Frolics in the Fal
28 September 2010 | River Fal; 1nm travelled
Nichola / Cornish Drizzle
We're waiting in the River Fal until we can head into our winter home at Falmouth Marina at the end of the week. We've been pretty busy since we arrived just over a week ago with a mix of fun and jobs.
I've been wanting a beach fire all summer but it just never happened, until last week when we had a fire and BBQ on the beach with our friends which was great and the almost full moon and clear sky made it almost like daylight as we rowed back to Emerald.
Colin has been busy cleaning and polishing Emerald's hull and deck - she's looking great. Today the rain has arrived so we're trapped inside on indoor jobs. Colin is currently trying to get the screws out of our Lewmar 55 winches which have been making a fingernails down blackboard type noise when being used. Just 1 bolt out of 8 is defying all attempts to get it to move.
On Sunday We had a great sail out on our friends' boat, a Tradewind 35 - a lovely boat so much easier to sail with 2 people than Emerald. Got a few fish and I had a go at filleting - these are the first fish we've had all year so
I haven't had much chance to practise (must point out we didn't actually catch the fish ourselves - thank you Anne and Marc).
I've tried out my crab pot for the first time using mackerel heads as bait and catching a motley collection of small shore crabs and some good sized velvet swimming crabs. Using the long BBQ tongs to keep well away from
the feistly crabs I was able to pick out four good sized velvets for the pot. I went for the technique of putting them in the freezer first to dull their senses before dropping them into a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. I did feel a bit bad when one livened up as I brought it over to the bubbling pot and did its best to resist being dropped in. Just had some for lunch mixed with garlic mayonnaise on toast - yum!
I've also been out making the most of autumn fruits. Blackberries for crumble enjoyed with Cornish clotted cream, a bag full of sloes into the freezer ready to go into some whisky when we get into the marina and apples that are awaiting the great cider experiment. Colin has been busy building a press from a stainless stock pot and various bits and pieces
found on the boat. I've now got to get chopping to turn the apples into a pulp.
I've had my first Cornish pasty of the season on a walk to St Mawes. The combination of pasties and clotted cream will probably mean I have to up my exercise over the winter to combat their calorific down side. But I'm sure it'll be worth it!
The Circle is closed!!
19 September 2010 | Newlyn to Falmouth 39Nm travelled
We had a day off to look around Newlyn, Penzance and St Michael's Mount, even though the weather looked perfect to round the Lizard...oops! Can you tell what happened yet?!
So off we went on Sunday morning, with an appointment that evening in a pub up the Fal river for our friend Rich's birthday.
The weather gods had one last sting in the tail of the Lizard for us.... as we cleared Mounts Bay we had two reefs in the mainand a slither of genny out, as the wind was a solid F6 gusting to F7. However we cleared the Lizard under sail (my how things have changed!) despite the strong winds and BIG seas. Emerald is such a spectacular sea boat thank you Doug Peterson!
However once we rounded the Lizard, we were then on a run and with us wallowing in the swells we ended up having to motor for an hour just to clear the worst of the tide race. (speaking of which Adrian how was the season on Tide Race?)
Then we 'blast reached' across Falmouth Bay to Carrick Roads in a F7! Nichola reveling in it and the skipper worrying about breaking
something! Down with the sails and a motor up the river to the 'party pontoon' that we left last summer, up by Tresilick house to a wonderfully warm welcome, and a bottle of champagne with our friends Ann and Marc, and Rich and Clare.
Journeys end for now, a circumnavigation of the UK via the Baltic completed. What next for Emerald and crew......
PS Can anyone work out what the code flags say in the photo. It isn't rude, at least I hope it isn't! Answers in the comments please! Our first interactive blog!
Rounding the Cape!!!
16 September 2010 | Milford Haven to Newlyn 121Nm travelled
We were wondering if Cape Cornwall can be considered one of the five great Capes?! If so does rounding it East to West mean that the skipper has to have his ear pierced?! We set out from Milford in a marginal forecast, but thought it would probably be our best chance for a bit to get around the bottom of England. At this time in the season there are more and more South Westerlies barrelling in from the atlantic and western approaches especially with hurricane season in full swing we didn't want to bump into the remnents of one of them coming across the pond.
We left Milford Haven marina in the morning but had to wait a little while at Dale at the mouth of the estuary, so that we would meet the tidal gate at Lands End correctly 20 hours later and 100Nm to our south. We had a meal as the wind battered us on the pontoon, not a great start to a 24 hour trip we thought.... but the forecast was for the winds to drop, so we set off
under a partial headsail only, with Emerald barrelling along at 6 knots, we thought, lets hope it eases!
Ease it did, so we got the main up with a reef in and sailed off into the sunset. Then there were clicks and squeaks all around us as we headed into the Bristol Channel as a family of dolphins came to play with us, including one very young baby. They stayed with usfor hours and hours.
As Mars and Mercury came up in the sky, and the moonlight lit the way south, we had a big smile at each other as we plugged on about 5 knots
under sail, beautiful!
