Archive for the Sailing Category

2017 part 1

Posted in Cornwall, Photographs, Sailing, Walking on August 21, 2018 by maidofmettle

Some belated blogging will mainly stick to the couple of holidays I took last year but I’ll start off with the first weekend of sailing since the weather was so splendid ๐Ÿ™‚

Maid of Mettle is in the background on the right here, with the Cawsand Ferry offloading passengers in the foreground.

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Having sailed down after launching I then walked a somewhat circuitous route to the Random Arms in Maker. First from Cawsand to Kingsand..

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and then uphill in Mount Edgcumbe Country Park (the bay is clearly getting busier in the background!)

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before heading back along the coast again. This is one of my favourite areas for walking, with some stunning views down to the Sound

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and spectacular vegetation on the steep slope.

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..before you come out into the open – briefly you could feel a long way from the water!

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It doesn’t take long to cross though to where you can see across Plymouth Sound to Dartmoor..

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..or to loop from there along the ridge back towards Kingsand..

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..not forgetting the most important part of the walk!

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The next day dawned fairly calm so while waiting for the tide I took the dinghy over to the southern side of Cawsand Bay for some exploring.

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At this state of tide (and when it’s this calm!) it’s just possible to row right into the pool in the foreground there, giving a very odd sensation of having land almost all around you, closing around you from above as well as alongside and below.

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I also did some catching up with the crew of South Star in the background who’d recently returned to the UK after wintering in Portugal. Funnily, the first time we’d met had involved a grey day in Cawsand..

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“Fish, chips, a Hobgoblin, relentless rain and the clanking of chains. Good start to a holiday ” was how I described the beginning of this year’s first long sailing trip. While various people commented on the beer and the rain I was somewhat puzzled that no-one found the chains at all unusual.

In case anyone was wondering Maid’s mooring is very close to the Torpoint chain ferries, two of which haul their way back and forth across the Tamar all night. Given the downpour I decided I was best off washing down my fish and chips with a nice ale and settling in to enjoy it.

Happily by the next morning the front had cleared.

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A fine sail down through the narrows, though the wind wasn’t ideal for going westward down the coast as I hoped. Still it was a splendid day to head out of the Sound and see what progress might be made..

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..or at least to enjoy a splendid sail before turning round off Rame Head and heading back in again.

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The weather forecast suggested going a bit further up the Tamar to West Mud might be prudent so I took the opportunity to row up to Millbrook and visit another friend.

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Happily Millbrook is sheltered enough I could help out

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Out in the channel though it was strong enough I could propel the dinghy nearly as fast as I could row by just standing up to act a sail.

The next day was similar – beautifully clear and sunny but very windy after a calm start.

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The tides meant hauling the dinghy up clear of the water was rather hard work – and only feasible because it’s very tough indeed.

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First a wander up over the ridge to peek at what was going on on Cawsand..

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..and then explore the upper areas of the park – you never know when you’ll see some deer, though I didn’t that day.

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I decided to do some exploring of bits of the Mount Edgcumbe estate I hadn’t been too before – there’s lots of activity now, with various galleries and workshops besides this one which is more of a museum piece.

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I’d never actually been up close to the house before either – in fact I think I’ve only really seen it from the boat or down by the water’s edge.

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After a bit more wandering round I decided to have a sail round to Cawsand – hard work with the mainsail reefed down to it’s smallest size and wet work even within the shelter of the Sound.

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Though it did mean a shorter walk up to the bar later – good band on that night as well.

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The next morning the weather was still rather blusteryย  – time for walking again rather than sailing.

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This time I headed west across the Rame peninsular to Whitsand Bay..

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..before turning left for Rame Head..

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..and then continuing the loop round the coast path to the east (picture below is looking back again to Rame Head)..

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..and back through woodland..

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The Cawsand beach was pretty busy by now.

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The next day was mostly rain. I took advantage of the ferry to pop over to Plymouth and do some shopping. Probably a bad decision in hindsight as the forecast southerly wind first came in light from the south-east and then increased to kick up quite a chop in the bayย  – much more of an increase and it might have become untenable.

Still, it did mean that when the next day started drizzly I could begin cleaning the decks – quite a difference even in the gloom!

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By afternoon the front had cleared – suddenly it looks like we are in a different country!

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This is probably my favourite view of Kingsand.

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Part of my rowing around was seeking a beach with a bit of shelter from the wind to go swimming – there might have been some on the south side but quite shady – I eventually found somewhere on the north before catching up with Nadja and Nick on the way back.

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The next day finally brought a good wind for sailing westward – and sail we did!

Out past Penlee Point…

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..and then a following wind down-Channel

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There was a bit of rolling, but nothing the Hydrovane couldn’t handle.

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before freshening in the evening to send us flying into Falmouth Harbour and up to St Just.

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The next day the easterly had died down so I sailed into Falmouth to see who might be about before heading over to the Helford to rejoin South Star, passing an interesting pairing of ships at anchor south of Falmouth..

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Life on the Helford usually seems relaxed, but with an agreeably slightly bonkers tendency – the Easter Bunny speeding past in a RIB springs to mind. This time it manifested itself in a rather splendid little party on the beach at Durgan..

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..complete with fire-breathing mechanical dragon.

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On another note, quite often I despair at the future of seamanship when tacking past people who are motoring with the wind behind them. This father and son sailing down the Helford in company restored some of my faith, interesting people too.

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The next day was a bit brighter – time for some swimming..

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..before walking into Helford for provisions.

