Gladlee of Guernsey
June 1991 – August 1991
The story so far ……………………….
After two years (exactly) in charge of “Gladlee of Guernsey” Julie and Nigel are nearing the end of a five-week cruise in the Delta area of the southern Netherlands. Having returned to Goes (pronounced “Hoose”) for the second time we are expecting friends Jill and Bob to turn up on a late train from Amsterdam …
Now read on…..
22nd-24th June 1991 - We spent another day shopping and pottering round Goes then had a pleasant supper at the “Bodega Bienvenue” on the quayside before walking down to the station to collect Jill and Bob (noting on the way that an apparently plastic heron we’d seen by a stretch of canal on an earlier occasion had moved…. Dutch herons are evidently more domesticated than most!) J and B duly spilled off the train, and we were able to show them the essentials of central Goes in the last of the evening light.
We took the friendly harbourmaster’s advice and got off relatively early on the morrow to avoid a jam at Goessche Sas – the weather forecast was iffy, but we had bright enough conditions for a lively beat down the Veerse Meer, with Bob and Jill getting quite competitive over the handling of the jib sheets. Past Veere the wind eased a bit, Bob took over the helm, and joint slippers go a little careless with the result that we briefly ran aground – but we got off without too much difficulty and parked for a couple of hours on a pontoon near the dam while a band of drizzle passed over. Later drifted down to Veere and made space for ourselves on the outside pontoon, displacing an extraordinary miniature steel dinghy, which later turned out to belong to our eccentric Belgian friend (from our previous visit to the Veere yacht club).
Next morning the weather was still reasonable for the short (and final) trip down the canal to Middelburg, where we fed our guests a sandwich lunch before they left to catch the train for Schipol, and we set off reluctantly down to Vlissingen to start the journey back to Ramsgate. By 16.00 we had crossed to the south side of the Westerschelde in a flat hazy calm, feeling distinctly sad to be leaving Holland after a delightful stay, weather and P.bracket problems notwithstanding. As we entered Belgian waters it started raining, and we eventually fetched up in a corner of the rather ugly marina basin at Blankenberge shortly after 18.00. A damp walk round the perimeter took us to a forlorn-looking collection of bars and restaurants round the old harbour, in one of which (otherwise deserted) we had a tolerably good fish supper while the proprietor and wife conducted a running argument at the other end of the room – it was pouring with rain, business was evidently dreadful, and one had some sympathy with them!
We were in two minds whether to set out on the Channel crossing the next day – the wind promised to be against us and there was a threat of a F7 – but outlook appeared worse, if anything, and the deadline of Nigel’s hospital appointment was starting to loom closer. It turned out to be a pretty miserable trip of just over 12 hours, of which the first and only hour under sail was wholly spurious, based as it was on an elementary error in calculating the tidal vector on Nigel’s part – too long in the easy inland waters of Zeeland! We did keep the main up, and with the wind just off the bow for most of the time we did gain a bit of speed and some stability, but it was a thoroughly wet and weary passage, the only comfort being that the wind eased off as we approached Ramsgate and that we were able to go straight in to a good berth in the inner harbour.
[Robin picked us up from Ramsgate, as we paid for a fortnight’s mooring and contacted Westerly’s at Gosport to arrange for the P-bracket to be fixed. Meanwhile Nigel’s tooth extraction had been postponed sine die, but getting back on time did enable us to attend Debbie and Phil’s wedding, to bump into Peter and Angie Westmacott (and to make plans to see them in the Scillies in August) and to enjoy a day’s cricket at Canterbury, courtesy of Stuart Anderson. We spent the now spare week catching up on Admin. And investigating three potential winter laying-up locations for the boat. Eventually back to Ramsgate, to discover that Westerlys were unable to undertake any repair work and were reluctant in any case to concede any liability whatever for the P-bracket problem: the receivers were evidently taking a minimalist view of the recovery operation, and the Gosport yard was more or less at a standstill. We were fortunate to be able to make alternative arrangements at short notice with the shipwrights at Brighton Marina, where we had already arranged to have a compression check done on the engine on the way down to the Solent….]
