Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Overnighting at 'The Smugglers Inn'

The Smugglers Inn is a lovely old thatched cottage, ivy clad, overlooking the river. Formerly a ferryman's cottage in the 15th century, it was also pivotal in the D Day landings in 1944! It was one of the main embarkation points for US troops and so a beach, slipway and pontoon were installed at the Inn. It is also part of the famous, historic Tregothnan estate

Now it has new tenants - Colin and Ellie. they oversee managed and serviced moorings and shore side boat access. They also charter a lovely boat 'ZaZu' under the business name 'Kernow Charters'.

The pontoon is wide, with 2m depth at all states of tide and a hammerhead ending - a concrete platform. The area is sheltered and more moorings are being put in.  the views are breath taking and for my first night's anchorage I could not ask for better. The welcome was warm. Here are a young, ambitious, caring and hard working couple who want to make a go of things. It was a pleasure and privilege listening to Colin briefly outlining his plans for the future. I deeply admire those with entrepreneurial spirit and a determination to make a go of a business.

Arwen and I arrived late afternoon after a steady row back down river from Malpas. Storm clouds were gathering and Clive had wisely advised me to moor on the western side of the pontoon. It would afford me more overnight stability and protection from what would be strong easterly winds. After setting up the boom tent tarpaulin, sorting out and re-stowing equipment for the night, it was time for a stroll. The beach either side of the pontoon was fine stone and a graded profile.

Covered in seaweed, dead jellyfish littered the shores. South Western shores have seen an invasion of the very large barrel jelly fish - some are the size of dustbin lids, their sting, tiny and harmless, but their appearance - fairly large and fearsome to those not in the know. Unusual in our waters, they have arrived in their hundreds of thousands, partly due to the warmer waters and partly due to last years severe winter storms. The severe storms washed nitrates off our farmland, which have subsequently led to huge growths in plankton and algae - a veritable feast for jelly fish!

The peace, quiet and solitude were lovely. Enough river traffic to keep one's interest; enough wonderful natural history and views to admire and enjoy. A privilege.
Half way up the wooded slopes opposite, a clearing. Large folded, bright green parasols, just visible - the elusive tearoom! kayakers paddle by, voices laughing, enjoyment evident. One kayaker paddled his home built Aleutian style canvas on frame kayak, its razor sharp bow slicing through the water, his Aleutian style wooden paddles, lightweight and of little wind resistant. Here was a man who could paddle far without tiring; his paddle style effortless, strong rhythmic strokes with turns of the torso to supply the power.

Mullet swirled in the shallows and jumped out of the water to catch flies. Yes, you read correctly, mullet were jumping. Their splashes, loud and prone to make me periodically jump with surprise. They took to congregating below Arwen's hull, playing games with each other - tag and chase! Flashes of silver from the depths of dark green water signalling their speed and manoeuvrability. twenty minutes past watching their games. Fish can be quite fascinating.

A lovely old 25' boat past by, a gaff rigged vessel of some sort. Called 'Puffin Bach' I think she was a tamarisk 24 cutter but I could be wrong.  Her hull looked like it was GRP but her topsides were definitely wood. A bottle green hull and deep creamy coloured topsides - elegant. A large cockpit and huge ash tiller. Wonderful and a joy to see.

As dusk drew in, other boats came to anchor in the channel to be protected by the hills. The rumble of anchor chain over bow rollers drifted across the waters to the accompaniment of the shrill cries of oystercatchers. Arwen's Welsh flag and Red Ensign fluttered in the building breeze; the water surface rippled as little wind zephyrs shot across still waters. egrets stalk the shallows; herons lurk under the low trees at the waters edge. Another small flounder meets its maker, this time in the beak of a cormorant.

The trangia is fired up onshore. A comfortable seat is found on a boat cushion leant against an old winch post. Veg soup, Spag Bol, Jelly and fruit; Hovis biscuits and cheese, some nice cuppa's of Typhoo. the hiss of the meths; the rattle of the kettle lid as water reaches boiling point. The world floats by.

