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 an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises together.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Long forgotten lakes, quaysides, castles and chapels

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 Tamar.

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 building. 

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?

all signs point to Treluggan!

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Steve-the-Wargamer said...

For those queasy moments I find strong peppermint chewing gum helps... might help??

steve said...

thanks for the tip Steve. Strange but i find a cheese and marmite sarnie afterwards helps cure it :)

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

....on a deck chair under the tree in the garden? LOL..

steve said...


Alden Smith said...

I suffer very a great deal (chronically actually) from Mal de Mer, but it doesn't stop me from sailing - sea sick pills, being on my own boat so I can call the shots about when and where to sail, knowing my own limits and choosing passages that are sensible and doable for me.

I like the central cam cleat idea on the centre case for single handing the jib, good solution.

steve said...

hey Alden. How you doin? Hope you are well. I suffer every time I clear the brakwater in Plymouth, calm day, rough day - always! Quite used to it. Only suffer one bout and for rest of trip perfectly fine - very weird. Tried pills, wrist bands, the lot and found nothing works.

the central cam cleat works just fine - saves me stretching around etc. The only issue is remembering that they go over the top of all other pieces of string that head back to the central cockpit area