Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".

Friday, 24 August 2012

Returning from the River Yealm

Day two of my little trip with Dad dawned overcast and grey; a complete contrast to the previous day’s sunshine. The spring tide was just reaching its high water mark when woke; a tidy up and trip across to the pontoon and toilets was followed by a leisurely breakfast and a tidy up on board. With everything correctly stowed, Arwen departed at 9.15am just on the top of the tide.
We immediately appreciated how sheltered the overnight mooring had been and how considerate the yealm harbour master had been in his choice for us when we turned the first corner and headed out towards misery point. The south westerly winds howled down the channel at around 18 kts. Frankly a complete surprise and clearly not what the forecast was predicting. At Cellars beach I made the decision to anchor off the beach and put in a reef. Good seamanship dictates being sensible and making sound decisions.
You can imagine my surprise then when turning into Wembury Bay, the wind dropped to around 9 knots. In fact at times it dropped further and so one of our first actions out at sea was to shake out the reef in Arwen’s mainsail.
I’d like to say that the day improved no end but that wouldn’t be true. The sea in Wembury Bay can be, well let’s say, ‘difficult’. On this day, tacking against the south west winds meant taking a line that at times put you almost sideways on to the rollers and Arwen pitched and rolled wickedly!
You know where this is heading. Whilst Dad, as always, was in his element…….I wasn’t! Without warning I was violently sea sick and I mean violently for several minutes. Dad, somewhat surprised, maintained his composure. I actually managed to keep helming Arwen whilst being sea sick but what I’m most proud of is the due consideration I showed my Dad. I managed to be sick on the leeward side, downwind and behind of him. I thought that was really rather decent of me!
After being sick, life became somewhat unpleasant and it was a good thing I was able to focus on helming. I had a wicked headache and ringing in my ears. Knowing that if I went around the south of the Mewstone the waves would be worse over the ledges I opted to take the ‘shorter’ route between the island and the mainland. This move can only be attempted on spring tides and in the upper part of the tidal rise. Ledges extend out from both the mainland point and the island leaving a very narrow channel with deep water. What made life trickier was that the winds being south westerly meant that taking this line put us on a close haul and despite the centre board being fully down there was plenty of leeway slippage as the winds began to rise again. This meant that we had to put in a couple of tacks to keep us from approaching the leeshore to closely and making such tacks was difficult because of the proximity of the ‘inner and outer slimers’; a set of isolated rocky outcrops which at high tide were covered and invisible but just below the surface!
I took a transit! Lining up the shagstone rock with Cawsand Village would give me a line to try and stay on which would after the tack put me centrally placed through the gap between island and main shore. Surprisingly, despite a heaving stomach, banging headache, rising winds and changing wave pattern, I managed to hold that close haul for almost a mile. We passed 20’ south of the shagstone mark.
Throughout all of this Dad chatted away. I wanted him to helm but selfishly I knew relinquishing the helm would mean that I would not be able to concentrate on something and this would lead to more sea sickness. Apart from which the tricky piloting and changeable wave pattern made me feel a more experienced hand at the helm would be a sensible precaution.
The weather changed from cloud and wind to bright sunshine and no wind back to cloud and rising winds. One front with towering clouds rushed by.  Having managed an average of 4.5 knots through most of the morning I knew it was time to curtail the trip. I was losing concentration and so we headed across the breakwater and into the sound via the western entrance. As we turned north east, the winds blew directly from behind and so we slowly made our way up the sound at what seemed a snail’s pace. I felt sorry for Dad but knew it was the right decision to end the trip.
As it would have it that decision was beneficial. The tide on the slipway had dropped far more than I had anticipated and we only just had enough water to run the trailer down and haul Arwen out. Had we left it 20 minutes more we would have had to wait another 3 hrs. before there would have been sufficient depth to get the trailer in.
Whilst I de-rigged Arwen dad went for a wander around the yard. There were several marine engineers working on different boats and that provided interest for Dad particularly where large inboard engines were being dismantled! I think it is a sign of the times that Dad reported back that several of the boats were being overhauled before being put up for sale.
I’m glad Dad and I got to sail together even if it were for a shorter time period. We don’t get enough time together. He is easy going, easy to spend time with. I love the way his engineering brain approaches technological problems.
 I think next time we may well trailer Arwen somewhere and then camp on land and do a series of day sails. The Fal and Helford River systems sound like a good idea. I suspect both of us are at an age where Arwen’s narrow thwarts aren’t quite comfortable enough for a good night’s sleep!!


Joel Bergen said...

Hi Steve,
I really enjoyed reading about your trip with your Dad. Those are the trips that will be remembered for a lifetime.

steve said...

Hi Joel

yep. I want to get more trips with Dad and was sad to curtail this one - sea sick! Unbelievable. At least it is a trip Dad will never forget!!