Summer 2014 Part I – dolphins galore!

(Yes, the date at the top is right – realised I had various drafts saved and have finally forced myself into getting up to date!)

It took a while to get Maid of Mettle into the water in 2014 – it turned out that moving house, being flooded with work and doing a fair amount of maintenance on Maid were even more of a hindrance than living in Grimsby.

Still, it seemed I wasn’t the only one a bit behind on things – there are normally four posts marking the channel across the ‘Bridge’ in Plymouth Sound (actually a shallow ridge between Drake’s Island and Mount Edgcumbe, further cluttered with old anti-submarine defences), but one seemed to be missing. It might not actually be a bad thing if it stayed that way – the bright yellow buoy in its place is easier to spot!

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Having got out of the strong tides in the Narrows and into a bit more wind I set sail and headed out round Penlee Point and Rame Head towards the anchorage off Looe. It was tempting to head off course when I spotted dolphins leaping inshore off Rame Head, but I prefer to let them come to me if they want to.

It was a beautiful sunny day for tacking towards Looe..

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and admiring the rest of the coastline – much of the area between Looe and Rame Head is very pretty, but with little shelter and being off the direct route between harbours and anchorages I don’t often see much of it.

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And here we are anchored off Looe – fairly full beach but deserted anchorage, easy to sail in and drop the anchor on sand. The north-westerly wind had required a fair amount of tacking to get here but having done that it was nice and sheltered..

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..and even calmer when the wind dropped later in the evening.

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The tide wasn’t due to be fair for a while the next morning but with beautiful conditions I decided to get going anyway – first running down past St Mary’s Island..

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and then tacking along the coast again. There was a fair amount of company, from this little coaster carrying a digger..

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..to some more dolphins!

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Tonight’s anchorage was a new one for me – Gorran Haven, just between the Dodman and Mevagissey. It was once a larger fishing port than Mevva but is now a lot quieter, though there are a number of small boats moored within the harbour wall and hauled up on the beach.

As I expected with a north-westerly wind it was nice and sheltered again. This time I did launch the dinghy and rowed ashore for a wander around the village.

I also started to figure out why I kept seeing dolphins – there were fish swarming so close in that people could just grab them out of the harbour!

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I decided to go for a walk out to the Dodman the next morning while waiting for the tide. The walk up from the harbour is pretty steep to start with!

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It got rather windier as I got round to the more exposed part of the headland – enough that the gulls were starting to find it heavy going at times in the gusts.

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At ground level this little fellow was probably less affected..

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The cross was instituted by a local rector – besides the spiritual aspect it serves as a very useful daymark for navigation. Many shipwrecks have been partly attributed to one headland being mistaken for another, especially in poor visibility.

This was of course a very prominent location – signalling stations have been located here in medieval times, as well as the Napoleonic War and both World Wars.

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There were plenty of boats coming the other way around the Dodman with the tide behind them. I was hoping the front would pass and give nice weather by the time I started heading the opposite direction.

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A bit more local history – you can also still see medieval strip field boundaries here.

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Going further back to the Iron Age the earth embankment on the right here, known as the Bulwark, was constructed to form a ‘cliff castle’ on the promontory – the other sides are naturally quite secure!

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(I just like this picture. There’s nothing like a good cow to improve a foreground.)

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The weather was indeed clearing as I walked through Penare back down to Gorran Haven, now showing definite signs of life.

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With a fair tide and sky it was time to head on, into the same chilly north-west wind  – again gliding gently out of Gorran Haven before tacking along the coast.

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The next big headland west of the Dodman is Nare Head (though it doesn’t stick out enough to get a line in ‘Spanish Ladies’), looking nice and dramatic here in the afternoon sun.

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A fine sail got even better when we were joined by a school of dolphins while sailing into Gerrans Bay. With Maid sailing beautifully they had a great time playing in the bow-wave..

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..occasionally doing laps of the boat..

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..and generally having a good time as far as I could tell, and I was delighted to share in it, both taking pictures and just leaning on the forestay and grinning wildly (no, I didn’t take a picture of that).

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Eventually they headed off to gobble some more fish and I dropped anchor off Portscatho – another relatively exposed coastal anchorage, but perfect in these conditions. It also happens to be the home of my friends Si and Cat, who I first met on Maid in the French canals a few years ago, and it’s nice to try and surprise them – this time I found Si outside the Plume straight away.

As an extra bonus he was planning on taking their fishing boat Kensa out the next day and there was space to me to join them. I was especially keen to go having followed their blog of her construction after we got back from our respective voyaging.

The next morning dawned golden, with Nare Head standing out against the Dodman in the background and Gull Rock offshore on the right.

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Here is Maid with the little harbour in the background – again a short wall sheltering an assortment of fishing boats and dayboats.

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..and here is Kensa..

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It was a very good day out on Kensa with Si and their friend Debs – chilly wind but plenty of sunshine and even more importantly plenty of mackerel. I had left my camera behind though, so we have a bit of a gap on images until later – this is the colourful view down across the beach from the top of the slip later on (probably after the post-fishing pint).

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I have very fond memories of drinking champagne stood knee-deep in the water celebrating Kensa’s launch the last time I was here, but the sou-westerly wind and swell at the time made the anchorage rather rolly when I eventually rowed back out to the boat. With the wind now seemingly set in the north-west spending a while here and exploring nearby anchorages seemed very appealing.

(yes, this kind of thing is part of the reason why I never actually get as far as the Scillies despite them being a nominal target for most of my holidays… They’ll still be there for a good while yet.)

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