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.