May 2006 – A stormy start to the cruising season!
Fitting out completed May Day weekend, all ready to go on May 6, 2006, the first day of our new life. Packing up, leaving the house and then unpacking and repacking the boat delayed our sailing date until Monday 8 May. Our initial intentions were for a shakedown cruising from Plymouth to Fowey & Falmouth to check that nothing was amiss and then hopefully onto the Scillies.
We had a brisk beat against the wind to make Fowey for a visit by Mitchell Sails in order to be measured up for a cockpit tent. The tent should give us some added accommodation and a useful drying room. While waiting for Andy Mitchell to make his pattern, we walked out to the day mark on Gribbin Head – a red and white tower built in the 1830's that is clearly visible from the sea and used for daytime navigation into Fowey and nearby Par, both of which are still very active commercially in exporting china clay.
We then moved on to the Helford River for three nights. The Helford is one of the most unspoilt parts of the South Coast if not the UK and is the famous location of Frenchman's Creek, immortalised by Daphne du Maurier. As well as walking much of the nearby South West coastal path, we took our 2 person Sea Eagle inflatable kayak to Gweek some 4 miles up river and, of course, took in Frenchman's Creek too. It is quite a game inflating and launching a 14 foot kayak on a 28 foot yacht!
We had planned to go on to the Isles of Scilly but the long range weather forecast was warning of strong winds to come so we headed up the Fal instead on 14 May to await developments. The Scillies are exposed to the full force of the Atlantic so are no place for a small boat in poor weather. Good job too! After a night at anchor in the entrance to Ruan Creek and a trip to Trelissick House in the (leaking!) dinghy we tied up in Falmouth Yacht Haven, a small visitors marina with easy access to the town. There we stayed for the next 9 nights as a series of gales buffeted the West Country. The forecasts at times included ‘high' seas – the sea state sequence is slight/moderate/rough/very rough then high/very high! High seas are positively dangerous for small yachts and we try to avoid rough seas if at all possible,.
The marina soon filled up with boats bound for Ireland and Spain as well as more local based yachts to await an improvement in the conditions. We pitied the characters on sail training courses (normally 5 days of intensive instruction) – first time sailing can be daunting in good conditions, what it must have felt like in rough seas and high winds…..not a good introduction.
However, our time in Falmouth was well spent. The bus service in Cornwall is comprehensive and there are no end of walks that can be taken with the bus being used to for the return leg back to Falmouth .
We visited most of the other marinas in the lower Fal by foot and had a trip up to Truro to visit the Skinner's Brewery – a local brewery with a cheeky taste in pub clip art! Cornish Knocker is their mainstream brew.
Pendennis Castle was also a good day out, though we had to vacate the keep for a wedding service to take place! In between our excursions, we got on with maintenance jobs (the dinghy does not leak anymore), reading and generally mooching about.
On 22 May, we headed backed to Mayflower Marina in Plymouth. The weather was still forecast to be iffy and half term was approaching - we try to avoid busy situations and rafting up in the Yealm is not our cup of tea. Therefore after a few maintenance jobs and a visit to the cinema to see 'The Da Vinci Code' we popped off home for a few days. Hopefully our house sale will complete in June and we could use the time better to prepare for our forthcoming move into storage.