Beyond the Breakwater

The first time we went out past the breakwater, it must be said we scared ourselves somewhat. It was probably the first sail that She and I had and naive confidence and ignorance saw me have too much sail up, get blown sideways by a gust, the contents of my ill-prepared and poorly packed cabin got dumped in the bottom of the boat, and we both got surprised by the difference in the swell outside of the breakwater.

Needless to say, we turned around, nervously laughed it off and didn’t venture back out for a long time after.

This time we planned to have a week on the boat.  The sun was out, the sea-state was mild, the forecast was good with the wind from the East so I picked the mouth of the River Yealm as a destination. Once more out past The Breakwater.

Second time past The Breakwater – entirely more agreeable than the first time
A confidence inspiring grin?

I’d chosen an anchorage spot called Cellar Bay, as the winds were forecast from the East for a couple of days, backing to the North later on in the week.


We sailed for a little while, but as it was the first time I’d entered this harbour, and mentions of sandbars on maps and guides had me a little nervous and I wanted to arrive in plenty of time and daylight, so we motored most of it. She played with a fishing line for all of 5 minutes before she was bored of that!

We arrived, easily navigated the sand bar, and found the anchorage heaving with boats. I couldn’t believe how closely packed they were.  There were people swimming in the cove and playing on the beach. I didn’t want to go further upriver as, skinflint/shoestring sailor that I am, I didn’t want to pay harbour dues or mooring fees.
So we picked a spot on the edge of the pack, that I considered a safe distance from everyone and the shore, and dropped the anchor.

I thought it was good form to check with our nearest neighbour if they were happy with where we’d dropped anchor. So I got in the dinghy and rowed over to a lovely, purposeful looking ketch called ‘Amira’. I rapped on the side and presently a lady who we would come to know as Andrea popped her head out, looked over to where we were and said she thought it would be fine, and that it was refreshing for someone to ask.

I returned to ‘Free’ somewhat more relaxed about it, but keeping a wary eye out none-the-less. This was the first time we’d anchored in company and the first time we’d anchored where we weren’t going to dry out overnight.

We made the evening meal, watched the majority of the boats depart as dusk appeared (which explains why they were so comfortable close to one another – they weren’t staying for the tide change) and went to bed for the night.
Sometime around midnight I got up to have a look around and check that we weren’t dragging or too close to the rocks on the tide change. I noticed ‘Amira’ was now further out from us and on the other side, nearer the main channel. I wondered whether they’d had second thoughts after all about our proximity.

The next day we watched Andrea row ashore in her inflatable and thought it might be a good idea to do the same.
We rowed ashore, saw that Andrea had done something clever with a rock and the painter of her dinghy. The tide was almost all out so we carried our dinghy a little higher up the beach and tried to emulate the rock-trick.
(my first Rookie Mistake of the excursion)…

‘Free’ (left) and ‘Amira’ (right) at Cellar Bay, River Yealm
The view from the path up to Noss Mayo, ‘Free’ far right

On the way into the village we met Andrea coming back and had a good chat. It’s meeting people like her and Grant that are the highlight of our travels and I hope that when we do get to cruising further afield we’ll be blessed with many more encounters like this. As we left Andrea, she just planted a nagging seed of doubt in the back of my mind about how much time we had until the dinghy floated once more…

About a mile down the path we found The Ship Inn in Noss Mayo and had a very agreeable lunch. We both wanted to explore the other side of the river, Newton Ferrers, but by the time we found our way to the causeway that joins the two sides it was already waist deep and coming in fast. A walk round the river to the other side would have been at least another hour I gauged, just to be 50 foot from where we were now and on the other side of the river. It was then that I shared my concerns about the dinghy…

To say She was unimpressed about my lack of planning is an understatement.

We frogmarched back to the dinghy to find it floating at the stretch of its tether, still retrievable, but only just.

Lesson Learned: Carry the dinghy higher, tie it off with a longer rope!

Back on board ‘Free’ as we discussed the skipper’s shortcomings at length, Andrea rowed over to share the news that they’d heard on the radio that the forecast Northerly was now expected to be Westerly and perhaps a Force 6 which would make our anchorage uncomfortable to say the least. They were planning on heading over to Cawsand Bay which would offer some shelter from a Westerly. We thanked her and debated what we would do.

None of our forecasts were predicting F6. I was using the Wunderground app which is usually reliable, but we decided that it was better to be prudent, and be in the anchorage that would provide better protection for the weather that might come.

We motored over to Cawsand Bay, a journey of about an hour and a half, including the wait for the Brittany Ferries ferry that intersected us.

