Padstow & the Isles of Scilly 2003
July came in with some glorious weather, which was just as well, as we had chosen the month for our 10 days cruising holiday. Alas, we had parted with our beloved Halcyon 27, and had traded it in for a more comfortable Sadler 32. Thus the trip was something of a proving run for the new boat.
Based in Swansea, our choices for the 10 days were limited to Southern Ireland, or the South West Coast of Britain. Since it had been several years since I had visited the Scilly Isles, I decided that they would be a good venue for the holiday.
Getting to the Scilly Isles is a 132 mile trip, which is a 24 hour sail. Padstow was the only port of refuge on the trip, and as I had never visited the port, it seemed to be a good opportunity to see what the port had to offer.
The 77 mile trip to Padstow began on the Friday evening, with a 10 mile motor to Oxwich Bay. We anchored for the night, caught a mackerel, which was allowed its freedom, and marvelled at the phosphoresce. This magic sparkle ebbed and flowed around the fishing line, and not least lit up the toilet bowl when flushed. Whilst phosphoresce is visible in most clean seawater, I have never seen so much with such luminosity as the Oxwich water.
The night came to an end at 05:15, when the alarm woke us, in time to hear the inshore forecast at 05:30. The forecast was for light winds from the southwest. The anchor came up, and we were soon on our way to Padstow. The wind was no good for sailing, so we motored with the mainsail up. Triton pushed through the water at a steady 6 knots. The Atlantic swell produced the occasional large roller, but generally the sea was steady and comfortable.
As we approached Lundy, we could see the rugged island standing out of the sea with a magic quality. A past visit came to mind, the island had its one post office and its one pub. We had eaten at the pub, its most unusual named dish of Wild Lamb was remembered with a moistening of the mouth, as I remembered that delicious meal. With that in mind, an egg and baconroll was soon cooked and eaten.
We were now approaching Hartland Point, which is a point of land with an attitude problem. In all but the calmest oh weather, the seabed around it caused a short and uncomfortable swell. Today was no exception, the Sadler with a fin keel jumped and skitted on the Atlantic edges. The kettle tried to jump off the cooker, glasses rattled, the odd splash of water came over the bow to wet the decks.
Soon enough, we passed through the grumpy seas into calmer water, were we were able to tidy up Triton again into semblance of normality. The communication aerials at Lower Sharpnose came into sight, and stayed in sight for several hours. As they gradually disappeared and Newland Island gradually took shape out of the haze. This large outcrop of rock signalled the entrance to the Camel River, up which Padstow lived.
The pilot book recommended to go around the island, but looking at the chart, I could see no reason why I could not cut the corner and save 30 minutes. The short cut proved successful, with no obvious hazards, and soon we were entering the Camel River. I had read of the difficulty of entering this river, with its Doom Bar across the entrance. Thus the route from buoy to buoy had been entered into the GPS, and was followed rigorously until the buoy was in sight. A keen eye was kept on the echo sounder, ensuring a reasonable depth was maintained. The tide was about two hours before high water, thus the river did not provide any threat.
Padstow Harbour is kept by tidal lock gate, which is opened two hours before and after high water. As we approached the Pool, a patch of water in which it is possible anchor in safety at low water, we radioed the harbour master, asking for a berth. A pleasant reply was had, and we booked in for two nights.
Entering Padstow Harbour took our breath away. It was surrounded by old buildings, in which there were pubs, bakeries, and shops. The setting was very picturesque, as was the contents of the harbour, old sailing boats, modern cruisers, a small fleet of old fashioned launches who took tours around the estuary. The rich throb of their petrol engines reminded me classic cars with gas guzzling motors.
We rafted up against another cruiser who had sailed down from Scotland. I nearly knocked over their bottle wine, which they had just opened ready for their lunch, as I threw them our line. The weather was hot, and the temperature inside Triton reached 33 degrees. We soon went ashore to breathe in the atmosphere of the surroundings. We looked for the harbour master to settle our dues. The holiday crowds pushed and shoved the harbour walls, eating ice creams, chips and pasties. We were soon back on Triton, thankful to be in our own space and time.
Our nautical neighbours gave us the lock code for the showers and toilets, and told us we owed them a bottle of wine! As we tiptoed over their foredeck we were not quite sure whether we had actually knocked over their wine or not. A nights rest was welcome, the following day was low key, until I replaced our neighbours bottle. They proved to be good characters, and we enjoyed the Sunday evening in a Padstow pub hearing of their cruises and boat.
Monday morning came, with cool and steady winds from the east. We motored out of Padstow Harbour, down the Camel River, and past the Doom Bar. Sails up, and engine at rest, we sailed for the Scilly Isles, at over 6 knots. There were some very rugged rocks called the Quies, which were an awesome sight. A course was set for the Separation zone to the east of the Scilly Isles. The wind did not last, it swung around to the west, and came in light airs. Thus we had to motor most of the way, The seas were kind, with an even and gentle swell.
After what seemed an age, St Mary's came into sight. Three porpoises welcomed us. The light was fading as we motored through the moorings looking for a buoy. None were free, thus we turned around to find a spot to anchor. With the anchor down, and anchor light lit, we settled down for the night. As usual, the St Mary's anchorage rocked and rolled all night, giving us both a broken nights sleep.
Next morning, the dinghy was inflated, outboard attached, and the journey to the island was made. The harbour master was visited, dues paid, and a walk around Hugh was had. A Cornish pastie was a must, which turned out to be just as good as expected.
