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Mayday 2015 - aboard "Spellbound" (Jeanneau 36) and "Gerty" (Sadler)

Updated: 14-05-2015

Report from Steve Worner (Photos Steve Worner):

Well another year has passed and we are back again at Plymouth for another Mayday sailing weekend, mainly thanks to organiser, Nigel, who managed to track down two boats from new sources following massive increases in charter fees from our regular supplier - in fairness there had been no increases from them throughout the recession but 20% in one hit !?!?

The boats were "Gerty", an elderly and well worn Sadler which Nigel skipper with first mate (and wife) Caroline; actually it was Simon Stannard officially with Roger Francis completing his gang. I skippered a much newer and smarter Jeanneau 36 named "Spellbound" from new kids on the block - Devon Sailing Adventures - with crew of Phil Bridge, Norma Bridge, Ruth Jennings and Lis Jones.

Team Gerty, discussing day's sailing in Yealm entrance
Team Gerty, discussing day's sailing in Yealm entrance

After the usual handover was completed we both headed off around 16.00 to the Yealm and an evening meal in 'The Ship'. This should have been a simple run ashore with a Suzuki outboard on "Gerty" plus state of the art 'Torqueedo' electric outboard on "Spellbound". The outboard on "Gerty" would not start and having made fun of their quaint old technology I transferred my crew ashore and headed back to the pontoon to give team "Gerty" a lift only to lose the blades off the plastic prop ( not sure how but must have hit something) so it was back to vintage technology and paddles. When it worked the Torqueedo was great, light, slow revving with a big prop ( perhaps that was the problem!), completely silent with same speed in forward and reverse.

Saturday dawned wet, cold and windy- we set off with the intention of going to Helford with a good wind and tide behind us but, after a miserable 3 or 4 hours my team agreed with the idea of aborting and heading to Fowey. After a radio call to "Gerty" and a very short pause, they 'reluctantly' decided to join us. It was necessary to keep alert on entering Fowey with three French yachts abreast heading out and the Troys racing in the harbour.

Tall ship in Fowey
Tall ship in Fowey

A hot shower in the Sailing Club followed by a relaxing few hours on the pontoon and water taxi ashore for a meal in the Lugger was followed by a nightcap and nibbles on "Spellbound". Having risen at about 7.30 on Sunday, "Gerty" was already over on the town pontoon making use of the local facilities - rumour has it that Simon stayed up all night making the outboard operational but that was probably an exaggeration!

Sunday was a much better downwind sail back Eastwards, with "Gerty" dropping anchor in Cawsand Bay for lunch whilst "Spellbound" continued straight on to the Yealm again. One incident to report was when a big wave deposited a tupperware box onto the cooker which was lit and boiling a kettle. Said box caught fire but firemen Ruth and Lis dealt with it with a damp tea towel.

A dinghy was inflated and Simon's rebuilt engine attached - all was well until halfway across to HM pontoon the "Gerty" gang were seen to ship oars and head down wind and tide to the landing for the Ship again. Nigel rowed across and picked us up and a further meal was enjoyed in the Ship after a bit of a wait for a table. On the return ferry service we managed to make some use of the outboard (either at high revs and hang on tight or by careful operation of the throttle just above tick over) general consensus was there is either a blocked pilot jet in the carb or quite possibly stale unleaded petrol ( don't get me started on that subject but if you are interested in it google the effects of unleaded petrol and its ethanol additives).

One of the otheryachts tied up on the pontoon warned of the problems in departing our berth on the ebb tide so we tried to get away earlyish but still had problems even after a vigorous attempt to spring off. Fortunately we managed to make it back onto the pontoon without any damage and, with help from team "Gerty" fending us off, managed to slip backwards off the pontoon and head off to the end of the moorings and pick up the first visitor buoy for a relaxed breakfast - or so we thought!!

Early morning in the Yealm.

Early morning in the Yealm.

If we go back in time to our arrival at the pontoon on the previous afternoon there was another yacht tied up on the other side named "M _ _" ( perhaps it would be less litigious if I keep the name out of this) and within a few minutes her tender - a tinker with a young man and two much younger girls all without lifejackets were towed back in from Cellar Bay by a local boat having run out of fuel.

A little later another young man in wetsuit went for a swim up river amongst the moorings and the first young man was seen paddling back in the tinker with a dead engine again. Just after this they decided to move the boat along the pontoon with tide flowing well by simply taking their mooring lines off their cleats and wandering down the pontoon with no attempt to control it with lines around cleats. But all of this was nothing, whilst sat on the mooring next morning "M _ _" was seen coming down through the moorings whilst another yacht was coming in, she kept to the starboard side of the channel but seemed oblivious of the fact that we were occupying that bit if the ocean. "M _ _" swerved at the last moment and only avoided having side opened up like a tin can by our anchor by a matter of inches: 'Don't Panic' said her middle aged skipper .... DON'T PANIC !!!!????##!!!

After a change of underwear we had a pleasant sail around the Sound with a leisurely lunch at anchor in Jennycliffe Bay before returning the boats to QAB.

There was a further little sting in the tail as it rained heavily whilst cleaning and handing back the boats.

As ever a good weekend despite the weather and a reminder of how much yachts have improved since our early days sailing such boats as "Gerty".