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That afternoon I hauled the anchor up and sailed slowly over to the other side to wave cheerio to South Star

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before turning out to take the very last of the ebb out of the Helford

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and the first of the flood up into Falmouth Harbour. Relaxing sailing…

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..which nearly got me in trouble actually – the tide was stronger than I’d thought and I needed a swift change of course to avoid going sideways onto August Rock. With extra impetus when I realised I could see the bottom very clearly ๐Ÿ˜ฎ (this is especially terrifying if you have grown up sailing the muddy waters of the Thames Estuary)

With calm restored and pulling the largest sail available out of the forepeak we resumed gliding steadily towards St Anthony’s Head (the white blob is the lighthouse).

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Which is where I eventually ended up – although I initially sailed to Trefusis north of Falmouth, before being somewhat stymied by a change of wind as soon as I’d dropped anchor swinging me out into the channel. The rest of the anchorage was largely occupied by one boat which had warned me they had a huge length of chain out, which meant they could swing all over the place. While I was trying to work out where to go instead I saw Dormouse motoring out and Dave invited me to supper back over at the Molunans just by the lighthouse.

It had just taken at least an hour to sail the mile or so from there, and it would be dark well before we got there, but still, why not?

Here’s Dave heading back after breakfast on Maid the next morning.

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After he’d headed off I went for a swim and a wander ashore.

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This is one of my favourite areas for walking – relatively quiet and beautiful scenery.

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I even had an isolated spot to swing around on the anchor – admittedly in part because I’d been fairly cautious in my estimation of where I was when anchoring in the dark!

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The next day was rather greyer. After doing some jobs on the boat I spent a while in the dinghy peering into the (shallow) deeps..

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..before heading off on another light-wind sail up the Fal. Slow going as I left at slack water – if I had much tide going with me I probably wouldn’t have been able to steer!

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That was being almost borne out by the time I was ghosting up to Turnaware Bar, even with the wind seeming to be from ahead now – at least as far as two out of three sails were concerned.

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I made it round the bar and then just about into shallow enough water to drop the anchor with a reasonable length of chain for the depth. It held… but the tide was due to rise another few metres. I needed to borrow another 25m of chain from the secondary anchor and shackle it on to be confident, even on a beautifully calm night.

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The next morning was beautiful – but completely calm.

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I went ashore for a woodland stroll and some blackberrying first..

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.. but there still wasn’t a breath when I got back, so I was glad I’d sailed up yesterday rather than having to motor the length of Carrick Roads.

The Ocean Cruising Club party I’d gone upriver for was a splendid occasion as usual – always a pleasure and inspiration, and for a change the weather was roasting hot.

The next day I sailed down to St Mawes..

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And then the next day round into Veryan Bay to anchor off the Nare Hotel.

A very peaceful spot in the early morning – too much so nearing slack water with a long way to go to meet some friends off Looe, and barely a breath of wind.

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Given the perfect stillness I thought I’d try an experiment in how easy it is to tow roughly 6 tonnes of boat with a rowing dinghy. Certainly possible – and good exercise – but not actually practical as a means of transportation.

Still, the breeze was gradually appearing; eventually we crept out past Nare Head.

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It was still very very slow going for some while…

2017-08-30 #03 (Custom) much so that by the time there was a decent breeze I decided I needed to haul the dinghy out and fold it up to eliminate the drag of towing it. Not something I’d ever considered doing before at sea before, especially not off the Dodman (a rather fearsome headland in the wrong conditions).

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By now it was a splendid sail. We were making good time against the tide and also hastened on by getting a text saying ‘we’ve got rum, beer and bananas – it’s just like the Caribbean!’. No sign of palm trees but the scenery is beautiful.

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Though looking to windward while beating round the end of Looe Island I did think it was about time I got in – I may have done ok before the tide turning but that cloud looked ominous!

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I made it in to anchor off Looe just before a brief shower, though it quickly passed & Nick rowed over

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Nick headed off westward the next morning…

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…and a bit later I did the same eastward.

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With the wind from behind it felt very light – the largest sail out once again and poled out on one side helped pull us along, but it was pretty slow going..

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..even turning the corner into Cawsand, which normally gets a bit exciting if you’ve been having a gentle passage downwind till then.

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Still, it did make for a rather beautiful evening..

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..would’ve been rather silly not to row ashore and visit one of the pubs really.

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The next morning was equally beautiful

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though sadly time to head round Drake’s Island (below) and back up the Tamar to moor up.

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Summer 2016

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2017 by maidofmettle

Since Maid is happily back in the water again and I’m about to go away for a few weeks I thought I’d better catch up quickly on last summer’s main holiday.


Surprisingly for the second year in a row I launched very late but left Carbeile to find Nick (just ahead of the mast in the picture below) at anchor. Even more surprisingly it was his first day off the beach, though given he’d be crossing to the Caribbean a few months later launching late seemed much less important for him!


I wasn’t going anywhere near that far or long, but I could almost kid myself sorting out the provisions in the sunshine.


The evening was a pretty much perfect reintroduction to life afloat.


It felt quite easy to slip into the mindset of a longer cruise, spending the next day at anchor doing various jobs and catching up a bit while waiting for the wind to swing round to suit a passage west the next day, after another beautiful sunset.


The next day the forecast proved true and we had a beautiful sail out of Plymouth Sound and past Rame Head (on the right below, you can just see the small chapel on the top).


