|06/07/2011||Filled under Cornwall, England|
Day 1 – From the boatyard slip at Millbrook we motor to a safe spot on the river just across from Plymouth, somewhere from where we can watch the city but not get too involved with it, and drop the anchor off the bow into a soft muddy bottom only a few metres below. By morning it is raining (we are in Cornwall after all) and the wind has shifted around to the south-west. This is a good breeze to send us on our way but before we can use it we have some important jobs to take care of on board.
We motor across to Mayflower Marina and berth alongside a pontoon. We have a long list of tasks to be done and another of things to buy, an assortment of bits and pieces we could not carry with us or that now need renewing. One job is to clean out Cirrus’ water tanks. We have one of these fitted low down in each hull and the task involves filling them to the brim then adding some sterilising powder. Hours later they are pumped out, refilled again with fresh water and pumped out again. Each tank holds more than thirty gallons (125 litres) which basically means we pump until our arms fall off then start all over again on the other tank.
While I am away trying to buy an oil filter for the engine Kate washes our decks of most of the detritus a winter ashore has deposited there. The transformation is striking, to us, who knew how bad the mess was and Cirrus looks smart and ready to go. Our boat is now over thirty years old but structurally she is as strong as she ever was. Some of the equipment, however, which is less old, has begun to let us down. One thing that is nice to know when we are out sailing is the depth of the water beneath us but our echo sounder now refuses to divulge this information no matter what I do or how nicely I speak to it.
Day 2 – We check the forecast for the next few days ahead and can see a small depression over Ireland which is going to dump some rain here later today. So it’s off to the shops early to stock up with provisions and invest our pennies in a new echo sounder then back to the boat just in time to hide from the rain, torrential rain, which arrives early afternoon. Crawling through the smaller spaces inside the hull to run a new transponder cable I can hear the rain beating a tattoo above my head but finally, as the rain eases, the echo sounder starts talking to us again.
We have decided now to sail east up the English Channel then turn left (north) for Scotland, not the quickest way home but one that will enable us to meet up with friends and family en route. It is also the coast that is most familiar to us from years ago. All is set now, plans laid for an early departure in the morning, so off we go to the marina restaurant, Jolly Jacks, for a wee celebratory meal.
|05/07/2011||Filled under boatyard, Cornwall, England, family, Scotland|
Visiting a big city like Glasgow is always something of a culture shock for us. Earlier in the day we were staggering along the road to the bus stop in Carradale with our giant suitcases, greeting our neighbours with a friendly word here and there, explaining to those who didn’t already know that we would be away from a while, then before we know it we are stepping down from a bus meeting the noise and the rush of a big city full on. People are strangers here. Nobody stops for a chat and often will not even step aside to let us pass along the pavement, overburdened though we are. We feel like aliens, strangely uncomfortable with our fellow humans.
We spend the night at the Travelodge as we have business to conduct in the city and Glasgow has the nearest branch of our bank. After checking in at the hotel we rush off to arrive just before closing time and, business completed, then relax and celebrate a little, eating out at Dino’s in Sauchiehall Street. This is a little island of Italian-ness and once inside, seated before the red and white chequered plastic table cloth, we can pretend that we have just stepped off an Italian village street. We can even order our meal in Italian, if we dare. The Spaghetti Napoli is a delicious thing to behold and the owner exudes excessive Italian charm right through the meal – what more could you ask for.
Cities are noisy places at night (everywhere is noisy compared to Carradale) but despite this we sleep well and by mid-afternoon the following day we are in Birmingham and setting off on the last leg of our long journey. Puffy white clouds float about aimlessly above us as the day warms up and the fine weather continues; we are travelling south, towards the sun, and at each stop we notice a slight increase in warmth, degree by degree, until finally we arrive at our destination, Millbrook in Cornwall. Here we have barely set off with our luggage to walk the last mile down the lane to the boatyard when the yard owners, Pip and Debbie, pass by and kindly stop their car to take our bags for us. We are expected and they have made us feel less like strangers here in this foreign land.
Millbrook Lake is actually a tidal inlet off of the River Tamar which itself forms the boundary between Devon and Cornwall. The word ‘lake’ does not do this place any justice at all because for most of the day the water is absent and a muddy desert shimmers in the heat, quietly leaking an ever ripening smell which drifts across the boatyard where we are working to bring Cirrus Cat alive again. Fortunately there is plenty to be done so we ignore our senses for the moment; launch day is a weekend away and the anti-fouling paint has to go on, sails bent on spars and the engine run up. Considering that she has been lying here since October last year, the air inside the boat is quite fresh (a tribute to the ventilation) and everything we need to live comfortably aboard is soon unpacked or re-fitted in its place. We begin stocking up with food, connecting the instruments and other electrical equipment and brushing away ten months of dust where this has accumulated, ready for the land to sea transformation that is about to take place.
The heat is now oppressive and by afternoon it is sapping our energy. Activity begins to slow down a little as, with so little breeze, the temperature inside the boat rises to 29 degrees Celsius in the shelter of the boatyard. The moment will soon arrive when there will be cooling water lapping against the hull making things rather more comfortable on board.