9th July 1991 - We always seem to have magnificent days out with Bill, and a long-standing date for Bill and Betty to bring grandson George down for a day sail proved no exception: we had a perfect sailing wind and reasonably warm sunshine for a reach down to the Sandwich Bay Estate, where we anchored for Betty’s picnic lunch, and then for a quick run back against a weakfish tide to get into the outer harbour by tea-time. George took the helm for much of the time and took some persuading to disembark when the outing really was over – he and Simon should be firm candidates to crew for us in years to come. We locked in for our last night at Ramsgate, calling at RTYC beforehand for what could be our last visit for some time.
10th July 1991 - A pleasant and uneventful run down to Rye, sailing the whole way in a gentle E. wind – rather too gentle for the cruising ‘chute, which we tried briefly between Dover and Felixstowe before settling for the genoa poled out and goose-winged. We reached the Rye harbourmaster’s office on the Rotter on schedule at what should have been virtually slack water, but there was still a surprising amount of tide as we turned to come alongside. Directed to the Strand Quay, we paid an eyebrow-raising £11 and made our way up river in the dark to a berth alongside the quay, where we eventually dried out at a slightly embarrassing angle, having neglected to tether the mast or a shroud on a slip line to the shore – not as bad as the boat in front, though, which was at a good 45º angle! Wandered up the hill before going to bed, and had another stroll round the town the following morning – very pretty in arts, but a little tatty round the edges, we thought.
11th-13th July 1991 - We had planned an 11.30 start from Rye and were not particularly sorry to go – we might have been less under-whelmed by the place had there been any facilities to match the mooring charge (these were limited to the public loos across the road), and Nigel subsequently wrote to complain. On the way down we passed a neighbour of the previous night coming back in – a Belgian, who shouted “thick fog” as we passed. Outside the entrance it was indeed foggy – worse, there was a F5 on the nose and quite a choppy sea. The sea and wind both moderated though, within a couple of hours, and the (coastal) fog cleared even more quickly, so although we still had the wind against us we could at least settle down to a reasonably comfortable few hours of motoring down to a reasonably comfortable few hours of motoring down to Brighton – and eventually, in spite of the occasional shower, we had quite sunny and calm conditions for the last few miles past Beachy Head and Newhaven, arriving at Brighton just before 1900 hrs.
The following morning we were more or less woken up by Mike, from Felton’s, the Volvo agents, who had arrived to check over the engine. The upshot was, not surprisingly, that we had a compression problem: added to which our injectors had been wrongly installed by Westerlys, the sleeves were consequently damaged, and Mike suggested that the engine would have to come out for a thorough overhaul. Nothing for it but to make the necessary arrangements with the boatyard, clear our lines with Felton’s and Terry Pachol (fixing the ‘P’ bracket), and retire rather sadly to an immobilised boat. Having cancelled a tentative date to take the Tandy family out for a sail we decided there was little point in hanging around, so we took off back to London on the Saturday afternoon, leaving “Gladlee” to be towed round and hauled out on the Monday morning.
19th-21st July 1991 - Arm’s smarting from Vaccinations in the morning, we reached Brighton Marina in mid-afternoon to find the boat in the water, the ‘P’ bracket fixed, but the engine still not reconnected. It soon became clear that we were not going to get away that evening: the following day, in spite of lengthy and increasingly baffled attention from Mike and (finally) his boss, the engine resolutely refused to start. Eventually they called it a day at about 19.00, leaving us to sit out Sunday on the waiting pontoon by the boatyard.
22nd-23rd July 1991 - Mike turned up promptly on Monday morning with a new idea, and by the time we had got back from breakfast at the Bistro and a shop at Asda the engine was running merrily. It took a while for everything to be checked out to Mike’s satisfaction and for us to settle our accounts, but we eventually got under way, mush relieved, shortly after 15.00. After stops to fill the water tank and give the deck a wash down we set off in pleasant sunshine for Selsey Bill. We never had quite enough of a wind to do without the engine, but it was a pleasant enough trip to Osbourne Bay, marred only by hitting the unseen wash of a large tanker in the dark near Horse Sand Fort and shipping a wave into the main cabin via the open centre hatch. Our first anchorage outside Ramsgate harbour proved to be well chosen in the darkness, and we had a calm and comfortable night – Julie’s birthday!