We had some extra company on passage as well ๐Ÿ™‚


We ended up in different places in the evening as I’d tacked inshore and pretty much got the anchor down before I realised Nick was carrying straight on, but we’d likely meet again in a few days. I’d been wanting to anchor off Caerhays and have a peek at the castle for years, but never had the right conditions for it.


The next morning I got the dinghy out and pulled ashore – a nice easy landing!


There was plenty of time for a look around while waiting for the tide to turn to head further along the coast. This is the view looking north across the bay with Caerhays Castle in the background.


Later on it was a bit grey but still fine sailing conditions, nice and calm to sneak through the passage inside Gull Rock towards the anchorage at Portscatho.


This place has provided many of the most beautiful dawns I’ve seen.


This was clearly going to be a much brighter day…


… great for seeing Portscatho at it’s best.


I went for a sail in the afternoon – was initially thinking of heading round to the Percuil but the wind died away quite quickly.


Happily there was just enough wind to glide back into Portscatho.


The next morning proved rather less idyllic – there was brief a short steep swell that made being aboard decidedly uncomfortable, annoying as I’d been hoping to meet some friends ashore but had to stay aboard till it calmed later on. Happily there was at least the regatta racing to watch.


Later on it had calmed down and I could head up through the regatta excitement in the town..


to go and enjoy some games and fish & chips on a slightly quieter beach.


Then back to the boat again and a sail round to Falmouth harbour


including getting to wave at Kensa in Carrick Roads.


The next day in St Mawes was a bit gloomy to start with…


but happily cheered up in time to meet Ian, Ali and Penny (the look-out) for a kayaking/rowing expedition up the Percuil.


We got far beyond where I’ve ever dared go with Maid and enjoyed exploring some distance upstream on the tide…


before heading back downstream, saying hello to an old friend from the French canals on the wayย  – Planet looking splendid as ever.


St Mawes looks quite nice in the evening too ๐Ÿ™‚

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The next day was a busy one – time to head east again! But first a dinghy expedition


into sunny St Mawes


Following that, anchor up under sail and a quick few tacks out past St Mawes Castle across the bottom of Falmouth Harbour


and to Trefusis on the other side to row in and have a yarn with Nick while waiting for the tide to turn and his varnishing to dry.


And then after lunch, time to up-anchor again and sail out past Fraggle Rock St Anthony’s Head.


It was a splendid sail eastward, with Maid throwing out quite a bow wave at times.


I could have easily gone further, but Portmellon offered both the chance to visit a new place and to meet up with Dave who was sailing the opposite direction from Plymouth. Having had the wind behind me I had a while to explore ashore first and admire the view of Maid out in the anchorage


before meeting Dormouse on the way in.


I had offered to make dinner ready for his arrival, but he texted to say he’d already caught more than enough fish, and I’m not one to turn fresh fish down ๐Ÿ™‚

The next day started off rather gloomy, a pleasant wind but many shades of grey as Dave headed south to round the Dodman


and I ran on eastward towards Rame Head.


The sun did eventually come out in late afternoon, but at that point the wind died, making it a pretty poor trade. The next couple of hours brought minimal progress, with just enough wind to point at Rame Head but not enough to make any ground toward it.


Even getting the biggest sail I own out of the forepeak didn’t make much difference, until a very long hour or two later the wind finally filled back in.


Finally we managed to put Rame Head behind us and round Penlee to head into Cawsand Bay.


Of course later on there was a bit of a struggle to put the sail away again ๐Ÿ˜€


The next day was a much shorter sail, though going through the swirling currents of the narrows is always exciting


as is picking up a mooring under sail – I got it, but it took a couple of tries.


And there we are- time to go back to work again!


Of course now I actually publish this it’s time to go sailing again – much better ๐Ÿ™‚














Posted in Cooking, Cornwall, French canals and rivers, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Surfing, the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Madeira archipelago, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , on August 19, 2016 by maidofmettle

5 years ago yesterday night (yesternight?) I sailed between the Wolf Rock and Gwennap Head / Tol Pedn to the accompaniment of fireworks exploding somewhere over Land’s End (yep, I’m claiming they were for me ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

And 5 years ago today I dropped anchor in Mullion Cove after leaving the Azores on the 3rd of August.

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That was the beginning of the end of two years of living on Maid of Mettle, just over a year and over two thousand miles with Chris and Caroline and another 10 months or so and a couple of thousand miles on my own. It seems a while ago now..

So, what don’t I miss?

  • handling wet and very cold ropes on the canals, not to mention stamping my feet to keep the circulation going while motoring in a wet and chilly France. This may have had a permanent effect – warmth is definitely one of the things I do miss!

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  • rough seas, when you know things may well get worse before they get better and there is no escape till they calm down – while they were only a small part of the trip, and on the whole a price well worth paying, they do leave some lasting impressions. I seem to have blanked nearly the entire trip from Madeira to Tenerife from my memory after a few days when I didn’t feel well, despite the fact that looking over some photos and videos there were clearly some nice parts to the journey as well. Some passages you just want to end.

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And what were the best things?

  • the freedom – the time to properly enjoy cooking, to go walking and get to know places, to meet people, to take up new hobbies such as surfing and playing harmonica, or simply spend at least an hour in the surf to end up with one half-decent picture of a breaking wave – this is special, more so than exotic places.

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Thanks Jon for that photo

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and thanks Quiksilver for that one

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Though that said:

  • discovering beautiful places, and experiencing things I never knew existed. I could name something in any region we went, but the following stand out particularly:
    • the peaceful waters of the Guadiana,

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  • the levada canals winding among the peaks, valleys and terraces of Madeira,

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  • the hill country of northern Gran Canaria

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  • and the hot springs of the Azores

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  • ย the people – while getting to spend time with my family and friends in this country again is fantastic, for meeting and getting to know new people it’s much easier while sailing (though the same effect can be true coastal sailing in this country, especially in the west country).

