Barberry Goes Home

Newlyn to Falmouth (£7 to boil the kettle)

Spoiler alert- I’m writing this from France on our ‘rest day’. I’ll pick up where we left off: ‘waiting for a weather window’ in Newlyn (or ‘lazing around’ by its less formal definition). We have two bikes stashed on board, both folding Bromptons, one elderly cast-off and the other modern, high-tech and with a stealth power-assist button — guess which one Fraser gets? We somehow chose a very windy day and set off down the rather exposed coast path, bound for the awe-inspiring St Micheal’s Mount. Once again we had to judge the tides to perfection, like good sailors, this time to avoid getting our feet wet on the causeway, which spends half its day under the sea. We guessed our cycling speed, somewhat optimistically, and set off into the wind. It was refreshing. Fraser nobly took the lead and braced himself into the wind, with Kerry taking up the rear. Spending time on a boat leads to leg muscle deterioration and the intrepid cyclists soon came to appreciate this. It turned out that Fraser took the lead to ensure a slow pace, as Kerry, with her secret button power assist, turned out to be cruising along and struggling to avoid overtaking him! The wonders of electric bikes. We stopped on route to fill ourselves with coffee and paninis (yummy), losing track a little on the tide, but still managing to arrive at St Micheal’s Mount just as the causeway was revealing itself. 

Mount St Michael, its castle towering over the entire bay. It mirrors Mont St Michael in France and was originally built;t by the same order of monks.

With no time to waste (we had pre-booked castle entrance tickets for 1.30pm and the time was now around 1.28pm) we locked the bikes and set off on the long trek across the causeway and daunting climb up to the castle. It turned into a bit of a cycle, paddle, climb ‘triathlon’, as I’m sure Kerry will confirm! With slightly wet feet (waves over the causeway with the strong wind) and very red faces we arrived at the magnificent castle, where Kerry promptly took a breather while Fraser risked  taking some photos of her in her slightly reddened recovery phase (those might be deleted later though). The castle is well worth the climb, with amazing history, perfect preservation and breathtaking views.

All I can say is it was lucky we had the bikes as Kerry was struggling to walk after the exertion and the arthritis was playing up big time. The cycle back to the harbour was with the wind and Fraser was flying along. He looked behind to realise that he had actually dropped ‘power-assist’ Kerry. It turns out the the power assist cuts out at 15 mph (a high tech safety feature), so poor old Kerry had to pedal like a proper cyclist! Back on the boat with a large fish and chips each (for energy of course) and all was well with the world again.

Kerry, still red in the face despite her stealth electric-assisted bike

The next day we, somewhat less ambitiously, took the bus the 15 minutes to Mousehole, which Fraser has just learned to pronounce. We are not bus experts quite yet, but perhaps getting better. Mousehole (pronouced Mowzel) is a really pretty village where we wondered about, trying to avoid hills- a real challenge in Cornwall, found a café and consumed such delights as a large pasty and toasted tea cakes. Note: Fraser is at last tiring of pasties, with his enthusiasm for them somewhat waning — he ate many of them in Padstow.

Mousehole Harbour, a true Cornish beauty.

Thursday was going to be a route planning day as we identified a weather window, potentially available for the next few days, so we saw an opportunity to make good distance east, along the south coast of England. We have heard rumours of expensive marinas and busy shipping so were not keen to hang around doing the tourist thing for too long on this coast. But before we settled down to this we noticed that the boat was not smelling as fresh as usual, so decided a quick mission to the launderette was in order. The forecast was for a bit of rain so we brought our coats and a large sack of soiled clothes, then set off for the bus, as fishing harbours do not provide laundrettes on site. It rained as we walked to the bus, proper Cornish rain. We may as well have jumped in the sea, as we ended up just as wet. It kept raining as we departed the bus and we were saturated by the time we piled into the laundrette, tempting us to strip off and put our clothes in the tumble drier — fortunately we didn’t. Now in survival mode, we decided an emergency trip to the pub next door for cream teas as we waited for our washing was the only thing that would save us — it did!

Ancient stone mooring bollards in Mousehole Harbour. They’ve had chains wrapped around them for so long, many have developed a wasp-waist appearance.