Sunday is the day our son Mike arrives for a visit, with Yeovil’s newest inhabitants, Kate’s brother Peter and his wife Liz, who are now living in our renovated house there. We spend a hot but enjoyable day with them trying to deal with Liz’s apparent fears about whales rising up from the depths of the sea and tipping over our catamaran with one toss of the head (surely not!) then finally they return home to leave us alone to spend what will be our last night on land for many months.
Launch day finally arrives and a specially adapted trailer is slid between our hulls which jacks Cirrus clear of the ground. A tractor is hitched up and our home from home slowly trundles across the boatyard towards the slipway which leads… to the muddy expanse of Millbrook Lake.
Here we are deposited, gently, and abandoned for the rest of the day, forgotten by the world until the tide brings Cirrus’ natural element, water, to us. And before we know it we are floating away on a new adventure.
|22/09/2010||Filled under Cornwall, England, family|
Finally we could resist it no more. The strings attaching us to what has been our floating home for so long have eventually and inevitably pulled us back on board Cirrus Cat for a short, late-season break. A quick study of the five-day forecast tells us that there is nothing in the way of equinoctial gales in prospect so we gather the necessities, some food and a few clothes, then charge off west to Plymouth. Our son Mike is with us, which surprisingly is all it takes to tilt the economics of public transport away from trains and buses towards a hired car, still a form of public transport, but one usually thought of as expensive by comparison. Not so, it seems and certainly when you take into account the inconvenience of changing trains, missing buses and walking for more than thirty minutes up hill and down dale with luggage, the decision is an easy one to make. We are not strangers to hiring cars and this time the hire company, almost apologetically and for the same price, gives us one larger than ordered and so brand new it still has that lingering smell of molten wax that is unique to all new vehicles. My only complaint was the colour, black, a rather obviously negative safety feature.
A fast but rough sail on Cirrus has taken us to Devon’s Salcombe Harbour, a place clearly reaching the end of its busy season for this year. We know this because moorings are available for us to pick up and there is space on the visitor pontoon. In the main street the town’s shops are well, to be brutally honest, rather strange in that they are all remarkably similar, being small and selling high fashion leisure clothing of one sort or another. It is the end of season and we find the word ‘Sale’ pasted here and there across the plate glass although obviously there is a ‘Salcombe’ way of doing these things. There is a shoe shop, for example, where a price reduction means that everything is reduced to a mere £100. We consider ourselves fortunate indeed that we have enough shoes between us so we can pass on by without being tempted.
So here we are lounging about at leisure on board as the sun dips behind the surrounding hills, entertaining ourselves as usual by observing the comings and going of others on boats and bemoaning the misbehaviour of our dinghy’s outboard engine which forces us to row ourselves ashore. We try in vain to persuade the thing to run for more than a few seconds without over-heating and leaving us stranded just out of reach of land or boat. I have cleaned it by poking its inner parts with stiff wire, replaced its little rubber impellor which is supposed to pump cooling water up from the sea and generally molly-coddled it by polishing various parts, all to no avail. We watch enviously as everybody else’s outboard engine chugs smoothly past. We end up contemplating ways and means by which we might casually exchange our non-working outboard engine for an identical but fully-functioning one we have just seen going past on the back of a small dinghy. Can we resist the temptation secretly to row over in the dead of the night and swap ours for that hanging off the back of this boat?
Maybe because of the influence upon our consciences of the Papal Visit (Deo Gratias) we are still bereft of motorised dinghy power when we depart Salcombe the next day. The light wind is now from a south-easterly direction so once out past the turbulence of Bolt Head we hoist our secret weapon, the multicoloured spinnaker, which brings out the sun and pulls us along for hours across Bigbury Bay towards Plymouth. Suddenly there are German voices on the radio warning all ships to keep clear of an area just three miles to the west of us. Loud booming comes echoing across the sea as warships start firing out to sea. This is not playing, it is live ammunition and only a few miles away from us! Strange, we think, didn’t the war end over fifty years ago? We hear the radio operator on the German warship Hamburg getting excited when a sailing boat (not us) sails too close beneath the guns and a rather alarmed and embarrassed yacht skipper replying over the airwaves for all to hear. All ends well for them while we escape unnoticed into the River Yealm, a beautifully sheltered, wooded chasm that has no less than three pubs at its head. It is a favourite stopping place for yachtsmen all along this coast. We can cope with a little excitement at sea but being this close to significant naval action is not really our thing and we are glad to be out of it. We leave them to their games.
Tying up to a convenient pontoon we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by large catamarans – Cirrus is amongst her big sisters between whose hulls we could almost slip unnoticed. The south-west just seems to have more multihull yachts per square inch than another other corner of this country and they are here in the Yealm because it is mid-week and end of season; the river is a little too overcrowded with moorings to attract them normally. This is a busy place but the fast-flowing tidal river is rich with life, much of which hangs onto the pontoon itself just below the waterline. Peer over the side and you’ll see a colourful world which is unnoticed by most of those who stop here overnight.
It seems we have had the best of the weather for our few days away. Our final night is quiet but the day dawns misty with rain floating in the air although just enough wind to enable us to sail our way past all those warships into Plymouth Sound. Hamburg is still there making trouble for small vessels but we ignore it and sneak stealthily back to our mooring.
|12/08/2010||Filled under Cornwall, Cycling, England, family, Yeovil|
|04/08/2010||Filled under Cornwall, England|