The next day’s passage, from the Solent to Weymouth, was something of a mixed bag. We started at 08.15 in hazy sunshine and no wind, found F2/3 on the nose at Hurst Point, had a brief fright with an engine overheat (low fresh water, for some unexplained reason), then ran into fog for ten minutes. At lunchtime, south of St. Alban’s Head, we bore away for Weymouth and were able to set sail, but as we started to make progress in a SW4 we got drizzle followed by thundery showers (the thunder initially taken for gunfire on the Lulworth range!) Julie gallantly stuck to the helm as Nigel kept dry below, and eventually Portland harbour emerged from the murk as we had an excellent beam reach up to Weymouth. Arrived just after 16.00, we had to raft alongside two other boats, soon acquiring neighbours outside us who kindly invited us on board for evening drinks later (skipper turned out to be responsible for a mast-climbing device we had seen advertised in PBO). We treated ourselves to a nice enough dinner on the quayside, but Weymouth in the rain did not encourage us to linger.
24th July 1991 - Careful research suggested that the best time to tackle the notorious Portland Bill race was 09.30, so we disentangled ourselves from our raft an hour earlier and set off in reasonably bright weather, but already a F4 in the relatively sheltered lee of the Bill. We came round the point to face a F5 on the nose and a remarkably steep lumpy sea for half an hour or so until we had fought our way out to a safe distance offshore – one could dimly imagine what it might be like with a strong tide and a gale blowing! It took a further seven hours to make our landfall north of Dartmouth, with wind and waves pushing regular bucketfuls of water over the deck and into the helmsman’s face. Several heavy-looking showers did at least pass us by, but it was a pretty miserable crossing. By the time we had Berry Head on the beam the sea had moderated a bit, but the wind was a good F6 with gusts over 30 knots, and as we approached the entrance to the Dart soon after 17.00 it started drizzling. Once inside the harbour we didn’t need much persuading to head directly for Darthaven marina at Kingswear and tie up to a nice solid pontoon. At £15.98 for the privilege we did at least economise with a packet pasta supper!
25th-27th July 1991 - The morning wasn’t a lot brighter, with a grey sky and a very gusty wind, but after a night’s rest we were better able to take in the surroundings – the steep hillside of Kingswear above us with the terminus of the steam railway just beside the marina, the waterfront of Dartmouth across the channel and the great building of the Royal Naval College on the hill upstream, from which the sounds of a band and shouted orders drifted down as we boiled the breakfast kettle. We pumped up the dinghy and crossed to Dartmouth later in the morning to do some shopping, buy petrol for the outboard and have a drink at the Dartmouth Yacht Club – and another while waiting for the butcher to open after lunch. We left the marina in mid-afternoon with the aim of anchoring below Dittisham, a mile or so upriver, but several attempts to get the anchor to hold on a sloping sandbank in a windy stretch of water suggested that we might do better to press on to our second selected anchorage at Bow Creek. This proved to be a winner – nobody there as we nosed into a drying channel and dropped anchor right in the middle. The wind dropped, and sunshine finally broke through.
We took the dinghy up the creek to the pub at Tuckenhay before dinner, returning to find the river deserted except for a party of campers on a promontory a few hundred yards away, beyond a rather incongruous wreck. The following day we had a leisurely morning in our delightfully peaceful surroundings before starting out on a rather speculative walk to Totnes – speculative in the sense that we had a rough idea of which direction to take but no map. We headed up from the shore, over a few fields, down a farm track or two and eventually came across a footpath that took us down through woods and along a hillside overlooking the meandering upper Dart before dropping down into Totnes two hours or so after we started. After a beer and a climb up the old main street we found ourselves on a busy main road, then cut down an overgrown public footpath to a minor road which eventually led us to the pretty village of Ashprington and back over the hill to Bow Creek. The walk back seemed a little quicker, but we felt we had earned our steak dinner!
We saw little point in moving for our third night up the Dart, so we dried out again in Bow Creek, spending the day doing odd jobs on the boat before going out in the dinghy a mile or so downstream to Stoke Gabriel. The village seemed to be having a carnival, or summer festival, lasting about a month – this Saturday evening featured fishermen’s rowing races and a barbeque, but we bypassed events on the shore to call in at each of the three pubs, before settling on the first one for a decent enough supper.
