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Mayday 2014 - Wildlife Weekend, Plymouth aboard "Ventis Secundis" (Delphia) and "Liver Bird"

Updated: 13-05-2014

Report from Steve Worner (Photos and video - Steve Worner and Colin Winter):

Crew "Ventis Secundis": (Delphia 40): Colin Winter, Lis Jones , Nigel and Caroline Owen and Steve Worner

Nigel setting the Burgee Nigel setting the Burgee

Well another year has sailed by and we were headed back to Plymouth with myself, Lis Jones, Colin Winter, Caroline and Nigel Owen on the 40ft Polish Built Delphia which goes under the name of "Ventis Secundis"( google it for a translation all of you non Latin scholars).

There was a further boat "Liver Bird"this weekend skippered by Simon Stannard who stepped in when David Gist received a better offer of two weeks in the Sun. We were supposed to be sailing a smaller boat but after two changes when owners wanted their own boats to race over the Bank Holiday weekend we 'reluctantly' agreed to take the bigger boat which gave three of us a chance for a shake down cruise before we take her off for a week in June. Having completed the handover we headed off to the Yealm and the Dolphin ( first wildlife encounter of the weekend) for a meal. The crew of "Liver Bird"were a little behind us and running late for the meal with the kitchen threatening to close before their arrival, until Colin negotiated an extension with the Chef and saved the day.

Saturday dawned with a F3 /4 Southeasterly so we had a good downwind sail to the Helford river. Not long out of the Yealm Caroline spotted two dolphins which paid a brief visit before heading off. During the sail down to the Yealm we spotted a basking shark some distance off but I would estimate 3-4metres between Dorsal fin and tail so quite a reasonable size and also saw gannets diving ( plus one dead bird floated past). When we arrived in Falmouth bay we spotted a further two basking sharks but more importantly we had a large pod of dolphins use us as a play thing for 5 minutes or so - Caroline was particularly excited as this was a first for her and probably the biggest / most sustained visitation most of us had encountered ... and here is some video footage as proof !!:

Nigel, Caroline and Lis - inside Gull Rock Nigel, Caroline and Lis - passing inside Gull Rock

When we entered the Helford River we were surprised at the number of empty mooring buoys ( both private and visitor) and were able to take our pick of where to park which is unusual. Another trip ashore and a very enjoyable pre bookedmeal in the Sailing Club which has had a real facelift with extended balcony and new luxurious showers at a lower level than previously - always well worth a visit but even more so these days! On returning to the boat there were clear skies and lot of stars for Colin to identify with the aid of an app on his phone.

Colin - past Gull Rock Colin - past Gull Rock

Sunday saw similar winds and a very enjoyable sail back to Fowey, via the channel between Gull Rock and the coast ( in the hope of spotting seals on the rocks but sadly let down in this case). We tucked in behind the headland and daymark in St Austell bay for lunch before heading into Fowey to find most of the moorings taken by racing fleets and a large ( well for Fowey) Cruise Liner on a mooring opposite the Town Quay. On the advice of Liver Bird we headed up river and join them on the pontoon just above the Ferry before taking the water taxi into Fowey a dining in the Lugger ( where else?). Monday saw the wind still generally in the same direction but rising. We put in a tack ( the only one all weekend but still could not clear Rame head and were overtaken by the racing fleets returning to Plymouth - at one point being overtaken by trimarans on both sides ( I want one! It a real toy for the boys!). as time was running out we motored around Rame head to allow us a very quick sail across the Sound to return the boat safe and sound to Liberty Yachts. All in all a very enjoyable weekend with lots of wildlife spotting and sailing virtually all day everyday .

The only improvement would have been a 5 degree rise in temperature over the weekend but that really is asking a lot after one of the best weekends in many a yearSaturday dawned with drizzle ( as forecast) and once there were a few of the crew vertical we dropped the mooring and headed back to the Town Quay where we made use of the facilities ashore and purchased Croissants for breakfast and additional supplies of pasties. By 09.00 we were heading out of Fowey for all points West ( Helford River) and enjoying a great sail with the wind increasing all the time (25kts max), forcing us to reduce both main and head sails when heading for Dodman Point.

As the day wore on the wind dropped and we shook out the reefs but it eventually got to the stage where we were again going to be late for 'tea' so we motored for Helford - at that time not having been able to book a table at the Sailing club. Just as we entered the Helford River we managed to raise the sailing club and book a slot for our meal and after a short rest on one of the visitor moorings we blew up the dinghy and Simon acting as boatman, first ferrying Phil and Norma ashore then collecting Lis and myself - the only problem being running out of fuel whilst he was taking us ashore so Simon and I paddled back to the boat to top up whilst Lis encouraged ( threatened us) from the Cox's position.

