Miles logged: 59
Total miles logged: 325
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 9
Days at sea: 7
A milestone was achieved today when we reached Land’s End, thence turning east for the first time as we commence our passage along England’s south coast. Land’s End is one of the four major turning points we must tackle; the next is the south-east corner of Kent, near Dover. Then comes Duncansby Head and, finally, Cape Wrath.
We left Padstow at 0600. It was truly a delight to berth in such a charming harbour where we were looked after so well, so we went along to see the Harbour Master before setting off to tell him so. The harbour was like a millpond as we prepared to depart and out in the estuary there was just the merest breeze. It was cold but, thankfully, not too misty. It was clear once we reached the sea that we were in for another day of sailing, or motoring, in light airs.
The south-west tip of Cornwall forms a sort of arrow-head facing west. The trick when navigating a sailing boat around Land’s End is to try to depart on the ebb, so that you have a favourable current towards Land’s End which, by setting off at the right time, you aim to reach at slack water. At slack, the sea there is at it smoothest, which is helpful, but the other prize is that you are then in a position to benefit when starting along the south coast from some assistance from the new flood tide. This worked for us, at least to the extent that we reached Land’s End after six hours of favourable tide. But the tide did turn against us as we reached the turning point so we had to punch a bit of current until well onto our new south coast course.
The weather was again dry but with so little wind motoring was, again, inevitable. The log for the whole trip to date shows that we have motored slightly more than half of the at-sea hours. This is disappointing but we have been glad to have warm, dry, sunny weather as life at sea is far less amenable when one is wet through and has kit to dry during uncomfortable evenings aboard.
I was able to set my genoa to give a little extra speed on the trip south-westwards. Pagets Lady is slightly longer than Bubble and she has a rather larger engine so she is able to motor a little faster than I can with no sails set. With my genoa in the light winds we cruised at about the same speed, keeping in contact over the radio. The sun did not quite break through the cloud cover until after lunch so it was a rather cooler morning than we’ve been used to. And there was mist along the coast though, thankfully, not at sea. This meant that we saw little detail of the coastline which included such gems at St Ives. Closer to Land’s End we saw on the cliffs quite extensive remains of the tin-mining industry – chimneys, winding gear and various derelict buildings – many of these perched precariously on the sheer cliffs.
Our timing was almost spot on but not quite; as we reached Cape Cornwall the tide turned and our speed fell from the lightning 7 kts we had enjoyed with the ebb down the coast from Padstow. There was some disturbed water as we reached the cliffs at the extremity of Cornwall but really very little; there would have been much more to take on had we arrived very far off slack water and in worse weather. In view of the gentle conditions we took the decision en route to take the inner passage round Land’s End, that is the narrow and rocky passage between the mainland and Longships Rock and Lighthouse. This turned out to be a good decision and it saved us from the detour around Longships, but the inner channel is narrow and there are some fearsome-looking rocks on both sides. I would not use that route in future other than in very settled conditions.
Once round, I celebrated with a genuine Cornish Cornish pasty from Padstow and a nice cold can from the fridge. It was satisfying to reflect on the fact that of the four major turning points we must negotiate, the first of these has been safely passed.
Starting our journey along England’s south coast there was more wind and by this time the sun was out. We raised our sails and spoke on the radio to agree what to do next. We had two options: one was to push on to Falmouth, which would mean 20 miles to Lizard Point with the wind on the nose, followed by a further 15 miles on the other side, all of which could take us another five or six hours. The other option was to sail along the coast for under ten miles and make for Newlyn for the night. It was a finely-balanced decision but I felt that after so much motoring the Newlyn option was preferable. We agreed and set our sails for Penzance Bay. There was just enough wind to give a really enjoyable sail, close-hauled with tacking, along the coast to the bay. As we turned in, St Michael’s Mount could be seen in the distance and, later, the charming coastal village of Mousehole.
Newlyn is a very large and clearly very busy fishing port. There are pontoons in part of the harbour but most of them are occupied by fishing vessels. Just two or three are reserved for visiting yachts. The pilot book explains that fishing vessels have priority and yachts, if allowed to berth, may have to move if required to allow a fishing boat to tie up. So we called up Newlyn with some anxiety but were delighted to hear that we were warmly welcomed. The snag was that we would have to raft up, as at Padstow, but this time in a narrow space with a fishing boat next to us. We managed this and settled in to Newlyn which, in spite of the fishing activity, is a pleasant and interesting port. I went to pay our dues and found the Harbour Master to be exceptionally warm and friendly. Newlyn is a different kind of facility than we typically visit as yachtsmen; this was a real working port, packed with fishing vessels and their accoutrements, with a chandlery that sells serious hardware designed to be used for hard work at sea.
We will not be in Newlyn for long. Tomorrow we make for Falmouth, a mecca for sailors with several marinas, many anchorages and various pontoons – all at outrageous south-coast prices – and where Mike has arranged to meet an old rigger friend in order to have his recently-stepped mast checked over.
There is a video our Land’s End adventure at the YouTube channel.