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  • Also in the first part of the trip having so much (okay – yes, sometimes too much at times!) time with two of my best friends

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  • the sailing on passage – there is a real satisfaction in taking plenty of time and patience to the boat set up to travel as safely, quickly and comfortably as you can, and a peaceful night sail miles from anything is a delight. There are similar pleasures in coastal cruising but it’s a different mindset as you usually have to change things much quicker!

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  • the accomplishment of offshore passage-making – it’s a rare opportunity,ย  definitely a special feeling, and one that lasts whereas so often in other fields there is always the next deadline lurking.

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  • the stars at sea – an incredible spectacle. You could reach out and touch them, but you could never count them (they’re not easy to photograph from a small boat either)
  • dolphins – very hard to predict when they’ll turn up, and there is something utterly magical about their presence, bringing an instant and lasting smile (that got crossed off after seeing dolphins several days in a row sailing west down the Cornish coast, culminating in them playing round the boat for ages sailing into Portscatho in the evening sun)

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  • the food – the Madeira market is the greatest for spectacle, but my favourites are those in Alcoutim (tiny but welcoming, frequently including a massive bunch of coriander as a gift) and Las Palmas (enormous and well worth browsing all round), the challenge of provisioning and cooking on a boat in general and especially on passage, and the many regional delicacies. Except the barbecued dried squid, which I’m not convinced was actually edible

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You’ll notice many of those overlap – a symptom, I think, of a fundamentally different lifestyle. Though that said, there are many things I have taken (or try to) from the time away:

  • the willingness and confidence to try new things – without some of the experiences while away I’m not sure I’d ever have ended up playing for my football team, or sung at my local folk club (to be fair that’s pretty rare even now)

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  • friendships with people I/we met while away. While I hear from others further afield, it was a special pleasure to be present when Si and Cat launched Kensa, the fishing boat they’d built since returning from their extensive travels in the Mediterranean

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  • and more than that, I think I’ve managed to stay in better contact with at least some friends since being away and having that bit more time and impetus to keep in touch via email etc when not meeting face to face (if you’ve read this with some surprise, disappointment and/or offence, please drop me a line and we can start putting things right! ๐Ÿ™‚ )
  • enjoying a continuing connection to offshore sailing through various friends; the members of the Ocean Cruising Club – I am still amazed and humbled that they awarded me their Rose Medal for 2011, just being part of a club containing so many people who have achieved extraordinary things is an honour; and the general collective of sailors coming and going from and enjoying the south-west

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  • speaking of which, discovering south Cornwall as a cruising ground – it is a very special area

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It seems a good time to repeat this sentiment from 2010, for adventures near or far ๐Ÿ™‚


“A toast to onward voyages on land and sea”

(that last picture and inspiration for the style of post come from Caroline’s last entry 400 days to get there 400 minutes to get back)

2015 Part III

Posted in Cornwall, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , on August 11, 2016 by maidofmettle

On my next trip there were strong easterlies, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time to sail west.

I did go and explore the possibility of anchoring just below Plymouth Hoe – a spot that’s marked on my chart, but where I’ve never been nor seen another boat. In a northerly it seemed like it would work quite well, though it wouldn’t exactly be a peaceful spot.

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Today I carried on to the far side of the sound and Jennycliff Bay, perfectly sheltered from the east, and with friend already anchored there. There’s quite a view from the top of the cliffs as well…

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Later that evening the easterly had died down so we decided to head over to Cawsand and up to the Random Arms. Unfortunately in making sure the wind dropped enough for it to be a safe anchorage we ended up waiting long enough that it dropped to nothing half way across. It was lovely at this point..

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..but ended up being a motor boat trip.

Still, the scenery on the walk up to the pub didn’t suffer from it getting late, and the bar was as much fun as ever.

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And Cawsand is still one of my favourite anchorages to wake up in, especially when it’s this peaceful.

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There’s also a great selection of footpaths in the area. This morning I followed the coast path towards Cremyll..

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before heading inland and up to the folly tower, before returning through the deer park.

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I was grateful for my light-winds sailing practice to make it up through the Narrows..

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…though there were some mishaps, notably carrying on slightly too close to the southern shore on one tack and getting swept rapidly seawards by a counter-eddy. The second time around I was fine on that score but ended up going sideways up the Tamar instead – time to put the engine on!

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Having got the boat secured for the night I took advantage of the calm conditions to row the mile or so up towards Millbrook to pay a call on Nick and meet up with a chap in the boatyard there who owned a sister ship of Maid – fascinating to see another.

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With strong winds forecast for the next few days I arranged to leave Maid on a more sheltered mooring near Mount Edgcumbe.


This proved useful for another reason the next Friday, as it meant I could dinghy ashore and walk across to the Random Arms without needing to take the boat anywhere.

This well and drinking trough are on the road up from Cremyll..

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..and this is the very from the top of the ridge out to Gull Rock and beyond.

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The next day was still blustery so I headed out into the Sound with two reefs in the main and just the staysail up. There are advantages – tacking is much easier when you only have one foresail to deal with.

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The easterly made it another good day for exploring that side of the Sound – I hoped to stop in Bovisand having never been there before, but the wind seemed to be funnelling right down a valley into the anchorage.

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So I went into Jennycliff Bay again, and this time went for a longer walk right round to Bovisand Bay by land.

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This is the view from around half-way there, at the highest point looking down on the Bovisand Pier, and out across the breakwater (barely visible on a high spring tide) to the Rame Peninsula.

There were a few boats in the anchorage in the day, but I had it all to myself in the evening.

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The next day I did a bit more exploring early on – first just checking out the nearby cliffs

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and then walking inland across the peninsula to Hooe Lake

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before joining the banks of the Plym and coming back round Mount Batten to a rather grey Jennycliff Bay.

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Sailing back to the mooring was still nice though – perfectly sheltered flat water can go a long way in compensating for a lack of sunshine.

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Unfortunately it was then time to start stowing things away for the winter again. I think the idea was to start the next sailing season earlier – which didn’t quite happen! But at least it has given me a chance to catch the blog up ๐Ÿ™‚

2015 Part II

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2016 by maidofmettle

In September I had a couple of weeks offย  and my fingers crossed for fair winds at the start to sail to the Fal for the Burning Man at Trelissick, and was delighted when the weather systems obliged. The look of the clouds over Dartmoor to the east gave additional motivation to head the other way!

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It was a bit of a chilly passage, not unpleasant but not remarkable. It did seem like quite a long sail to St Mawes compared to recent jaunts around Plymouth Sound.

The following morning off St Mawes was rather more memorable, with a spectacular double rainbow.

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Amanita is anchored on the left – Mike and Janey had just come down from Percuil and stopped for breakfast before we sailed across to Falmouth to enjoy a folk session in the pub that evening.

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The wind had dropped for the row into the pub – a really beautiful evening.

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The next day I went for a sail out in the harbour, admiring the local boats (generally from behind).

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Anchoring off Trefusis proved a bit of a challenge – with the strong winds and a bit of tide some of the boats already there were roving around all over the place (one in particular seemed determined to chase both Maid and Amanita away) and finding a clear spot with the right depth of water took a few attempts.

The next day however was much more peaceful – no equinoctial gale today!

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I landed for a bit of an early morning walk..

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..before heading up Carrick Roads as soon as the tide went slack. With the wind very light I wouldn’t have got anywhere with it against me, but neither did I want a strong current behind me as I wouldn’t have been able to steer!

The compromise choice mostly worked, though I ended up putting the engine on just before the bar at Turnaware and motoring in to Channels Creek. Of course, another benefit of coming early was being able to anchor before the hordes arrived.

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It didn’t take long for the rest of the fleet to start coming in. I was very impressed with Mike rowing Amanita in (and relieved when they made it sideways over the bar without touching!).

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There were a lot more still to come – in possibly even less wind at times! There were some more impressive feats of seamanship in sailing into the anchorage, quite something to watch.

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And later on the Burning Man was a splendid event again – lighting it with flaming arrows certainly built up the suspense!

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There was a huge crowd this time – say three or four hundred compared to a tenth of that when we’d been to the first event a couple of years ago.

The next morning started off similarly still causing some boats some difficulty in getting away. We’d decided to head upriver so could wait for a bit more wind.

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In the meantime, I went for a bit of a walk ashore and was rather impressed with this multifunctional boat storage ๐Ÿ™‚

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Later on we sailed upriver, being suitably wary of the King Harry chain ferry..

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.. to anchor in the mouth of Roundwood Creek. The bottom shelves quite quickly here and having made a couple of quick tacks in very little room I decided it was best to just drop the anchor and see where we ended up! Happily it worked out well.

Once the tide had risen enough to get ashore we went for walk and blackberrying expedition on Roundwood Quay.

Sailing in the upper Fal is usually tricky due to the high tree-lined banks, and the trip down the next day was no exception. A lot of the passage was more a case of pointing in the right direction than sailing, with the occasional gust along with various obstacles (not to mention the banks) to keep things interesting! It was a relief to get to more open water again at Trelissick, though I still had to be very careful of the shallow bar at Turnaware.

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However on reaching Carrick Roads the wind got up properly – in fact enough to drop one of the jibs and take a reef in.

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I hadn’t really decided where to stop, so I took a trip into Falmouth and out again and was eyeing up a spot I’d never used before in open water at the edge of Carrick Roads when it became clear the others were heading for a spot beside the breakwater, so I decided to do the same.


The sunshine was interspersed with some quite spectacular showers- I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rainbow quite this flat before!

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It seemed a good day to stay here enjoying the company and exploring ashore between showers.

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The next morning the fleet dispersed. Steve headed west to Ireland (and then Spain), Mike & Janey were going back to the Solent and Nick & I to Mevagissey.

With light following winds forecast I figured I’d need special measures to keep up, so I folded the dinghy away on deck and dug out one of the larger foresails which I don’t think had seen action since somewhere between the Azores and Scillies in 2011.

I actually overtook at one point…

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…but when we turned to have the wind dead behind us Wylo‘s gaff rig came into its own and made it very much even despite the fact she was still towing a dinghy. Here we are just leaving the Falmouth entrance.

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..with Janey & Mike in hot pursuit in Amanita..

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and here we are approaching the Dodman..

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There can be fearsome overfalls off the point, but with a fair tide and wind we sailed right in under the headland and stone cross…

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..before continuing around the coast past the Tall Ship Royalist to anchor just north of Mevagissey, and enjoying a lovely evening ashore with friends of Nick’s.

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Dawn the next morning was spectacular, especially over the sea..

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..but also gently lighting up the houses above the harbour at Mevagissey.

