Sexy Sharks and a Sadler Quintet
What a great years sailing! Maybe an odd opinion after what has been considered a bad weather year. Triton, our Sadler 32 is berthed in Swansea Yacht and Sub Aqua Club’s marina. We plan our annual cruise to coincide with the best two months of the year June and July. Our planned destination was the Channel Islands. In my armchair I picked the end of June for the trip.
The boat was ready, we were ready, but we had forgotten to tell the weather gods. Virtually the whole of July blew a gale force 8 coming from the Atlantic. I am fortunate in that I work for myself, and was able to postpone the cruise until the weather improved.
The end of July came, and a weather window opened. On the last Monday of July, we ditched work, locked the front door, and bought the final fresh supplies for the next fortnight’s cruise. The wind blew us gently down to Padstow, a 77nm trip taking about 12 to 13 hours. The weather window only lasted a day, so our destination would be where we were blown.
Padstow’s delights made the decision to stay for a few days easy. Inside the enclosed harbour, the climate improved. It became a green house, with lots of shoreside delights. The sun was hot enough for the fisherman’s umbrella to be opened, placed in the winch top, tied down loosely with chord. A large puff of wind managed to blow the umbrella up into the air, depositing it into the harbour some 10 metres from the boat. I felt my face and neck go red, as the ever present crowd on the harbour all pointed and went ooooh!!. I sat still for a moment of two, whilst the crowd lost interest. Soon enough the fishing rod was put together with a light lure on the end of the line. First cast brought back someone’s towel from the harbour bed. A loss to the owner who probably had long sailed away. Second cast caught the umbrella, which was retrieved, and remounted into the winch top. A good knot was used to tie the brolly down.
Several days later, some friends managed to leave Swansea, bound for Spain. They picked a bad few days to beat down the Bristol Channel Their Westerly Discus battled into a force 6, making them seasick and uncomfortable. We had heard of their departure via a mobile phone, and had originally promised to meet them off Padstow. Alas the seas looked far too uncomfortable for the meeting, so a VHF call from a hilltop was made. The small handheld radio made the 8 mile call with ease with very good reception. Their boat had a very rough 36 hours before sailing across the English Channel and Biscay Bay.
After a week of pasties and ice-cream, the weather came good again. The Scilly Isles were the destination. Alas the tide destined Padstow harbour gate to open at 3am. 3am it had to be. We left the harbour and navigated down the Camel River on a falling tide. Once over the Doom Bar, the course was set for New Grimsby Harbour. The wind was from the South East, and I was anxious to get the sails up. The boat was turned into the wind to hoist the main. It would not go up. Something has stuck. As it was still dark, it was going to be almost impossible to see what had happened, so the motor continued to push Triton towards the Scilly Isles. The stars were amazing, with a shower of meteorites making the view unforgettable.
Dawn came, the sun rose, the wind died to a very light breeze. The main halyard was wrapped around the radar dome. The halyard had been loose when preparing the main to hoist. The rolling boat managed to wrap the tricky rope around the dome in the dark. A cunning plan was to be devised to untangle the mess. Plan 3 finally worked.. The main halyard was finally back in place. Alas the end of the rope that I had used to free the main had now managed to get caught between the spreader and side stay. It was tied down securely, and a trip up the mast was planned when anchored in New Grimsby harbour. Joys of sailing!
A thrill of open water sailing is the wild life. Basking sharks are normally spotted in ones and maybe two’s. Our count rose to nearly forty. Some were in the usual single sightings, but groups of the large sharks were seen swimming around in circles. We assumed it was the time of year for ‘doing it’ so we left them to their private canoodles.
New Grimsby harbour came, a motor up the lines of yachts showed that all of the moorings were taken. The French navy had arrived in force and had the best spots. The new Delta anchor was unlashed, and prepared for use. A spot was found, but a strong tide across the wind pushed Triton quickly as soon a the boat slowed to drop the anchor. It took several attempts to get the boat in the correct position and drop the anchor. The seabed is good in the harbour, and the Delta quickly dug in.
Luckily, I had bought a mast ladder, which made the retrieval of the rope from the spreaders easy. As safety, before climbing the mast ladder I got into the bosun’s chair. The crew kept me safe by winching up the spinnaker halyard as I climbed the ladder. I had instructed her to winch against the clutch, which secured the halyard. As I released the rope and started to descend, I asked the crew to release the spinnaker halyard. It was only then I realised that I had not shown her how to release the clutch. Even worse, I wondered whether her hands were strong enough to do it anyway. Several seconds of dire thoughts shot through the brain, before she shouted up that the rope was released! Phew…….