Ventis Secundis - Helford River Ventis Secundis - Helford River
As ever a good meal at the sailing club and freshen up in the 'Unisex' showers - they are currently extending the club so only one set of showers are available but rest assured we did not have mixed sessions!
Liver Bird Liver Bird
KPCA burgee KPCA burgee
VentisSecundisCrewHelford Ventis Secundis crew heading to the Helford Sailing Club for Dinner

Mayday 2014 - Fenders, Fuel Cocks and Furling Gear aboard "Liver Bird" (Élan Impressions 384)

Report from Simon Stannard:

(Photos - Simon Stannard)

Crew: Phil and Norma Bridge, Roger Francis, Simon Stannard (skipper)

First impressions of "Liver Bird" were good and she lived up to her manufacturer's name. She is a smart looking Élan Impressions 384 but a little unusual. A very bright and airy saloon with lots of windows and three good size double cabins, the saloon sole had two steps along its length, something that required getting used to; everyone stumbled over the step by the navigation station at some point. Unfortunately, someone had washed the boat and not secured the starboard aft cabin port. The cabin floor was flooded and the foam mattresses soaked. We mopped up the water and moved mattresses outside. After some complaints and a few ideas Liberty Yachts provided bin liners and a sleeping bag to place over the wet mattresses. However the resourceful crew (Roger) had a better idea - the port and starboard aft cabins are mirrored so we swopped one mattress from each cabin and turned it over. Roger had the dry short mattress and I got the longer dry mattress, I am taller than Roger.

While the skipper did the handover the crew stowed the victuals, team work! Finally the yacht was ours and we were ready to go. The skipper did a quick brief, skipper to get "Liver Bird" off the pontoon, Roger to take us through Plymouth Sound to off the Mew Stone and Norma to bring us into the Yealm. The skipper wanted life jackets worn while at sea and as there were both manual and hydrostatic versions available preferred that the crew used the hydrostatic release versions. On checking the type of life jacket it was discovered that Norma's life jacket did not even have gas cartridge. A quick swop of life jackets followed plus checking that every life jacket being worn had a gas cartridge fitted. The safety features on "Liver Bird" were not as good as they could have been. Both the Emergency Throw line and the Dan Buoy did not have on deck holders and were stored in the lockers as was the life raft, which was a very heavy looking canister type; I didn't fancy trying to get that out of the locker under difficult conditions.

We were finally underway at 18:25. Taking the advice of Liberty Yachts we went forwards off the pontoon into QAB marina and then backed out, but the approaches to QAB were suddenly full of vessels, a rib appeared close by the marina wall, a quick engine burst forwards required to avoid a collision, then a trawler came in heading for Sutton Harbour followed by another trawler. Edging out into Cattewater we were confronted by a fleet of canoes and several dinghies careering at random across the water. The skipper by now was feeling a little pressured getting used to the feel of a 38 foot yacht in what seemed to be the rush hour! Once into Plymouth Sound the skipper was only too pleased to take over the navigation and pass the helm to Roger. The next hazard was a regatta in the Sound with lots of yachts milling around. Roger avoided the crowd and we headed south across the Sound.

The evening was cool and grey and with the light starting to fade we decided to not raise the sails but to motor as quickly as possible to the Yealm where we had an appointment at the Dolphin with the crew of "Ventis Secundis" . Norma took the helm for the tricky entrance into the Yealm which went smoothly. We found "Ventis Secundis" moored at the pontoons and came alongside her to raft up. A smooth operation other than a fender that escaped over the stern. Fortunately Steve was in "Ventis Secundis" 's dinghy and after some hand waving and shouting he retrieved the errant fender for us. By 20:00 we were secured and pumping up the dinghy. We opted to test the outboard on the pulpit railing first to check it before lowering into the dinghy. The outboard was pretty knackered looking with all markings worn off long ago. Which way was fuel cock on position? A few goes got it started, so off the railing down into the dinghy and a second go at starting was successful. All in the dinghy to head for Newton Ferrers, but then the outboard refused to start. Eventually there was no option and Roger and Phil had to take the oars with Norma giving the directions. With the tide still rising the row was not as hard as it might have been but was still a lot of effort.

Once ashore we headed off to meet the other crew at the Dolphin. It was dark when we got to the pub and none of us had thought that the restaurant might stop serving before we arrived, it had. Fortunately, Colin had persuaded the cook to stay on a bit longer on the promise of four meals to be ordered and a good tip. We were given a choice of three dishes and ordered within minutes of getting to the pub. Four good meals were quickly produced, eaten and the cook paid off with the promised tip. Well done Colin and many thanks, you saved the day for us.

Back to the dinghy in the dark to try and start the outboard again. This time success, probably because the fuel cock had been in the off position on the outward trip! Quickly back to "Liver Bird" where we enjoyed some cheese and wine while planning the following day's sail.

Saturday morning we were up and off before the other boat, Phil's turn to do the helming through the Yealm. Once again a fender slipped over the side, was it the same one? Some careful manoeuvring got "Liver Bird" positioned nicely alongside the fender as it drifted down tide and with clever use of the boat hook we managed to retrieve it. Then out to sea heading for the Eddystone Lighthouse in a F3. A distant water spout was spotted by the skipper who was hopeful that we might see some dolphins, sadly it was not to be, worse the other boat were boasting that evening that they seen sixty dolphins! Sixty was probably a bit of fisherman's tale, but they did have pictures and video of some Dolphins, lucky them.

