#1 2017-08-17 21:26:19

From: Dublin Bay
Registered: 2011-02-24
Posts: 396

PIPPIN's Log 2017

Ireland Jaunt

July – August 2017

Blog Notes:

What follows is compiled from notes made in my soggy notebook that became blog posts.  Pippin is a Frances 34 Pilothouse that replaced my much loved Sadler 290, and which I sail solo.  I set off on this short jaunt too soon, for I barely knew the boat or its systems or indeed how she sailed.

“A fore-deck wrestle with Mr. Rocna on the last day as skipper of my Sadler 290 A-Jay, resurrected an ancient back injury that had me against the ropes weeping like a baby and gobbling Gabapentin, possibly for life.  These events combined meant gallivanting to the Baltic became a Willis plan in waiting, but Pippin and I would go somewhere for sure.
Oblivious, A-Jay slipped quietly away with poise and dignity to her new skipper on a Monday morning, hours before Pippin, a Frances 34 Pilothouse slipped into the marina.
Pippin, Dixcart Bay, Sark

If the 290 is a spirited quality GTI ‘thingamy’, Pippin is a laid back sporty saloon of a bygone era - an old man's boat, said son Sam, accurate and to the point as ever.  That will do me.  Low slung, curvaceous, wayward astern and deadly ahead with a battering ram of a bowsprit she'll take more than I can.

A few tweaks completed, we left into a hard blue afternoon guided by a gentle breeze South towards Jersey at a canter, ambushing and taking a light weight Frenchie by surprise.  Me too, for I was not expecting such spirited performance I thought smugly, as the Rocna bit into the sand of Beau Port Bay.  It is a pretty spot, though a busy Nor’easter scooted busily from the hillsides across the bay.  Not enough of a fracas to disturb the consumption of the skipper's stew, of a consistency sufficient to stun a walrus.
The Hydrovane, as any serious sailor will know, is for the REAL ocean goer, the sort who enjoys watching albatross whilst playing with the Southern Ocean and there is one perched on Pippin's transom.  True it looks awesome, but in truth it initially terrified me as it suggested Pippin's skipper was a hardier sort than he is.  I also had to work out how to operate it.   It was therefore with some surprise when, having 'raised the Rocna' - surely a term for use in any yacht club – the wind-vane calmly took over and led us out of the bay.  True I pointed him vaguely at the wind and pulled a couple of pins out but that was it.  For that he deserved a name and HQ had decided on Hercule.

Showing off, bossy as ever, Hercule had us close hauled at 35 degrees to the wind at a steady 6.2 knots past Grosnez Point and on to Sark.  Pippin sailed like a thoroughbred and Hercule was more than a match for her; all I have to do now is to try and keep up.  We hid for the night in Derrible Bay, so calm Pippin barely moved, though the 'Gull chorus' was as raucous as ever.  Things had come together rather well I thought sleepily, though preparation had been frankly minimal for my planned trip and I was carrying a slightly larger crew than before, whom I shall call ASDA - Asthma, Slipped Disc and Arthritis.

First stop would be Teignmouth, to meet up with A-Jay's new owner.  15th June and a sleepy exit into a quiet grey dawn.  My old friend Shetland had a 982 on the way, but for the rest of us more benign conditions were promised and for Pippin, a Westerly 4/5, declining.  Hercule got the thick end of my tongue in the Little Russel, until I realised that I had left him slumbering in neutral - well, at least I had remembered to attach his rudder I thought over breakfast.

It was surprisingly rough in the Channel with little shipping, it being a Sunday, but a single Common dolphin came to join me as a destroyer played with his chopper in the distance.  The wind touched 27 knots, when an exhausted racing pigeon crash landed and puked on the poop deck, so I got some water down him and he re-joined his race as soon as the smell of land arrived.

Channel Bash

A wave bounced over the wheelhouse and prompted me to hand the mainsail, but Pippin didn't mind, charging happily at 6 knots before we drove into pretty Teignmouth, comfortable in the lee from the hillsides, shaken but not stirred in the evening sun.  A-Jay nodded gently as we passed and next day I sat and chatted with Reg, A-Jay's new 86 years young skipper and his charming daughter Rona.

Pippin, Teignmouth

Reg's place overlooks Teignmouth harbour entrance and I just knew that he spotted me run aground in the channel, as I left early next morning. "You're on the wrong side skipper" shouted the trawler captain rather obviously and loud enough for all to hear.  I suspect we were front page of the Teignmouth news that day.  Teignmouth, of course, was the home port of Teignmouth Electron, the trimaran skippered by the hapless Donald Crowhurst in the original golden Globe round the World race.