Next morning the wind had died on us a bit, so we fired up the engine to ensure we reached the tidal gate off Lands End, and rounded Cape Cornwall, and the Longships Light pretty much on schedule, with the tide in our favour. Off Cape Cornwall were the tides meet is a turbulent stretch of water, rich in food, and there we saw a HUGE basking shark, and a strange pure white porpoise but we weren't sure what it was.
However the wind was already picking up to a F6 again, so we decided to make a run under engine into Newlyn, to be sure that we got in ok. The skipper managed to berth Em, without too much drama and we were tied up and ready for fish and chips and a beer by 5pm.
All in all a great trip round a notorious piece of coastline, so we were glad to get that out of the way. Only one more obstacle to go.
The Lizard peninsula stood between us and our winter quarters..........
PS photo is of us rounding Longships light with Lands End in background.
Would you believe it!! The Weather Forecast wasn't even close!
12 September 2010 | Adberdaron to Milford Haven 95Nm travelled
skip blinkin flip!
Off we went into the night gradually getting ourselves sorted. We put the main up with a reef in just in case and a partially furled genoa as we wouldn't see any squalls coming, though the sky was clear as we beam reached out across Cardigan bay past the Bardsey Shoal, leaving it well to starboard before getting on course about an hour later direct for a waypoint off Bishop Rock lighthouse. I took the first watch of about 3 hours from 9pm to 12am as Emerald cruised comfortably south about 6 knots with the wind on the beam and clear skys showing Mercury and the milky way glimering above. Not bad I thought, not bad at all.
Listened to the shipping forecast at 11pm from the coastguard, Wind F3~4 sea state moderate, becoming slight. Perfect for a fast passage to Milford.
At about 11.30pm the wind started getting rather gusty..F5, then F6 gusting to 7 from the west. This meant we were on a lee shore with the waves building up all the way from Ireland into Cardigan bay oh poop. We had no alternative shelter to run for, however I wasn't overly concerned at this point as the forecast was for everything to decrease in the next few hours.
I wound in some more genoa and slowed Emerald down to make the motion more comfortable and got Nichola up to take her spell on watch but as the seas built with a wind over tide swell, I thought it better to stay up in the cockpit. The weather worsened (of course!) and the seas continued to build so we put the genny away as it was filling at the top of the beam seas and collapsing in the troughs, only to fill again with a rifle craaaack as the next big one rolled under us. Double oh poop I thought.
We then said sod the diesel, and put 3 reefs in the main and no headsails and rolled and corkscrewed our way southwards in the dark. By this point we'd both been awake for about 20 hours and were pretty tired.
We were able to keep Emerald pretty sorted by slowing down or speeding up depending on the wave pattern for the next 4 hours when at last the tide turned in our favour again and the seas went down, however we decided just to motor on to get to Milford as quicky as possible as safely as possible.
Nichola took over the watch at about 4 am and I got about an hour or so of sleep in the cockpit, just before the sun came up. As daylight broke around us we looked at the sea properly for the first time and I said, I think I preferred it in the dark!
Especially as the occassional breaking pyramid wave slapped the side of the boat! At one point I thought of heading further out to sea to take the waves closer on the nose to remove any risk of getting knocked flat, but Emerald seemed to be coping well, so we continued making a beeline for Bishops Rock off St Davids head. The wind was still a solid F6 gusting F7 and the renewedforecast still said F3~4 from the Northwest...... I felt like calling the coastguard to get them to issue a small craft warning to make sure no one else ended up out here.
At about 8am we were off Bishops Rock, however this is a bad stretch of water, with overfalls and breaking seas in wind over tide conditions, which we had, still with a F6 from the west. At this point things got a little too exciting for us as the autopilot couldn't cope with the waves and I then had to hand steer judging the moment to turn into the waves, pop over a breaking crest then corkscrew down the next two before repeating... for the next 3 hours.
So we are both now awake, despite little sleep over the last 30 hours, thanks to adrenalin and an iron resolve to make Milford Haven in one piece.
Around the Bishop then off towards Skomer Island we went with the tide again with us we were able to make about 4 to 5 knots n the conditions. We had a final choice to make. Which side of the island to pass. We went for the shorter route, oops.
We had a huge following sea, which we went hairing down the face of the waves and corkscrewed at the bottom of the trough, before picking ourselves up again and down the next one. On a day sail this would have been exhilarating, but after 36 hours it was just plain tiring, however at last we turning into Milford sound, dropped the main and headed up river.
Our initial plan had been to anchor at Dale Bay in the sound but we were too far gone to think that, so we decide to head further up river into more shelter and try and get alongside one of the Haven's free pontoon berths for a couple of days.
However they were all full as there was bad weather forecast over the next 4 days. Ok we thought lets try the little marina, only to call them
up and find out they were full as well, the final straw for me, after 40 hours straight. They did say we could tie up alongside another boat overnight, but that they weren't sure there was much water there.
Another quick call to Milford Haven Marina back down the river found us a berth (expensive) but we jumped at it as I was wilting under the strain. Nichola took over and guided us back down river for 4 miles, then we got tided up in the huge lock basin to wait for two hours to lock through, but we were safe.
