A short weather window opens with some winds promising to drive us East…at least for a while. A drive back to Newlyn and we spend the afternoon checking and re-checking the diesel filters and fuel lines and then running the engine to make doubly certain that we don’t have to call for help again. The Lizard is the next tide gate we need to round and will also mark the most southerly point of the trip round the UK. This necessitates an early morning start to be there by 10am latest. Alarms are never welcome and 4.30 is particularly grim. We busy ourselves with a minimum of domestic hygiene and get the boat ready for what is forecast to be a biggish swell, courtesy of the Atlantic lows which have been threatening the western areas of the UK for some time. It seems that the culprit is a split in the jet stream with a vindictive little arm now tracking further south than usual. Along with two fishing boats, we slip out of Newlyn, determined to come back soon as part of a visit to the Scillies which we are sadly missing this time. After the lights of the harbour, the open sea seems inky black and we just have the lights of the fishing boats for company as we head out across Mounts Bay towards the Lizard. As our eyes get used to the dark we start to make out the faint outline of St Michaels Mount, dark and brooding (over what might have been a glorious role as the capital of a Nazi Cornwall?).
The merest glimmer of light breaking over the horizon, suggests that the sun is not far behind and soon we can make out the dark grey outline of the headland. Decision number 1 for the day…do we take the inshore channel round the Lizard (and save ourselves a 3 mile detour) or do we play safe and keep well off. The pilots warn of breaking seas in SW winds and the need for local knowledge to make the inshore passage….we take the detour. As it happens, there is no sign of breakers, just the distant sight of the Atlantic swell sending up great plumes of salty spray as it arrives angrily in Europe from Trump’s America. …(OK OK….even Trump doesn’t control the waves, but we are still, just, in Europe).
There is something special about dawn at sea. Night passages have their own charm and even tranquillity. The night watches pass almost in a cocoon, with just the dim glow from the instruments for company and a constant scanning of the blackness for what is mostly not there at all. But the first sign of light brings a gradual awakening of a wider world.
Soon we can make out the ever-present threat of lobster pots (how many did we pass unseen in the night?) and take action to avoid. We see the early terns and gannets wheeling and searching for breakfast…and we see our crew appearing blearily from below after final 2 hour kip offering hot coffee.
Tiredness seems to disappear with the dawn, and we marvel at the constant and rapidly changing patterns of the morning sky.
The sun finally makes an appearance itself just as the long haul jets are playing noughts and crosses in the sky, although if they are US planes we suppose it would be tic tac toe…
We round the Lizard in a stunning September sun and celebrate our most southerly headland with a tot of whisky from Scapa…our most northerly point, in Orkney.
Just off our beam we suddenly see dozens of gannets dive-bombing in rapid succession, heralding an unseen shoal (of anchovies, sardines?). Soon there is the unmistakable rise and fall of dorsal fins…who found the shoal first…the gannets or the dolphins? Either way there is competition and soon the shoal seem to seek shelter near Heydays as she pushes through these western approaches. The dolphins are with us for ages (but we are rubbish with the camera this time…or are they just shy?)…and then as quickly as they arrive, they leave us alone again, either having eaten their fill or having run out of fish. We wonder whether dolphins ever fancy bird for lunch…
We turn Heydays northwards once more for the first time since April and the business of this bit of sea makes itself felt…
We goose-wing for as long as possible before finally hauling down the sails and turning once more to our ‘ol iron tops’l for our final approach.
At the third attempt, James manages to get John within an arm’s reach of a buoy and soon we are thinking of lunch…and naps. The day is bright and sunny and a swift call to the harbour taxi has us joining the day trippers and tourists…and feeling somewhat underdressed, although our version is that we look like salty sons of the sea…no-one is so impolite to point out that we are just scruffy…
We ponder lunch over a beer and hit on what turns out to be one of the highlight meals of the trip. Amanzi is a South African restaurant with a unique menu and a great range of cocktails. Afternoon rum and ginger beer very nearly does for us! Apologies for pictures of food and drinks…even sailors can snap their food!
John’s son and daughter in law (Christopher and Sarah) drive down to meet us and we spend a happy afternoon pottering round the lanes.
As afternoon turns to evening the latest front makes its presence felt and the fine drizzle gets into every nook and cranny. We wait by the pontoon for the water taxi and watch a damp gentleman get into his inflatable tender. After a few brief pumps, he rows energetically and damply upstream. We are grateful for our warm and friendly taxi…and we pass him a little later, still rowing energetically enough but even more damply.
During the voyage from Newlyn, the engine behaved brilliantly when needed, although we seemed to have lost a bit of speed. More worrying is an annoying vibration from somewhere near the prop-shaft. We asked around in Falmouth to have a lift out to have a look, but they are all fully booked. Plymouth has a slot at 12.30 the following day. With an 8 hour sail this means an even earlier start. We get ourselves and the boat as ready as possible for a quick getaway and finally turn in around 8 to the gentle sound of rain lashing the deck…and the nagging back-of-the-mind awareness of a 3.15am alarm.
At 8.30 we are roused from almost-sleep by flashing blue lights and the unmistakeable sound of the twin engines of a Tamar Class lifeboat. We poke our heads out and they are looking for an elderly gentleman… we hear up and down the river for some time, but no news at the moment…hoping for the best.