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It started as a very peaceful sail, but with some slightly ominous looking clouds.

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This one looked particularly disturbing. The wind and waves were both getting up a bit and I hove to for a while to make lunch before getting going again..

2015-09-24 #10 which time Nick had caught up.

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After carrying on under just the mainsail for a while debating whether the wind was still increasing I eventually decided the conditions were fine to get the big headsail out again and resumed rapid pursuit.

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We both shot past Rame Head in splendid conditions half-expecting a squall which didn’t appear then- inevitably it came just as we wanted to turn north.

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At least we were out of the big waves and rolling, but it was quite a tough beat into Cawsand – a very satisfying sail but good to drop the anchor at last.

The next morning I had to get up early to travel away for the weekend- a nice sail at first, but unfortunately one where I needed to get the engine on – plans do get in the way of things at times!

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2015 Part I

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , on August 11, 2016 by maidofmettle

2015 was another year of launching late, but it got off to a good start when I thought I spotted a familiar looking boat in my planned anchorage within about 5 minutes of launching. Getting closer it turned out there were two – a real pleasure to see both Nick and Steve again especially so soon after going in the water! The time on the hard seemed to have pretty much vanished..

Nick’s Wylo II is in the background here – Steve was anchored just ahead.

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I thought about going for a sail the next afternoon and then coming back again, but getting the anchor up proved an unexpected challenge. I was pulling against a strong wind but couldn’t get much more than 5 metres of chain in – and as well as that it looked like the anchor was probably underneath the boat in front. As they’d arrived more recentlythey offered to move, but I decided to go for a walk instead.

It was also partly a bit of reconaissance – Nick highly recommended a trip to the Random Arms in Maker on a Friday evening, but the weather looked like it might not be safe to spend the night in Cawsand, the most convenient anchorage. It would be possible to get there from this side of the peninsula, but a long walk, and finding somewhere to leave the dinghy for that long (i.e. several metres change in height of tide) might require a long row too.

Having found a climbable route up to the path it doesn’t take long to feel you’re well away from the water..

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..especially when the tide’s out!

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The path stays low for a while and then becomes quite a steep climb up to the top..

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…and the church at Maker was very much a welcome sight.

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The pub would be a further walk along the ridge, so a sail round to Cawsand and a quick climb up the hill definitely seemed the better option if it was safe for the boats. Time to head back down to report, and for a convivial evening ๐Ÿ™‚

Happily the next day the weather forecast looked fine for staying in Cawsand for the night, so off we went. Or rather, Nick did…

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……t took me rather longer than planned to follow, as it proved just as hard to get the anchor chain in as the previous day – it was clearly fouled on something. Perhaps an old mooring chain, or who knows what? The muddy waters of the Tamar were definitely inscrutable. I was hoping it was just caught rather than properly wound around something.

The solution was somewhat unexpected. I’d tried and failed pulling it out by tacking in different directions under sail a few times and was debating the next option when I saw a motor boat heading out of Millbrook at high speed and creating quite a wake. Not something I’m usually delighted by but I shot back to the bow and tightened in the chain as hard as I could before tying it off. This transmitted the force of the waves rocking the boat right down the chain, and fortuitously this provided enough of a sharp tug to free the chain.

Just the other 30m to pull in then ๐Ÿ™‚ and then a fine sail round toย  Cawsand, and here we are..

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..and in plenty of time for me to do a refreshing couple of laps swimming round the boat.

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The next day was bright again and good for another sail in the Sound.

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The next weekend I got an early start early Friday evening with the aim of making it up to the Random Arms again. It was a beautiful sail but with rather light winds I didn’t get to Cawsand quickly enough in the end.

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On the Saturday I decided to continue a vague plan I have of eventually walking the whole of the southern Cornish section of the South West Coast path walking from the boat. This is probably worth a post of it’s own at some point, but for now let’s just say that some sections are very easy, but some will be very reliant on settled northerly winds to complete.

The bit I did today took advantage of the relatively short distance by land across the Rame Peninsular from the shelter of Cawsand Bay to the generally more exposed Whitsand Bay. It’s an especially nice walk as you get a wide range of views – first the rolling countryside between Rame and Maker…

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and the views north over St John’s Lake towards Devonport and Dartmoor..

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..and then the coastal views down to the long curve of Whitsand Bay

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and back to Rame Head.

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I had lunch in Portwrinkle at the opposite end of Whitsand Bay before turning back eastward, deciding to detour to the chapel on Rame Head (on the right below) before heading back to Cawsand.

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The next day featured an even bluer sky, and a splendid sail back up the river to Torpoint.

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September’s sailing started with another evening sail in very light winds, ghosting through the narrow clear channel west of Drake’s Island and into the anchorage at Cawsand – again too late to make it worth climbing up the hill to the pub!

However I was pretty sure I’d spied a familiar boat anchored ahead in the dark ๐Ÿ™‚ย  I was surprised in the morning when there turned out to be two of them – Nick’s Wylo II and another designed by him, the slightly larger Amanita.

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That evening when the tide had turned we sailed round to West Mud near the entrance to Millbrook, in a gentle breeze and flat sea. Mike and Janey kindly sent me this splendid picture taken as we were sailing towards Fort Picklecombe.


Despite taking different routes we all ended up sailing up through the Narrows more or less together. Despite the calm conditions the strong current made it quite a tense and exciting sail as the speed of the tide compared to our progress through the water meant every move needed to be planned and started well in advance – and that’s not considering the whirlpools!

