A blog about sailing a John Welsford
'Navigator' yawl around Plymouth Sound
in South-west England
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.
Are coming together. My original plan was to explore Falmouth and sail back to Plymouth and possibly around to Torquay but I am having problems working out how to get a trailer and car back from Falmouth and around to Torquay as 'her indoors', rightly, doesn't feel confident enough to drive a trailer those distances.
Thus I will sail firstly to Fowey where I will probably stay at Penmarlem. A day exploring the Fowey and then it is on to Mevagissy, possibly via Charlestown. From Mevagissy, it is a long sail of around 20nm to Falmouth. Here I would like to try and find an anchorage somewhere up the river alongside St Mawes, so if anyone has any suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated.
A day sailing around the Fal. Perhaps a trip up to the smugglers inn?
Then after another night somewhere, again if anyone has nice overnight anchorages in the Fal area, please let me know, a crossing to the Helford river. A day spent sailing around the Helford and then the following day, a long sail back to Mevagissy. Overnight there and then the last day back to Plymouth.
It will be a round trip of some 150nm
I hope Arwen is up to it.....of course she is.
I have come to a momentous realisation; one that I think I really am ashamed of. As I have grown older, I think I have become a snob!
The hiss of hydraulics announced the arrival of the ramp. Down the GRP weathered grey ramp came, sandy from the thousands of feet that day that had walked up its slight incline; to land on the golden, clean yellow sands. Deep cobalt blue-green sea gently frothed and surged around its sides as a hundred feet stepped off and onto the sand. Moshulus, Birkenstocks, Mustos and Hunter wellies of all colours, Merrells, Berghaus and more. There was a distinctive uniformity to be seen in that assorted footwear, one of money, of urban chic meets Cornish beach. Trainers were noticeably absent! This was tribal. The Home Counties set were returning from their annual foray into the cosmopolitan melting pot across the estuary and without looking up I knew what to expect. BoHo'd, Jack Wills'ified, Mistral, Whitestuff, Joules, SeaSalt'ed, Wierdfish'ed, a smattering of grey and red Gill jackets, maybe the odd Quba sail coat, enclosing healthy outdoor types in shorts and deckies.............I wasn't wrong! The Camel Estuary Ferry disgorged its occupants onto the pristine sands of Rock beach. Educated, monied, the southern counties were returning back to their holiday homes, cottages and lodges.
I was expecting it. For the first time ever, our car actually fitted into the public car park at the end of Rock. There it resided amongst the Audis, BMW's, Volvos, Land Rovers, new and shiny, it's '15' number plate shouting out its 'recently off the garage forecourt' newness.
And this realisation delivered quite a shock for me. For in the past, the Welsh rebel has won through. My old battered Zafira amongst the shiny, buffed, artificially designer mud splattered SUV's has been a source of pride, a testimony to my non-conformity to the masses. Not for me, the 'keeping up with the Nickelson-Smythes'. I plough my own furrows, thank you very much! And yet, there we were. Offering up a small silent prayer, " thank you Lord".........for the first time ever, our car actually looked as if it belonged in that car park. We had, unintentionally conformed......ouch!
I duly paid our £24 return for six people, a five minute crossing and six long, thin yellow tickets emblazoned with Padstow Harbour Authority And Ferry logos along their length; and I carefully folded them and tucked them away in my ageing beloved canvas wallet. Money duly collected by one stereotypical wizened Cornishman with a nut brown, weather beaten face and piratical gleam in his eye, the landing craft ferry, turned and pointed its blunt bow across the waters. Ah, no more waiting on windswept beaches in howling gales to watch huge wooden ships smash themselves to smithereens on offshore rocks; no more dashing into freezing seas to lift out heavy barrels of salvaged plunder to manhandle it up steep cliff side paths to be hidden away from the prying eyes of the hated custom and excise. Clever Cornish; now they just wait for wealthy Britain to come to them, and then they rob them blind, up front , in full view. It's an admirable tactic, one we Welsh have been employing for a long time.......only we use toll bridges across large estuaries to extract our plunder.......and we make them pay on the way in, not the way out!
Boats bobbed and tugged at moorings. A small dinghy gallantly headed into the winds, it's mainsail reefed and crew hiked well out on the starboard side. The drizzle was closing in, the skies deeply overcast and ominous. The notorious Doom Bar was obscured in grey. It was raining in Cornwall........and that could only mean one thing. Beaches would be empty and Padstow's streets would be heaving with the masses.
Worst fears were confirmed when the lowering ramp was greeted with 'Come on, get off, we've taken yur money so clear off'. Said in jest by the waiting speedboat trip guy, I couldn't help but feel we were being exploited.......but then they have to make their money somehow and actually there isn't much else in Cornwall that earns so much income. Perhaps he is warming up for the summer months. The national daily papers predict a huge 'staycation' summer when most of the country will descend on Cornwall, thanks to the amazingly successful recent Poldark series on the BBC. Tourist bosses must be rubbing their hands.
Padstow is changing. Lots has changed since our annual pilgrimage to see the 'oldies' (the grandparents as they are affectionally known by all sons and daughters!) last year. Old cafes have closed to be replaced by ...art galleries.......lots of them; Rick Stein continues to take over everything, shops, cafes, holiday homes........locals must resent him so much - who can afford to buy in Padstow if local? Designer shops are taking over...its becoming a Salcombe; only with a rather more varied clientele. Here the southern counties and London set mix with the masses from Birmingham. It is rather amusing!
I was, to be truthful glad to step back onto the ferry. As we crossed the waters back towards Rock, Cornish shrimpers raced each other in the upper estuary. The wind caused some to lean heavily, their lower hulls exposed. And as I watched, I realised that I too was leaning towards a direction; towards Rock. With its pristine beaches, calm cafes, and a clientele I knew and understood. Perhaps I'm more of a snob that I'd like to admit. What an awful realisation! My farming and waterboatmen ancestors will be turning in their graves!
Of course, maybe some of this is just tongue in cheek too!
So I turn into my normal little canal bit between moored boats - and as I get closer, to my dismay, I notice a large 30' + aluminium hulled yacht dried out on the ramp. AArgh!
There is room behind her at the pontoon but how do I actually get Arwen around this monster and onto her trailer as there is barely any slip left and low water on a spring tide is fast approaching?
One of the yard team dashes down and shouts for me to turn Arwen around and head back around to the north slip instead. Easier said than done. The turning pool is small and the water is receding fast but with some fast outboard on and turning both outboard and rudder sharply, I manage to turn Arwen in the small pool and head back up the 'canal'. Another embarrassing disaster averted. Whew!
As I come alongside the pontoon on the north slip, I hang back and moor Arwen up some 8 boat lengths back from the ramp. In behind me comes two small trailer fishing boats who moor up behind. We all understand the rules........I walk up to find the yard team to check that it is still ok to run my car and trailer down their working slipway.
Imagine my surprise when I find a large 6m dive rib - a bright yellow banana - has pushed in front of us all. Imagine even more surprise when a guy in a white van then reverses his monstrous speedboat straight down the ramp and launches it in front of us all and then demands we all move so he can tie it up alongside the pontoon. He then drives off to park the car and trailer, leaving his poor girlfriend to hold a 17' long speedboat on a piece of string measuring 6'! 6' and cleated to the far bow , I lie not! It barely reached across the bow deck! The poor lady was sat on the pontoon with arms outstretched desperately trying to hold the boat on a tiny piece of 5mm string. We all of course gallantly rescued her and it was nice to see her 'let vent' when her boyfriend returned.....not that he showed any repentance whatsoever!
Chaos reigns until the yard team take control and bring order to the scene. I patiently wait with my car on the other ramp, ready to go when invited to. I also made sure that I parked well over the ramp allowing the yard crew to get their trailer down between me and the pontoon to tow out the rest waiting behind me.
It is about patience, etiquette and basic good manners really - isn't it? QAB yard team are awesome and work really hard. Always cheerful and accommodating, the least we can all do is make their job a little easier.
Suffice to say, van man then drove off leaving all the security gates open....so that other lesser minions could shut them behind him!
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. My learning curve is vertical....but hey that's what makes life interesting isn't it! So follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen,grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about 'Stacey' our beloved 1968 motovespa super 125 scooter may feature along with odd insights into our family travels< but these will be kept to a minimum, I promise!
The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". she weighs in at 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sqft. She has a standing lug sail. She has side, centre and front thwarts and space for six although she is an ideal single hander. there are a huge number of potential locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm