. Hercule looked on and sighed, tough imperturbable like a good soldier should be. At 9 or 10 knots the sea and hull chatter to each other, but for now Boreas had left us for the day, leaving an infant son and so on with the engine as dolphins fed half a cable abeam.

With the repaired autopilot now in charge I wondered how he would do.  If well, I would officially name him as a reward and with Hercule in charge of the wind, there could only be one name – Poirot, so Poirot it will be if …. .  Astern Eire slipped slowly into the haze, and invisible Milford Haven beckoned 105 miles ESE, Kinsale oil and gas rigs captured on radar 20 miles ahead. Common dolphins came and went in the evening, causing the usual mad flurry aboard and acres of film of empty seas. There were 4, 2 adults and 2 young, all swimming very slowly though Pippin surged South under sail  at 6 knots.

Trust your kit, I told myself hours later for Pippin was set up for the night, radar alarm on and it was time to rest in the quiet empty space of the Celtic Deep.  In the fragile early daylight I saw we had slipped a little too far West in the night and a tedious motor sail back across the shipping lanes was the price, whilst plans were reshaped. Rain joined us as a big fat red one out from Milford Haven wallowed past 2 miles off.  I was pleasantly tangled in John Stubbs epic biography of Johnathon Swift at the time and fully emphasised with the description of Swift “being a prisoner of the Irish Sea”, as I had felt in 2015. I don’t feel the same about the Celtic Sea for it has been kind to me so far and dolphins always come to say hello.

Cornish mizzle stole the Longships and kept us near blind deep into Penzance Bay, quieter than the open sea and its charging white horses off the NW Cornish coast. It was very dark, but for the shore lights and a line of trawlers strung across the bay, festooned with flashing lights and driving us like fish shorewards. Amazingly, lights spewed from the pinnacle of Michael’s Mount for all the World like a fiery volcano. But, most fabulous of all was what was all around me.

“Phew!!” “Phew!!!”  Dolphins breathing, scores of them under and all around Pippin. A ring side seat for an incredible scene, as the dolphins fed lazily on fish fleeing from the trawlers and neither the rain nor 39 hours at sea could spoil the moment. In the morning, busy on the foredeck in dreary Cornish mizzle I watched a large dark grey back arch regally out of the water, “Phew”!! and good morning to you too.

Tomorrow I plan to continue West in the direction of the Tamar – I never say “to” a destination for you never know……plans are but intentions of the moment.


By ajay290

Kinsale 2

Kinsale, like many beautiful places, is home to that non indigenous human species, the “perambulating grockle”.  Almost all have a greater water line length and thus potential top speed than this skipper, and yet they manoeuvre slower than Pippin bashing a spring tide round Land’s End.  Even solo, with autopilot off they fill the pavement, and my legs aren’t happy operating below 3,000 rpm.  This means for me bustling along at 5 knots, a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre being a swerve into the road with backward glance, a touch of throttle and a return swerve, neatly done.

Destination achieved, I spotted a battered Lambretta propped by the Information Point, festooned with baggage and an espresso pot.  Its skipper, notebook in hand was busy, the whole ensemble – from upmarket pig skin luggage to languid lounging skipper – oozed style.  Kindred spirit, apart from the style I thought, returning to Pippin in cut off varnish stained (I think) jeans and straining T shirt.

Pippin attracts much attention and I conducted 4 on board tours yesterday, which don’t take long as she is a compact lady.  Eddy the cabinet maker made himself comfortable below and declared that Pippin’s woodwork was European cherry and he had rarely seen finer cabinet work aboard a boat.  This was praise indeed from a cabinet maker and owner of a Scandanavian yacht, renowned for their woodwork.

For some reason posh neighbours rarely stay, lingering long enough alongside to cadge assistance of one kind or another, such as a winch up the mast to release a trapped halyard, before heading off for more upmarket cousins.  I suspect this is much more to do with this skipper than any fault of Pippin.  Anyway, I dined on gherkins and a glass of hair restorer with Pascal and his delightful family aboard their lovely old Homan & Pye yacht.  From Paris, they were modest, competent and welcoming, not posh.

Ferry gliding; this is something you hear about during RYA winter evening classes, but rarely if ever practice.  I briefed Ben, my young, enthusiastic borrowed crew at his post on the poop deck, that we would return alongside the pontoon stern first given the stiff off pontoon breeze, once Pascal had left.  Treading water, engine gently countering the tide Pippin began to glide gently diagonally towards the pontoon on the dying ebb of the tide, leaning into the stiff breeze.