28th-29th July 1991 - We left Bow Creek with some regret, but made our way downstream in dull conditions to take on fuel at Dart Marina and to raft off Dartmouth embankment for a few minutes while Julie hopped ashore to get some cash. By the time we got out to sea there was a F3 from the east but quite a lot of fog, so that we rounded Start Point at lunchtime without actually seeing it at all. Visibility improved a little and the wind picked up as we came abeam of Prawle Point and by the time we got into Salcombe entrance we had a pretty good view of the river. Having done our homework we headed straight up to Frogmore Creek, where after a tentative reconnaissance upstream we settled for a sheltered anchorage in the so-called “lake”. By this time the mist had cleared away, and in lovely late afternoon sunshine we dinghied ashore (under oars, at Julie’s insistence!) to look at a track down which we hoped David and Mary Morley and their girls would be able to drive or walk to visit us, from their holiday cottage in Frogmore Village. The track looked fine in theory, but it proved to be a private road to a farm and a house converted to holiday flats, and we were given to understand that visitors would not be altogether welcome. So after another look at the chart we decided to try and take “Gladlee” up the creek at breakfast time the following morning, instead of going up in the dinghy as planned. Slightly to our surprise we made it up to the final reach on the rising tide, and a helpful local boatman even offered us a mooring buoy in the middle of the anchorage. The Morley’s cottage was on the waterfront only 300 yards or so away, and we were welcomed ashore for coffee and fresh rolls while we discussed plans for the day. After ferrying David and Diana out for a look round the boat (we had to postpone Mary and Jessica’s trip to the evening as the tide was too low) we all set off on a trip across country – Nigel navigating rather erratically round minor roads – to the complex at Buckfastleigh which includes a steam railway station, a butterfly farm and a collection of otters. After butterflies (and otters’ lunch) we went off to picnic on a field with a glorious view over rolling Devon countryside, thence to a marvellous farm which the owner has opened to the public, encouraging kids to mix with the animals (cows, pigs, geese, rabbits, donkeys and whatever) while putting over a gently “green” message. A splendid cream tea on the way back rounded off a very nice day out, and we treated ourselves to showers in the cottage before going off to the pub round the corner for supper and a beer or two.
30th July 1991 - We left at 09.00 sounding a blast from the “Froghorn” to let the Morleys know we were off and getting a wave or two from the upper window of the cottage. A passing harbourmaster’s launch took our mooring fees as we passed “The Bag”, and we picked up a mooring off Salcombe to go ashore in the dinghy. Salcombe proved unexpectedly nice, in spite of the holiday crowds, with some good shops along the mail street and a back street lined with chandlers and marine engineers where we eventually managed to change a gas bottle. A real find was a tiny launderette at the end of a small passageway, and we returned to the boat with a clean and nearly dry wardrobe and a fresh supply of food. It was sunny and warm as we left, feeling that we had done rather better than we had expected, given Salcombe’s reputation for over-crowding in season – no doubt it was a different story when the regatta was on the following week. We had a pleasant and uneventful run down along the great cliffs of Bolt Head and Bolt Tail and across Bigbury Bay, eventually turning in opposite the Great Mewstone to negotiate the entrance to the Yealm. At half tide this didn’t present any real problems, but we were keeping a very careful eye on the chart and the depth sounder as we negotiated the narrow channel. There was a predictable crowd of yachts inside, but we managed to find a vacant trot mooring up-river and keep it for ourselves while boats rafted up in front of us. It was a lovely sunny evening, with much activity of sailing dinghies in and out of Newton Creek: we took the dinghy round to the Yealm Yacht Club and had a couple of beers, looking across the creek to the party in progress at the pub in Noss Mayo (the end of a nautical treasure-hunt apparently). Very much of a village atmosphere (though no doubt many of the people around were out from Plymouth) and a really lovely anchorage in the main river, sheltered, quiet and with woods all around.
31st July 1991 - In the morning we took the dinghy across to the landing stage below the Yealm Hotel and walked along the upper-road to Newton Ferrers’ small shopping centre, then back along the shore path between gardens and steps down to private landing stages – unfortunately no time on this occasion to try one of the walks through the woods out to the sea shore. We had made contact with Tim Taylor, who was expecting to meet us in Fowey the following morning, so at lunchtime we made our way out of the Yealm in pleasant sunshine and across the approach to Plymouth Sound – we tried sailing for an hour or so, but the light wind shifted to WSW and we had to motor the rest of the way, making our way into Fowey harbour soon after 17.00. After a brief tour round the moorings we settled for rafting outside the end boat on the pontoon on the Polruan side – “Jiminy Kricket” turned out to be inhabited by an amiable single-hander and a very large white dog. Various other boats arrived as the evening wore on, and eventually most were rafting four deep, but we had a fairly quiet night in spite of our neighbour’s leaving Radio 1 on until past 03.00!
1st August 1991 - Tim duly met us at Albert Quay the next morning, and we had a coffee while waiting for Carole and the children to emerge from the dentist. Fowey left a pleasant impression, the village still keeping its character in spite of the tourist influx, and the harbour a mixture of yachts, fishing-boats and the occasional large ship moving up towards the china clay loading wharves just out of sight round the first bend in the river. After taking the Taylors out to see the boat we made for the terrace of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club, with a great view of the harbour in brilliant sunshine. Later we called on Terry Norman’s father and (?step) mother, proprietors of “The Winkle Picker” on the jetty at Polruan, and in the evening Tim picked us up for a barbeque supper (and very welcome showers) at their home in Par, overlooking St. Austell Bay. By now the dinghy (or rather its engine) was beginning to be much more familiar and easily-managed means of transport.
2nd August 1991 - After a brief trip ashore for shopping we invited ourselves on board an “Oceandream” (Seahawk Mk II) over the way, whose skipper claimed to have owned a series of Westerly’s and sounded immensely experienced. They left a good half-hour before us, but in a very pleasant SSE F4 we overtook them well before Dodman Point, thanks (it appeared) to their extraordinarily bad sail trimming. We had a very fast and easy sail down to Falmouth entrance, but by the time we got into the Penryn River the weather was deteriorating. The Yacht Haven looked crowded and there seemed to be no moorings free, so with drizzle starting we made our way upstream to the marina, grounding briefly as we approached and then being offered nothing better than a raft. In increasing ill humour we made our way back through the rain and rafted alongside a magnificent wooden-decked Swedish yacht at the Yacht Haven – at least more convenient for the town. Not that Falmouth impressed us much on a wet grey evening, but we did fetch up in an excellent pub where Julie had her first “scrumpy” and Nigel found a particularly good pint of bitter (“Cornish Original”, unfortunately not seen again….)
3rd-4th August 1991 - After a misty start the weather looked brighter, and after food shopping and topping up the water tank we headed up Carrick Road to look for a weekend anchorage. We took a look into St. Just, which seemed relatively uninviting, and then headed for the upper part of the Fal, ignoring various crowded anchorages on the western side of Carrick Road that were familiar from Coastal Skipper exercises (Restrouguet Creek, Mylar Creek, and so on…) After passing the extraordinary deep-water anchorage by King Harry Ferry (two large freighters and a Portsmouth Southsea ferry parked in the river) we reached Ruan Creek, where the Fal river turns into the Truro, and to our surprise found the drying anchorage just round the corner completely unoccupied. We dinghied round to a pretty pub overlooking the river junction for a beer and a call to wish Nigel’s mother a happy birthday, then back to the boat for Julie’s special trout with ouzo. As the river dried we saw curlews and oyster catchers with the herons on the banks, and after much staring through binoculars and studying of bird books we also had a clear identification of a little egret. A lovely evening altogether.
The next day was fine, though the sunshine never quite settled in. We spent it “spring-cleaning”, with all the cushions on deck and lockers open for a much needed airing, while Julie started re-painting the deck and Nigel cleaned the whitework and the waterline. We took a break in the early afternoon to take a dinghy trip further up the creek, but apart from more pleasant wooded river banks there was not a lot to be seen and there was nowhere to land. After a hard day’s work we knocked off in time to watch the egret at low tide and then enjoyed the amazingly cheap calves’ liver we had found in Falmouth.
5th August 1991 - The plan for the day was to get up to Truro on the rising tide, meet Jeremy Varcoe off the London train and get down again before we ran out of water. We left as early as the pilot book recommended and had no problems negotiating the channel past Malpas, but on the bend off Boscawen Park we grounded briefly, and we touched bottom four times more while we negotiated the last half mile on to the quay at Truro. We berthed with friendly local advice, got the key to the water hose from the harbourmaster, and Nigel gratefully accepted the enthusiastic H.M.’s offer of a lift to the station (HM full of plans for redeveloping the declining port as a yachting centre). Jeremy duly arrived, toting large bag filled with Julie’s “mailbox”, and we set off back down river shortly after 13.00. The mornings intermittent mizzle set in as we left. Nigel grounding once opposite the first corner (momentary panic on the falling tide), but otherwise we made it down the Fal and through Carrick Roads without further incident, motoring into the wind and mizzle across to the Helford River, where we were fortunate enough to pick up a visitors’ buoy. Nice dinner on board (roast beef, Yorkshire pudding etc.) after a stroll through very pretty Helford village and a drink at the “Shipwright’s Arms”.