As darkness descends, two fishermen arrive on the far bank and set up tripods and beach buddy tent. Here for the long haul, their voices periodically carry across the channel. I remember those days well, for once I was a keen, in fact very keen fisherman. But now I am content to watch them in the shallows. I think my daughter may have influenced me!  The generator on the moored 'Dona Amelia' upstream starts in melodic thud thudding. Total darkness descends but stars? There are none to be seen!

And then it rained............and rained.......and rained........and rained. It became the 'night of ten thousand leaks'. At one point I am pretty sure, around 3am, there was more water in Arwen than actually underneath her supporting her hull! And the damned mullet kept bumping her hull all night too.......!

Hey ho - its all good fun really, seriously!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Carrick Roads and the channel up to Malpas: Falmouth Adventures Day One - part 2

We had Carrick Roads virtually to ourselves. A huge open expanse of water, the third largest natural harbour in the world.

looking south towards the English Channel

We sailed south, mainly to trim sails, sort out and reposition stores and because I was curious to get close to the very large oil tanker moored just outside the Penryn River entrance. I was to later learn that it had bunker fuel on board for all the large boats, tugs and tourist trip boats in Falmouth. Another one was anchored out in the bay off the Helford river and on Saturday, we witnessed the 'river based'  one being tugged out to sea and the other one bought in to replace her.

Carrick Roads is narrower than Plymouth Sound and to be frankly truthful, we prefer the latter. However, with winds from the south west, we were able to zip around achieving a maximum speed of around 6 kts at one point. But as early afternoon drew on, the call of the upper river was too strong. The flood tide bore us northwards. Maplas was calling!

And so we sailed upriver, hugging the western shores, past Restronguet Creek, past Loe Beach and several other small inlets. We nosed into Pill creek, a lovely sheltered anchorage, past the boats and then out again into the main river. A cream hulled Drascombe coaster past us to starboard, its tan sails full. Um, a cabin on board.......looking up at the grey dark swirling clouds, that did seem to be a sensible addition to any small boat!!  A lovely gaff rigged traditional 30' boat passed us, its cream sails full; its bottle green hull glinting in the sun shafts that broke through the ominous nimbus clouds.

looking upriver from Turnaware Point

one of the river tour boats heading upriver

Rounding Turnaware point and passing Tolcarne Creek, the wind died away and so I resorted to a very gentle pace of 2 kts. Past the oyster beds, past what looked like some fish farm, up past the deep blue King Harry ferry. The river narrowed, the water remained a deep green. Tying up at a mid channel pontoon for a quick bite to eat and ignoring the signs which said 'Dangerous pontoon do not moor here', we admired the large wooden trawler moored at its southern end and then, fully replenished, we once more headed north, further upstream.

What looked suspiciously like a curlew flew overhead and landed in the shallows on the port side. A great backed seagull swooped and caught a baby flounder; carrying it off to near by rocks to be shredded and devoured mercilessly. White egrets roosted in the green tree tops, their white plumage stark against the dark green oak leaf foliage.

At the junction of Cowlands and Larmouth Creeks we came across the first of what would prove to be many, an old 18th century stone quayside. Built of local dark grey, slate type stone, all set vertically, each quay was broken up by a narrow slipway which ended half way up the quayside. A cart width wide, the slips led onto a huge flat quayside area. In olden days this was where agricultural produce was stored; maybe local stones too. Now the quay walls were covered in bright yellow lichens above the high water mark; and tangled masses of bladderwrack seaweed below it. The quays spoke of a more prosperous time.

The further north we went, the narrower the channel became. Oak woods fringed the adjacent valley sides, their deep green summer time foliage hiding the local fauna. I am always mildly surprised at how the base of the trees immediately found at the water's edge are all horizontal and in line with each other, as if some giant hand has been along with a knife and cut them purposefully straight. Another pattern in nature!

Below the trees, rocks and below them glimpses of mudflats and stony beaches. At random points withy poles mark where oyster beds lie. The sounds of the woods drift across the waters. Jackdaws squawk; jays 'chatter'; house martins swoop low over the water to catch flies.  Swans glide in the little creeks. We pass an old wooden landing jetty to port. It is silvery grey and has seen better days. Two large yellow wooden silhouettes of teapots adorn its end. Clearly, somewhere on the hillside above is a tea room. Tempting, really tempting to stop but how far up the hill is the tearoom; how safe will Arwen be, left alone, moored at this landing jetty; all that equipment on board! The little 'cautionary' voice in my head urges me to move on....and I do........maybe I shouldn't have. An opportunity missed?