A brief sail before capitulation in the breathless morning, a hearty breakfast, on a smooth sea, guillemots, trawlers, bobbers and me.  Plymouth was a new destination for me and both the fierce eddies and the stiff cross current outside the Mayflower Marina took me by surprise.  I used to think bow thrusters were for motor boaters and wimps, but not anymore.  It was the difference between making it or a severe ramming incident.

It was good to meet up again with 'Team Goss', previous custodians of Pippin and to catch up with my Royal Marine nephew Ed, who I always enjoy seeing not least because he is too polite to tell me he has heard that story before....  many times.

Pippin, Plymouth

As ever, it is the people you meet on journeys and so it was I found myself in the cheery saloon of an Irish 38 footer, there to swap notes and charts for each was destined for the others' home ground.   Those who have persevered with my earlier posts will note the addition of the colour blue in the photographs, a colour conspicuous by its absence during horrid summer of A-Jay's 2015 voyage to the Shetlands.

Plymouth is a lovely harbour, like so many full of history….. and bodies.  Pete Goss described how the many fortifications roundabout had been largely built by French POWs, who resided in stinking disease ridden prison ships.  When a POW died, he would be unceremoniously heaved overboard.  Whatever their conditions, the evidence of the quality of their handiwork is all around Plymouth.

Smeeton Tower, a candy striped edifice I had aimed for but fortunately missed on entering, is a tribute to the inventor of the stone built lighthouse for it was he who designed interlocking stone blocks, capable of withstanding storms.  These replaced wooden structures topped by braziers, which were frequently swept away with all hands.  The Eddystone was one of his, built by a mixed labour force of French POWs and British workmen all of whom were accorded special status, because of the importance of their work, by both the British and the French King.  It was a hapless French naval skipper who on passing one day, captured the workforce, only to earn the wrath of his monarch rather than praise and reward.

I left in the quiet of early dawn, down a diamond road.  It was blustery and a reef in the Yankee set Pippin up nicely for Eire, our next destination.  Lunch took place as Gannets dived bombed a shoal from above and dolphins attacked from below.  Who would be a mackerel?

Someone I decided grumpily a little later, was attempting to prevent me leaving the Channel, for the wind had turned as we slipped towards the infamous Lizard peninsula and it now perched on the pulpit like a scratchy pince-nez, though I banished the idea of pausing in Penzance, still being full of the idea of a straight run to Eire.  Pity.

Pippin to Cork – Eventually

I don’t like Land’s End I decided later – from the sea at least.  OK, the tides weren’t right though it wasn’t springs, it was dark, I was tired and the wind was not a friend, but I DO NOT LIKE Land’s End I thought very grumpily, as we crawled laboriously round the deadly dark shape inch by inch.

I was north of the Longships, over 20 hours out and many, many more to go.  So you close your eyes and imagine a series of little disasters, enough to test character and temper, if not sink the ship, and then there they are: 0300, pitch black, a trailing sheet round the propeller, an errant topping lift heading for the clouds, an AWOL autopilot and an engine that wouldn’t start.  I am not proud of all this but it was thus.

Time for ‘Willis Saga Mode’.  STOP.  Think, prioritise and then get on with it, one by one.  One thing was certain, I was not calling for help – sure I was knackered, sure we were in trouble with Land’s End looming to starboard, but I was not going to die or the boat sink.  Time for Plan B – or was it C? - get sailing, gently, head for Penzance and ask for assistance to enter the harbour.  So began our slow retreat, getting down and dirty with Land’s End yet again after so little  ground had been won with so much effort – all part of growing up and being British, I thought grumpily.

Later I was amused to  note that Churchill was showing in the Penzance flee-pit, as we finally got towed through Penzance Lock by the laid back harbour crew.  Bulldog spirit.  Anyway, I like Penzance and know now that the water hoses and electricity points are all too far away to be of use to most visitors, but that’s part of its charm.  You can still turn the showers up as hot as you like, for those dull twins Elf & Safety remain slow to arrive in these parts.

Penrith Engineering Works were too busy to assist with Pippin’s woes, but I managed to get the engine start switch to work – most times – and the autopilot responded to a good bleed of its hydraulics so I would go at midnight.  And so we did, again slogging round that hated headland in absolute inky blackness, lights for company, inching north.

The autopilot – he doesn’t yet deserve a name – was an unreliable trooper, so desperate measures were required and to the rescue galloped Hercule.  A couple of hours playing with sails and engine, for the wind barely ruffled the ensign, and we reached a compromise.  He would steer, bossily as ever, with sails pulling and the engine running at 1,650 rpm.  This was just as well, as I had 30 hours to go, the wind barely topped 5 mph and I had to rest at some point.  Tackling the autopilot, I brought him back from leave as dolphins played yonder, with a double hydraulic bleed and some choice language and then managed to rest.

