A blog about sailing a John Welsford
'Navigator' yawl around Plymouth Sound
in South-west England
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 an associated YouTube channel so visit www.youTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy to find our most recent cruises together.
Ince castle, high above Ince Point hoves into view. Off
the Skipper’s starboard beam, and passing slowly astern, lies Wivelscombe Lake, a
shallow expanse of water ending in several small tidal creeks. And, somewhere beyond
the tall reeds that fringe its edges, lie abandoned quarries and quaysides.
new seal repair on steering compass
Skipper falters a little, the temptation to explore this
backwater lake gnaws into his consciousness. As his focus waivers, Arwen, his little open boat, loses
headway and her bow begins to turn away downwind.
But, a prudent decision is made and the sailor nudges the
tiller to port and heads the bow once more upriver. The building tide is carrying
him towards the confluence where the river Tiddy joins the Lynher; the point
where he will turn northwards up the narrowing Lynher towards the Treluggan Boat
yard on the last of the spring tide.
Wivelscombe Lake will be saved for
another day on a similar building spring tide when he can safely nose into
reed bed lined creeks, nooks and crannies. Maybe he can even dry out on the mudflats
overnight to enjoy the starlight sky and wildlife around him, safe in the
knowledge that the following early morning tide will float him off and he can row back
into the central lake channel and out to the main river again.
jib sheets back to aft centre-case when single handing
Focused back on his sailing once more, he notes that the
westerly breezes whistling down the channel at a steady 8 – 10 kts are still causing
the water surface to pile up into steep sided little choppy waves; classic wind
against an incoming tide. He tensions the snotter slightly to flatten the sail
and eases downhaul to spill off some of the wind in the upper sail. The gusts
are unpredictable and they spill off the surrounding hills ahead at some 18 –
25 kts. Skipper keeps his eyes forward watching for the crinkly marks across
the small chop that announce the imminent arrival of one of these ‘dry’ squalls. It isn't quite time to consider reefing, not quite yet.
Ignoring his notebook with its courses, bearings and
distances plotted in shorthand, skipper tacks back and forth up the channel, his eyes glued to chart and waters ahead. He is confident that he has sufficient water now beneath him to cross the sand/mud banks that dry out
at some 0.50m or so at low water, mid channel.
Ince Castle (well a house really) with its famous four
turrets slowly falls astern. He’s makes a steady 5.2 kts but this brings occasional dollops of spray as the little dinghy’s bow plunges
into troughs and whilst he is relatively dry, the continual plunge and twist
motion is a tad uncomfortable and, after all, as regular readers know, skipper is prone to the odd bout of sea sickness
now and then.
below the deck, all lines run aft
And 'Now’ is one of those times. So, he focuses his mind on
the story behind the Ince towers. Built in 1642 at the start of the English
Civil war, the house was captured by the Parliamentarians. Ince is Cornish for ‘island’
and the peninsula on which the house is sat is almost one with two quays either-side
of a narrow neck of land at its far north western end. Similar in sound to ‘Ynys’,
the welsh for island he muses.
Anyway, the story goes that Sir Henry Killigrew, a
royalist MP modified the castle just before the Civil War by adding four
towers, one tower for each of his four wives! All of them were kept in their
own tower, blissfully unaware that in the remaining towers they had three other
competitors for his affections! Or so the story goes! Skipper fleetingly muses on the perils or otherwise of having four wives and then wisely decides its best not to pursue that line of thought further.
securely stowed sleeping boards
As the green 'Ince' starboard buoy, with its upstream tilt, passes
by, skipper searches the channel for his next navigation marker, the red port can
‘Wacker Quay’. The twenty foot yacht some quarter mile behind would probably
have to keep to the mid-water channel on approaching the can, for the tide is
still building. Skipper, estimating he has at least 1.4m of depth below him
now, decides to take a long tack across the channel towards Wacker lake and the
tree covered Warren Point.
On this port tack, he hears the revving of a number
of outboards and so ducks down to gain a view under the mainsail. Line
astern and approaching fast are four black inflatables, each holding four Royal
Marines and their kit. A 'raiding'party, ooh that looks fun!
