The rendezvous with the two Pauls and Roy went without a hitch and we spent a very pleasant evening in Fettler's cockpit, together with Joe and Jayne from the Canvas Factory, who gave us lots of great local tips. The first of which was to go to the Dartmouth Arms for pizza, which we duly did.
The next day was the day of the Seafeather self-steering installation on Hyskeir by yet another Paul. Things ran into difficulty immediately when it became apparent that the frame for this would not clear the rudder. There was talk about delays, remaking frames etc., until Jim got out the sheet metal saw and proposed cutting off the offending part of the rudder. Paul T. had to look away as Jim neatly sawed the top end of his rudder off and all worked out in the end.
The following afternoon we set off on a Corinthian cruise in company up the River Dart. A gale was raging outside, but we were hoping to be sheltered from it. Alas, it was not so and spray was whipping over the river and the wind was howling. The sky looked particularly black at Dittisham so we decided to pick up a mooring and wait for the squall to pass. Shortly after, the call came through on the VHF from the two Pauls wanting to just stop right where we were, but we coaxed them on around another bend where shelter improved.
To get to our destination, the pub in Tuckenhay, we had to go on a challenging zigzag course up a drying side arm of the river. Since we had the only working depth sounder we formed the avantgarde, with Hyskeir following, blissfully unaware of the times that we squeaked through depths of 1.4 metres! After only one brief grounding we made it to the pub, to find an enormous Ovni (a French-built aluminium boat, mighty expensive) taking up most of the mooring space. We were assured that it was perfectly safe to dry out next to a grassy slope further back. It was a beautiful, peaceful spot and the beer was good, but the poor skippers had quite a night of shenanigans to ensure a smooth drying out.
The next morning we rode the tide up to the pretty market town of Totnes, end of the navigable part of the River Dart. The weather was still rubbish so after a delightful cooked breakfast and a pleasant stroll around town we went for a sauna to get warm. On our return from the congenial Albert pub we found the vessels heeling over at crazy angles (due to the lines from the mast still tightened from drying out at lunchtime) and not wanting to dry the boat out another night we decided to high tail it downriver in the twilight and pick up a visitor's mooring at Stoke Gabriel. Since Paul T. had our inbound track on his chart plotter, he formed the avantgarde this time, straining his eyes on the little screen, while we had a most enjoyable motor behind in the still evening air.
|A well-earned pint at the Maltsters, Tuckenhay.|
Back in Dartmouth we said a hurried goodbye to Hyskeir who headed off east and took Paul J. on board for one last sail. Since we had to bash to windward, we only went as far as Salcombe. The Salcombe Estuary is very scenic indeed, but it is also insanely busy. Coming in, we had to dodge countless ribs towing donuts, two dinghy races, kayakers, ferries, water taxis and etc. Too much! After dropping Paul and topping up with fuel and water, all we could do was drop the hook, drink some wine and collapse. We anchored upriver, back of beyond, about 2.5 miles from town and had to pay £7.20 for the privilege. This is the first time we had to pay to anchor and hopefully the last!
Up to the Azores
Our plan had been to make for the Scilly Isles and spend a few days there before heading to the Azores. However, as we emerged from the Salcombe Estuary into an unrelieved greyness of sea, sky and air, to rain and an unpleasant sloppy chop, we decided it was time to bid adieu to Olde England and go looking for the sun.
The wind was from the southeast at that stage, handy for a quick exit from the Channel. The sea state was outrageous, however, and it was not long before I was violently seasick. Jim gallantly held off until after the Lizard. It was a tough day and night, but it got us clear of the Channel and both sea state and weather improved. The wind turned westerly and stayed that way for the next seven hundred miles – an uphill sail all the way!
|When conditions are poor, this is the most coveted spot on the boat.|
We finally emerged from the fog at 44N, 17W on day seven, described in the log as 'the first day without discomfort'. At last we could sit in the cockpit without oilskins! From now, the weather improved rapidly. Soon we only needed to wear the oilskin bottoms at night, then no oilskins at all but still sea boots (very impressed with our new Yacht Boot Company neoprene-lined boots, by the way) and before much longer we were barefoot round the clock.
|A typical sea-going cockpit scene. Topping up the battery on a sunny afternoon.|
|And airing out the bedding.|
|At last! A bath after 9 days at sea. Water temp: 20C|
|Coffee time. Relatively rare at sea.|
|The Ilheu da Vila. A shallow lagoon formed from a volcanic cone.|
Days sailed: 11.5
Hard on the wind: 8 days
Fog: 3 days
Becalmed: 3 days
On port tack: 7 hours
Water usage: 60 litres (2.5L per person per day)
Fuel consumption: 40 litres
Ryvita consumption: 5 packs
Fish caught: 0
Species of whale spotted: 3