What is a definition of 'a good day cruise'?
Some would argue that "any day on the water is better than a day in the office"....and all that. But I am never so sure about that. I've had days where in lovely weather but a rolling swell, I have been violently sea sick. Those days were not better than a day in the classroom, I can promise you that!
But, I think, yesterday pretty much hit 'perfect day' for me
The weather was perfect with light winds that built during the day; starting in the SSE and going around to the SW later that afternoon. Sea state was calm with a wind rippled surface and no swell. High tide at 0900 5.2m and falling to low tide at 1500, 0.88m made launching so much easier. in fact, if only I had been able to sail the day before, then it would have been perfect for an overnighter.
And, for a change, I had a plan! Now that rarely happens. More often than not, I just grab an opportunity when it arises without much forethought; but yesterday I actually had a plan and it was a 'nice' plan starting with a pootle up the river Plym, upriver under motor and downriver under sail.
For once all the Cattedown wharves, from Victoria Quay where the china clay ships get loaded to the top most quayside where the giant cement storage canisters are found, were free of any ships. I can't ever remember seeing that before. With fickle shifting winds deflected by headlands and giant ex-aircraft hangers and an outgoing tide starting, sailing upriver was always going to be challenging and time consuming, hence the motoring but it gave me an opportunity to close on Yacht Haven marina to admire the old boats of the Island Sailing Trust and to stick Arwen's bow into the hidden little quaysides and beach areas of Turnchapel on the southern shores. Sadly, most of these beaches are privately owned, despite there still being some public landing steps at each one. And they dry out rapidly on a receding tide.
Reaching the top up near the road bridge, I turn around in the big pool area, and head back downstream passing the little slipway at Oreston. Great little slip; quite steep but it some tying off rings and is accessible 2 and a half hours either side of high water on most tides. Its a pity its tricky to get to and the parking for car and trailer is so hit and miss. Today all the car park places are occupied and the ramp is busy with SUP boarders launching. There are also two speedboats tied up at the rings. So no room at that slip this morning.
Passing the entrance to Hooe lake, I resist the temptation to potter down the narrow channel and into the lake itself. Easy to get trapped in there, the tide recedes very rapidly out of that lake area through the narrow channel leaving you stranded for several hours on thick mud with no access to the shore. Tricky to sail into and out of as well as they have lines of mooring trots down the channel leaving barely any room for tacking. Pity, for there are some nice old wrecks to explore on the north shore and up at one of the quays are some old steam boats and luggers from the old dockyard, still well cared for and resplendent in their cream and black old dockyard liveries.
Down past Turnchapel, the former RM amphibious base, now taken over by marine park businesses and Princess Yachts and out past the huge hangers where boat repairs are now done; their former past as hangers for Flying Sunderland boats, almost forgotten. A place where one TE Lawrence served an RAF mechanical apprenticeship I believe. Now, I'm under sail, a close reach but only just. The changing winds mean I have to pinch periodically to keep a line of clearance of one of the wharf corners. I end up making several tacks back up river to gain a better line of approach. I am heading for a buoy at the entrance to the Sutton Pool area; where I can drop sails and then motor across to my next destination stop. There is no way I could directly sail safely into the area I am heading for. Too restricted and too many boat movements going on to make a safe approach.
Almost an hour has passed on a nice downward sail and its time for a coffee break. Berties should be open on the Barbican quayside behind the big landing stage. Berties (and Gerties) do hot food in once arch and ice creams out of the other. A Latte and great bacon roll for £4. Alas, at 0930 on a Friday morning, Bertie is not open. I feel a strongly worded email coming on - after all the big cruise ship anchored in the sound is busy disgorging its wealthy clientele via the ship's lifeboats, at the landing stage. Mr Bertie you are missing a trick or two here - early worm and all that!
I squeeze Arwen through the narrow gap between restaurant landing and barbican landing stage and then gently motor her towards the public footbridge, making a sharp turn at the last moment to bring her neatly alongside the new floating pontoon. She kisses the floatation chambers with barely a bump. A good approach admired by two paddleboarders sat at the other end.
Confession, I don't really need a coffee and a bacon roll but it is an excuse for trying out the new floating pontoon that the council have put alongside the barbican quayside wall - for dinghies under 4m and SUP boarders. Arwen is a tad over 4m if you exclude her boomkin and bowsprit and it isn't busy, just two Spanish tourists on holiday, sitting on the pontoon side having a rest from their paddle-boarding explorations of the Hoe foreshore. Two arches down a new coffee shop has opened and their latte proves delicious and there is plenty to watch with the cruise ship passengers offloading. The Barbican landing stage, a hive of activity and great people watching opportunities. Throw in water sports students, paddleboarders, dinghy sailors - busy, busy, busy.