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".

Sunday, 1 June 2014

meandering up the River Tamar part 2

I have been planning this voyage up the Tamar so many times in my head over the last year. I have sailed up to the bridges before and just beyond but from Cargreen onwards was a mystery to me. The unexpected!

As I write this I am on my mooring at Calstock. Mid-stream in a gently flowing river, it idles by, the odd parcel of driftwood and flotsam being delivered alongside Arwen's hull. The bank sides reverberate to the sounds of bird song. Swans call to each other in the dwindling light. Noise from the village pub, a hundred yards upstream drifts down.  The laughter of young and old, of excited dogs and even more excited teenagers. It doesn't disturb me. On the contrary it is the sound scape of tranquillity, a rural idle.

The Calstock Boatyard

Looking up river towards the main village and its viaduct
The sound of paddles against wood comes from astern. An open canoe with two people is slowly making its way upstream with barely a ripple.  What a great way to reach your local! Ducks make for the reed beds either side, a rapid series of panicked splashes. The canoeists live on the corner of the river and paddle up because some evenings the river seems so inviting. I get their drift.....ha an unintentional pun!

The smoke from bbq's rises vertically and hangs in the air. Someone has a radio blasting lively pop that's slightly intrusive but hey it's their place and a five year old is bopping in her garden. She’s happy and so who am I to complain. Just going with the flow, the slow flow of the mighty Tamar! The swans pay us a visit. They get very hissy when I run out of granary rolls. No pleasing some creatures! They only got half a roll anyway; too much is bad for them.

Temporarily moored alongside the quay

The boat yard with kitchen and shower/toilet block on the left
I loved this little boatyard. I never got to meet the owners, arriving too late and departing too early. My mooring fee of £10.00 got shoved under the office door. But having wandered around the yard whilst tea was cooking, I got a sense of well cared for yard, a variety of boats, an orderly and simplicity and charm.

The tent is put up. A white tarp with bungee cord along its hems, it attaches to hooks under the lower rubbing strake. It's voluminous and windage would be a problem on an open mooring nearer the sea. But here in the shelter of the deep valley it's fine. I use large boat building plastic clamps to tighten up the sides and hold it to the rope slung between masts. The ends of the clamps rest on top of the furled sails boom.  Surprisingly it works. Tent sides don't touch my head and the white gives plenty of internal light. I can almost stand fully upright which is a huge bonus thanks to the home made boom crutch. The new sleeping board across one half of the rear cockpit is put in place and works, well almost. One corner crunches and brakes off as my abundant weight kneels on it. Oops!

Tea is cooked onshore sat at a picnic table in the boatyard surrounded by boats in various states of repair or neglect, depending on your viewpoint. The view across the river is stunning.  The massive viaduct to the left and open fields and a small farm across the river. Arwen is moored to a small pontoon accessible for around two hours either side of high spring tide. The stove, my beloved trangia, hisses as water for tea is boiled. River life passes by.....a party of first time open canoeists with the Tamar Canoe Company.......lots of smiling faces. Swans, ducks, moorhens follow. A party of four experienced sailors motor to their moored yacht and return with wine and whiskey and sit on  the banks chatting about past voyages and the recent success of UKIP in the European Parliament elections. Not that I am earwigging......sound carries!

'My' picnic table with stunning views and tranquility

Tea - potato and leek soup, followed by pasta and ham in a sauce with fruit and custard to follow; accompanied by mugs of steaming tea and some crackers and cheese at the end...for those who wanted to know!
All of it packs into the plastic crate which goes inside a large waterproof expedition bag; which sits on the floor in the forward port section of the cockpit; held in place by floor mounted bungee cords

The Tamar river forms most of the border between Devon and Cornwall and is a world heritage site, famed for its historic mining heritage. Historically, it’s mentioned by Ptolemy in the second century. Apparently the word Tamar, means ‘great water’. The Tamar's source is less than 6 km (3.7 miles) from the north Cornish coast, but it flows southward. A geological peculiarity caused by the topography of the region. However, as dusk descends, and I ready for bed, I prefer to reflect on the non-geological reasoning for its existence, the ‘legend of Tamara’.

Tamara was a sea nymph of stunning beauty who lived in the underworld but like all young people, yearned to wander freely in the mortal world; against the advice of her parents!  One day, having sneaked away to wander freely on Dartmoor, she happened on two twins, the giants Tavy and Torridge. Obviously, both immediately fell in love with Tamara and competed for her affections. Like all young girls, Tamara led them a merry dance, always darting out of reach when they came too close, never allowing them to touch her. When her father, out looking for her caught up with them all he flew into a terrible rage as all caring fathers are wont to do. He put a spell on Tavy and Torridge, sending them both into a deep sleep. Incensed, Tamara refused to return to the underworld and so even more enraged, her father cast a spell on her, turning her into a bubbling spring, which went on to produce the Tamar river. On awakening and finding his beloved Tamara turned in to a river, Torridge sought the advice of a magician, who turned him into a river….the river Torridge. Any hope Torridge had of reuniting with his Tamara (Tamar) was dashed, for he was never able to find her. Instead, he turned north, running down to the sea in the Bristol Channel, where he is still said to this day, to mourn his beloved Tamara.

And so this explains why only 500m separates the two river springs, yet one flows north and the other flows south for eternity.
But what of the Tavy, I hear you call? Well the other giant, Tavy, also woke in despair to find his beloved Tamara gone. Calling on his father, also a powerful magician, he too was turned into a river.  He set off across the landscape searching and searching for Tamara and eventually he found her. They merged together to form one of the most stunning, beautiful and wide river estuaries in the south west.

Good night everyone.


Joel Bergen said...

Wow! Every bit as beautiful as Exeter. What a fantastic way to celebrate your 75th outing. Glad the weather co-operated and that you had such a memorable trip. I wish the rivers around here were as scenic.

steve said...

Hi Joel
I must say it came as rather a revelation to me about how beautiful the upper Tamar valley is. A great place for my son to take Angharad, our wee lap strake canoe for a paddle. He is in to fly fishing, wildlife etc.

A wonderful river. I feel a new project emerging......sailing up as many west of try rivers as I can!