A trip ashore was made the following day, the New Inn visited for lunch and refreshments, followed by a walk around the island. The friendly sparrows at the pub were remarkable. The island wildlife seemed to have no fear of the human race. What a peaceful place it is. Fish were caught, relaxing hours were had watching the coming and going of boats. An old Sadler 25 was seen, and a brief conversation was made with the owners as they passed..
After several days the weather forecast was predicting a force 8 coming in from the Atlantic. We readied the boat for departure. The harbour master past by and threw a ‘Are we leaving us then’ at us. ‘Yes in the morning was the reply’. The night was very windy. At three in the morning we heard a bang on the deck. Investigation found that the solar panel had taken off, and had flown until its power cable brought it to the deck. That secured, a spell in the cockpit was had, checking that the Delta was doing its job. Whilst we veered around on the anchor chain, the GPS and sight lines showed no movement down the anchorage. Bed eventually called and despite the racket, a confident sleep was had.
The 6am alarm woke up the boat. It was not long before we were dressed and ready for action. Boats were passing us as we prepared Triton. The wind blew quite gently in the harbour, but 5’sand 6’s were forecast from the south west. Leaving the shelter of New Grimsby Harbour we were met by gusty wind and a very choppy sea. Having hoisted the sails, and turned towards Padstow, Triton settled down to a steady 6 knot sail with the wind over the port beam. Several boats that had left before us were in sight. Triton slowly overhauled the smaller boats. Our destination of Padstow came soon enough. Sailing into Padstow Bay, the wind seemed to have died. But on turning into the wind to take down the main showed how strong the wind still was. At least a force 5 was measured. The Camel River was motored up, the harbour master directing us to raft up against two boats. Concentrating on coming along side, I only glanced at the boat we were about to tie up too. But I remember thinking what a good looking boat she was. Only afterwards I realised she was also a Sadler 32!
The weather broke, and the forecast storm arrived. In the sheltered Padstow harbour, most of it passed overhead. Rain brought out the large umbrella again, tied securely over the spray hood, it served to keep the wind and rain out of the boat. We noticed a Sadler 34 tied up behind us. The boat was from Hayle, and was bound for the Scillies once the weather was good. The single handed sailor Gordon, had bought the boat from Swansea several years previously, and kept the Sadler, drying out with legs in Hayle Estuary.
The Sadler 32 next to us was from Milford Haven, with a Welsh couple aboard. We shared drinks on both boats comparing facilities and features. Triton, who was several years older to the other 32 compared well, with many more creature comforts aboard.
Two Sadler 29’s were also spotted in the harbour. Meeting Sadler owners can sometimes be in the most odd locations. Whilst showering in the harbour ablutions, a naked man walked towards me. I had never met him before, (honest) but the face was very familiar. I said to him ‘you must be Des’s brother’. He was. Des Barry was a Swansea sailor who had passed away three years earlier. In fact Triton had taken over his berth in the club. To meet his brother, naked in Padstow showers, and to recognise him was a coincidence that should be reserved for buying lottery tickets. Still more bizarre was that he was skipper of one the two Sadler 29’s, and was from Cardiff.
We never met the fifth Sadler owner. Alas we were the only Sadler and Starlight Association member. Hints were given to the other skippers that it would be worth their while to join. This years Year Book might tell if the advice was taken.
The final sail back to Swansea was taken when the forecast gave us 5’s and 6’s from the south west. Padstow emptied, and many of the boats went to Milford Swansea and Cardiff, on their way home. The seas were large but safely from behind. The wind was more 5’s than 6’s, and more on the beam than predicted. The sail were not reefed as we felt safe with the wind direction. Speed was averaging over 7.5 knots over the ground (GPS) with maximum bursts of 11.7 knots going down the large waves. The water surface at the back of the boat had a scar where the fin was slicing its way through the green brine. A slight change in wind direction had us goose winged for a couple of hours in the mad charge home. Eventually the genoa was rolled to prevent the strain of the forestay and rolling gear. Surprisingly, the boat speed stayed the same.
Swansea eventually came, sails were lowered reluctantly, and Triton was tied to her berth in the marina. A good cruise by any standard.
Moral… Gentleman sail before the wind.