|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.