And then hoving into view two surprises. The first, our first glimpse of our night time destination....The Smugglers Inn. And just above it the rather large gentleman's motorboat yacht, the 'Dona Amelia'

The 'Dona Amelia'

She is a superyacht - 233 long, 13' draft and 30' beam. She can hold twelve guests in 7 state room cabinsand 16 crew and her top speed is 14 knots. She was built in 1929 and has a cottage like theme throughout her rooms. She underwent a refit at the famous Pendennis yard down at Falmouth. Further details on that can be found here

And she is apparently for sale. Um, I am tempted! Rather classy and elegant. I could see Arwen on the stern deck, ready to be winched down into the turquoise Mediterranean waters off Greece!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Mylor Creek and its boat yard: Falmouth Adventures Day One

The boat yard was down a narrow lane and I missed it! No signs to show where it was. As I reversed the boat in a narrow lane at five ways junction, I wondered how many other boat towers had had to make the same manoeuvre. Must provide locals with hours of amusement!

Reception was in a converted green shipping crate with a wooden bridge off some old boat on top of it. Rather quirky - I liked it! The welcome was warm, friendly but business like and good humoured. A great start to our adventures.

A traditional boatyard with lots going on. Different smells carried on the air; freshly planed wood; sawdust, paraffin; tung oil and fresh paint. several sheds, some old shipping containers and one or two large white tarpaulin type sheds. Lots of young people in their early twenties and thirties busying around with various tools. In one tarpaulin shed, a young gent was re-planking a long boat - traditional carvel - it's bare ribs poking skywards.

moored at a vacant buoy whilst final shifting of on-board camping gear
takes place to get better trim and balance

The slipway was about two car widths wide and ran between what looked like a very old and very large old rusting landing craft of some form (or perhaps a barge) and then a quayside on the other. two floating pontoons at the high water mark; and another through a narrow inlet on the outside in the creek. A gentle gradient - it was protected from winds and you launch 2 hrs either side of high water on neaps. There was space for parking car and trailer although on this occasion I had to park tight against one of the tarpaulin sheds as a Drascombe rally had taken up other spaces.

I always pack too much.....never did as a mountaineer....but as a sailor....the same minimalism just doesn't seem to apply itself!  On the port side, sleeping, cooking gear, food and spare clothes. Under the deck, tarp tent, clips for tent, spare fenders. On starboard side, spare boat cushions, boom crutch, mooring warps, main anchor and ditty bag with all sorts of bits and pieces and food for the day sail.
way too much.......way, way too much......only going for four days!

A hidden gem of  yard; open at weekends and I must say I rather liked it. £50 for self launch and retrieval and leaving car and trailer for four days. Given it costs me £18 each time I launch and retrieval at QAB for the day - it seemed a reasonable rate.

Mylor Creek meandered eastwards. Lined either side with stunning waterfront properties, small boat moorings filled it's lower half. the water was a deep green and so clean; as Arwen motored gently east, a stunning 16' gaff rigged day boat followed her out, light blue hull and tan sails. Waves exchanged, Arwen and I headed around the bend and into the Mylor Yacht Haven moorings. Past the fishing quay and public slip, we searched out the fairway between the large number of linear moorings. The breezes began to pick up and Arwen surged forward, the sounds of the open seas beckoning her forward.

Its a good start to our annual 'micro adventure'.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Are cheesy chips the greatest food ever?

In all honesty, probably not but after a Torrential night, delayed start waiting for 25 kt winds to drop slightly and non stop raining since 10pm last night..... Well right now they are!!!!!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Reaching Truro

Well didn't quite make it to Truro as tide was ebbing fast and mudflats appearing even faster either side of channel but did stop at Malpas.
Under sail, top speed 5.8 kts. Average speed 4.2 knots. Distance covered 8.4 nautical miles.
And now time to do some rowing......heaven forbid