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Cornwall to Scotland days 3 to 5

Day 3 – The rain from yesterday finally moved away from Plymouth leaving us with only the wind to cope with. Trying to sleep on board Cirrus this meant listening to the bump and grind of fenders against the hull all night long, this not being the most sheltered of marinas. Somehow, eventually, the mind shuts it out and a broken sleep does come along.

Slightly less wind greeted us by morning but we knew that outside port we would find a rough sea waiting for us. An Irish depression (meteorologically speaking) is still swirling around and pushing Atlantic swells right up the English Channel so we had a fair idea what to expect once we were out of the shelter of land. Great lumps of water were jumping about wildly in all directions making life as unpleasant as possible for yachtsmen and tossing our little boat around every way it could. In short, it was a horrible piece of sea but even so we set off into it, turned left outside Plymouth and after an hour the sun brightened the day, warming us up and even bringing out our first dolphin, a small beast which popped up for a glimpse at us before swimming away.Kate with new echo sounder

At 1530 we sail into Dartmouth. There is little more to be said of the passage apart from noting our discomfort at the condition of the sea. The new echo sounder had a lot to say, however, and very loudly too (at least this is how it seems with its large numbers, like visual shouting). Was the gadget, being shown here by Kate, designed for the visually impaired, I wonder? Also please note that she is fully protected against the sun, dolphins and rough seas.

Once anchored in the ‘sheltered’ middle of the River Dart, gusts of wind immediately start blasting in from the sea and we realise we have been fortunate to avoid this whilst at sea. Much more of this with rain too is forecast for later.

Day 4 – The rain arrives at around two in the morning, wind too. To get the full picture of life aboard a boat at anchor here one has to realise that we are attached to the mud at the bottom of a fast flowing river by a length of heavy chain. The tide in the river flows one way then the other and the wind, in the narrow valley that is Dartmouth Harbour, comes in fierce gusts, generally following the line of the valley. The anchor chain is therefore being pulled one way or another depending on which is stronger, tide or wind and as it scrapes across the bottom of the river the rumbling sound this makes is transmitted upwards into the hull, adding to all the other noises of the night – the howling of the wind, the splashing of water against the hull, etc. The phrase “Quiet night at anchor” does not apply well to these circumstances.

At a more reasonable time of day we emerge into the grey daylight. KingswearHeavy black clouds hover over Dartmouth so we sit around and watch all the activity on the river, feeling smug about being safely tucked in here. The harbourmaster comes by for his dues and he gives us a neatly printed weather forecast for the days ahead which tells us we have fair winds and weather to come. We designate today as a lazy one, and I make the porridge for breakfast.

Our position in the centre of the river between the shores of Dartmouth and Kingswear gives us a panoramic view few experience. French yacht in DartmouthWe notice, for example, that the residents of Kingswear are trying to replicate the colours of Tobermory on their houses. Boats small and large continually move about us, ferries, water taxis, dinghies, and then towards the end of the day a pair of ancient French working boats crewed by exuberant youngsters hoist sail for departure.

Day 5 – Creeping out of Dartmouth at 0620 we met the first wave of the day just outside the rocky entrance. The last one met us over twelve hours later just outside Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. It was a fair wind all the way, somewhat stronger than the forecasters promised us but this just meant we sailed faster than expected, especially when the spinnaker went up the mast and Cirrus took off like a scalded rabbit.Mal steering at speed Here is me steering at speed. The white stuff behind me is, well, white water.

So what do we feel like after twelve hours on a lively sea in a speeding cat? Pretty tired. But we are also quite proud of ourselves, pleased to have got so far in one day and that we coped OK with the roughest day at sea for many a month. Also delighted to have passed our nemesis, Portland Bill, without encountering the dreaded race. Yarmouth will deliver us a little peace and quiet tonight (once the over-excited oldsters on the yacht beside us are put to bed). Tomorrow, our plan is to meander along the Solent as far as Portsmouth where we can stock up with one or two necessities. Somewhere along the way today our anchor light flipped overboard and was lost. It is, in fact, nothing more than a garden light which sits in a bracket on the stern rail charging up its batteries from a little solar cell on top. A small adaptation enables us to hang it in the rigging at night. These lights are easy to replace – less than a fiver at any good garden store.

Isle of Wight cliffs

This is the first view of the Isle of Wight on a windy day.

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