Lest I hear the first tuts tuts of criticism and references to Colregs, I should explain that I had set the radar to warn me of anything entering my 360 degree guard zone, so in theory I would be at the helm in time to avert disaster, or salute as I went down with the ship.
Pitch black, disorientated, fuzzy with sleep and aware that I had lost a midnight hour for the autopilot was AWOL again.  With the light wind now heading us and Cork beckoning many hours away, I reached a compromise with the autopilot, like a Cpl with a bolshie squaddie.  I also discovered the cross track error alarm, which added to the radar’s guard zone, doubled security, just as well for visibility in the grey dawn was less than a mile.

Kinsale Oil & Gas Installation

As the sun burned off the fog, the Kinsale oil and gas installation with its attendant guard ship hove into view and the wind increased to 12 mph from ENE, allowing Pippin to stretch her creamy wings and fly to Cork at an easy 6.5 knots.  Perhaps she too was keen for journey’s end.

Lovely Rocna

Hercule Heads us for Cork


And so we came into Cork, where I headed for the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest in the World and one of the most famous, but very delightfully laid back and under stated, so Irish.   It amused me that the Club attendant beckoned me in to tie up alongside a very trim, large Guernsey yacht, and I know that my lack of posh jacket and tie will pass without comment or criticism.

Pippin Tarries in Crosshaven

Crosshaven, home of the famous Royal Cork Yacht Club, where we tarry as inmate Bravo Two Zero.  It is a gorgeous little place, laid back, pretty, friendly.  The only difficulty will be summoning the will power to leave, which I plan to do on Saturday bound for the Wild West.  Make sure you have enough rations when you go there, mournfully espoused a next door skipper.  Enough rations!  My boats are weighed down with rations, boot tops dragging in the ‘oggin.  A sinister message none the less, which conjured images of starving matelots struggling across huge ocean rollers, wild, rugged dark coasts to leeward, galley bare.

Joined by my wife Angie for a leisurely static week, we met nothing but kindness.  Shopping for top up rations, for the boot top had resurfaced, the checkout lady informed us it was the 220X bus, and NOT the 220 we needed to get to Cork.  The lady in the Cronin Pub further explained that one got off the 220X in one place in Cork, but caught the return in quite another.  Only in Crosshaven.
It hasn’t been incident free, as is typical of this skipper.  We have not moved an inch, turned a prop or raised a sail for days and yet …… the old dinghy slipped silently beneath the waves as its air tubes finally gave up after more than 2 decades.  No problem except a lovely, black, new Suzuki outboard went with it.  On our return from exploring I found the carcass on the pontoon, outboard forlornly attached.
Of course even Mr. Suzuki was not going to cooperate without some TLC and to give this skipper a tiny bit of credit, I got him going though he was not happy.  So a quick call and Mr Suzuki was left outside the marina office unattended for collection by whomsoever, for it is that kind of place.  Off he went in my absence to I was not quite sure where.

Meanwhile, a new dinghy was ordered and took an age to arrive – we tripped over it as we left to explore, a full 45 minutes after ordering it.  Only in Crosshaven.

An email on our return informed us of the considerable degree of TLC extended to Mr. Suzuki all for the cost of one Guernsey engineer looking at it and deciding what was to be done.  Only in Crosshaven.

What I haven’t confessed is that we had caught the bus in haste to a dentist.  Explaining to the charming receptionist at the RCYC that an emergency filling was required as I had lost a joust with an olive pip the evening before, she picked up the phone.  “Just tell me straight” said she very loudly into the mouthpiece, “can you or can you not give this gentleman an emergency appointment this morning, YES or NO?????!!!!!”  25 minutes later I was in the chair.  Only in Crosshaven.

Bad things are meant to happen in threes.  I make it 4 now; autopilot AWOL, engine starter on the blink, sunken dinghy & submerged outboard and broken tooth.  This must mean I am owed one ……… we’ll see.  Good night.

Upriver from Crosshaven

Kevin the taxi had a beguiling Irish accent you could slice with a knife, like a soft cheese.  The fact that I missed perhaps 30% of his stories mattered not a jot, as I bounced in the back of his taxi, even though he drove slower than anyone else.  I suspect suspension might have been an expensive extra easily dispensed with.

Kevin the taxi had to press back in his seat just a tad, in order to turn the wheel and cooking was one of our topics.  He had steamed a bass for supper, a success so great, the tale was worth 3 repeats.  He told of the old railway that ran alongside the river until the late 1920s, when reliable road transport made it redundant and he conjured a vivid image of Sir Francis Drake’s flight upriver to escape his pursuers all in one seamless story.

Smug Skipper with Guinness & Oysters

Royal Cork Yacht Club

Angie and I were ferried into Cork wrapped in Kevin the taxi’s warm dialect, and ambled round the English Market fortified by strong coffee and sumptuous cake at Café Central, returning another day for a leisurely lunch at the Farmgate Restaurant whose larder is the market.
We explored Camden Fort, renovated and run by volunteers, at a leisurely pace in pleasant sunshine.  Enthusiastic volunteers lived out their dreams in busy re-enactments as we pottered, minds gently in neutral.

