Jonty Peace points his bow towards the Isles of Scilly and rediscovers the joys of cruising the south west coast
I don’t know about you, but I find that the preparation, planning, and boat tinkering before a cruise seems interminable.
We had planned to sail to the Isles of Scilly on the 1st of August; it was the 6th before we reached the boat and dragged into the evening of the 7th before we actually set off. Even then, the planned boat clean and cat retention netting had been postponed. But at least we had started, and we moored up to the floating pontoon at Dale in the dusk in a holiday mood, ready for an early start in the morning.
Tuesday dawned pleasant; a following north-westerly wind to waft us from Milford Haven out to towards Lundy. Note I say towards Lundy and not to; the only real anchorage on the island becomes untenably rolly in any wind more with more northing than north-west, and the wind was forecast to veer overnight.
So we sailed on, but to where? Our default port of refuge was Ilfracombe, but, with the extra push from my new mizzen staysail, the timing worked perfectly (as planned!) to cross Bideford Bar at exactly high water for our first visit to the Taw and Torridge estuaries.
We dropped the hook in the channel at the southern end of the Instow moorings, and raised the keel. Or rather tried to – I had neglected to lubricate the alloy keel pennant pulleys that run in the stainless steel keel head unit and electrolytic corrosion had locked them solid. I was quite happy dismantling and freeing them up whilst warm and dry in the cabin – shortly after we had anchored a vicious electric storm broke overhead and soaked the environs.
The next day was, as forecast, too windy for us – and also too windy for a Parker 265 moored just above us which caught its mooring chain on its wing keel.
When Jonty Pearce practiced going overboard from his yacht, he and his wife realised how hard it is to get…
Jonty Pearce burrows into the depths of his boat to wire up some new instruments
After an hour doing pirouettes broadside to the wind and current the mooring gave up the unequal struggle and dragged; fortunately missing Aurial, her anchor, and the neighbouring yachts. We had already alerted the harbourmaster, and Instow Marine came to push the nose round so she lay contentedly before trying to tow the mooring back. The mooring snagged before her proper place was reached but she was safe, so all was well.
Aurial’s engine had struggled on the way over, and her close quarters handling had proven even worse than usual. When I took a look at the propellor when we had dried out it was no surprise to find it a mass of barnacles. A cold dip in the knee high water with a scraper soon sorted the problem, and Aurial’s handling and speed were restored when we left for Padstow the next morning.
After crossing Bideford Bar at high water we had an idyllic sail down past Hartland Point towards Trevose Head. The sun shone, the wind was gentle and Carol did what she does best and fell asleep on the bunk. We actually arrived a little early for the Doom Bar and considered anchoring off Polzeath, but the swell from the northwest curled round and made it unpleasant. We decided just to hang about before motoring gently down the approach to Padstow to stem the tide off the harbour channel before the harbour gate lowered.
Once in the Inner Harbour, especially during the heat of the day, it is impossible not to feel like goldfish in a bowl. The harbour is the main attraction, and while the children amuse the professional crabs from the quayside the parents lick their ice creams and look on at the moored boats. Their wise comments can be entertaining, especially whilst you are fitting cat retention netting!
It seemed impolite not to spend an extra day in beautiful Padstow, so it was Saturday morning before we departed via the fuel berth. The wind was still westerly, and we motored into a chop over the Doom Bar before getting entangled in the overfalls off Trevose Head. We motorsailed our way through, but when I finally turned the engine off I noticed that our fuel polisher alarm had highlighted the fact that the confused seas had stirred up a hitherto unknown layer of diesel bug in the bottom of the fuel tank.As we gently sailed on I dismantled and cleaned the filter; all was well for now, but the tank would need attention.
We were too early to enter St Ives, and anchored off until the evening. Health issues had rendered the harbourmasters unavailable, but friendly locals directed us to the visitors moorings inside the harbour where we dried out while watching the busy weekend nightlife.
St Ives is another beautiful Cornish resort – we were sad not to have the time to land and explore, but the draw of the Isles of Scilly was high. The wind was just cooperative enough to be able to sail nearly all the way there; I was glad that when I did turn the engine on the moderate seas did not upset the fuel, and the filter remained clear.
Last time we came to the Scillies in 2014 my poor passage planning and a head wind had led us to enter New Grimsby Sound in the dark with a rising NW Force 7; a torch, a chartplotter, and the sound of breakers on the rocks either side of the entrance had not been a seamanlike way to reach our destination.
This time it was a pleasure, and there was even a spare mooring for us. After paying our dues in the morning we slipped our lines and motored across to our beloved Green Bay to anchor and dry out; I have to admit that we did not move for ten days, but the list of boat maintenance jobs that we ticked off was impressive!
Mind you, the sheer relaxation of sitting in one of our favourite places watching the world go by was truly enjoyable too….