The lead boat anticipating the fledgling skipper’s course, alters a
little to starboard to pass close behind the white dinghy's stern. Waves and smiles are exchanged with each crew as
skipper risks several quick glances over his shoulder at the passing craft but
his focus is pulled back to the course ahead. If he has read the chart right,
and if the muds and sands have not shifted too much, then he should be heading
up the little river channel that flows out of Wacker Lake.
Ahead protrudes Wacker Quay, another nineteenth century
agricultural dockside where barges unloaded limestone and loaded up with lime.
But what many sailors who pass by may not know is that there are also the
remains of a tiny military narrow-gauge railway. In 1886 it ran from the quay
up the hill and overland to the south Cornish coast. Horse drawn trams hauled
stone up the incline and over the hill to the stone masons building the new
Tregantle Fort high on the cliff top. Not for the first time skipper muses on why his brain manages to retain totally irrelevant material and nothing that is of actual importance.
Now the area is a wildlife haven, a popular bird watching
site as just beyond the quay is a car park and the main road down to Cremyll on
the channel up to St Germans (and to the final stretch of Lynher up to Treluggan)
Closing as near as he can to Warren point
opposite the quayside and at the point where the wind shadow begins to appear, the lone sailor tacks rapidly to starboard, thus giving himself a nice long close-hauled tack
back across the channel, through Dandy Hole, towards Redshanks Point. The wind
God’s favour the amateur sailor and for a short time skipper enjoys a respite
from the constant back and forth tacking that has dominated his voyage up the Lynher
thus far. There is just enough time to lock off the tiller and mainsheet, trim
the sails for self- sailing and pour himself a much-needed cuppa from his flask. He skirts the large anchored yachts lying in the sheltered lee of the hill and the deep water pools afforded them on the outside of the river bend and mentally notes that one of them looks as if it is permanently lived aboard.
As he turns the river bend, the winds drop to a more
comfortable level and, for some obscure reason that Skipper can’t quite work
out, it starts to blow from slightly astern. Not one to look a gift horse in
the mouth, he takes full advantage of the shift, letting out his sails and
raising his centreboard to put himself onto a near downwind run. The chop has
gone, the river surface is mirror like. As he leans over the port bow and stares
into the greeny-brown water, his reflection stares back. It may be an ugly mug
but that smile is something else and says it all!
approaching dandy Hole
Through the narrow
channel between Beacon Hill and St Erth Hill on the eastern side, skipper
gently zig-zags up the channel, spying the Marines pulling their ribs onto the
beach, almost hidden beneath the low oak trees on the western shore. Ahead in
the far distance two paddle-boarders heading downriver, skirt the eastern tide line
whilst somewhere on St Erth Hill lies the chapel that skipper has yet to find. Almost possessing 'Harry Potter' like magical properties, despite several forays out from Redshanks Beach, he has yet to discover this 'mystical chapel. Somewhere, hidden from his
gaze lies this two-storey, late
thirteenth century chapel with its faded medieval wall paintings. The lower
floor was used as a cider house, and still contains its granite millstone and wooden
press; the upper floor, is the chapel itself. Known as Earth Barton Chapel, the
only known medieval document relating to it dates from 1413. Now it is a listed
where the Tiddy and Lynher part company
It is a very hard to find listed building but being the history buff that skipper is, he knows he won’t give in. At some stage in the next couple of
years, he will find and visit the chapel, hopefully with son in tow. After all, what is the point of having a son who is a
medieval history specialist if you can't drag him along occasionally for a free insightful, enthusiastic commentary or two?
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. My learning curve is vertical....but hey that's what makes life interesting isn't it! So follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen,grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about 'Stacey' our beloved 1968 motovespa super 125 scooter may feature along with odd insights into our family travels< but these will be kept to a minimum, I promise!
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The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". she weighs in at 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sqft. She has a standing lug sail. She has side, centre and front thwarts and space for six although she is an ideal single hander. there are a huge number of potential locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm