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English Cornwall
-- 2 to 16 August 2014  --
Just a short English break in our nordic adventure, because it's actually a very nice area ! Well, at least west of Dartmouth...

More pictures "so British" can be found in our page "Pictures".

526 milles sailed

Our stops, click on the names for more details :
Boulogne (marina) - Weymouth (marina) - Dartmouth (marina) - River Yealm (mooring buoy) - Polperro (mooring buoy) - Fowey (mooring buoy) - Mevagissey (mooring buoy) - Plymouth (marina) -Brixham (marina) - Swanage (mooring buoy) - Cowes (marina) - Chichester (anchorage) 
The pre-season
Winter has been cold and humid, and we can't wait for good enough weather to sail away with Saltimbanque ! The navigation area around Newhaven is a bit poor in exotic destinations, and in general we prefer sailing with a objective to reach.

The Norwegian gastronomy being what it is - a bit repetitive - we have found the perfect goal: let's go to Boulogne-sur-Mer to eat their famous mussels & fries, and we sail back ! This sounds like a reasonable plan for a 3-day week-end like Easter :o)

Great navigation not too close-hauled in 20-25 knots of wind, we swallow the 65 MN in less than 11 hours of sailing ! Ready to run into the first "brasserie" we will find. It was without a small engine problem at the arrival and the local custom officers who decided to spend their evening on Saltimbanque. As we follow the rules properly everything goes well, the officers give us a hand with the engine while we discuss about liferaft certificate and regulation in the overseas territories.

It's late when we push the door of the restaurant, but eventually we have our mussels & fries !

Going back to the UK will be a bit simpler, running with the wind. A short pit-stop at Estbourne which is no more interesting than anticipated, and we are back home in Newhaven !

Ok this is done ! When are the holidays again so we can sail a bit further ?

Well deserved mussels & fries !

Newhaven - Weymouth
Friday August 1st finds us on the platform of the train station at Gatwick Airport, backpack on , on our way to Newhaven... At last holidays ! At last going back to our beloved little Saltimbanque ! We are dreaming of long distance sailing after a year of maximum 3-day trips.

Saturday, we buy a lot of food, prepare the boat, install the new weather vane at the top of the mast (the old one broke, certainly because of an overweighted gull), and we leave with a big appetite for miles and miles !
The weather is inline with our realistic expectations: westerly wind moderate to fresh breeze, bumpy seas, and off we go very close to the wind. We quickly remember how coastal sailing is much more tiring than blue water sailing: we have to tack often, which prevents the one off-shift to sleep properly, the wind changes all the time, we need to watch out for the fishermen, and the tide stream prevents us from sailing at decent speed during 6 hours. After a pretty rough beginning of the night - which will finish to mash-up Laure's stomach- the wind brutally drops which will forces us to manoeuver a lot, for finally getting frustratingly stuck for a while.  Fortunately the stars are always beautiful, our companions of so many nights at sea...

As a new day arrives the thermal breeze from the night dies away, the westerly wind slowly picks up again and the tide stream turns, we get closer to the Isle of Wight. The weather is nice but the first night has left its marks and we still need to recover. But the wind picks up again in the afternoon requiring more manoeuvering. We quickly become again quite good at reefing the main sail and changing the front sail. With the thermal breeze the wind now reaches a good 5b, the tidal stream becomes stronger offshore the Isle of Wight, in bumpy seas and bubbling whirlpools of current: we rush at 8 knots speed over ground.

Sunrise at sea

Weymouth, here we come !
Second night at sea, same scenario of dropping wind. But we now feel better at sea and we enjoy these slow  moments under the stars. Nestor - our engine - helps us a bit to finish the night... he is perfectly well thank you ! As the sun rises, we are in the large bay of Weymouth, sheltered from the strong tide streams, sailing slowly but surely towards this harbour. The sun is shining, the sea is flat, what a peaceful morning...
Weymouth, that we reach on Monday 4th at noon after a 40h sailing against the wind, is a nice small seaside English town. We discover its colourfull houses, its crowded beach with particularly fine sand, and its quays packed with people enjoying the local sport: crab fishing ! Just drop a small net full of fish bait in the water, and the crabs pinch to the line. It's extremely popular...

The charming port of  Weymouth


Weymouth - Dartmouth

Lighthouse of Portland Bill and its strong currents
But we quickly go to bed as, in spite of our 2 nights sailing in a row, we need to wake up at 3am tomorrow to pass the next obstacle: the Portland Bill, a land head where the tide stream is very strong and creates a dangerous sea if we are not right at the right place right at the right time.

And that's the things done right: we sail just under the lighthouse at 6am on Tuesday morning. The wind has turned slightly to the South and we can sail (almost) directly to Dartmouth. That's good news as the Lyme bay, 40 NM long, is of little interest. It's nice weather in between the squals, we sail fast, perfect !
We arrive in Dartmouth in the afternoon. And suddenly something strikes us: it's gorgious here ! Long gone the white cliffs and urban shores from Eastern England ! The river of Dartmouth winds in between the green hills, we enter the channel in between 2 middle-age towers and arrive in a very cute town with multicoloured houses. Welcome to Cornwalls ! Plus the dolphins play a festival for us at arrival...
Dartmouth, where Cornwall begins....

Nice houses in Dartmouth
To go ashore, we have to dig out the tender from the locker where it had been sleeping since we came back from the Atlantic trip. We start feeling really well onboard... The walk onshore is nice in spite of a quite insisting rain. After a few medieval houses we get shelter in the first pub to come: very good choice as the fish meals are delicious !!! And finally we are back onboard right before it starts raining seriously, what else could we ask for :o)

Dartmouth - River Yealm
We leave at dawn as we always have the tide stream with us in the morning. It's just the perfect weather, 3-4b, brigth sun, like we don't even dare dreaming of... We pass Start Point, then a long run brings us to the River Yealm. This is the great inspiration from Laure last night who has found this destination in a nautical guide. The entrance is a bit sinuous and requires to follow two alignments of beacons to avoid the bar of sand which closes the river. Then behind the head, the area gets wider and many boats find shelter in there. It's magnificent and we take a mooring buoy under the trees.

Evening light in the end of the river Yealm

Sunset on the River Yealm
It's nice weather, almost warm, what if we swam from the boat ? The current is strong so we let a rope with a fender floating behind the boat so we have something to grab if the current washes us away. Actually the water is warm as well !! We can then check the hull, play in the current, Laure jumps from the boat like in the good old time, then we can take a seawater shower and use the spray to get a fresh water rinse... We feel so good here... In the evening we visit the shallow part of the river with the tender, it's absolutely superb. The perfect stop really....

River Yealm - Fowey
Thirsday, the wind is still calm, forecasted from the North. So we have to tell you that a few years back (well something like 8...) during a holiday in England, we visited a very cute village stuck in the rock - Polperro - that we really loved but which already back then seemed very difficult to access by boat. Today the conditions (weak wind blowing from the shore) seem to be favourable, so we give it a try.
The entrance is even more microscopic than in our memories. We just have enough room to U-turn in the cut of rocks, but  we are in ! So far we are the only ones and we take one of the 4 mooring buoys, according to us the only one where we don't swing either on the rocks or in the middle of the "channel". A bit stressed but pretty proud of ourselves ! We enjoy our tiny rocky gem, at the doors of this little inaccessible fishermen village, and we climb in the tender to go ashore, self-conscious of our privileged status.

It was a small fantasy of ours, Saltimbanque is proudly moored in Polperro...

It's very beautiful ! It's also very known...
What a shock when we arrive onshore... Yes, human invented roads to join isolated villages, then he invented tourists and finally coaches... It's crawling with people everywhere, and even though we recognize the small village of our memories, we feel a bit offset with humanity (admitedly, nothing new here...) A bit bothered and Camille a bit stressed by the thermal breeze which picks up and threatens to blow into our "shelter", we get back onboard and leave straight away. A few other boats had tried to join us at the anchorage, only one had dared to stay: its crew passes us with their tender and leaves even faster than us !
But we still did it and we are happy to join for the night the (wiiiiiiide) river of Fowey. All the more that a maginificent schooner passes by us on the way. On the evening we walk the quiet streets of the city, and end up at the local Yacht Club to check the weather forecast: the former hurricane Bertha has decided to come and tickel us, we need to find a proper shelter in a few days.