Here is Amanita with anchor ready to go – happily we all made it in under sail and enjoyed a splendid supper aboard with Mike and Janey.

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And some drinks tasting too, including Nick’s rum brought back from the Caribbean and my honey rum brought from the Canaries.













Summer 2014 Part II – fish!

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2016 by maidofmettle

This picture I took while walking north of Gerrans Bay shows why there were quite so many dolphins around – the wind is calm and the patches of ripples on the water are all teeming shoals of fish swarming in the bay – a spectacular sight and hopefully encouraging for local ecology and businesses alike. IMGP2901 (Custom)

I did quite a bit of walking in the area over the next few days – very tempting with another spectacular dawn over Gull Rock… IMGP2745

and time for a little excursion across Gerrans Bay.. IMGP2747

.. to add some interest to the view from the Nare Hotel. I didn’t even charge them. IMGP2750

..but I did enjoy the rather lovely Carne Beach (after I’d finished hauling the dinghy up it anyway).


Lovely and clear though the water looked, the wind was still very chilly, so rather than being tempted into a swim I headed out along the coast path.


Besides enjoying the walk I was also making note of where the rock and/or seaweed patches were to avoid them when next anchoring off. I also peered down into various coves – this one used to be a refuge for fishing boats, but probably for hauling them up on the beach, the anchoring prospects didn’t look ideal.. IMGP2762

Here is the ‘summit’ of Nare Head, looking back west across Gerrans Bay to Portscatho.. IMGP2770

..and here is the view from it down to Gull Rock, and away to the Dodman in the east. IMGP2773

After exploring a bit more on land I headed back to the boat and sailed a similar route, but this time a few hundred yards offshore- there was still room to sneak between Gull Rock (on the right, yes it does look more like a whale, yes I probably have said that before, yes I suspect more gulls than whales are seen on it, indeed) and the mainland. IMGP2818

The first place we headed past was Portloe –ย  I was thinking of stopping, but was rather put off by having to tack suddenly to avoid a fishing buoy moored by great length of floating line laying on the surface, and then losing the wind completely close to the cliffs. IMGP2821

Besides, it was a fine day for sailing still. I didn’t think the possible anchorages off either Porthallow..


or Porthluney..


would be all that sheltered in this wind, and was proved right, with the nominal north-westerly funnelling along the coast. However it did prove surprisingly co-operative for sailing back west again, just managing to glide through the passage between Gull Rock and Nare Head again before tacking back into Portscatho for the evening. IMGP2829

The next day I rowed ashore early on..

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..having got rather used to a quick early morning swim after hauling the dinghy up the beach (leaving a rather curious track it must be said…)

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The sky was starting to look rather interesting..

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..but I decided it was worth risking a walk round the bay again, this time from Portscatho to yesterday’s start point of the Nare Hotel (and back). The coast path mostly goes along the top of the cliffs, but there are several places where you can drop down onto the beach for a change of scenery – including some surprisingly lush vegetation here: IMGP2899 (Custom) (2)

It was another day that got steadily better – ideal for walking with sunshine and a cooling breeze.

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Here we are back in Portscatho again.

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I couldn’t resist going for a quick sail across the bay in the evening sun – just across the bay and back before popping into the Plume and making plans for another fishing expedition the next day.

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This time we get full technicolour with Si having recruited both Debs and Helen as crew already and signed me on as helmsman/photographer. Unsurprisingly they have lots of pictures of Kensa from afar but very few close-up, and not while working, given the general issues of being busy, and fish, and fish scales..

So here we have everyone else working away while I practise the art of steering with one hip while taking pictures – it was good the conditions were still perfectly sheltered, and that I had a little practice at steering Kensa already – she is a well-behaved boat to handle, but very different to the Maid.

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We found a good spot on the way out, and the ice box in the middle was filling up pretty quick. It’s a fine job when the weather’s good and the fish are biting – for other times a lot of resilience and some alternative income options are as vital as ever.

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Helen and Debs are fishing in the foreground here with Portscatho in the background. The mainsail is set again to take as back to Portscatho – not that the fish had stopped biting but there was no point catching more fish than Si and Cat could be pretty confident of selling fresh.

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Back in Portscatho, I’d say this was a marathon gutting session in progress, but in fact it was impressively quick.

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And here is some of the catch in close-up.

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Since I am useless at gutting fish we gave me something to do by accidentally setting one dinghy adrift, so I rowed off in pursuit. By the time I got back pretty much everything was sorted except lowering the mizen sail and putting the cover on.

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I had another invigorating swim the next morning

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before a bit of wandering round the harbour.

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and then heading back to the boat to get on with some jobs aboard.

The next day’s weather looked rather more unpredictable…

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but happily cleared as boats started arriving for the town’s regatta day.

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The seafront was even busier

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though not quite as intimidating as the racing fleet!

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I had been half-persuaded into doing a bit of racing (this was of course in the pub..) but happily ended up with the even better (and less scary) plan of meeting up with a friend and his dad for lunch in Portscatho and then sailing them across the bay in the afternoon.

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Doug proved a very competent helmsman, and it was a quick and smooth trip across the bay.

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A quick drop-off at Carne Beach, and then I set sail again to sail round into Carrick Roads to be ready to take the tide up the Fal in the morning. More beautiful sunshine sailing round the coast of the Roseland..

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..and in past St Anthony’s Head lighthouse..

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and beautiful evening sunshine for the arrival in St Mawes, where I rowed ashore again later to meet Doug & family in the sailing club for a coffee. This social life business can require some co-ordination!