6th August 1991 - Another rather mizzly day, but the weather brightened a bit in the afternoon and we set off in the dinghy up to Polweveral creek, to a small disused quay from which a recent PBO article promised a rewarding “stroll up the footpath” to an “extraordinary off-licence” (“an Aladdin’s cave of booze”) in the village of Constantine. After three fields and a very muddy approach to a gate we had our doubts about this intelligence, but a party of ramblers assured us we were on track for Constantine – four fields and a road later we did indeed see signs of life, and after a much-needed stop for refreshment at the pub we made our way to the famous “Stores”. It did indeed house an extraordinary variety of drinks (notable dozens of whiskys and some rare vintage clarets), but faced with the walk back we settled for a couple of bottles apiece. Supper on the terrace at “The Shipwrights’” was very adequate: we also called in at the excellent yacht club overlooking the estuary, which in the belated sunshine of early evening was starting to live up to its reputation as “a gem of a river” (one of these days we must read “Frenchman’s Creek.”…..)
7th August 1991 - With a NNW wind forecast we decided to make directly for the Scillies, by-passing the not particularly attractive sounding intermediate stop at Penzance (or worse, Newlyn). This involved a relatively convenient early morning start to carry the tide round the Lizard and out to Land’s End, so 06.30 saw us leave the Helford in overcast but clear conditions and no wind to speak of. By the time we reached the manacles the wind had picked up, and we made quite good time until half-way across Mount’s Bay, when the wind dropped and we had to motor for a while. By 11.30, with Wolf Rock in sight seven miles to the west, we had enough wind to sail again – but Nigel was already beginning to realise that the tides off Land’s End are decidedly unpredictable. As the Scillies came into view it was evident that we were slipping steadily south of our intended track (not as far south, however, as Jeremy led us to believe for a while – he was confidently placing St Mary’s Sound through the middle of St Mary’s Island!) At about 15.00 we found ourselves briefly in the middle of a school of porpoises, and soon afterwards we tacked north again to gain back the lost ground. On starboard tack again, and with evening sunshine breaking through, we made Peninnis Head reasonably comfortably and nosed our way into the fairly crowded anchorage of Porth Cressa, on the south side of Hughtown, just before 18.00. Some careful bearings (and the odd crossed fingers) got us into a convenient corner, not too far from the beach, with about 2m. below the keel at low water. After supper we dinghied ashore, and Jeremy led us down to the “Mermaid”, where the crowded bar was brilliantly entertained by a couple of blokes hammering out popular songs on a honky-tonk piano and one-man skiffle set. A second pint unlocked the vocal chords, and we made a noisy contribution to the sing-song. A very successful day altogether.
8th-9th August 1991 - The morning was sunny again, the water startlingly blue. We went ashore and up to the “castle” on the promontory above to try and locate the cottage where the Westmacotts were due to arrive a couple of days later. This proved difficult, since for security reasons (the odd Royal and members of the Prince of Wales’ household use the place) nobody was prepared to tell us where it was! We left a note at the Duchy office and went back into town to do some food shopping then back to the boat and off to Tresco, adjusting with some difficulty to the large-scale chart we were now using. It took less that an hour to negotiate the channel into New Grimsby Sound and to anchor in an excellent position just off the harbour. Most of the other yachts about were French (more enterprising than the Brits, perhaps, or just appreciating a free anchorage for a change?), and there was plenty of room amid the stark but rather beautiful scenery. Jeremy led us on a walk round the centre of Tresco, through a slightly exotic landscape of plantations and semi-tropical shrubs, past a lake full of ducks, coots and geese (a few Egyptian geese to keep Julie interested), then on to the eastern shore and spectacular views over beautiful beaches to the outlying islands, skirting Old Grimsby harbour we called in on John Hamilton, an artist friend of Jeremy’s, and then hastened back to the dinghy to catch the weather forecast; monkfish for dinner.