Taking Pippin’s advice and nudging the throttle we continued the motion to land alongside as sweet as a rifle bolt slid home, barely a metre to spare either end.   Conversely, get it wrong, and it happens big time as the elderly skipper of a big one discovered this morning.  “You f…..g eejit!!!!!” shouted the skipper whose boat he smacked.

I told Ben that plans are nothing but intentions …. but  come the time…. I guess that’s the trick; have an outline plan then go with the flow, don’t be too rigid, stay flexible.

Kinsale is of course famous for a battle in 1601.  The Spanish had been persuaded to play and 28 ships anchored here’s, driven by bad weather.  They should have landed at Cork with 6,000 men, but it was Kinsale with less than 5,000.  Anyway, they and the Irish got beaten by the English thus establishing English dominance at that time.

Looking out into the bay, it must have been tight with that number of tubby little ships at anchor and the troops would not have been feeling too good.  Nigel, due to arrive shortly from Glandore, should be in rather than better condition.

Tomorrow I turn Pippin’s bows East and South in the direction of Plymouth, so we’ll be in the oggin awhile.


By ajay290

Baltimore 2 Kinsale

I sat on my pizza whilst unloading the dinghy in a stiff breeze, as one does and whilst it cooked I was privileged to witness real seamanship.  A 30 foot engineless twin masted junk rigged  Sharpie, probably home built, short tacked up the harbour lee gunwhale awash to drop her anchor sweetly, without drama, sails furled in seconds.  Nationality? French of course.  Doris, I salute you for that is her name, two little Bretons her crew.

The pizza, flattened to within an inch of life was just fine, as was the humble pie.

It rained fit to drown a duck in the night and Lot’s wife was hiding from me as Spam and eggs fried in the pan and espresso bubbled on the stove.  Then ashore to meet Pete the Electric.  “It helps if you turn the fuel on” he said kindly as we drifted in front of the busy yacht club, the skipper frantically pulling the starter cord.  As ever its the people you meet and the craique that ensues, and so it was as he fixed the engine starter and told me how not to trigger the winch’s trip switch.  Thanks Pete the Electric – see you in Guernsey.

As I write this in Bush’s pub, Doris is unfurling her wings unhurriedly like a butterfly in the mizzle, before her crew raised the anchor by hand and sailed gently off into the murk.  I doubt they had a forecast, without which most would not set sail.  I raised my pint of Murphy’s in silent salute to members of the senior dorm, to which one day I may achieve promotion.

15 minutes here might or might not be so, I have discovered, just like a mile may or may not be so,  so best not to rush to a rendezvous.  Go with the flow.  So I’ll think about the next move, but I’ll make no shore based decision in less than 15 minutes …. or so.

It was a very wet and windy drive back to the boat and I smugly noted a light weight Frenchie had dragged its anchor, as I hailed Nigel cheerily.  “You’re anchors dragging!” he yelled and he meant Pippin’s not mine.  Well I barely touched the sides as I hurdled Pippin’s transom, gunned the engine and soon order was restored, all was well with the World, though not for some idiot whose little dinghy was whizzing shore wards, no one aboard I thought.

The Harbour master was very kind and brought the dinghy straight back to me …. I will need to improve to achieve promotion to the senior dorm I reflected, chastened not stirred.

I realized Mr Rocna had been hanging out with the weeds, most insalubrious company and had clearly been led astray astray so I hoped this time he had chosen a better companion.  As I sipped tea, I noticed Doris now tucked in the lee to windward for she had clearly decided not to leave and my neighbor, a trim little craft spent an hour trying to reset the anchor, his little dinghy flipping over and over in the rising wind.

A semi sleepless night on anchor watch and an early wet start to the next day as I refitted Hercule’s rudder blade, before motoring with sail aloft over to wake Nigel and say farewell, watched by Lot’s dumpy wife perched high on the headland.  Nigel is a fully be-medalled member of the senior dorm and I was proud to make his acquaintance.

Hercule, iron man though he is, has a sensitive side, which requires compromise with this clumsy skipper but we reached one this breezy morning and were soon barreling downhill with espresso on the stove, Guillemots, bobbers, white horses and me.   There were some big daddies out there this grumpy morning and they often stole the land, as Pippin sank into their fat bellies before clambering back to the crests.  Rain cloud later took away the land too and delivered a white capped pewter sea, as a succession of fronts entertained us, not great but Pippin was having a cracking sail.

We landed early evening in pretty Kinsale, crowded with yachts seeking shelter from the advancing gale and haggis and potatoes were soon simmering on Pippin’s stove.

An Australian friend of a friend who met me briefly, described me to said friend as the “quintessential English sailor”, a phrase which, knowing the Aussies, probably doesn’t contain a compliment but I don’t care – I rather like it  so good night from QES in rain soaked Kinsale.

