a travel log
From France to Scotland by sea.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

No sailing today. Need to get some leg exercise, send emails to friends, find a little personal time, explore the area, and generally stretch after practically 22 hours at sea in the last 2 days.
1:43:19 PM    
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Monday 15th

Departure from Newlyn at 11 AM; arrival in Padstow at 11:40 PM. Distance: 57 NM. Conditions: a fine summer day! Wind was on our bow most of the day, at 5-10 knots. Only at about 7PM did we kill the engine and sail. Turned the engine back on after sunset, at about 9:30 PM.

Walked Tim into Newlyn for him to catch a taxi to Penzance; there were none, so he decided to walk - only about 1.5 miles.

Came back, did some shopping; the departure time was 11 not because of our slow pace, but because we had to wait for the currents to go in the proper direction to pass Land's End. The Nautical Almanach calls Land's End a "Tidal Gate" - you can only pass it with the currents going the right way.

Our mooring in Newlyn. The boat is the second sailboat from the left.

As we left, we both noticed all the fresh paint and dirt on the deck, from our fishermen friends... Spend the next hour scrubbing - using petrol lamp oil to wipe away the paint, then washing liquid to clean it all up. Hotest day since I've left, absolutely no wind, was very very hot.

Once I'd done cleaning the boat, we killed the engine and I hopped in for a swim. Clearly not very warm, but after all the work, felt absolutely wonderful! First swim this summer!

We approached Land's End at exactely the right time, and passed it without a hitch; some tense moments, as there are rocks to avoid, but really a pleasure to pass between Longships, the lighthouse on some rocks a few miles to sea, and Land's End, passing the "Armed Knight" and "Kettle's Bottom", both dangerous rocks to avoid. For those who don't know, Land's End is the most south-westerly tip of mainland England.

The cliffs at Land's End. A couple of people at the top for scale!

With the tidal currents going our way, we passed Land's End in what seemed to be no time at all. With very little wind, and the engine on, we were doing 3-4 knots in the water, 5-7 on the ground.

At about 9:30 PM, woke up Babs who was taking a nap. Pointed to this...

The boat was on automatic pilot, and we both went up on the bow to take a closer look. One of the most awesome things I've seen at sea: a pair of basking sharks, both about 20 feet long, slowly swimming on the surface, mouths wide open. I didn't change the course of the pilot, and they were swimming in our direction; at the last moment they noticed us (later than I thought they would), and gave a powerful swing of their tails. We felt one lightly nudge the boat. Here is a picture as they were at our level. The splash on the left is the tail of the first one, the second going straight under our bow, mouth wide open.

Basking sharks are harmless; they eat plankton as whales do. The are definitely the largest animals I've seen at sea. (Found out that apparently there are up to 200 in this area right now, due to a bloom in a particular type of plankton they like)

Throughout the sail I was wondering whether we were going to end up in Newquay, or Padstow. At about the level of Newquay, with about 1/2 hour of sun left, I decided we would push on the extra 12 miles to make Padstow. The wind had picked up by then, and we were doing 7 knots on the ground. Of course after a little while the currents slackened, the wind dropped, and we put the motor on again. Arrived at the Padstow lighthouse in absolute darkness! Thank goodness for our GPS.

Called the Padstow harbour master, and asked him if the harbour was still open; it was for another 40 minutes. (Padstow harbour is tidal - most of it dries up at low tide; they do have a little areaclosed by a gate, so when the tide goes down, it stays filled.) Arrived at the gate with about 3 minutes to spare, at 11:45 PM... By that time the pubs had closed, most people were sleeping, and B and I whispered as we moored the boat. Made another bowl of pasta, and went for a short walk.

The town was absolutely silent; we were the last ones up. A noise made us both stop below an open window - we smiled as we heard the steady snore of someone deep in sleep; gently swaying curtains a few doors down; not even the sea gulls were out.

Back to the boat at about 1AM; slightly on edge after the night arrival, so took me a while to get to sleep.
1:41:41 PM    
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Sunday 14th.

Departure from Falmouth at 11 AM. Arrival at Newlyn at 9:40 PM. Distance: 35 NM. Conditions: SW to W to NW wind, 10 knots. Sunny in the morning, getting slightly covered in the afternoon. Cold in the evening!

Sunday we had the pleasure of having an extra passenger. On Saturday night we met up with Tim in Falmouth - Tim is a friend from college - and he joined us for Sunday's sail. Terrific fun to have him onboard!

Saturday night started in fine form with a good curry, and then drinks on Dee-Dee, a Helford based Attalia sailboat. They were very generous with their whiskey... which made Sunday morning a little tough. Set off amongst dozens of sailboats, this one the most beautiful (that I've seen in a while!)

The rest of the day's sail was good - although as usual the wind stayed on our bow - turning from SW to NW as we did the same. Quite frustrating; Tim has to put up with some motoring!

At about 8:30 I noticed something strange a few boat lengths ahead of us.

As far as I know, this is called a Moonfish. To give you a sense of the scale, this fish probably weighs about 100-120 lbs. It's about my size, withouth the arms and the legs (I'm 6"2). Not sure how frequent they are seen here, but it's only the second I've seen ever. This one looked like it was behaving strangely - was mostly lying on it's side on the surface; howevver when we approached it started swimming normally, so not sure.

Arrived in Newlyn too late for Tim to make his train, so we made a big bowl of pasta with a yummy sauce.

Newlyn is one of Cornwall's most active fishing harbours - and although everyone is very welcoming, we could tell we were the odd ones out. Moored to a fishing boat, itself moored to another, it to another, it to another, the final one to the pier. Climbing accross a sailboat is one thing; accross a fishing boat quite another. We didn't attempt it that evening.

Of course when you moor on a row of 5 fishing vessels, and the next day is Monday, you have to wonder how well you will sleep.... The first one left at 2, the second at 5, the 3rd and 4th around 6-7. By 9 AM, there was only one left between us and the pier. The way these boats leave is by detaching the boats moored to them, passing the lines around themselves to the pier - or the next in the row - moving out of their spot, then mooring the "detached" boats back. They do most of the work. Every time one left I was woken up as they were leaving, and our boat had already been moved and re-moored. Allowed me to stay somewhat asleep as I sat on the deck watching it all happen... Paid a price for my sleepiness; these guys walked all over our boat in order to re-moor us once they had left, and didn't take their boots off. Had tar, paint and oil all over the deck....
1:10:56 PM    
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I've been bad at posting these last two days; I have an excuse... we've been sailing most of the time!
11:22:56 AM    
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© Copyright 2003 Thomas Degremont.

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