DAY 12 – Sunday 1 May 2022 – Falmouth to Salcombe

Miles logged: 52
Total miles logged: 410
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 12
Days at sea: 9

Having reached Falmouth we knew that we had some decisions to make regarding the next couple of legs, which would have to be long ones. For the next few days little or no wind is forecast so we decided to resign ourselves to a whole day’s motoring and resolved to try to cover as many miles of easting as we could by cruising at the highest speed we could manage comfortably, which is around 7 kts. We decided to make for the marina at Brixham in Devon from which the following leg – which would involve taking on the notorious Portland race – might be expected to be manageable.

Early morning off Falmouth

It was just light when we slipped our lines at Falmouth. Our stay there had been pleasant but it was disappointing that we had to raft together at a top-of-the-market-priced marina because of the number of visiting yachts. We had the tide with us as we shaped a course to the Eddystone Rocks. I was excited to see the current Eddystone lighthouse and the remains of the the old Smeaton one in the flesh, and having Eddystone at more-or-less the half-way point served well to break what would otherwise have been a very long day’s motoring.

This was the first overcast day since leaving Fleetwood and the first to bring a little rain, though nothing too persistent or heavy. Mist lingered well into the day so we could not see the Eddystone lighthouse until it was 8 miles distant. As we drew closer the enormity of the engineering challenge that constructing a lighthouse that would withstand the worst of the winter storms on rocks which are awash at high water springs could be appreciated. It must have been a colossal undertaking. The present lighthouse is the fourth to stand there.

The current Eddystone lighthouse, the frustum of Smeaton’s lighthouse and the Eddystone rocks

The third, and most famous of the Eddystone lighthouses is the one designed by John Smeaton and the base or ‘frustum’ of it remains in place. The rest of Smeaton’s lighthouse was taken down in 1882, not because of structural failure but because its foundations on one of the rocks had become unsound. The frustum stands today in its original position, making the site instantly recognisable; the upper storeys were reconstructed on Plymouth Hoe, some thirteen miles from Eddystone, where they stand as ‘Smeaton’s Tower’, a fine monument to Smeaton’s achievement.

Due to the calm conditions we were able to come close to the rocks and to the lighthouses … as was everyone else; it was quite busy there with fishing boats and motor-boats from the mainland taking advantage of the conditions to have a close look at this historic site.

This was roughly the half-way point of our voyage to Brixham. We had made good progress to Eddystone, making with the tide 7 kts over the ground, but soon the tide turned against us and we were down to under five. Then it began to rain. We knew that we had a further twenty miles of this, or of worse and we had to pass Start Point with its tidal race. Mike suggested that we make for Salcombe and I agreed at once. Salcombe had been one of the possible destinations when planning for today but, as explained, we had resolved to try to cover as many miles as possible under engine. But the decision was a good one; a full day’s sailing in good conditions is a fulfilling and exhilarating experience, but ten hours under engine is not. We altered course for Salcombe, taking care to pass safely over the bar at the harbour’s entrance, and after motoring around to find a good spot we decided to share a visitors’ buoy opposite the town.

Entering Salcombe harbour having crossed the bar
Salcombe, from our mooring buoy
Sharing a visitor’s buoy. Mike adjusts the lines aboard Pagets Lady

It is a truly lovely harbour, alas not seen at its best in the photographs due to the overcast conditions. I was very impressed by the efficiency of the Harbourmaster; we had barely shut down our engines before he was hovering alongside. We imagined that he might be after our dues but he was there to help us to set our lines. He then moved off to help others before returning for our dues when I called him on the VHF. The rates were very reasonable, I thought; we could pay by contactless and the receipt showed the tide-times and the code for the showers. More commonly when being approached for dues the terms are cash only and the sum demanded is one designed to be as awkward as possible so that, lacking every possible combination of change, one ends up over-paying.

Salcombe at night. This is the view from Bubble’s cockpit

After a tiring day we agreed that Monday – Bank Holiday Monday – should be rest day. We both could do with a break after today’s passage but also we need to decide how to take on the next leg. I am very glad that we came into beautiful and welcoming Salcombe rather than the huge marina at Brixham but our decision leaves more miles for us to cover when we again set out eastwards. We can’t dry out so we must get to Weymouth, at least, when we leave here. Weymouth, or, rather, Portland Marina within Weymouth Harbour is some 64 miles distant and no wind is forecast. It will be a long day’s motoring with the inevitable hours of foul tide to be endured. And, to cap it all, the Porland Race at the end of the passage is one of the most dangerous and feared in the country. As we must face it at the end of a long passage it will be difficult to ensure that we arrive there at the best time. We are not certain at the moment how to plan for the next leg so I will tomorrow study the pilot books and the guidance on dealing with the Portland Race. I hope also to go ashore to Salcombe using the very convenient Water Taxi which will come to our yachts when summoned on VHF, thus averting the need to wrestle with the dinghy and its outboard. I am looking forward to a run and to enjoy a nice hot shower ashore rather than dealing with the palaver of showering aboard Bubble.

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