By ajay290

Baltimore at last

How different things are in peace and sunshine.  The approach to Kinsale, no longer dark and mist shrouded is now all soft curves, low, green with purple patches and comfortable houses.  It beguiles you, draws you in.  It’s a laid back places like so many people I have met.

Gas had become critical to the operation for without hot tea, this soldier will mutiny, no question.  Myle Murphy’s was the place though no sign of life disturbed his shop.

“Could open 0930, or maybe not” said the nice shop assistant sharing my bench in the sunshine, not very helpfully, before she commondeered half of my Telegraph. Suddenly the door opened and I pounced, though it wasn’t the elusive Murphy, but the next door shopkeeper  who just happened to have a key.  So I had gas, hot tea, and a peaceful sea as Black Head Point loomed to starboard, precursor to the Old Head of Kinsale, bobbers, Guillemots and me.  A go!f course ran out along the point, a challenge in winter for sure.

Orderly ranks of cows ignored us, bovine boredom and methane, as we shaved Seven Heads at half a mile, across a placid sea at a stately jog.  2.5 miles from Galley Head, an Irish Patrol Boat bustled importantly past.  Wrecks beneath the shallow sea, so many, what were they, who were they?

Habitation thins to nothing as you approach Baltimore from the sea and a ruin sits stop the skyline just before Kedge Island. This tells you something, perhaps, but it is fine by me.  Fastnet Rock ahead, as Lot’s wife eyed us from Baltimore Harbour’s front door.

I sent Mr Rocna down to explore in 4 metres and vaguely wondered if we would meet again.  First impressions were that the journey was worth it.  It’s a  pretty place, with upmarket dwellings lining the the edge of Baltimore Town, busy with yachts and barely a motor cruiser to be seen.  Time for a curry to thump jelly fish.

I confined myself to barracks next morning as the blousy front swept overhead, and my intensive inexpert investigation of the innards of the anchor winch proved predictablly fruitless.  But, help in the form of Peter the Electric is promised for the morrow.  In the meantime I blundered around performing maintenance Willis style a  screwdriver mislaid here, a spanner there for its the feeling that you are on top of things, rather than being so that’s the thing …..  Meanwhile the wind wrought havoc with a fleet of butterflies across the harbour and played its doleful tune in Pippin’s rigging.

Time for a run ashore.

Brought to you courtesy of Bushe’s pub WiFi, from a soggy skipper ashore without his glasses and barely able to see the screen.  Cheeri

By ajay290

Crosshaven Sojourn

Upriver from Crosshaven

Upriver from Crosshaven

Kevin the taxi had a beguiling Irish accent you could slice with a knife, like a soft cheese.  The fact that I missed perhaps 30% of his stories mattered not a jot, as I bounced in the back of his taxi, even though he drove slower than anyone else.  I suspect suspension might have been an expensive extra easily dispensed with.

Kevin the taxi had to press back in his seat just a tad, in order to turn the wheel and cooking was one of our topics.  He had steamed a bass for supper, a success so great, the tale was worth 3 repeats.  He told of the old railway that ran alongside the river until the late 1920s, when reliable road transport made it redundant and he conjoured a vivid image of Sir Francis Drake’s flight upriver to escape his pursuers all in one seamless story.

Guinness & Oysters.Crosshaven

Guinness & Oysters


Royal Cork Yacht Club

Angie and I were ferried into Cork wrapped in Kevin the taxi’s warm dialect, and ambled round the English Market fortified by strong coffee and sumptuous cake at Café Central, returning another day for a leisurely lunch at the Farmgate Restaurant whose larder is the market.

We explored Camden Fort, renovated and run by volunteers, at a leisurely pace in pleasant sunshine.  Enthusiastic volunteers lived out their dreams in busy re-enactments as we pottered, minds gently in neutral.

Angie left on a Thursday, leaving the skipper 48 hours to get himself and Pippin in gear.  It began with a knuckle skinning few hours with hose pipe, butyl and spanners tracking and endeavouring to fix a few leaks.  The Yanmar needed a minor infusion of fluids, but otherwise looked ready for the off.  Despite the fast flowing river, weed grows rapidly and boats beached for careening were lathered in weed tendrils, muscles and barnacles.  Pippin needed a waterline scrub.

A pontoon visitor.Crosshaven

Heron Fishing

The Royal Cork Yacht Club is very much worth a minute or two, so I will plunder the Club’s history.