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The next day I headed up the Fal

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albeit with some amusing hi-jinks in Carrick Roads when my badly tied knot allowed the dinghy to escape, and inevitably it headed out of the main channel and into water too shallow for Maid before I could get to it. Happily some quick examination of the chart revealed the bank was shallowest next too the main channel and I could motor round the back of it to grab the errant dinghy before it ended up ashore. The alternative would probably have been trying to beg assistance from somebody else with a dinghy or else anchoring off Turnaware and swimming ashore to walk round to it (not appealing at all with that day’s weather), and either way being very late for the party.

Party? Ah, yes – this was for an annual Ocean Cruising Club gathering up the Fal – a good chance to meet others with similar interest, and usually vastly more experience, in long distance cruising, and generally enjoy excellent company.

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Admittedly this was a relatively small gathering, as the poor weather had led to a rearranging to the main event to occur down in Falmouth, but very good fun nonetheless.

The next day I dropped back down the Fal a little way, to an anchorage off Roundwood Quay with a rather curious view downstream!

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(the Fal is commonly used as a lay-up for ships that aren’t being used at present)

Later a couple I’d met down this way before tied up at the quay to dry out and do some maintenance work, and we had a lovely walk further inland and round the peninsular.

Thenext morning I did some more rambling, this time with a camera. There are some beautiful areas of heath here


along with the remains of a fort on the promontary – mainly just visible as a ditch and earth bank now –


as well as the essential rope swing.


Later on the sun had come out and I headed a bit further down the river to anchor off Turnaware Bar. This is a nice sheltered spot in the easterly wind that was forecast


and also a splendid base for rowing ashore to pick blackberries and enjoy a walk looking down on Carrick Roads,


and also to blink at the site of a very large ship in quite a small channel – one of the cargo ships that had been mothballed up the Fal heading back to sea again.


I also had a very nice coffee with a couple I’d met at the Ocean Cruising Club gathering in previous years who’d attended the rearranged party in Falmouth.

I still hadn’t had enough sailing for the day though, so decided to head down Carrick Roads in the evening.


The sailing conditions were beautiful, with plenty of interesting boats to admire as well, from a lugger heading up river..


to several of the Falmouth Working Boats enjoying their race night. Some of these are still for oyster dredging, but they’re also very keenly raced, especially as they carry a huge amount of sail.


The sunlight was just turning golden when I headed in to St Just – again a beautifully sheltered spot in an easterly wind, but with the added benefit of free anchorage, and a very easy sail across to Falmouth for the Tall Ships festival starting imminently.


Summer 2014 Part I – dolphins galore!

Posted in Cornwall, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , , on August 11, 2016 by maidofmettle

(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..

2014-08-16 #03 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!


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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!


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


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


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


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.


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..


..occasionally doing laps of the boat..


..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).


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.


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


..and here is Kensa..


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).


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.)

5 years :)

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the English Channel on September 21, 2014 by maidofmettle

Note – to give the original view from the time via Caroline’s splendid blogging I’ve added that week’s posts into the Index of posts I’ve been working on to sort my blog’s rather confusing timelines out ๐Ÿ™‚

Technically this post – Leaving! – is from the day before, so on 21-09-09 there was a bit more of that tidying still in progress. Not much time to think about leaving the UK for an unspecified amount of time really.

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It was time for a bit of a celebration that evening though. A mixture of excitement, and just plain relief to be starting something we’d been planning and then preparing for for so long. The canals were a bit of an unknown at this stage, but more appealing than Biscay in September/October. Not to say we/I didn’t second-guess that a bit at times!

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We had managed to find a window of sunny, light westerly winds for heading up the English Channel towards the shortest crossing point from Dover to Calais where we would enter the canal system – we could have gone in at Rouen but making once of our first sails since the refit an overnight channel (read: motorway) crossing didn’t really appeal.

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A quick cloudy one lest anything think it was continuous sunshine (why head south at all? ๐Ÿ˜€ )..

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but generally the weather was great, especially for admiring the iconic white cliffs..

2009-09-24 #01 Brighton to Eastbourne (Custom)

Some strange memories do stick out – being woken up by the boat suddenly heeling over in Eastbourne Marina in the night because we were moored near a sluice from the lock!

Looking at the nex picture, it’s slightly strange to think we had no choice about helming back then (Maid will steer herself happily at some angles to the wind, but not that one) – self steering is definitely a luxury. Mind you, when the wind’s light and it’s sunny..

2009-09-25 #02 (Custom)

I don’t actually remember much of crossing the channel from Dover – I suspect because I spent some of it getting ready to go up (and probably rather less actually up) to free something I’d got caught, and what felt like most of the rest fixing issues with the burner and pressure pump for the paraffin cooker so we could reheat lunch! (Thinking about it, the others must have got lumbered with a lot of steering on a rather less cheery day..)

2009-09-28 #02 [C&C] (Custom)

I did manage to serve lunch before we got to Calais though – and the fried supper Caroline made after we moored up still stands out as delicious.

2009-09-29 #01 Calais (Custom)

So, France! And into the canals..

(I won’t be repeating that, but I will add it to the Index of posts, as well as some more general reflections. If you can’t contain your curiosity just browsing through from the indexed posts or clicking the ‘French canals and rivers’ category on the right should do)

August 2014 sneak preview

Posted in Cornwall, Photographs, Sailing, Walking on September 10, 2014 by maidofmettle

While I’m getting around to writing the next instalment, here’s a taster ๐Ÿ™‚

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