Round the Lizard, Britain's most southerly point

Day 2 - Wednesday 17th May 2017, Mylor to Newlyn

I woke early and looked at the pilot book and charts. The distance from Mylor to the Lizard was about 20 NM and Newlyn about 15 or 16 miles beyond. How long will it take to get there & what is the cruising speed of Wind Song? The forecast Wind direction was 'on the nose' so we would probably have to motor.

The book said the best time to round the Lizard was two hours before high water Dover. It also recommended a call to Newlyn harbour master to find out if they had a berth for us. It even had a phone number just to make life easier. Once the skipper was up, we established the cruising speed was 7 knots, taking about 3 hours to get to the Lizard. So we planned to set off at noon, 5 hours before HW Dover. 

Now I could relax and enjoy a healthy meusli breakfast and tea. 

Whilst Erni filled the boat's water tank, I looked at a plan for rounding Lands End for the following day. We'd have to set off early from Newlyn to catch the start of the flood tide off Cape Cornwall. It would be a slack tide at the Longships lighthouse, just west of Lands End. It also made sense to head straight for Milford Haven rather than a detour to Padstow. With the pre-planning done, it was time to get ready to leave for Newlyn. Skip had called the harbour master. He was very helpful, saying there would definitely be room, even if we had to raft alongside another boat. Skip had also done the engine checks and showed me round the engine room.

Leaving Mylor was uneventful. The boat manoeuvres very easily, as a lot of modern yachts do and this boat also has bow and stern thrusters for greater control in tight spaces or on windy days. Fenders and mooring warps were stowed in the cavernous lazarette locker at the stern and we were underway at long last, threading our way through the channel into the River Fal.

We passed a cardinal buoy making safe passage round the Manacle rocks and into the long Atlantic swell, passing ships at anchor along with tiny fishing boats darting about laying pots and lines. Once round Lizard Point we set a course for Newlyn and called the harbour master, as requested, when we reached Low Lee east cardinal buoy. 

Newlyn is a 'no frills' harbour with a myriad of small fishing boats and some large ones. Interestingly, a lot of them had 'riding sails' at the stern, to steady the boat and make their work more comfortable. 

Dinner ashore again, Italian this time, spicy king prawn linguini. Over dinner we discussed the best departure time for tomorrow's long trip and who would be on watch for the duration of this 18 hour voyage. Erni drew the long straw and got to stay in bed as we prepared the boat to leave at 4am. 

Find out what happened on Day 3 soon!

Morecambe to Falmouth

Day 1 - Tuesday 16th May 2017, Travelling to Mylor Yacht Harbour

Deirdre dropped me off at Morecambe station in time for the 0823 train to Lancaster. I bought a coffee & waited for the crowded 0857 southbound to Crewe. It felt like a day off with no charts, pilot books or almanac to plan the voyage. So I settled in with my notebook to write a short story about the trip for our blog.

The skipper, his wife and crew Erni met me at Crewe for the onward leg to Falmouth by hire car. Their yacht is a Gunfleet 43 sloop and it's about to leave Mylor for a summer season sailing in Scotland. They've asked me to sail with them & provide some coaching during the passage.

In the car we talked about possible routes for the trip. Should we sail up the west coast of Wales or the east coast of Ireland? The choice would depend upon the weather, so forecasts for the next few days would be important. The skipper favoured XC Weather whilst Erni used Meteo Weather. It's strictly a personal choice based on ease of use and graphics, as most of these internet weather sites are using the same 'GFS' weather computer model. Magic Seaweed, Windguru, Windfinder and Passage Weather are other sites favoured by our clients. 

The Met Office surface pressure charts showed the UK between two highs and two lows, what meteorologists call a Col. This would bring light and variable winds. Due to the uncertainty of a weak high pressure and a not so deep low on this chart, my concern was that this forecast may not hold. There were two cold fronts marching across the UK, from NW to SE and we were certainly in the warm sector ahead of them. Rainy, drizzly, misty dreich sort of day with poor visibility. The passing of the cold fronts would bring showers overnight and through the following morning, becoming dry and bright in the afternoon. Would that be a good time to set off? We'd have to look at the tides and pilot book to find the best time to round the Lizard.

Should we go to Newlyn for the night, it would be a closer, but when was the best time to round Lands End? Should we head for Padstow before going up to Milford Haven? Newlyn is a fishing harbour, do they have room for us? Padstow has a cill, when can we get in and what is the latest time we must leave? Would we make it in time after rounding Lands End? It was obvious we had some work to do once we reached the yacht at Mylor.

The car journey passed in a flash, thanks to Erni, a very interesting octogenarian who'd fished and sailed around Scottish waters for many years. As an artist, he'd travelled throughout Scotland looking for stunning views to paint. We shared our experiences of beautiful anchorages and remote places.

What, Mylor already? Time to get out of the car and stretch our legs. We stowed the gear and food and got to know about the domestic arrangements onboard. The heads have an electric flush and unusually, use fresh water. A pee requires a little flush but the big flush button is for big jobs! And it will need two or three flushes to clear the pipes. Gas is turned on via two solenoid valves, but the electric circuits have to be switched on through a computer screen that controls and monitors all the circuits onboard, including batteries, fuel and water.

The skipper gave us a safety brief before we headed off to Castaways restaurant for dinner. 

