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Summer Cruise aboard "Polbream"

Updated: 11-07-2010

Report from Nigel Owen:

Summer Cruise crew Summer Cruise crew
Gallery photos

It was the middle of May when the crew of the good ship "Polbream" met to discuss options for the forthcoming KPCA Summer Cruise. The boat was being chartered from Cornish Cruising, giving rise to the possibility of visiting Brittany, the Scilly Isles, the Channel Islands or if the weather was really foul maybe just a West Country cruise. The tides were difficult for Brittany. No problems getting there, but given the limited access time for many places and the prevailing tidal streams, the options for passage making were limited. The Scillies were ruled out as they had been visited by a number of the crew the previous 2 years. A Channel Island cruise got a luke-warm response - no strong desire for Jersey or Alderney - albeit Guernsey was still a popular choice. Eventually it was decided to head for St Peter Port and use this as a base to explore the west coast of the Cherbourg Peninsular as most of the crew hadn't visited this part of France before.

It was a bright and sunny early Saturday afternoon when the crew (David, Nigel, Ruth and Steve) next mustered, in Sainsbury's Falmouth, for the important task of victualling for the coming week. Anticipation was running high, the boat was ready, the weather forecast for the coming 24hours was mostly good for the planned passage to St. Peter Port, the only concern being fog patches - never desirable, but particularly so when a Channel crossing is in the offing. The further outlook for our chosen cruising ground wasn't good - but we decided to deal with that later if necessary.

LNG carrier Liquid Natural Gas carrier

With kit and victuals stowed, fuel, water and the other myriad checks prior to departing completed, lines were slipped at 1630 and we were off. As we headed towards Carrick Roads we met a fleet of Falmouth working boats racing around the harbour - cutting a dash with their matching brightly coloured hulls and main-top sails. Our sails were hoisted and course set for Guernsey and our first encounter with a big ship! A mobile car-park was leaving Falmouth at the same time as us, preventing us from heading off on our desired track - having negotiated this obstacle we were finally off. With a long passage to make, 115nm, 5knots was set as the minimum speed. If we couldn't make 5 knots under sail then we'd motor sail: with the wind directly astern, we barely made 4 knots and the engine was started. It was at this time that Eric joined us. Eric was the name given to the auto helm - how it came to be christened Eric I don't know.

The atmosphere was relaxed as we settled into the passage. David had prepared a spaghetti bolognaise which was served at around 2000 hrs - delicious. During this we had our first and only visit from a pod of dolphins - I'm never sure whether they're more excited than the crew on the boats they greet. Excitement over, 3 hour watches were started at 2100 hrs, Steve and Ruth & Eric stood the first watch. Throughout the night a constant stream of shipping kept the watches on their toes - at times there were as many as a dozen ships visible. Surprisingly perhaps we never had to alter course or speed or take any avoiding action. Fortunately the fog didn't appear -however there was a significant amount of electrical activity over the coast of France - dramatically lighting up the night sky. Sunday dawned bright and early - with clear skies - but no increase in wind - so we continued to motor at 6+ knots.

Steve at the helm Steve at the helm

Guernsey was spotted at around 0800. As the coast was closed the tide was swinging in our favour and would whisk us around St. Martins and up to St. Peter Port. As we rounded St. Martins the wind suddenly increased to 20 knots and we sailed the last few miles to St. Peter Port, arriving around 1100hrs, where we were greeted by the Harbour Master, as friendly and helpful as ever.

Prior to leaving we'd arranged to meet Ann and Gordon Littlewood in St. Peter Port. They were in Victoria Marina on "Islander". Unfortunately there was insufficient water over the sill to get into the Marina so we berthed on the holding pontoon and had a light lunch. When the time came to enter the marina, with the agreement of the Harbour Master we rafted alongside "Islander". After exchanging gifts, aka beer, it was very quickly agreed that we'd cruise in company until "Polbream" headed back across the Channel.

When on the other side of the Channel, with restricted access times, strong tidal streams and the need to be back at a specific time, planning ahead and flexibility are essential. The weather for the next couple of days was OK for the Cherbourg (Cotentin?) Peninsular - but persistent rain and 20kt winds were forecast for Thursday - one to keep an eye on. On the basis of this it was decided to leave for Carteret on Tuesday morning, which meant leaving the marina for an outside berth Monday afternoon. Given that the fuel jetty is only available at certain states tide we also joined the queue to refuel at this time. There were 3 motor cruisers already refuelling and we held off for what seemed an age - not surprising when the smallest cruiser took over 600 litres in one of its tanks. It made our 39 litres seem pretty insignificant!

St Peter Port St Peter Port

The Harbour Master again allowed us to raft alongside "Islander" in the outer harbour. Monday evening we had a gourmet meal aboard "Polbream" with mostly fresh local produce; a selection of pates, poached salmon (prepared by Ann on "Islander") and fresh vegetables prepared on "Polbream", strawberries and cream or ice cream and finally a cheese board - all washed down with variety of New World vintages. Magnificent! A truly great evening, and one that will live in the memory for a long time to come.