Colours of Fowey

Fowey - Plymouth
But so far, so calm... On Friday we wanted to reach Helford River, but there is not even a breeze. Nestor works hard on its single piston, and we quickly pull the tiller towards Mevagissey just a few miles away. Mevagissey is another "pocket port" in Cornwall, but after Polperro it looks pretty wide to us! We stop in there and spend a few hours onshore, swimming and enjoying one of our favourite local delicacy: Cornish Pastries !


Back to Fowey
Still no wind, we decide to get back to Fowey, not without making sure our spinnaker takes some fresh air as well. After all we are now going Eastwards, running with the wind ! No more close hauled sailing! The spi holds fine in a light breeze, we head to the river, we enter it, still flying the spi... we must be beautiful seen from the surrounding cliffs... Well, at some point we need to stop, we get the spi down and pick a mooring buoy under sail power, it's much more elegant ! Short walk on the surronding cliffs to finish the day.
Saturday, it's time to get sheltered for the gale soon to arrive, direction Plymouth ! We are running downwind and exploit our competency in rigging the pole on the genoa. The idea was to visit the Tamar river before heading to the marina. Rather sporty navigation in strong gusts and no less strong current, but except from this excitment this is actually a very ugly place.... We had spotted a much nicer anchorage place close to Drake Island: let's U-turn and get back to the beach. Aaah, an actual anchorage, it's been a while... sounding the depth, getting the chain ready, arguing about the exact place where we shall drop the anchor (actually not even too much this time), drop it, check aligments onshore do not move, and dive to check the anchor visually. Laure ? Laure I said dive to check the anchor ! What ? It's cold and more than 8m depth ? Ok it will be strong enough for the duration of the lunch...

Ah no, actually she did jump in the water...

Plymouth, waiting for the gale to get out of breath
Let's head to Plymouth Marina for the duration of the gale, and discover the city of Drake and Nelson. It suffered quite a lot of bombing during the 2nd World War, but still has its charm and even a few middle-age houses which survived, a really nice esplanade with a sea view, and many nice bars and restaurants. And we also enjoy this break to sleep, sleep, sleep without any alarm clock for the tide...
We stay stuck during 2 days because of the gale, even taking a bus to the Yealm River area for a great walk along the wild shore.

Waiting along the coastal trails

Plymouth - Cowes
On Tuesday the wind is supposed to drop a bit, and the tide is still with us in the morning. We wake up at 4am and leave at dawn in a reasonable wind but still quite heavy seas. Running is fine in these conditions. We sail pass Salcombe again, then Dartmouth where the wind seriously picks up, probably above 30 knots at time. We continue a bit worried about what conditions are waiting for us beyond Berry Head, the next cape. We meet porpoises at this time. Finally the "Tor Bay" is more sheltered and  we can enter Brixham.

Replica of Drake's ship
So, Brixham is a cute town, but for us it's been the place where we struggled with mooring... First on a mooring buoy, then we have to move to a very bad berth, alongside another boat on which the strong wind pushes us to. We bend (a bit) a stanchion in the fight before leaving this trap and ending up on the lee of an old gaffer with a very welcoming crew. In between all these movements we walk a bit the fishing habour, rather authentic, and which displays a full size replica of the ship on which Drake has sailed his mythical navigation around the world. Between us it's a clog !!! Unbelievable that he has passed Cape Horn against the wind in this... thing!