Saturday and ‘The Lizard’: a treacherous stretch of water, with yet again strong tides and notorious overfalls (big waves formed by wind blowing in the opposite direction to the tide). We set off at 6am for a mere 6-7 hour sail bound for Falmouth. Despite careful planning, the tide did not seem to push us around the Lizard much at all, but on the bright side the overfalls did not swallow us up. The mouth of Falmouth estuary is permanently busy with shipping, so we approached with caution and a ‘get out of the way of anything bigger than us, no matter the rules’ attitude. It turned out we had to get out of the way of some very small things as well as there were ‘propeller fouling’ fishing pot buoys even at the harbour entrance — really? When we arrived, the first thing was to get fuel as we had cheated and used the engine a lot on our ‘sail’. We radioed the fuel pontoon and they told us to come on in and tie up once the boat that was there had left.

Kerry lined up skilfully and headed in at dead slow. This cautious approach turned out to be a mistake as the south coast is competitive, and a rather large traditional gaff-rigged ketch pushed in right in front of her, rather rudely I might add! Kerry’s normally cheery mood turned sour at this point, and Fraser realised that he was best keeping his head down and staying very quiet as she simmered…and simmered. We waited and waited as the gaffer took her time and filled up multiple tanks with hundreds of litres. At last it was our turn, with the gaffer now drifting off oblivious to the high blood pressure that had been caused.

This is not like your conventional car petrol station, where you stop your car in an organised queue and wait for fuel. A boat technically cannot be stopped. It is always moving, depending on wind and current — you cannot simply put on the handbrake. So queuing does not happen, it is more random circling and at the same time avoiding other small boats and in this case a large ferry docking next door. All filled up, we made our way the short distance to the marina, with a significant portion of our journey being spent waiting for fuel.

See if you can spot tiny little Barberry amongst the fancy yachts in Falmouth!

The marina was fancy, with big, posh, expensive boats, owned by rich people who did not have time to sail them. We felt small, like an insignificant speck. This size difference seems to have little influence on the marina fees though and Fraser took a bit of a weak spell as he was informed that electricity was £7 a day on top £41 for the berth. “But we don’t really need electric,” he pleaded.

Kerry differed in opinion, stating “I want to boil the kettle”. So that was that. She did boil the kettle, once, but then did not use it, but sure it’s only money. On the bright side, showers were included and boy those showers were good (and needed!). As you may not have realised, sailors judge the quality of a marina by the showers, in fact showers are one of the biggest talking points of most cruising trips. They can be cold showers, dribbly showers, too-hot showers, showers with blocked drains, mixed showers, communal showers, showers that wet your clothes. We have experienced all of them, and the Falmouth ones were good showers, so this was the highlight of the day, followed by a rather good pizza place in the evening. We went to bed early and tired, but happy, with our alarms set for 3.30am.

Fraser, tucking into a giant pizza (well deserved, I might add).

Falmouth to Dartmouth (Barberry is home)

More dolphin company on this idyllic crossing.

After a restless night (or half-night really), worrying about the forecast of fog, we got up and layered up, then layered up some more. Once we could barely move with layers we untied and set off in darkness to negotiate our way out of Falmouth, bound for Dartmouth. No fog, or so we thought — it came later. Fraser was at the bow on pot buoy duty, but at least the sea was smooth and the wind light. The fog hung around for most of the day in patches, but in between the patches we had some lovely experiences of dolphins coming over to check us out. After some 12 hours, Dartmouth appeared as a tricky to spot river entrance, in a steep valley. It was a beautiful spot, which Fraser admired as Kerry stressed about rocks, fishing boats, sailing boats and ferries. Note: our boat, Barberry, spent her first 18 years on the Dart, so was coming home. I wonder if she remembers?

The Dartmouth crossing was so smooth that Fraser decided to try his hand at catching dinner. Sadly (unless you’re a fish) he was unsuccessful.

There were lots of options as to where to moor (park the boat), too many, making it difficult to make a decision within the confusion of a busy river on a now sunny Saturday afternoon. It did not help that Fraser’s attempts to contact the harbour authority on VHF radio were met with loud static. It seems that the steep valley was not great for radio signal. Eventually he got a reply which gave sufficient information to allow us to find a pontoon on the river. A pontoon with no access the land, which seems the thing here — so it would be tinned food for dinner that night — but we were too tired to care, and knew we had another 3.30am start the next day, so sleep was the priority.

Busy, busy Dartmouth. Barberry is home again, but not for long…

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