The next morning we sallied forth relatively early to tour the famous Tresco Gardens, slightly less than brilliant in overcast weather and occasional mizzle, but nonetheless improbable in a part of the UK and not under glass! After lunch we made our way round the northern end of the island – spectacularly rugged coast, quite fearsome-looking even in relatively fine weather, and easy to imagine how so many ships managed to wreck themselves on it. Coming round to “Cromwell’s” Castle (or was it “King Charles”?) we had a most beautiful view straight down the Sound, across the anchorage and over to St. Mary’s, where we could clearly see “The Scillonian” at the pier off Hughtown (no camera to hand, unfortunately). Back to the boat for supper – or rather for the early evening forecast again, since Jeremy was determined to have us land on Bryher, the island across the Sound, and walk across to its one and only hotel bar for a drink. This we duly did and the views to the east certainly seemed to justify the hotel’s name – “Hell Bay”.
10th-11th August 1991 - We had telephoned to St Mary’s HM (no reply on the VHF) to arrange to take on water at the pier after “The Scillonian” had left the following morning at 09.45. We moved across to St. Mary’s in good time and anchored while “The Scillonian” finished loading – but she didn’t leave till well after 10.00, by which time there wasn’t a lot of water on top of her berth. By the time we had helped a French yacht to take on water outside us it was nearly 10.40, and we duly touched bottom leaving the pier on our way back to our anchorage. Meanwhile we had contacted a very friendly Yamaha dealer, conveniently located on the pier, who was happy to take our outboard for its final service – all of ten hours run since we bought it in January! In the process of getting the engine ashore Nigel managed to drop the service log book in the water, but Julie retrieved it I the nick of time, spotting turnstones at the water’s edge as she did so. We had a rather good fish-and-chip lunch while we waited for the outboard service and for Nigel’s photos to be developed, then back to the boat at 16.30 for a sail up to St. Martin’s and St. Helen’s islands to the north – with a freshening wind we chickened out of the original plan to sail round to seaward of St. Martin’s and executed a rather complex tack and gybe of Jeremy’s devising to turn-round instead…. By 18.00 the wind had dropped again and we weren’t making much progress south against the tide, so we turned on the engine off St. Mary’s harbour and were soon parked in more or less the identical spot we had left two days before in Porth Cressa.
Jeremy took the dinghy ashore for church parade on Sunday morning – we took our time getting up on a rather grey and misty morning, but we managed to get up to the Duchy offices in time to keep our rendezvous with Peter Westmacott. Their cottage turned out to be tucked away about 50 yards away from the Duchy’s front door, but the security precautions we had run up against (judging by the visitor’s book!) were clearly necessary. Over coffee we exchanged news and offered an outing on “Gladlee” the following day – slight consternation when we realised that this would mean sailing with eight on board, but we decided we could manage well enough in settled weather. Filthy mizzly afternoon, but the rain stopped long enough to allow us a walk round the castle promontory, later we waved up to the Westmacotts doing likewise as we settled down to roast chicken for dinner.
12th August 1991 - Our luck with “one-day” visitors held - the morning was warm and sunny, though with virtually no wind. We embarked two dinghy-loads of Westmacotts, after Nigel and Jeremy had done some food shopping (the main street of Hughtown by now very familiar!), and set off down the W-side of St. Agnes island towards the Bishop Rock lighthouse. Passing between Annett Island and the Western Rocks we spotted seals in the water and basking on rocks, which prompted much demand for our two sets of binoculars. At the southern end of St. Agnes we had an unsuccessful attempt at locating two large wrecks marked on the chart before nosing into our lunch stop, the inlet between St. Agnes and Gugh islands. “Gladlee Special” sandwiches seemed to go down well – Jeremy had meanwhile ventured in for a swim, and Julie followed when a Westmacott shoe got kicked into the water.
The junior Westmacotts had meanwhile, improbably, succeeded in hooking three Pollock from the dinghy. As England approached victory in the final Test against West Indies, we left the kids on board and took the dinghy ashore for a stroll round St. Agnes – it was shortly after taking the group photo that Nigel realised that the dinghy was perilously close to the rising tide, shortly after that when both of us cottoned on to the fact that we had not allowed for this length of stay in deciding how much anchor chain to let out…. Little suspecting that we might have left them to drift off in charge of the boat (they assured us they would have coped!) Oliver, Laura and Rupert cheered Julie on as she beat the rowing partnership of Jeremy and Angie back to “Gladlee” by several lengths.
We were back in Porth Cressa for tea by 17.00, whereupon the Westmacotts invited us back for supper – three pork chops were made available by stint of feeding the children on the Pollack they had caught, and we had a pleasant relaxing evening to round off a most successful day.