Tuesday arrived with a good breeze; on the nose for the first couple of miles + a nasty little chop as it was wind over tide as we headed almost due south to clear Lower Heads south cardinal before bearing away to clear the southern end of Sark. Good speed was made with a full main and 2/3 of the genoa. Having cleared Sark, course was set for Carteret to the west, with due regard for the strong southerly set of the tide. The genoa was unfurled as the wind gradually eased. The pilot recommends arriving about 1 hour before HW to avoid the worst of the tide across the entrance. That combined with wanting to be on a rising tide meant the iron tops'l was started early in the afternoon and the passage was completed under engine. Carteret is a straight forward entry, particularly if you have a reliable(?) echo sounder. (You could rely on ours to stop working just when it was needed most - in anything under 4m of water it read 0). Carteret's a very quiet, pretty place (apart from the smell!). Following a shower at the local sailing club we sat on sailing club's veranda to enjoy a cold beer and watch the tide recede to leave the marina looking like what can best be described as a very large swimming pool full of boats.

David, celebrating retirement David, celebrating retirement

Thursday's weather forecast hadn't improved and Friday's had become a NW5, ie on the nose for the trip home + leaving no margin for getting back to Falmouth for 10am on Saturday. Initially it was planned to leave Carteret on Wednesday afternoon for who knows where. Given the current weather forecast it was decided to leave at the next opportunity and head for the South Coast. Unfortunately the next opportunity meant getting up at 0400 hrs and slipping at first light. The day was rounded off with another fine meal with Ann and Gordon; with farewells and good wishes exchanged we retired to bed.

It was tranquillity personified as we prepared to leave our sheltered haven on Wednesday morning - not a ripple on the water of our newly flooded swimming pool. Very quietly we edged out of our berth and headed for the sill and sharp right turn leading to the deep water channel. Sails were hoisted as we headed for the sea. The initial objective was to shape a course which would take us just north of Guernsey and pick up the tide to slingshot us around Guernsey and off into the Channel. Initially 5 knots was being maintained, but gradually the wind eased and our speed dropped to less than 4 knots - the minimum to clear Guernsey without being swept down into one of the Russell's. Thank heavens for Eric.

With the Channel Islands far behind, consideration was given to our next landfall and what to do for the remainder of our summer cruise. Crucially the ETA for Plymouth was long after closing time, whereas the ETA for Salcombe was before closing time - more crucially what did the weather Gods have planned? The latest inshore waters forecast gave NE 5/ 6 (occasionally 7) - ideal for a westbound passage along the south coast. Salcombe it was. Unfortunately the wind didn't pick up for the reminder of the day, and apart from dodging the odd big ship it was a matter of grinding out the miles with Eric at the helm and at least one pair of (open) eyes in the cockpit. Start Point Light House was spotted in the late afternoon haze. It had been a number of years since any of us had visited Salcombe; but as we closed the coast and the land's features became clear it was the same old friend we all remembered, picturesque and welcoming in the warm evening sunshine. It was 1900 as we entered The Range and 2015 as "Polbream" was secured to a visitors mooring outside the Marine Hotel. Time for a glass of the local brew - summon the water taxi.

Fowey Fowey

Thursday morning and the wind is screaming down through Salcombe Harbour and howling in the rigging - just funnelling? - let's hope so. First things first; a trip ashore to take the waters (shower) and to get essential supplies for the final couple of days. Mission accomplished, it's time to leave. In the shelter of the harbour the main is hoisted with 2 reefs, once over the bar a slither of heads'l, a gybe and off to Fowey. Fast and flat - as promised - less than 6 hours later "Polbream" was alongside in Fowey having had a cracking sail. Fowey - it must be the Lugger's.

Hooray, like Thursday, Friday arrived with a stiff NE and the prospect of another cracking day's sail with the wind aft of the beam - and so it was; Fowey to the Helford in 3 hours! A light lunch in the cockpit, wall to wall sunshine and the voyeuristic pleasure of watching people moor boats. Revitalised by lunch, the dinghy was pumped up and the crew headed ashore for ice-cream. Looking out from the Ferry Inn towards the sailing club - the turquoise coloured water, the brilliant greens of the lush vegetation it looked like a tropical island paradise - only the keen NE'y to remind you otherwise.

As the boat was due back at 10.00 on Saturday it was decided to head back Friday evening and have a more leisurely clean up and hand back. Lines were slipped at 5pm as we headed for Falmouth. The wind was still in the NE, a beat! We'd been away for almost a week and gybed once and hadn't tacked at all! Time to work off the ice-cream. "Polbream" was back in her berth at 1900 hrs and the crew were in the marina restaurant reminiscing over a great summer cruise and wondering what to do next year.