The 5am alarm seems like an indecently short time since we went to bed. The plan is to catch the tide around 5.30 to take us most of the way to the Scillies. However a check of the latest forecasts is not helpful in the slightest. There is fog and poor visibility forecast over the next two days and then some stronger winds coming in towards the end of the week. We will probably get at most 2 or 3 days in the islands before we need to seek the better shelter of some mainland harbours. The pilot books all have two things in common…the Scillies is no place in strong winds unless one is prepared to move frequently to better shelter AND they all caution about venturing there in poor visibility. One pilot even goes as far to suggest that in those conditions one is better making for Mounts Bay (where we are at the moment), heaving to, St Ives Bay or heading off towards Southern Ireland! Sadly we make the decision that for the second time, we don’t have the weather window for the Scillies. A 5.30 conference decides that i) we go back to bed and ii) we spend the time meandering along bits of Cornwall and Devon which we have either not visited or not spent enough time in. This is sad but equally we are doing this to see the islands not just as a navigation exercise…
We finally rouse ourselves again around 9 and by 10.45 we are heading off back East, deciding to spend some time exploring the Helford River as our first stop. We leave Newlyn under a grey sky and drizzle but within 10 minutes, it has disappeared into the fog and mist. At least we have made the right decision, this would have been awful for the Scillies. We get some sails up but once again there is so little wind that effectively we are a hybrid boat. The radar is on and we see boats come and go without actually making eye contact… As we near the Lizard the visibility comes and goes and the boats we have tracked on the radar come in and out of direct vision. Some fishing boats and even a couple of sailing boats, all trundling along in our own pools of murky greyness. We round the Lizard and gybe as the murk lifts and a watery sun tries (ultimately unsuccessfully) to burn off the fog and drizzle. For a brief half an hour the wind picks up enough for us to get rid of the engine and we close the entrance to the Helford River in fine style, overtaking a cat and a few other boats…ha!
We debate whether to anchor or pick up a visitors’ buoy but the murk and drizzle threaten once more and we opt for the easy visitors mooring.
With the boat snugged down, the weather brightens and we blow up the tinker (dinghy) and take a trip ashore. The sailing club pontoon works on an ‘honesty’ basis and we take a short walk through the stunning Helford village to the Shipwright Arms.
A Breton (we think) duo of accordion and harpist are playing some Celtic folky tunes as we drink by the fast receding river. Dinner tonight is some ratatouille and pasta back on the boat, washed down with some red a the promise of rum and chocolate to come. Its not the Scillies, but this is a brilliant place to mooch around…great day.