• Own Boat Tuition Yacht Sailing Trip - day 2

    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!

  • Own Boat Tuition Yacht Sailing Trip - day 3

    Newlyn to Milford Haven

    Day 3 - Thursday 18th May 2017 

    I woke with the alarm at 0320. Too excited to roll over and fall back asleep, I put the kettle on and got dressed. Waking Mr & Mrs Skipper with a mug of tea I then donned my sea boots & oilskins and went topsides to see to the mooring warps. 

    There was a light breeze on the starboard side and we were berthed port side to the finger. The skipper's plan was to reverse out into the fairway. We needed a long bow spring and a short stern warp. I walked the boat back a metre too so the bow would be clear of the walkway when​ we made the manoeuvre. The fenders at the aft end wouldn't be needed so I used some of them to protect the bow.

    The instrument lights were blinding in the surrounding darkness. When skip changed the settings from 'daylight' to 'night' it helped & dimmed down the backlight. We talked quietly so as not to disturb the visiting French sailors sleeping in the neighbouring yachts. 

    With the three of us knowing exactly what to do, we slipped the stern line and gently motored ahead against the bow spring. The bow went in and the stern came away from the pontoon finger just as planned. With the engine now in reverse, we slowly made our way astern towards the fairway. My bow spring went slack and I slipped the line. As the long rope fell into the water, the skipper was careful not to use the bow thruster. The light wind on the starboard bow helped to turn the boat and line it up along the middle of the fairway. With a short pause in neutral, then forward gear, we were off.

    We weren't the only boat to leave Newlyn at 4am. Several other fishing boats were off to their fishing grounds. I love the feeling when I'm leaving a sleepy town behind in the dark. Early mornings and sunrise are my favourite times of day.  

    The weather forecast was correct with a light westerly wind, sunshine and an occasional shower. We motored into the wind and ocean swell, slamming from time to time down a bigger wave. My crewmate Erni wouldn't like that as he tried to sleep in the forecabin. Seeing sails ahead and ships to the side, it was an ideal time to familiarise myself with the yacht's radar system. I went down below to find Erni putting his seaboots on, muttering "cannae sleep up there, like bouncing around on a trampoline!" 

    Yachts hove into view, with colourful spinnakers flying in the morning dusk. We'd stumbled upon a race and the two leading yachts were almost neck and neck with the next three close behind. They gave me plenty of practice on the radar. The downside to this was the dreaded 'mal de mer.' I was feeling distinctly queasy down below and popped a couple of Stugeron with a swig of water. 

    Our timing was bang on as we rounded the southern point of Land's End. Altering course to pass Longships lighthouse well to starboard, we unfurled the mainsail from inside the mast & trimmed the sail for a close reach. Our boat speed increased by half a knot. The genoa was unfurled too, leaving 3 rolls on the foil and we watched the boat speed increase again. The skipper's wife turned in when Erni came on watch. An hour later now with full genoa, we trimmed the sails and turned due North. Longships was on the beam & looked stunning below a slowly rising sun.

    We headed for a waypoint off Cape Cornwall, giving the dangerous rocks and lee shore a very wide berth. At 7am we reached the waypoint and altered course for Milford Haven, trimming the sails again. It was 91 NM away and our course to steer had to include many hours of tidal streams.

    I had drawn the tidal vectors on the chart and made a note of the resultant tidal set and drift. Applying this to our intended course over the ground, we estimated a course to steer of 12 degrees True. Someone once said to me ""True Virgins Make Dull Company". Adding 2 degrees for westerly variation made 14 degrees Magnetic but subtracting 10 degrees estimated leeway gave us a course to steer of about 5 degrees Magnetic. Compass deviation was unknown because the compass had never been swung. So using the hand bearing compass, we set a course of 5 degrees. The ship's compass read 23 degrees. This told us that the compass deviation at this heading was approximately 18 degrees west. Great, we'd now gained some valuable information. 

    I turned in next and slept solidly for 2 hours as Cornwall receded into the distance. Skipper and Erni were on watch. When I woke, we checked our position on the chart & had a mug of tea. Ernie then got some rest and skip made himself comfortable in the cockpit, closed his eyes and slept solidly for an hour. Kathryn and I kept a good lookout as we passed a number of creel marker buoys. Kathryn spotted a fishing boat way off​ the starboard bow so I turned on the radar, keen to get more practice when I could. 

    When the skipper woke, he and Erni took the next watch. Kathryn turned in while I looked at the chart and tidal stream atlas to plan the next leg of our voyage. After a while, Ernie's shout of 'dolphins' had me donning a lifejacket and going topsides to admire their antics and shoot some video. 

    Halfway into the journey, we assessed our progress to see if we needed to revise our course to steer. All was well despite being a little faster than anticipated. We decided to remain on the same course for the time being just in case the following few hours were slower. The wind backed to the south west but remained mainly force 3 occasionally rising to 4 on the Beaufort scale. We decided to review the situation in a few hours.

    With 3 hours to run to our next waypoint at Turbot Bank west cardinal buoy, we amended our course to steer. We'd made excellent progress, faster than anticipated, which meant we would have less of a tidal drift to push us back to our destination. All was well.

    Before long, the Welsh coastline was sighted but so was a ship that seemed to be staying in the same position. AIS confirmed that it was anchored. The skipper altered course to pass astern and I sat down with the detailed chart of Milford Haven to draw up a pilotage plan for entry into the sound. With a choice of anchoring or going into the marina, we chose the latter in order to fill up with fuel and water ready for the next day.

    By 8pm we'd contacted Milford Haven pierhead on VHF ch.14 to request a lock-in. The marina staff were there to meet us and take our lines as we berthed alongside. We were safely tied up with the engine off by 8.40pm.

    After such a wonderful day's sailing a glass of wine went down very nicely with dinner that evening. 

    What did we discover next? Find out on day 4!