Angie left on a Thursday, leaving the skipper 48 hours to get himself and Pippin in gear.  It began with a knuckle skinning few hours with hose pipe, butyl and spanners tracking and endeavouring to fix a few leaks.  The Yanmar needed a minor infusion of fluids, but otherwise looked ready for the off.  Despite the fast flowing river, weed grows rapidly here and boats beached for careening were lathered in weed tendrils, muscles and barnacles.  Pippin already needed a waterline scrub.

Heron Fishing

The Royal Cork Yacht Club is very much worth a minute or two, so I will plunder the Club’s history.

In 1660 after his restoration to the English crown and return from exile, Charles II was presented with a yacht called Mary by the Dutch, which he sailed enthusiastically on the Thames.  Soon several of his courtiers followed his example and it seems pretty certain that one of them was Murrough O’Brien, the 6th Lord Inchiquin (Murrough of the Burnings).  He attended the court of King Charles from 1660 to 1662, and was created the 1st Earl of Inchiquin by Charles in 1664.

Private sailing started to become popular in Cork Harbour and by 1720, interest in the sport had progressed so much that his great-grandson, the 26 year old William O’Brien, the 9th Lord Inchiquin, and five of his friends got together to formalise their activities and in so doing established “The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork”.  This club is known today as the Royal Cork Yacht Club and it is the oldest yacht club in the world.


It is the centre of youth sailing and every day during school holidays, swarms of tiny tots head out in their Optimists, like noisy butterflies shepherded by older children instructors in whizzy RIBs.  Cries like “Oh No! Why does my brother have to be in the same boat!” and “I want the toilet!” just as the motor boat, loaded with 10 kids is set to leave.

It is these older children – young adults really – who seem to keep the club running in a friendly efficient way.  When I asked about refuelling, the admin lady who had terrified the dental receptionist on my behalf announced where I should take the boat and said a lad would be summoned and so it transpired.  It is relaxed here, nothing is too much trouble and I could stay forever.

I didn’t know if I was punched, bored or counter sunk for it was 3 a.m. and I was deep down amongst the weeds but something soft was lying on my feet.  This was odd for I was alone.  It felt heavier than a cushion so I kicked out irritably, which resulted in a soft thump and an indignant meow as the cat hit the floor.  It was pitch black, and I wondered if it was a dream as I opened the cabin door to let it out, only to be met by the cat sitting outside looking curiously up at me.  He had escaped the way he came in, through the forward hatch.  We had a short purry cuddle and then he left; whence he had come or where he was going I knew not.
Talking of going, it is time for Pippin and I to move on.  We’ll leave early tomorrow, to head west for Glandore, then Baltimore and the Fastnet Rock.

Baltimore at last

The seas were horrid, the wind punching us on the nose.  Shallow water, strong wind against tide, Pippin and I did not like it and we were going nowhere fast.  I wanted to get to Baltimore, but not that badly.  For the second time, I rewrote the plan and turned away from the struggle, choosing Kinsale for my bolthole creeping past the ominous headland into the shelter of the estuary.  I planned to drop Mr. Rocna, but the anchor winch remained asleep, so we picked up a buoy and paid our dues.
How different things are in peace and sunshine.  The approach to Kinsale, no longer dark and mist shrouded is now all soft curves, low, green with purple patches and comfortable houses.  It beguiles you, draws you in.  It’s a laid back places like so many people I have met.  Gas had become critical to the operation for without hot tea, this soldier will mutiny, no question.  Myle Murphy’s was the place though no sign of life disturbed his shop that morning.

“Could open 0930, or maybe not” said the nice shop assistant sharing my bench in the sunshine, not very helpfully, before she commandeered half of my Daily Telegraph.  Suddenly the shop door opened and I pounced, though it wasn’t the elusive Murphy, but the next door shopkeeper who just happened to have a key to his place.  So I had gas, hot tea, and a peaceful sea as Black Head Point loomed to starboard, precursor to the Old Head of Kinsale, bobbers, Guillemots and me.  A golf course ran out along the point, a challenge in winter for sure.

Orderly ranks of cows ignored us, bovine boredom and methane, as we shaved Seven Heads at half a mile, across a placid sea at a stately jog.  2.5 miles from Galley Head, an Irish Patrol Boat bustled importantly past.  Wrecks beneath the shallow sea, so many, what were they, who were they?

