Floating on Cornish Rivers

Sunday 4th July: Leaving Scilly behind

We don’t really want to leave Scilly, it’s too soon. Though we prepared for an eventual sail last night, and after a real think in the morning we decided that the possibility of this storm moving just 50miles north would mean we’d be right in the thick of it, with possibly 50 knot winds, and this was not something we fancied.  Even if we double anchored. 

We set off at 8:30am after Dominic spending 15 minutes getting seaweed off the chain and anchor!  Going gingerly over the sandbank, then between western and eastern rocks we came out into the ocean with Round Island on our left.  I saw a couple of puffins fly over the water!

The AIS confirmed that a minor flotilla of yachts were heading east towards the mainland.  We had lowish winds up to Wolf Rock, but after that enjoyed good speed.  I was on the cusp of getting sea sick with the swell, but coped incredibly well to be honest. The auto pilot on the other hand was finding it difficult to handle the ever increasing wave size, and Idun occasionally veered off course.  Gannets were dive bombing for fish, and we had a pod of dolphins playing around the bow for a good ten minutes – magical!  The sail was getting livelier as the day went on, and once we’d gybed to head down towards Falmouth we had to reef to make the boat more comfortable.  Idun doesn’t like it if the wind is too strong on the beam ha ha!

A constant thought during the sail had been, where will we be able to go once we get to Falmouth?  We rang Mylor and they were more than full.  We saw there were buoys free in St Mawes as we passed, but they would be very uncomfortable in the winds that are coming up.  So we put our hopes on the visitors’ pontoons up the river Fal, and to our amazement there was one space left on the first one, just off Carrick Roads. Two other Scilly escapees had arrived just before us.  Phew!

Distance 66.1 NM, underway 10hrs 27m, average speed 6.3 knots, max speed 11.2 knots

Monday 5th July: River Fal

I’m sitting here in the early morning sunshine, listening to land birds chirping away.  Idun is very gently moving with the flowing water (this is a floating pontoon in the middle of the river).  Anchored in Scilly, you move constantly, the landscape is stark.  Here, well the only word I can describe it with is bucolic.  River-bucolic.  West Country river-bucolic.  I realise now just how tense we have been over the last few days when all us yachties talked about was if / how do we ride out the oncoming storm.  But I am glad we moved away, and I don’t really care if it turns out that it wasn’t all that horrendous there in Scilly in the end.  I’ve just seen a female mallard with eight little ones scooting around in the water behind her by the riverbank!  And herons are fishing peacefully in the shallows, and egrets with their white tufts wafting in the wind.  If I turn my head I can just see King Harry ferry whisking people and cars across the river.

Dominic rowed us to the pontoon by Trelissick (where there is free water for the boat, should we need it) as we needed to stretch our legs.  Setting off on the Woodland Walk we followed the river Fal, into the bay where mostly dogs were swimming, up the steep hill towards the house and then through woods along the creek til we got back to the Fal again.  We were reminded that Cornish walks are very rarely on the flat!

It started raining soon after we got back.  We cleaned the boat – lots of Scilly sand everywhere!  We soon found out that we have hidden away really rather too well here, as we’re not getting enough wind to even keep our power consumption going!

Tuesday 6th July: Over to the river Helford – and news from Scilly

We both woke just after 2am and couldn’t go back to sleep.  A few hours later we heard from some of the boats that had stayed behind in St Helen’s Pool.  Two or three of them had dragged their anchor at 2am, as the wind changed from gale force SE to nothing to gale force NW in rapid time. They were in the eye of the storm.  One boat ended up on the rocks, with the crew being helped off by RNLI. Another boat whose anchor dragged said that because of the dragging, the anchor was so full of seaweed that they couldn’t re-anchor and they had to spend hours motoring straight into the wind to keep the boat safe until daylight.

A night of a strong gale with storm force gusts, in the dark – emergency flares lighting up the sky. We’re very grateful that we made the decision to leave on Sunday and feel so sorry for those who were there to have been through such a truly horrendous night. We were amazed and relieved to hear later in the day that the boat on the rocks floated off with no major damage on the afternoon high tide. 