In 1660 after his restoration to the English crown and return from exile, Charles II was presented with a yacht called Mary by the Dutch, which he sailed enthusiastically on the Thames.  Soon several of his courtiers followed his example and it seems pretty certain that one of them was Murrough O’Brien, the 6th Lord Inchiquin (Murrough of the Burnings).  He attended the court of King Charles from 1660 to 1662, and was created the 1st Earl of Inchiquin by Charles in 1664.

Private sailing started to become popular in Cork Harbour and by 1720, interest in the sport had progressed so much that his great-grandson, the 26 year old William O’Brien, the 9th Lord Inchiquin, and five of his friends got together to formalise their activities and in so doing established “The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork”.  This club is known today as the Royal Cork Yacht Club and it is the oldest yacht club in the world.

Butterflies returning to RCYC

It is the centre of youth sailing and every day during school holidays, swarms of tiny tots head out in their Optimists, like noisy butterflies shepherded by older children instructors in whizzy RIBs.  Cries like “Oh know! Why does my brother have to be in the same boat!” and “I want the toilet!” just as the motor boat, loaded with 10 kids is set to leave.

It is these older children – young adults really –  who seem to keep the club running in a friendly efficient way.  When I asked about refuelling, the admin lady who had terrified the dental receptionist on my behalf, announced where I should take the boat and said a lad would be summoned and so it transpired.  It is relaxed here, nothing is too much trouble and I could stay forever.

I didn’t know if I was punched, bored or counter sunk for it was 3 a.m. and I was deep down amongst the weeds but something soft was lying on my feet.  This was odd for I was alone.  It felt heavier than a cushion so I kicked out irritably, which resulted in a soft thump and an indignant meow as the cat hit the floor.  It was pitch black, and I wondered if it was a dream as I opened the cabin door to let it out, only to be met by the cat sitting outside looking curiously up at me.  He had escaped the way he came in, through the forward hatch.  We had a short purry cuddle and then he left; whence he had come or where he was going I knew not.

Talking of going, it is time for Pippin and I to move on.  We’ll leave early tomorrow, to head West for Glandore, then Baltimore and the Fastnet Rock.



By ajay290

Pippin Tarries in Crosshaven

Crosshaven, home of the famous Royal Cork Yacht Club, where we tarry as inmate Bravo Two Zero.  It is a gorgeous little place, laid back, pretty, friendly.  The only difficulty will be summoning the will power to leave, which I plan to do on Saturday bound for the Wild West.  Make sure you have enough rations when yo go there, mournfully espoused a next door skipper.  Enough rations!  My boats are weighed down with rations,  boot tops dragging in the ‘oggin.  A sinister message none the less, which conjured images of starving matelots struggling across huge ocean rollers, wild, rugged dark coasts to leeward, galley bare.

Joined by Angie for a leisurely static week, we have met nothing but kindness.  Shopping for top up rations, for the boot top had surfaced, the check out lady informed us it was the 220X bus, NOT the 220 we needed to get to Cork.  The lady in the Cronin pub, who later took our booking for supper, further explained that one got off the 220X in one place in Cork, but caught the return in quite another.  Only in Crosshaven.

It hasn’t been incident free, as is typical of this skipper.  We have not moved an inch, turned a prop or raised a sail and yet …… the old dinghy slipped silently beneath the waves as its air tubes finally gave up.  No problem except a lovely, black, new Suzuki outboard went with it.  On our return from exploring I found the carcass on the pontoon, outboard forlornly attached.

Of course even Mr. Suzuki was not going to cooperate without some TLC and to give this skipper a tiny bit of credit, I got him going though he was not happy.  So a call, Mr Suzuki left outside the marina office unattended for collection for it is that kind of place.  Off he went in my absence to I was not quite sure where.

Meanwhile, a new dinghy was ordered and took an age to arrive – we tripped over it as we left to explore, a full 45 minutes after ordering it.  Only in Crosshaven.

An email on our return informed us of the considerable degree of TLC extended to Mr. Suzuki all for the cost of one Guernsey engineer looking at it and deciding what was to be done.  Only in Crosshaven.

What I haven’t confessed is that we had caught the bus in haste to a dentist.  Explaining to the charming receptionist at the RCYC that an emergency filling was required as I had lost a joust with an olive pip the evening before, she picked up the phone.  “Just tell me straight” said she very loudly into the mouthpiece, “can you or can you not give this gentleman an emergency appointment this morning, YES or NO?????!!!!!”  25 minutes later I was in the chair.  Only in Crosshaven.

Bad things are meant to happen in threes.  I make it 4 now; autopilot AWOL, engine starter on the blink, sunken dinghy & submerged outboard and broken tooth.  This must mean I am owed one ……… we’ll see.  Good night.




By ajay290