Habitation thins to nothing as you approach Baltimore from the sea and a ruin sits stop the skyline just before Kedge Island. This tells you something, perhaps, but it is fine by me.  Fastnet Rock ahead, as Lot’s wife eyed us from Baltimore Harbour’s front door.
I sent Mr Rocna down by hand to explore in 4 metres and vaguely wondered if we would meet again.  First impressions were that the journey was worth it.  It’s a pretty place, with upmarket dwellings lining the edge of Baltimore sea front, busy with yachts and barely a motor cruiser to be seen.  Time for a homemade curry fit to thump jelly fish.

I confined myself to barracks next morning as the blousy front swept overhead, and my intensive inexpert investigation of the innards of the anchor winch proved predictably fruitless.  But help in the form of Peter the Electric is promised for the morrow.  In the meantime I blundered around performing maintenance Willis style a screwdriver mislaid here, a spanner there for its the feeling that you are on top of things, rather than being so that’s the thing …..  Meanwhile the wind wrought havoc with a fleet of butterflies across the harbour and played its doleful tune in Pippin’s rigging.

Time for a run ashore.

Brought to you courtesy of Bushe’s pub Wi-Fi, from a soggy skipper ashore without his glasses and barely able to see the screen.  Cheeri

Baltimore 2 Kinsale

I sat on my pizza whilst unloading the dinghy in a stiff breeze, as one does and whilst it cooked I was privileged to witness real seamanship.  A 30 foot engineless twin masted junk rigged Sharpie, probably home built, short tacked up the harbour lee gunwale awash to drop her anchor sweetly, without drama, sails furled in seconds.  Nationality?  French of course.  Doris, for that was her name, I salute you, two little Bretons her crew.  The pizza, flattened to within an inch of life was just fine, as was the humble pie.

It rained fit to drown a duck in the night and Lot’s wife was hiding from me as Spam and eggs fried in the pan and espresso bubbled on the stove.  Then ashore to meet Pete the Electric.  “It helps if you turn the fuel on” he said kindly as we drifted in front of the busy yacht club, the skipper frantically pulling the outboard’s starter cord.  As ever it’s the people you meet and the craique that ensues, and so it was as he fixed the engine starter and told me how not to trigger the anchor winch’s trip switch.  Thanks Pete the Electric – see you in Guernsey.

As I write this in Bush’s pub, Doris is unfurling her wings unhurriedly like a butterfly in the mizzle, before her crew raised the anchor by hand and sailed gently off into the very breezy murk.  I doubt they had a forecast, without which most would not set sail.  I raised my pint of Murphy’s in silent salute to members of the senior dorm, to which one day I may achieve promotion.

15 minutes here might or might not be so, I have discovered, just like a mile may or may not be so - best not to rush to a rendezvous.  Go with the flow.  So I’ll think about the next move, but I’ll make no shore based decision in less than 15 minutes …. or so.

It was a very wet and windy drive back to the boat and I smugly noted a light weight Frenchie had dragged its anchor, as I hailed my new mate Nigel cheerily. “You’re anchors dragging!”  he yelled and he meant Pippin’s not mine.  Well I barely touched the sides as I hurdled Pippin’s transom, gunned the engine and soon order was restored, all was well with the World, though not for some idiot whose little dinghy was whizzing seawards, no one aboard I thought.

The Harbour master was very kind and brought the dinghy straight back to me …. I will need to improve to achieve promotion to the senior dorm I reflected, chastened not stirred.

I realized Mr Rocna had been hanging out with the weeds, most insalubrious company and had clearly been led astray astray so I hoped this time he had chosen a better companion.  As I sipped tea, I noticed Doris now tucked in the lee to windward for she had obviously decided not to leave and my neighbor, a trim little craft spent an hour trying to reset the anchor, his little dinghy flipping over and over in the rising wind.

A semi sleepless night on anchor watch and an early wet start to the next day as I refitted Hercule’s rudder blade, before motoring over with sail aloft to wake Nigel and say farewell, watched by Lot’s dumpy wife perched high on the headland.  Nigel is a fully be-medalled member of the senior dorm and I was proud to make his acquaintance.

Hercule, iron man though he is, has a sensitive side, which requires compromise with this clumsy skipper but we reached one this breezy morning and were soon barreling downhill with espresso on the stove, Guillemots, bobbers, white horses and me.   There were some big daddies out there this grumpy morning and they often stole the land, as Pippin sank into their fat bellies before clambering back to the crests.  Rain cloud later took away the land too and delivered a white capped pewter sea, as a succession of fronts entertained us, not great but Pippin was having a cracking sail.

We landed early evening in pretty Kinsale, crowded with yachts seeking shelter from the advancing gale and haggis and potatoes were soon simmering on Pippin’s stove.

An Australian friend of a friend who met me briefly, described me to said friend as the “quintessential English sailor”, a phrase which, knowing the Aussies, probably doesn’t contain a compliment but I don’t care – I rather like it so good night from QES in rain soaked Kinsale.