We had the lovely couple on Hyperion over for coffee in the morning and then slipped our lines off the river pontoon.   We had initially thought we’d go and anchor up river, but the number of boats we’d seen go up made us decide to pop over to Helford river instead.  It only took us a couple of hours, motoring most of the time but using the foresail when possible.  We’ve been at Helford before so anchored in a spot we know, and where we’ll get enough wind to charge our batteries.  The water’s a bit rough to go ashore today so we’ll leave that for tomorrow.

Distance 9.3 NM, underway 1hr 57m, average speed 4.8 knots, max speed 6.3 knots

Wednesday 7th July: A Wet Day on the Helford

It rained on and off all day but our walking feet were calling so rather than dinghy it up to Helford we walked up along the river on a muddy path with really rather damp bushes and trees alongside.  Plenty of colourful shrubs and flowers brightened the walk.  The village store had fresh bread baked this morning!  And we had a cup of coffee at the Mackerel Café on the way back.

Dominic is planning the purchase of a large head sail so we can go downwind more efficiently. He’s also thinking on where and how to store and lift the engine he’s planning for us to buy.

We’ll be running out of gas soon for cooking and necessary cups of coffee, despite us being very careful with our usage the last month.  There are no supplies anywhere.  We can convert back to using Camping Gaz, but the supplier I tried ringing don’t have any of those either. Hmmmm….

And England won the semi-final in the Euros!

Fuschia brightening up our walk

Thursday 8th July: Walking to Rosemullion Head

We felt like a good walk today.  Neither of us could remember having been on the north side of the river so having moored on Grebe beach we set off on the S W Coast Path.  We managed to go off-track quite quickly, on to a path going from Porth Saxon through Carwinion woods.  A lovely, near tropical path with a bubbling brook alongside and large tree-ferns lining the way which reminded us of walking in Australia!  We ended up in the village of Mawnan Smith, so took the Old Church Road which sounded interesting and led in the right direction for the coastal path and we eventually came to St Mawnan and St Stephen church.  A peaceful little church with nice stained glass windows.  From there we found our way along the coastal path again and continued on to Rosemullion Head.  We were rewarded with stunning views over Falmouth, Pendennis Castle and on to St Mawes in one direction, and a wide ranging vista over the Helford estuary looking south.  I was not surprised to learn that this headland was the site of a gun emplacement for Second World War anti-aircraft guns.  Good place for it.

It had been a longer walk than anticipated and we were both tired and looking forward to our planned lunch at the Shipwright Arms in Helford.  But the queue of likewise thirsty and hungry people outside was far too long, so we went straight to the village store for supplies, and then a much welcome late lunch on Idun.

Friday 9th – Saturday 10th July: Getting prepared

Idun is booked in at Mylor Yacht Harbour for a copper bottom scrape at the end of July, so we’ve got a bit of time before then. We had thought of going to the Channel Islands, but after talking to other people who’ve been, we’re neither of us that keen. We’d both prefer to go back to Scilly so that’s what we’ll do. The one thing we really do need to sort out first is cooking gas. We heard that Mylor is getting a delivery today Friday, so set off at 8am to be first in line. We arrived to a very full marina (‘well, if you can find a spot you can take it’ is what the marina office told us) and there was no power to the whole marina, shops, cafe and all. It took the whole morning, but in the end we had two new Camping Gaz canisters (not Calor Gas, our first choice but we can refit the gas supply to take these), 100% water, electricity and diesel, the boat is cleaned topside and we had a lovely late breakfast at the cafe. And all rubbish and recycling has been deposited. Good morning’s work!

Now for where to stay the night. We went all the way up the gorgeous Fal river, on into Truro river and had a quick look at Malpas before anchoring off Old Kea. There are lots of boats here anchored, on buoys and on the £25/night river pontoon which we avoided. Deep into the Cornwall river system, a good place to sit out the rain.

Saturday was food shopping day, and after finding a good spot for mini-Idun on the pontoon in Malpas we trotted off to Tesco in Truro. Walking there was quite delightful, and we saw a buzzard in a tree by the river! On the way back, with heavy shopping bags and rain at first, less so. Dominic spent the rest of the day clearing and cleaning out a locker, sorting this and that and being very busy indeed. My favourite part of the day was reading in the (temporary) sunshine; Kindred: Neanderthal life, love, death and art. Full of the latest research on these incredible hominins in the distant past, their technologies, culture and so much more. Absolutely fascinating!

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