But we don't have time to stare it too much, a few hours of sleep and we leave at midnight (after a 12h stop), to join the ugly part of the country... sorry Eastern England !
We cross again Lyme bay, this time dead running, first flying goose wings then with just the genoa on a pole. The tide stream si against us but weak while in the bay and we are making good progress. We are right offshore Portland Bill at the tide change, and the rythm start increasing. The tide coefficient is 114 today and the current is pretty impressive. We sail faster than 10 knots over the ground... Godd news is that we swallow miles quickly and we are already in Swanage bay at the next tide change. The wind is rather strong and we are happy to find mooring buoys in this bay strategically positionned right south fo the Pool Bay, a mess in which we really don't want to get into !

We have a good night of sleep, shadowed by the Tenacious, a large British 3-mast shooner who also anchored here for the night, and that we had spotted in Bergen a few weeks before.

Swanage bay, the convenient mooring buoy !

The Needles, mythical rocks at the South-Westerly end of the Isle of Wight
Thursday, let's go to the Solent ! We get in through the mythical Needles channel. The entrance is very choppy because of the stron current. Then the Solent conveyor belt brings us to famous Cowes is a wind becoming quite strong on th edge of these gray clouds. To our highest surprise the marinas are not very expensive, we were expecting much luxury, not at all ! To be fair the surroundings don't really allow for it... it's kind of ugly ?!...
Before exploring the sailing Mecca, we head to East-Cowes using the chain ferry boat to visit the Osborne Castle. This villa and its huge backyard used to be the summer house of Queen Victoria, and also where she died. Interesting visit where we learn a lot about the Britich Royal family and the customs of the 19th century. The walk in the parc and privta beach is humid but still enjoyable.

Osborne, the summer house of Queen Victoria

Sun set over the Yacht Club of Cowes
Back to the city for a rather disappointing walk. Indeed everything is about sailing, we can find all the equipment we dream about and even more (wait, oily -shorts ?? ), we can spot prestigious yacht clubs, bright canons firing starts for regattas, and the photographer Beken of Cowes. But these is not much atmosphere, no amazing racing boat or old gaffer, and finally we quickly go back to our bunk.

Cowes - Newhaven
Friday we leave with the currnet (why doing differently !) to get out of the Solent towards the East, slaloming between the tankers and the regattas. A few miles after the exit, sharp turn to the left, passing over the sand bar (there was enough water thanks) and we enter the meanders of the bay of Chichester. It's a closed water area that can only be entered through a narrow gully and it's bar then, made of several rivers whic spread over a very flat area. There is indeed something of the Dutch inner waterwys here... Sailing (with sails, back to our elegance concern) in these channels is very peaceful... or would be without the hundred if not thousand dinguies which joyfully sail everywhere !!! Well, we haven't found any mosquito smashed on our bow, but that was close! We sail up to Bosham, really cute historical town (well, hidden behing flashy sails), and we go back to a beach close to the gully to drop the anchor for the night. Still without engine as pure sailing is the - elegant - theme of the day. It takes us some time to go onshore as the current picks up to a good 4 kts then a big squall hits us. We finally touch land at dusk, the time when the clams get out of their hidden places to get some fresh air: we don't even need to dig in teh sand we can simply pick them up like seasnails ! Perfect we didn't know what to  eat tonight... Going back onboard we realise that the boat is way to close to a mud bump and we quickly move to a deepr anchorage place using the engine, elegance has its limits...

Amazing sunset,  but we were way too close to the beach...

Approaching beautiful Newhaven
Saturday, it's time to head back to Newhaven... There is bad weather coming and the wind is supposed to pick up progressively during the day until it reaches force 7-8 in teh beginning of the night. We leave at 6:30 for a day where we will use one after another all our techniques of sailing when pushed by the wind! First with the spinneaker until about noon, then the genoa on a pole and main sail in goose wings as the wind picks up, then without a pole, then with a reef, then no more main sail, and finally we roll the genoa a bit to reduce its size just before luffing into Newhaven channel. A great navigation and a perfect timing: hardly 2 hours after we are back, the wind start reaching near gale force and we enjoy our optimization of the weather window !
An excellent trip where we got back to our life as "Saltimbanques". Laure even baked bread ! We could definitively sail a bit further on a west heading...

Just one thought for our beloved engine Nestor as it was its last trip... Thanks Nestor for never totally let us down !!!

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