Kinsale 2

Kinsale, like many beautiful places, is home to that non indigenous human species, the “perambulating grockle”.  Almost all have a greater water line length and thus potential top speed than this skipper, and yet they manoeuvre slower than Pippin bashing spring tides round Land’s End.  Even solo, with autopilot off they fill the pavement, and my legs aren’t happy operating below 3,000 rpm.  This means for me bustling along at 5 knots, a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre being a swerve into the road with backward glance, a touch of throttle and a return swerve, neatly done.

Destination achieved, I spotted a battered Lambretta propped by the Information Point, festooned with baggage and an espresso pot.  Its skipper, notebook in hand was busy, the whole ensemble – from upmarket pig skin luggage to languid lounging skipper – oozed style.  Kindred spirit, apart from the style I thought, returning to Pippin in cut off varnish stained (I think) jeans and straining T shirt.
Pippin attracts much attention and I conducted 4 on board tours yesterday, which don’t take long as she is a compact lady.  Eddy the cabinet maker made himself comfortable below and declared that Pippin’s woodwork was European cherry and he had rarely seen finer cabinet work aboard a boat.  This was praise indeed from a cabinet maker and owner of a Scandinavian yacht, renowned for her woodwork.

For some reason posh neighbours rarely stay, lingering long enough alongside to cadge assistance of one kind or another, such as a winch up the mast to release a trapped halyard, before heading off for more upmarket cousins.  I suspect this is much more to do with this skipper than any fault of Pippin.  Anyway, I dined on gherkins and a glass of hair restorer with Pascal and his delightful family aboard their lovely old Homan & Pye yacht.  From Paris, they were modest, competent and welcoming, not posh.

Ferry gliding; this is something you hear about during RYA winter evening classes, but rarely if ever practice.  I briefed Ben, my young, enthusiastic borrowed crew at his post on the poop deck that we would return alongside the pontoon stern first given the stiff off pontoon breeze, once Pascal had left.  Treading water, engine gently countering the tide Pippin began to glide gently diagonally towards the pontoon on the dying ebb of the tide, leaning into the stiff breeze.

Taking Pippin’s advice and nudging the throttle we continued the motion to land alongside as sweet as a rifle bolt slid home, barely a metre to spare either end.   Conversely, get it wrong, and it usually happens big time as the elderly skipper of a big one discovered this morning. “You f…..g eejit!!!!!” shouted the skipper whose boat he smacked.

I told Ben that plans are nothing but intentions of the moment…. but come the time…. I guess that’s the trick; have an outline plan then go with the flow, don’t be too rigid, stay flexible.

Kinsale is of course famous for a battle in 1601.  The Spanish had been persuaded to play and 28 Spanish ships anchored here driven by bad weather.  They should have landed at Cork with 6,000 men, but it was Kinsale with less than 5,000.  Anyway, they and the Irish got beaten by the English thus establishing English dominance at that time.

Looking out into the bay, it must have been tight with that number of tubby little ships at anchor and the troops would not have been feeling too good.  Nigel, due to arrive shortly from Glandore in his Vancouver, should be in rather than better condition.
Tomorrow I turn Pippin’s bows East and South in the direction of Plymouth, so we’ll be in the ‘oggin awhile.             QES

Over the Celtic Deep

24/07/17 from the Dolphin Tavern, Penzance

I was down with Gollum deep in the slimy caves and something was bothering me high above on the surface.  I did not want to wake up but practice kicked in and Pippin left the Kinsale pontoon with wind and tide in harmony, no throttle, out into a diamond blue morning.  For once the autopilot was back from unauthorised leave and by the time bacon and potatoes were frying, Pippin was on her way to England.  She stole every whisper of the phantom wind and slipped silently into the sun. Meanwhile Hercule was doing all and more than I could do, so I left him to it.

Pippin ghosts in 3 knots of wind, stirs in 6 and takes off in 9 and I harnessed every scrap of mental wile to persuade the wind gauge beyond 6, to no avail.  Hercule looked on and sighed, tough imperturbable like a good soldier should be.  At 9 or 10 knots the sea and hull chatter to each other, but for now Boreas had left us for the day, leaving an infant son and so, on with the engine as dolphins fed half a cable abeam.

With the repaired autopilot now in charge I wondered how he would do.  If well, I would officially name him as a reward and with Hercule in charge of the wind, there could only be one name – Poirot, so Poirot it will be if …. .  Astern Eire slipped slowly into the haze, and invisible Milford Haven beckoned 105 miles ESE, Kinsale oil and gas rigs captured on radar 20 miles ahead.  Common dolphins came and went in the evening, causing the usual mad flurry aboard and acres of film of empty seas.  There were 4, 2 adults and 2 young, all swimming very slowly though Pippin surged South under sail at 6 knots.