Later in the day, we upped anchor, and motor sailed to The Cove, St Agnes. There were several boats already anchored, Triton motored carefully around them to find a spot to set our anchor. The Cove on the southern side of the island was delightful. It was a rock bound inlet, with a sand bar to the north. This bar floods at high water, making Gugh an island in its own right. On a trip to the Turks Head on St Agnes, we left the dinghy on this bar, and watched the tide come from the pub. Fortunately, a kind sailor moved our dinghy to a higher spot out of harms reach.
A force 7 wind was forecast. It was coming from the North West. Thus we felt safe in the Cove. The boat was made safe, the anchor checked in case the worst happened. The night seas rolled us around again, the wind whistled through the rigging, but we slept OK, and the next day came with a breeze but with a calm sea.
The following day, we spent at rest in the Cove' safe anchorage. We rested and fished unsuccessfully. We watched the terns fishing far more successfully than we did. The cow spotted several reptiles on the surrounding rocks, a snake, a hooded cobra, an alligator, also a dog, whale and rabbit. We photographed these, they can be seen on www.markjohnsonafloat.org.uk
New Grimsby Harbour was on the agenda. This anchorage is sandwiched between Tresco and Bryher. I decided to get there by sailing around the Scilly Isles anticlockwise. The passage through the Isles was too dangerous for Triton during a neap tide. After refuelling and watering at Hugh Town we set off for New Grimsby. On the way we saw lots of islands, rocks sticking out of the sea, not a place for the faint hearted! As we approached the harbour, the seas were boiling. There was little wind to settle the boat, and I wondered what this place would be like in a gale.
As Triton entered Grimsby Harbour, the seas settled to virtually a millpond. Again, all of the visitor buoys were taken, with several empty one which had a reserved notice attached. An anchor spot was chosen, and we settled in to enjoy the next couple of days.
A trip to Tresco was had, what a lovely island it is. We enjoyed a tea in the cafe, and eventually motored back to the boat. A sunset that took the breath away came, as I fished for a mackerel. One plucky fish was hauled out eventually, but was put back as he would only have provided a tiny meal. I thought he was better off making many more mackerel in the next couple of years, rather than a snack this evening.
After a visit to Cromwells Castle and King Charles Castle on top if Tresco, we sadly set sail for Padstow. The wind was forecast for a force 6 from the south. This came along on cue, and Triton flew along at between 6 & 7 knots. Seven Stones Lighthouse came into sight, then out of sight. The Cornish coast was in sight all of the time. The following seas made us put the wash boards in, just in case a wave came aboard. But Triton behaved well, and sped along taking the seas in her stride. I did eventually reef the main, and pulled a couple of rolls in on the genoa. Triton behaved a little more restrained, but her speed was not effected.
A motor vessel Appleby passed us going south. I was glad that we were going with the wind, going the other way would have been a difficult and rough journey. The River Camel and its outlying islands came into sight. I was beginning to worry about the passage up the river. We had arrived only two hours after low water.
With full concentration on the echo sounder, GPS and on the channel buoys, we steered Triton up the low River Camel. The echo sounder dropped to 4.5 metres, and stayed there. The channel up the river was well established and had plenty of water. With relief, we arrived in the pool, found a Swansea boat that was also waiting to enter the Padstow Harbour. We tied up alongside and spent a pleasant hour swapping tales of trips and club news.
At two hours before HW, we entered Padstow, tied up, and headed to the pub for a large steak and pint. The showers came later, followed by a good nights sleep in the calm waters of the harbour.
The following morning saw up leaving Padstow as soon as the tidal gate opened. This was at about 8.45am, which was a little late for our trip to Swansea. I was expecting to miss the last lock, and have to spend the night tied up to the buoy in the River Tawe.
However, we had a f5 to 6 behind us, so we would have to see how the day went. River Camel was soon gone, where we met the full force of the wind. I shook out the reef in the mainsail, but at the same time part of the foot of the mainsail came out of the tracking in the boom. Nothing to be done other than keep an eye on the loose bit of sail. Somehow, I had managed to wrap the genoa around the forestay, only to be sorted by releasing the sheets to allow the tangle to be freed. Not a good start.
Once on our way, the sail was exciting, Triton was sailing along the large swells at 6 to 7 knots. We heard a Mayday on the VHF. A diver had become separated from his boat some 20 miles south oh us. The helicopter flew over us towards the emergency area. It was too far for us to sail to try and help. The boat's VHF could not contact the coastguard, so all we could do was to sail towards Swansea.
With the wind directly behind us, I tacked downwind towards Lundy. A ship came over the horizon, and I estimated that we were on a converging course with it. The ship changed course to sail due north, which allowed Triton to continue on the tack.
The sail was exciting, we gybed back onto the Swansea course. My GPS calculated that we might just catch the last lock at half past nine in the evening. The large swells allowed surfing down their slopes, Triton reaching 9 knots on several occasions. The weather was now very threatening, rainstorms passed us, the downpours flattening the surf. The large waves looked most odd decapitated grey mounds of water.
9 miles out of Swansea, I tried to contact the Tawe Lock to tell them we were due to arrive there at a quarter to ten. We hoped the lock keeper would stay on to let us in. No answer on the VHF. We later heard that Swansea Marina had heard our transmission, and had passed on our message to the lock keeper. At half past nine, we were a mile out of the River Tawe. We contacted the lock keeper who had stayed on for us. The sails were still up, making the most of the wind. As we approached Swansea, the Irish Ferry decided to leave the port for its overnight trip to Cork. We had to move out of the dredged channel, to allow the large ferry room to pass by. It gave us the opportunity to turn into the wind and drop the mainsail.
Triton motored into the river, between the piers, and into the open lock. We tied up for the brief upward journey, with much relief. Soon we motored into a vacant berth in the marina. Our usual berth was taken by a storm bound visitor. Not to worry, we were just very happy to be home and safe.