When we got there, boy was it rolly! The wind or tide seemed to keep us (and everyone else) side-on to the moderate swell coming into the bay.
We contemplated all options.. but were running out of daylight so couldn’t motor round to our mooring.
We even contemplated leaving ‘Free’ at anchor, rowing ashore and getting a taxi back to where the camper was parked.

In the end we decided just to sit it out, make dinner and try and get comfortable. I thought it an opportune time to try and fill the diesel tank up with 25 litres we carried in a Jerry can.

2nd Rookie Mistake.

Trying to pour from a Jerry can into a funnel in a swell without spilling is a stupid thing to attempt. Added to that, the smell of diesel is just the catalyst needed for Her to overcome the protection afforded by Stugeron and to get acquainted with the sick-bucket.

Eventually the swell died down, we both felt a little better and another cruising-life moment occurred; a “sea-gypsy” girl came gliding up to the boat on her canoe, offering mackerel that she’d caught that evening, almost by accident. She could only eat one and she’d paddled through a school and filled every hook on her line, and was going from boat to boat offering up the spares. We’d just finished washing up from our own dinner otherwise we would have tried one no doubt!

Night at the rolly Cawsand Bay

We managed to get some sleep, even She managed to shrug off the sea-sickness and sleep well enough.

Next day dawned a lot calmer and we had breakfast whilst deciding that today would be a land-day. We’d take the boat back to the mooring and hop in the VW and go to Plymouth. I wanted to go to Go-Outdoors, (my favourite shop) and swap a gas bottle for the boat so that we’d have a full spare.

I started hauling up the anchor, whilst She was at the tiller with the engine running. Then we noticed Andrea rowing over to see us. The anchor was nearly up, about 3 foot of chain still in the water. I tied it off where it was to quickly chat to Andrea, swap details and say our farewells…

3rd Rookie Mistake.

By the time we’d said our goodbyes, we’d drifted a surprising distance from the the anchorage. I got distracted by offering Andrea a tow back toward ‘Amira’, which she declined. Andrea rows that leaky dinghy everywhere. We waved a final time and She  opened up the throttle toward home.

It was a good 10 minutes before I remembered that the anchor was still 3 feet in the water!

When I pulled it up it was spotlessly clean though…

We had a shore day, pottering around in Plymouth and getting a few stores for the boat. Highlight of this for me was eating in a tiny Caribbean cafe (restaurant is too grand) called Afro Caribbean Pot. It’s tiny, seats perhaps 20 people, but a gem of a find. The curry I had was delicious and we both had a meal and a drink and there was change from £20!

Afro Caribbean Pot
Afro Caribbean Pot  (Image courtesy of The Local Data Company)

The next day we got back on ‘Free’ and sailed around to the River Lynher and anchored opposite Anthony House. We spent the day sorting out lockers and cleaning and tidying.
It was then that I found a syphon pump that would have made filling the diesel tank much easier!
I helped Her wash her hair with a bucket of hot water. For women, it seems that having dirty hair is the hard limit at which point an adventure becomes an ordeal.

She felt much better with clean hair. It got us thinking about shower opportunities aboard ‘Free’. There isn’t really enough room in the head for a shower and I think it’s preferable to keep as much moisture outside the boat as possible so we’re exploring a shower curtain hung from the boom using fibreglass tent poles we recycled from a recent festival. The shower will either be provided by one of the pump-up garden sprayers or one of these battery powered shower heads. Of course I’ll update on the progress here.

That night whilst I was sitting in the salon reading the kindle, She came in from the cockpit, reversing down the companionway steps. I’d asked her if she would turn off some switches when she got in.

Neither of us really know what happened next, but She fell, landing awkwardly, bashing her back and coccyx on the wooden strip that holds the cushions back.

It looked frighteningly painful. I feared the worst. I imagined broken bones, or worse a broken back. It brought home the frightening precariousness of life on a boat. We were only 50ft from shore, but resting on the mud with the tide out. If the consequences of the fall had been worse it would have taken quite a rescue operation. It did make us think about how careful we both need to be. And this was on a dead calm surface (Mud!) and only half a mile from civilisation. Imagine if we’d have been at sea.

Luckily it was only bruised. (But it did take the best part of a month to heal.)

The next day we gingerly sailed back to the mooring. She was in such discomfort that we curtailed the sailing and drove home for her to recuperate.

We learned a lot on this trip.

Primarily our health and fitness are of paramount importance. We need to get fitter, get nimble and stay that way. We’re not couch potatoes by any stretch of the imagination, but we do need to be careful, stay safe and get fit/stay fit.