After turning westwards at the lighthouse we had a pleasant sail downwind to the Helford. During the handover it had explained that less sail was more speed. "Liver Bird" only had two reefing lines and was designed to sail mostly upright, heeling would reduce her speed and her high sides meant we needed to reef early to avoid too much heeling. During the afternoon we put on more sail, and while not noticablly heeling we didn't get any increase in speed either, 4 knots through the water seemed to be all we could raise.

Roger, Phil and Norma off the Helford Roger, Phil and Norma off the Helford
As we approached the Helford a large tanker got underway and headed straight towards us, causing a detour on our part, what happen to steam giving way to sail? Before entering the Helford we decided to drop the sails at which point we found the head sail would not furl away. Phil went forwards while Norma and I controlled the sheets and Roger tried to keep the wind out of the sail, although we did do at least one complete 360 degree turn while fighting the sail. Phil discovered that the furling line was not rolling onto the drum properly, jamming the mechanism. Slowly between us we got the sail away and then into the Helford where we picked up a mooring next to "Ventis Secundis" .

Pumped up and launched the dinghy again and (after remembering to use the kill cord) the outboard worked. Over to the Helford Sailing club for showers and a meal with the other crew. Then back to "Liver Bird" for more cheese and wine.

Sunday morning was fine and sunny with lovely views in the Helford. A large wooden ship, the "Blessed Ellen" , passed by. "Ventis Secundis" were first off with "Liver Bird" slipping her mooring about an hour later, destination Fowey. Weather forecast was for F5 occasionally F6 later, so we opted to use the second reef. Weather was sunny if a bit cool. In a moment of madness we let out too much head sail and found that we could not furl it back in. Phil went out to pulpit to sort out the furling drum again. During the afternoon we spotted what looked like a black plastic sheet in front of us then it moved and two fins came into view, it was a Basking Shark. The shark cruised down the port side of "Liver Bird", it's mouth wide open. Norma got her phone out to take a picture but fumbled with the controls and the moment was gone - no photo to prove our encounter.

Fowey was busy, a cruise liner was taking up a lot of room and we had difficulty finding a mooring. The harbour master's launch advised us that there were spaces on a pontoon further up river past the bend. As we headed up river, skipper at the helm, the crew told him there was a ferry ahead, the skipper already had the ferry in his sights, it was heading towards us and there was a rowing boat in the way. Again the crew warned of the ferry, the skipper OK'd it he knew where the ferry was, then crew, now far more agitated, warned of the CAR ferry - with the ferry coming straight at us and the rowing boat alongside the skipper had not noticed that the car ferry on the eastern shore was getting ready to leave. That is what the crew is for, thank you. We halted our progress up river to let both the ferry and the car ferry pass by without incident.

After the previous evenings it was relaxing to catch the water taxi into town, where the cruise liner was preparing to leave. A pleasant evening in the Lugger was shared by both crews. Back on board we polished off the last of the cheese and wine and on assessing the weather forecast, opted for an early start to get into Plymouth with the best of the weather.

Monday morning was grey and breezy, we sprung off the pontoon with Nigel's helpful advice to increase the length of the spring; it was still a bit tight getting past the yacht in front but we did it. Once out of the Fowey the sea was bumpy and the wind blowing a bit. Given the problems with the furling drum on the head sail we decided not to use the head sail, so we motored sailed using just the main.

The day was less windy than forecast and the rain didn't arrive until after we returned the yacht. Back at QAB marina there was a strong wind blowing off the hammer head pontoon we need to berth at. Another boat already occupied most of the pontoon giving very little room to manoeuvre in. After two attempts, both off which failed as the bow was blown away from the pontoon before the crew could get ashore, we opted to use "Ventis Secundis" 's berth on the inside of the hammer head - straight in first time no problems. While we were cleaning "Liver Bird" another yacht, "Bertie" , tried to moor on the next pontoon. Several times "Bertie" lost control at low speed due to the strong wind. Only quick action on our part with fenders prevented damage as "Bertie" was blown on to us. "Bertie" eventually decided to reverse in to her berth and with our help they got in but bumped her stern into the pontoon causing a rather expensive sounding noise, the owner didn't seem to mind, perhaps he had not heard it?

Early Morning - Helford River Early Morning - Helford River

Handing back "Liver Bird" we complained about the furling gear, the life jackets and the poor set up of the safety equipment. Liberty Yachts explained it was "Liver Bird"'s first trip out this year, they would adjust the line feed into the drum. The life jackets had been serviced and I was shown the inspection card for the life jacket without the gas cartridge. Liberty Yachts were upset about the life jacket and said they would inspect their entire stock.

Overall a enjoyable weekend with reasonable weather and the crew are all willing to sailing together again!