I sat up for a while after the others turned in, writing notes and catching up with business emails whilst I still had WiFi. 

Check back on our blog for the next chapter, coming soon!

Unexpected MOB On Day Skipper Course

We were on Bolero IV, a 41' Hanse sailboat, practicing picking up moorings under sail off the Kames Hotel at Tighnabruich. There was a light breeze and we had a reef in the mainsail to show things down. The wall to wall sunshine was glorious for our Day Skippers. The sailing in Scotland can often be so lovely.

Having tacked & heading back to the buoy, Chris on the foredeck shouted: "My hat, I've lost my hat!" As it blew off his head and landed in the water next to the boat, we all looked over the side as his sporty baseball cap floated by and away past the transom.

John on the helm looked at me expectantly. I just shrugged my shoulders knowing we were short of time and said: "We'll have to ignore that and get on with the exercise." 

As John steered the yacht towards the mooring, Doug was on the mainsheet spilling and filling. Everyone was concentrating hard on the task but a little voice in my head kept saying "Get the hat, get the hat!" Halfway to the buoy I turned to John & asked if I could take the helm. "I just can't let that hat go!" I explained.

Using the classic 'reach - tack - reach' method, we sailed away, then turned back towards the hat. Stephen found it difficult to keep the hat in sight as it was waterlogged by now and only just on the surface. 

As we tacked, Shirley shouted "watch out for the ropes" and Stephen ducked. Taking your eye of the MOB just for a moment is all it takes to lose sight of it. Stephen was so disappointed, feeling like he'd let the side down. However, I felt that the close reaching course may get us close to the hat. My greatest concern was that the hat might sink before we got there. 

Sure enough, as we got closer, Stephen caught a glimpse of the hat from his high vantage point next to the mast. We luffed up, spilled wind from the sail and stopped right by the hat. 

Having recovered the sodden thing with a boat hook, Chris put the wet hat squarely on his head grinning from ear to ear!

We tow our rubber dinghy on cruising holidays, especially if we're using it frequently. It would be a pain to deflate and stow it away each day.

But towing the tender causes drag & will slow a sail boat down. The drag puts extra strain on the painter too, so I fitted 2 D rings on our dinghy, one on each tube, to spread the load. I found it also helped to lift the bow and reduce drag.

In certain conditions, we can also reduce the drag by towing the dinghy on a long rope. We set the length of the rope so that as the yacht goes down a wave, the dinghy is also is going down a wave. In other conditions, we find having the dinghy very close to the stern of our yacht with the bow out of the water works better.

An inflatable dinghy is prone to flipping over, especially in stronger winds. So we always remove the outboard, seat and oars before towing.

If we want to sail faster, we stow the inflated dinghy upside down on the foredeck lashing it down securely.

Anchoring Tips

  1. Stay well clear of boats anchored using rope, they will rove around all over the place when the wind picks up.
  2. When determining the scope, allow for depth at high water, waves, swell & wash from other vessels.
    Scope - minimum 4x depth for chain & 6x depth for rope in light to moderate winds, i.e. up to Beaufort 4 (I invariably let out another 5m for good luck).
  3. The chain is better on the seabed than in the chain locker! If it's windy, use more scope.
  4. Lay the chain out along the side deck in 5m long loops using a mat to protect the decks. Each loop will total 10m. Secure it to a cleat.
  5. Having stopped the boat, let the anchor down quickly to the seabed, then pay the chain out as the boat drifts back.
  6. Let the wind / stream take the boat back. Using the engine too soon could jerk the chain & upset the anchor.
  7. Watch transits to see if the anchor drags.
  8. When anchoring in mud, put the kettle on & have a cup of tea while you wait for the anchor to settle. Watch the transits. Take your time, relax & finish your tea!
  9. With the boat head to wind or stream, gently dig the anchor in. Slowly at first, gradually increasing the power. More wind? use more power. Check transits as you go. If the anchor drags it's best to lift it and start again.
  10. For windy weather, set 2 anchors in a V. Digging in each one in turn. Lay the second (kedge) anchor from the yacht, it's hopeless in the rubber dinghy unless you have an outboard engine and the kedge rode is rope.
  11. Set an anchor watch if necessary. A GPS anchor drag alarm wouldn't wake me up!

Tips on weighing anchor

  1. Tight chain is heavy work, no good for man nor machine. It can burn out the windlass motor. Take in the slack, cleat it and let the weight of the chain drag the boat forward. When it goes slack, take in more chain. Repeat until the anchor breaks free.
  2. In windy weather or streams, use sail or engine to slacken the chain.
  3. If using a trip line, grab the buoy as soon as possible & keep the rope away from the propeller.
  4. If the anchor refuses to budge, take in as much chain as possible and let the wind / stream do the work.

Tips for looking after your windlass

  1. The windlass is designed to lower and raise slack chain. As soon as you hear the motor working harder, stop winding. Otherwise you risk burning out the motor plus creating excessive wear on the gypsy.
  2. Prevent this wear on the gypsy by taking the load off the windlass while at anchor. Tie a rope to the chain with a rolling hitch, lower the chain until the hitch is well over the bow. Then tie the rope to a cleat. Let out some more chain to form a loop between the rolling hitch and the bow. This method of 'snubbing' the chain can also eliminates the rumbling noise in the forepeak cabin as the chain moves from side to side over the seabed.