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".

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Overnighting at 'The Smugglers Inn'

The Smugglers Inn is a lovely old thatched cottage, ivy clad, overlooking the river. Formerly a ferryman's cottage in the 15th century, it was also pivotal in the D Day landings in 1944! It was one of the main embarkation points for US troops and so a beach, slipway and pontoon were installed at the Inn. It is also part of the famous, historic Tregothnan estate

Now it has new tenants - Colin and Ellie. they oversee managed and serviced moorings and shore side boat access. They also charter a lovely boat 'ZaZu' under the business name 'Kernow Charters'.

The pontoon is wide, with 2m depth at all states of tide and a hammerhead ending - a concrete platform. The area is sheltered and more moorings are being put in.  the views are breath taking and for my first night's anchorage I could not ask for better. The welcome was warm. Here are a young, ambitious, caring and hard working couple who want to make a go of things. It was a pleasure and privilege listening to Colin briefly outlining his plans for the future. I deeply admire those with entrepreneurial spirit and a determination to make a go of a business.

Arwen and I arrived late afternoon after a steady row back down river from Malpas. Storm clouds were gathering and Clive had wisely advised me to moor on the western side of the pontoon. It would afford me more overnight stability and protection from what would be strong easterly winds. After setting up the boom tent tarpaulin, sorting out and re-stowing equipment for the night, it was time for a stroll. The beach either side of the pontoon was fine stone and a graded profile.

Covered in seaweed, dead jellyfish littered the shores. South Western shores have seen an invasion of the very large barrel jelly fish - some are the size of dustbin lids, their sting, tiny and harmless, but their appearance - fairly large and fearsome to those not in the know. Unusual in our waters, they have arrived in their hundreds of thousands, partly due to the warmer waters and partly due to last years severe winter storms. The severe storms washed nitrates off our farmland, which have subsequently led to huge growths in plankton and algae - a veritable feast for jelly fish!

The peace, quiet and solitude were lovely. Enough river traffic to keep one's interest; enough wonderful natural history and views to admire and enjoy. A privilege.
Half way up the wooded slopes opposite, a clearing. Large folded, bright green parasols, just visible - the elusive tearoom! kayakers paddle by, voices laughing, enjoyment evident. One kayaker paddled his home built Aleutian style canvas on frame kayak, its razor sharp bow slicing through the water, his Aleutian style wooden paddles, lightweight and of little wind resistant. Here was a man who could paddle far without tiring; his paddle style effortless, strong rhythmic strokes with turns of the torso to supply the power.

Mullet swirled in the shallows and jumped out of the water to catch flies. Yes, you read correctly, mullet were jumping. Their splashes, loud and prone to make me periodically jump with surprise. They took to congregating below Arwen's hull, playing games with each other - tag and chase! Flashes of silver from the depths of dark green water signalling their speed and manoeuvrability. twenty minutes past watching their games. Fish can be quite fascinating.

A lovely old 25' boat past by, a gaff rigged vessel of some sort. Called 'Puffin Bach' I think she was a tamarisk 24 cutter but I could be wrong.  Her hull looked like it was GRP but her topsides were definitely wood. A bottle green hull and deep creamy coloured topsides - elegant. A large cockpit and huge ash tiller. Wonderful and a joy to see.

As dusk drew in, other boats came to anchor in the channel to be protected by the hills. The rumble of anchor chain over bow rollers drifted across the waters to the accompaniment of the shrill cries of oystercatchers. Arwen's Welsh flag and Red Ensign fluttered in the building breeze; the water surface rippled as little wind zephyrs shot across still waters. egrets stalk the shallows; herons lurk under the low trees at the waters edge. Another small flounder meets its maker, this time in the beak of a cormorant.

The trangia is fired up onshore. A comfortable seat is found on a boat cushion leant against an old winch post. Veg soup, Spag Bol, Jelly and fruit; Hovis biscuits and cheese, some nice cuppa's of Typhoo. the hiss of the meths; the rattle of the kettle lid as water reaches boiling point. The world floats by.

As darkness descends, two fishermen arrive on the far bank and set up tripods and beach buddy tent. Here for the long haul, their voices periodically carry across the channel. I remember those days well, for once I was a keen, in fact very keen fisherman. But now I am content to watch them in the shallows. I think my daughter may have influenced me!  The generator on the moored 'Dona Amelia' upstream starts in melodic thud thudding. Total darkness descends but stars? There are none to be seen!

And then it rained............and rained.......and rained........and rained. It became the 'night of ten thousand leaks'. At one point I am pretty sure, around 3am, there was more water in Arwen than actually underneath her supporting her hull! And the damned mullet kept bumping her hull all night too.......!

Hey ho - its all good fun really, seriously!


Curt said...

Beautiful post Steve... I was right there with you!

steve said...

Thanks Curt. It was magical.
Wet but magical!