The wonderful Nichola went below, put the kettle on and we had a hot drink and then got the boat packed away and dinner prepared whilst we waited to get to our berth, then tied up once through the lock, canopy on and dinner on, then both hugged and sat down wearily. We'd done it!
Emerald was brilliant, the weather was awful, the seas worse, but we'd taken all the correct decisions at the critical times.
Had we stayed in Aberdaron, we'd have been in serious trouble as the wind picked up in that bay, there would probably have been breaking
seas right across the entrance. Had we not decided to motor we'd have probably broken some gear on the boat, and definitely been in serious trouble off Bishops Rock. So all in all, we did most things correct, although it was uncomfortable, tiring and at times a bit humbling.
So what next?!!!
We had planned to go to Padstow from here at the next weather window, but the aptly named 'Doom bar' at the entrance to the River Camel is treacherous in North to north west winds, so as these are forecast for the next week we've decide instead to go for a longer hop of 120Nm from Milford Haven around Lands End to Newlyn. This passage should take around 24 hrs...and the weather is forecast to be northerly (perfect) F3~4 on Thursday and Friday of this week(oh god does that sound familiar ;-/ ) once this big low pressure system moves north to Scotland. From Newlyn it is a reasonable 40 mile hop into the river Fal, which we would do on Saturday, as the tides and forecast look ok for this also, arriving at around 5pm or 6pm on Saturday evening. That would mean we could be in our winter berthing area this weekend, only ten days before we planned to be there way back in February.
We don't mind that, as there are local authority pontoons high up in the river that are safe, beautiful and reasonably priced, so we can chill out, catch up with friends and then get stuck into winter work list once into Falmouth marina on 1st Oct. It will be good to complete our Circumnavigation of Britain in the Fal as it is a place we loved dearly last year, and was our furthest West in 2009, so we will complete the circle there, I may even have a small G&T to celebrate. However we still have 160Nm to go in some notorious waters, so caution will of course rule the day as always.
Fair winds to all
Rolly~Dodgy time to go!!
11 September 2010 | Dublin to Aberdaron 69Nm travelled
Another window openned up for us, so we've decided to make a run for the coast of Wales, with the plan of anchoring in a little bay to the east of Bardsey Island, on the Lleyn Penninsula, and then heading across Cardigan Bay to Milford Haven the next day,or even the day after that. Ahh the best laid plans!
The forecast was for a Westerly F3~4 just about perfect for our South Easterly course, so once clear of the River it was up with the sails, and engine off sailing at about 5~6knots in the sunshine. Wonderful whilst it lasted. Though we did have a heart stopping moment crossing the Kish bank when the depth dropped to 3 metres, when we were expecting it to be about 8 metres.... eek!
However about two hours later the wind veered to the south east?! and decreased so it was on with Victor again to keep up our average speed to ensure getting to our planned anchorage before dark.
Approaching Bardsey island at about 5pm, a squall barrelled down on top of us, heavy rain, building seas, poor visibility and with us closing on land the stress levels increased dramatically. A quick crew discussion and we turned the boat into the building seas and headed away on a reciprocial bearing back out to sea. About 20 minutes later, drenched and a little sheepish we were able to turn back towards the anchorage.
We could see squalls around us but reckoned we had enough of a window to get in safely and anchored in the bay, so headed in.
On final approach we spotted an inshore fishing boat laying a couple of pots, so thought we'd keep a sharp eye out as there might be a few in the bay, ha little did we know! The bay was litterally full of crab and lobster pots making approach pretty tricky, and also finding a spot to drop the hook without fouling one with the anchor or worse the prop. Arghhhh! not so great after 12 hours at sea!
We managed to get anchored in about 10 metres of water just before the next squall hit us, so it was down below to talk through our options as the squall blew through.... there was still a really heavy south westerly swell rolling into the bay meaning that it would have been almost impossible to sleep at anchor, and to make Milford Haven in daylight the next day we would have to leave at about 3am in the morning.
This was a problem with this number of pots around in the bay, we'd more than likely end up running over one in the dark, with pretty poor results! (there was a clue to this area's wave pattern, with the next bay to where we were known locally as 'Hells Mouth'so perhaps we should have noted that!)
Our choices were narrowing, as there was also bad weather forecast for two days time, so we needed to get to Milford Haven and safely tucked up in shelter. We therefore decided to get out of there and continue on to Milford non stop..
This was a big decision, as it was approx another 100 miles on top of the 70 we had just done, and we were pretty tired and frazzled.
However we knew this was something we just had to do. The forecast was for West to North west winds F3 to 4, just about perfect for the trip, and we fully expected the swell to subside across Cardigan Bay overnight.... so in the failing light we threaded our way out of the maze of pots and off into the night........
PS Russ hope all is well on Elf, would love to see a couple of photos of the hard dodger, though we won't be tackling that this winter!! The forepeak is currently like a builder's merchants with tongue and groove and insulation crammed in!