Trust your kit, I told myself hours later for Pippin was set up for the night, radar alarm on and it was time to rest in the quiet empty space of the Celtic Deep.  In the fragile early daylight I saw we had lost ground in the night and a tedious motor sail back across the shipping lanes was the price, whilst plans were reshaped.  Rain joined us as a big fat red one out from Milford Haven wallowed past 2 miles off.  I was pleasantly tangled in John Stubbs epic biography of Johnathon Swift at the time and fully emphasised with the description of Swift “being a prisoner of the Irish Sea”, as I had felt like that voyaging in A-Jay in 2015.  I don’t feel the same about the Celtic Sea for it has been kind to me so far and dolphins always come to say hello.

Cornish mizzle stole the Longships and kept us near blind deep into Penzance Bay, quieter than the open sea and it’s charging white horses off the NW Cornish coast.  It was very dark, but for the shore lights and a line of trawlers strung across the bay, festooned with flashing lights and driving us like fish shore wards. Amazingly, lights spewed from the pinnacle of Michael’s Mount for all the World like a fiery volcano.  But, most fabulous of all was what was all around me.

“Phew!!” “Phew!!!” Dolphins breathing, scores of them under and all around Pippin.  A ring side seat for an incredible scene, as the dolphins fed lazily on fish fleeing from the trawlers and neither the rain nor 39 hours at sea could spoil the moment.  In the morning, busy on the foredeck in dreary Cornish mizzle I watched a large dark grey back arch regally out of the water, “Phew”!! And good morning to you too.

Tomorrow I plan to continue West in the direction of the Tamar – I never say “to” a destination for you never know……plans are but the intentions of the moment.

Up the Tamar with a Paddle

Reveille at 0545 and not grumpy, though frankly I wasn’t sure if it was Christmas or Easter as I fumbled through my mental check list and waved my tea mug at the Penzance harbour chap as we puttered through the lock, following a bluff bowed motor sailer which rapidly disappeared.  We skinned the Lizard (Peninsula) on the tide over bumpy seas at 8.4 knots, not enough to keep ahead of a lightweight Frenchie, genoa down to his toes, lee rail kissing the briny – apologies to all owners of such craft: its sour grapes, if the truth be known.
Hercule bossily took charge as the espresso brewed and another light weight Frenchie came up our chuff.  Sitting on its big fat bum it soon slithered past – Pippin is too dignified to slither, or perhaps the skipper isn’t a slitherer.

Later, with the wind in the 20s and tricky quartering waves, I relieved Hercule for some exhilarating sailing,  gull winged, a full creamy sail straining out either side, until things got a little too boisterous for this skipper.  Another squall accompanied tea and brought Cornish rain – masters of mizzle as they are, the Cornish can’t beat the Irish for rain.  Cawsand Bay, tucked inside Plymouth’s wide mouth where the day ended as Mr. Rocna explored in 10 metres of quiet evening water.

Reflecting over my penultimate Fray Bentos pie (Steak & Ale), I felt 2 apologies were in order.  For years I have cursed inshore fishermen for their unmarked bobbers, but never again will I criticise Cornish fishing folk, whose bobbers carry flags, which even I could see through salt stained binoculars.

The second goes to the Gannets of the world, whom I had sweepingly labelled as thicko thugs, many of whom seem to live noisily and messily clinging to a rock off Alderney.  They are in fact quite the most elegant and efficient killing machines, dressed in smart cream, white and black livery.  At just the right height and moment, they fold their wings and dive vertically like a Stuka, with hardly a splash as they pierce the surface.  Their success rate must be good for you don’t see a skinny Gannet; though quite how they spot supper down below I have no idea.  There certainly is no room for a myopic Gannet and anyway, you can’t dive with glasses.

HQ was on the blower vetoing the name I had awarded the autopilot for good behaviour.  With the Wind vane very much the senior steering partner, and called Hercule, the electronic and junior member had to be Hastings, after the dim but nice Captain Hastings.  Perfick.  HQ also brought news of an approaching gale, so the skipper hatched a plan to head up the Tamar on the morrow.

The 61 mile long Tamar divides the masters of the Cornish pasties from their pretenders on the Eastern Bank and was mentioned by Ptolemy in his 2nd Century ‘Geography’, its name said to mean ‘Great Water’.  Now it is a World Heritage site because of the surrounding historic mining activities.

Hastings took us next morning through the narrow Plymouth Gate and on up the Tamar, as a burbling Police launch, for all the World like a waiting Doberman sniffed disinterestedly as Pippin passed. Two more Dobermans lurked as we puttered upstream past the Devenport Dockyards to moor opposite the derelict Crooked Spaniard’s Inn at Cargreen.

