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".

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Sailing to Fowey

At least this time I remembered to 'throw up' over the leeward rail. I learn't that 'bitter' lesson a couple of years ago in Wembury Bay! Never, never hurl over the windward rail!! But wait, I get ahead of myself. Perhaps, we should start at the beginning.

You take the days when you can after balancing family commitments. You also take the good weather days too. I read somewhere that gentleman sailors never go to windward. I really have no idea what it means but I took it to suggest 'avoid going into the wind if you can to stop bouncing'. And so two days arrived with weather and tide fates aligned. SSE winds with tidal flows going east and an outgoing tide on one day;  winds from NNE and tidal flows heading east for the bulk of the second day so a beam or close reach back. It wasn't what I would have liked (I'd have preferred a few days in Falmouth.....but time). 

So winds would be east..... on the first day. A downwind sail.  Northerly and a beam reach on day two. Well, in two days it could only be one place...............Fowey was calling. 
I like Fowey. It's atmospheric shops, wonderful valley scenery, quaintness. Of course I knew it would be packed but some coastal cruising was needed! Sometimes its just 'therapy' for the soul.

As I rarely cruise offshore I have to go through a process of passage planning re-familiarization. I use a checklist I created sometime ago. I complete tidal information on heights, times and streams; I mark charts with escape routes, danger marks etc and then eventually mark on waypoints, magnetic bearings etc. I make pilotage notes in my waterproof book including sketch maps and buoy details, call channels and other useful details. I plan ETA's and possible mooring, anchoring  and grounding sites. It takes time but I enjoy it. It helps me get my head around safety issues and alternative courses of action.
Tuesday dawned. Arwen was loaded, gear stowed in hatches, trim checked.  There is something liberating and soaring about setting sail in a small boat on a 'micro adventure'. The near empty horizon beckons, the blue skies with cirrus mares tails a good omen for the days ahead. Steaming ahead and escorting us out, our flagship HMS Bulwark and her escorts. It's going to be a good two days. I can feel it in my bones!

Sails raised just beyond Mountbatten breakwater, they filled rapidly in the force 3 breeze and she surges forward, helped by the outgoing spring tide. Gurgling white water run down her sides, her bow digs into small waves and eagerly Arwen points her bowsprit south west towards the Draystone Buoy and Penlee Point. Departing at 1030 and several sunfish later, we make Rame Head at 1130. 
As we cross the headland race, small dolphins briefly accompany us, before they become bored and head off to find bigger, more animated playfellows. 

With visibility good, I plot half hourly chart updates, more for experience and practice than real need. Four miles away the shoreline slips by; Freathy cliff huts, Tregantle Fort, the coastal villages of Downderry and Portwrinkle, a row of visual checkpoints on which I can take bearings. 

Sailing downwind takes immense concentration. Big waves roll in from behind lifting Arwen's transom and then rolling beneath her to suddenly lift her bow as well. Broaching in the deeper troughs is a real risk. Of greater difficulty is the corkscrewing motion. It insidiously sneaks up on you. My stomach gave me my first warning. Try food I thought. A sandwich and a cuppa. Maybe the constant bending down to fix plots and update log notes on the chart strapped to the starboard centre thwart was to blame. Maybe that perpetual corkscrewing motion but I was soooo sick off Polperro. On the bright side, I was ill off the lee side for a change. A lesson learned!

After that the passage was wonderful. I feel better; Arwen still rolls, surfs and corkscrews but I cope. Sunfish, a shark fin sighting and so many diving gannets keep me focused. At one point the sea positively boils with mackerel and fry hunted from below and driven upwards to the wheeling gannets. They circle above us, rather 'hitchcock' like, plunging like missiles into the surface waters to return with sand eel and small fish. The natural world is pretty brutal if you are one of the tiddlers.
Our bearing of 272 held. Our drift, minimal as far as I could work out. 

Out on the ocean horizon there is minimal boat traffic. Ahead only lobster pot buoys to avoid. easily spotted, they have large danbuoy posts with tattered plastic bag flags. Udder Rock cardinal mark passes a kilometre away on our starboard side. Gammon Head is clearly visible. The White House on the cliff should soon appear giving warning of the approaching Fowey harbour entrance. 

We pass the Castle around 1530. Five hours and around 24nm. And that included a twenty minute stop for you know what!


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

When the urge comes upon you there's not much you can do about it.. I have a personal theory (ie. no facts!) that low blood sugars is something to do with it, so I chomp on a choccie digestive for a quick sugar rush..... either that or I find something to focus on.. fishing or the like... or I bear away/up just to change the angle to the waves

Stuart said...

Great description, Steve. Keeping busy and one's head (and, therefor, vision) above the gunwales is one way of avoiding (or suppressing) the mal-de-mer, but it's clear that you were busy all the way, so that's not an immutable rule, obviously! Gentlemen sailors never going to windward refers to the need for a weewee and avoiding you and your fellow sailors getting an unwanted warm shower!

steve said...

Ooooh! Well you learn some new phrases everyday. It was baffling me when a I read it or heard it somewhere a few weeks or so ago because I couldn't work out why you wouldn't do a close reach/haul.............well dur! My manners have been updated.......thanks Stuart 😄