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, 31 July 2015

Falmouth Adventures Day Three: sailing across to St Mawes and returning home again

Bright skies, cotton wool clouds, winds from the north west at around 10 kts - what more can you ask for?


Saturday dawned bright and sunny. The sunrise painted Mylor yacht Haven in a deep golden tinge; the water was calm, the breeze light and I had the place to myself bar the heron that stalked the shallows close to the slipway.  House Martins darted two and fro skimming low across the glassy waters of the inner haven. A shower, some porridge, a mug of tea. Everything packed away dry! By 8am the outboard had been warmed up and we departed pontoon E with barely a whisper.

Early morning at Mylor Yacht Haven
Old traditional Falmouth work boats drawn up on the beach

Into the fairway at the marina and out into a sunlight Carrick Roads. The breezes warm and steady, the Mizzen was unfurled and raised and Arwen turned bow to wind. Off came the sail ties, downhaul released, some pulls on the topping lift to raise the sprit boom slightly and then a heave away on the main halyard and slowly the top boom rises to that point where the forward section suddenly dips and the aft section suddenly rises up vertically. A few more pulls and the top yard has reached the mast top, it's forward section lying forward of the mast on the starboard side, just where it should be. Sweet!

St. Mawes in the morning sun

Jib sheets released and the starboard one pulled and the furler on the bowsprit rolls into action. Backing the jib turns Arwen's bow South East and the mainsail fills. Easing the mizzen, pulling up the centre board, trimming the mainsail and jib, and Arwen begins her downwind crossing towards St. Mawes castle. Can't get rid of the crease though....maybe I should have applied some more downhaul....perhaps lowered the sail and adjusted the position of the tie point of main halyard on top boom....but hey sail is up, we are moving, sun is shining, warmth on my face.......lazy sailing......shameful!

Few boats are out on the water at this time but CH 16 crackles into life. The pilots are going alongside the port side of the large oil tanker moored in the central area just outside the penryn river. The gantry walkway only descends half way down the sides and a steel ladder is lowered for the rest of the way. It's a fair old early morning climb for the pilots. The buoy monkeys have arrived, a tender at the bow moored to the huge yellow buoy. I think it's called 'shortening up' or 'singling up' but I could be wrong. Anyway mooring ropes are being released and singled up. Two red and white port tugs arrive, one for the bow, the other to the stern. We exchange waves as I sail close by. Lots of smiles on the bridges and friendly waves back. Everything looks relaxed.....they have done it all before.

A Cornish shrimper shadows us off the port stern quarter. Deep dark tan sails and deep blue hill with cream top sides, they are rather elegant boats. He's trying to catch up but failing. Even downwind, Arwen has a turn of pace...you just need to fully concentrate. A full powered 'accidental' gybe is not to be recommended! I know from painful and I mean 'stars in your eyes - lump on your head' type painful experience.

St. Mawes castle guarding the river entrance

We ease onto a training run and we scuttle along, the occasional rattle from the centreboard accompanying the sloosh of water gurgling along Arwen's hull sides. The castle looms above us as we pass a large yellow buoy and make the turn into the river. The lovely white houses of St Mawes on the hillside above reflect the bright easterly rising sun. The water sparkles. a thousand surface diamonds. In the tiny harbour is a large marque and bunting. Some gigs are out racing, the rhythmic slap of oars on water , the grunts of heaving bodies and the sharp calls of encouragement from coxwains. Looks like St. Mawes is waking up to party day.

The wind has dropped, the influence of this, the Roseland Peninsula. Fickle breezes fill the sail and suddenly disappear leaving Arwen still and listless. We gingerly find our way between the moorings. It is good practice, I feel, on occasions to sail between moorings. It heightens my awareness of the wind puffs, sharpens my tacking skills, heightens my awareness and sensitivity towards currents and drift. Actually, if truth be known, it scares the bejesus out of me on most occasions. But 30 mins of excessive heartbeat acceleration is a good thing according to my GP. Maybe I misinterpreted what he was getting at and he had other methods in mind,  like jogging or rowing or cycling.

We slowly weave our way up river and around the bend.  The Percueil River stretches up ahead, a boatyard on the port side. The niggle of time pressures begins to invade my brain. It is our last day on the water at Falmouth. The weather for tomorrow is horrendous and no place to be in a small open boat - driving rain and 25kts+ winds howling down from the north. A crossing to Helford today would be wonderful. Getting back tomorrow would not! Consequently if I am to haul out today, then I have to be back at Mylor Creek boatyard for around 1pm. It has a 2hrs +- either side of high water limit! Time and tide wait for no man.

heading back up Mylor Creek

Reluctantly, Arwen turns her bow westwards and we meander back through the moorings past the man pumping out his lovely old wooden carvel planked dinghy; past the oceangoing yachtsman leaning over his gunwale to get the daily paper off the kayaker who has bought it across the water to him. I've seen similar things in the Caribbean. Local people wait until a yacht anchors in their bay and then paddleboard or kayak out with fruit, bottled water, groceries etc. to the waiting yacht crew.  I wonder if the idea would work here?  I feel a business idea coming on! "Wasting time docking that frigate upriver at Devonport Dockyards? Don't want the hassle of  crew waiting time onshore with loved ones?  Then you need Steve's grocery kayaks - we can supply all your victualing needs without you ever having to moor alongside. Save time. Return to sea quicker. Phone Steve's victualing Kayaks on........." . Maybe not. An idea that might need a little more thinking through over a couple of bacon sarnies and G and T's....a perfect breakfast!!

Grockle boats (tourists to the non Cornish/Devonians amongst you) are already out and about as Arwen turns north; sails hauled in and centreboard down further. We exchange waves. Many take photos of Arwen flying across the water. We reach a heady 6+kts. Positively skimming across the water surface we are!  Sadly, in all the years we have sailed together, Arwen and I have never managed to get a photograph of ourselves under sail from a slightly more distant perspective. I guess we tend to be solitary sailors, Arwen and I. However, one day, it would be nice to get just one photo of us from someone else's boat.

we beat upriver hugging the eastern side as far as St Just pool, when we turn onto what is almost a broad reach. We are just slightly above Mylor Yacht Haven over the western side of the Roads.  Within a few precious minutes we have reached the marina fairway entrance.  Sails are dropped and furled away neatly. When we turn the corner into Mylor creek we will be directly head to wind all the way up the channel and the tide is just beginning to recede. Tacking room will be in short supply amongst the moorings and receding seas. It is best to motor back the last mile or so.

We arrive back some 30 minutes after high tide. The slipway is uncovering slowly. The yard is deserted. Somewhere from within come the sounds of mallet on chisel on wood. Someone is having fun. Retrieving Arwen from the narrow slipway between a high quayside and high old rusting barge hulk is easy; no cross winds to drift her off to one side; no currents to contend with. She rolls onto her trailer with one smooth motion. Perfect!  hauled up the slip and onto the hard standing at the top, there is space to offload her; to dry out tent tarpaulins and foulies; to prepare her for her 70 mile journey home.

All packed away and ready to depart.....but we will be back


Yes the trip is cut short; no we didn't get to Helford; no we didn't overnight camp on some secluded creek beaches. But....we do have all those delights to come on another trip back...and we both look forward to that.


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