The name of the Inn, not surprisingly, is linked to the Spanish Armada and it closed in 2010, and redevelopment plans were rejected.  Sad that it now stands forlorn.  Cargreen used to have a thriving industry ferrying flowers to the foreigners on the other bank, but I couldn’t see any flowers through the Cornish mizzle and rising wind.

As ever on a journey, it’s the people you meet and I was delighted to jump ship and paddle splashily ashore to once again join the previous owners of Pippin.  As things stand, the Willis Master Plan, known as ever for its flexibility, is to overnight in Cawsand Bay before a pre-dawn Monday start to make the most of the winds serving the Channel that day, for the 90 mile run to Guernsey.  Thereafter, plans to be made for another little venture later next month, of which more another time.

Cheeri, Q.E.S.

Home Run


Pippin in Kinsale

Lot’s Wife Surveys in Baltimore

St. Michael’s Mount, Penzance

Devenport Dockyard, Tamar River

Cargreen, up the Tamar.  The gale had shredded itself so it was time to move out to the start line to commence operations very early next day…..

Pippin’s lovely Douglas Fir bowsprit measures 4.5″ at the pointy end and right now it was aimed at the inviting saloon window of a large lightweight Frenchie as I faffed.  I do not know the French for “f…..g eeeejit!!!!” but I knew 2 things for sure at that very moment. 
1.  The French skipper was saying that, very loudly and 2.  Pippin would make expensive mince meat of that lovely saloon window.  At a point just before no return, Pippin obeyed her propeller and strolled to a halt, a metre off.  I raised my tea mug and offered my warmest smile from within the wheelhouse, but neither gesture was sufficient to break the permafrost of Franglo relations.

Mr. Rocna reappeared at 0100 next morning as instructed and thence began a harrowing passage in the darkness through moored yachts and out across Plymouth Sound, an unwelcome test for a brain addled with tiredness.  Sensing this perhaps, Hercule soon had Pippin on 135˚, destination St. Peter Port across a horrid rolling sea, the pre-dawn air bracingly cold.

The Channel was busy and trawlers seemed drawn to us, when all I wanted was to be left alone.  A Sunfish slipped alongside lazily waving its flippers and 2 dolphins came to check us out.  Spirits rise with the sun, even if on this occasion it revealed the chaos of departure, as Pippin pointed her ‘sprit for home, visible hours later first as a line of cloud.  On with thermals, gloves and hat …. in August.
A smudge appeared before Les Hanois eventually emerged from the murk, right where it should after 80 nautical miles, Pippin going like a train though the wind later eased up to walking pace and the motor went on for the final few miles.  Mr. Rocna signalled journey’s end as he rattled down to burrow into the sand of Fermain Bay and the skipper demolished the last Fray Bentos (Steak & Ale) for supper.  They say it’s nice to leave, but nicer to return and it’s true for it puts things into perspective and enhances appreciation of what one has.  Pippin and I had only journeyed 910 nautical miles, not without incident, but we are still friends and we will journey again soon.

Journeying with Hercule in a warm wheelhouse means more time for reflection and to look at things on passage and I have long had a fascination with teak, preferring the natural look and eschewing the plethora of cleaners, finishers and oils that are available.  So I decided to conduct a scientific experiment on the cockpit teak grating during the voyage, and I must confess that the results bring on smugness.  The key is the aim, for there is the angle of dangle not to mention the pitch of the boat to contend with, but get it right and miss your sea boots and the results after 4 weeks are most worthwhile.  Looking at that grating you could be forgiven for believing I had worked assiduously with expensive products but only the former is true.  This is a long term project so I’ll keep you posted, though I shall refrain from selfies.

Across the sea, a weather front loomed ominously over Jersey, from whence most things of an unpleasant nature are borne I find as a Guernseyman, and a terrier barked excitedly in a small boat as his fisherman master hooked a biggie.   All around the familiar Gull Chorus sang of home and my French neighbours waved as they rowed ashore from their British yacht, Franglo relations positively glowing with bonhomie.

This trip proved you can manage solo sailing with a seriously bad back and mind altering medication, so long as you adopt the Willis Saga Mode – stop, 2,3,  prioritise 2,3  one at a time 2,3  slowly 2,3  tea 2,3  and work out how you can deploy that middle aged spread, rather than brawn and grunt. 

Conversely, Pippin shows few signs of weakness caused by anno domini.  Slim hulled low and sleek she has the fin and skeg layout of a fast boat and the wheelhouse enhances comfort in any weather, a real safety factor.  She has taught me to reef first at 15, second before 20 and if I ignore her, Hercule steps in to remind me; boat and skipper in harmony

There is always plenty to do on a boat but right now my priority is to fit a gimbaled tea mug holder, though I can’t decide where.  Perhaps everywhere would be sensible.  Then there is where to store the tea for quick access ……
It is time to go and for this journey to end before the next one starts.  Cheeri



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