The ideal time to cross the bar is 1-2 hours before high tide, meaning there should be plenty of water, but a rising tide gives a little insurance. The channel is tricky, well marked, but lots of sandbanks. We had the chart and pilot guide out, a sector light keeps you right on track for a crucial bit of the entrance, showing red if you are too far to port and green if you're too far to starboard, white means you're spot-on.
I have to admit, the sail into the Exe was probably the scariest passage we have yet done! The tide was ripping in, it was springs, which means it was fast and furious, the water seemed to boil underneath us. Just before Exmouth marina, the channel does a 90degree turn to port, which is not where the tide wanted to take us; the tide and wind were pushing us to the outside of the bend, Owen was helming and both Chris and I spotting channel markers, buoys, other boats etc, suddenly the depth went from 10+metres to 0.9!!! It took all Bliss's engine power to edge us back into deeper water and away from the rocks and river wall on our starboard side. Back on track but with nerves on edge, we gingerly motored up the river, picking out the channel markers amongst the hundreds of moored boats, after a couple of miles we reached Starcross and, thank goodness, spotted a visitor's mooring buoy, hooked it up and secured ourselves, cut the engine and breathed a sigh of relief.
We were booked to lock into the Exeter Shipping Canal first thing Friday morning, you have to book minimum of 48 hours in advance and the canal staff only work 7.30 - 4pm, access into the lock is only possible two hours pre and an hour post high tide, it's not surprising, therefore, that from a yachting point of view it's not very busy, but boy, is it worth it.
Turf Hotel, beside the lock
Once locked-in, we moored up just beyond the hotel. The Turf Hotel is accessible by boat/ferry, on foot or by bicycle, there is an access road, but no parking is allowed. Everyone has to make that bit of effort to get there; it's busy, great food and ale, excellent foot/bike paths and a charming and enthusiastic landlord ensure that the place is always busy, it is also one of the most magical places we have visited in it's own unique and quirky way.
Exeter Shipping Canal had caught my eye some time ago, but you need time to include it in a passage, fortunately we had time on our hands and it worked well with some other plans too.
Having survived crossing the Exe Bar, and safely moored on our pontoon, we had to get ourselves to Exeter, seven miles up river. Owen and Chris were preparing for a trip to Twickenham the next day and had shopping to do, and my great friend Linda was joining me for a weekend aboard, arriving by train. We had a delicious cream tea in Exeter just beside the cathedral before meeting Linda.
Linda was lucky enough to share a Brompton Bike adventure, pushing the bikes up a hill for two miles, then down the other side with brakes full on, we walked along the coast to Teignmouth having abandoned the bikes in Dawlish, sheltered from a downpour and had lunch before returning by train to retrieve bikes and complete the final eight miles of our journey back to Bliss, she's such a good friend! After showers and supper we were treated to some live music at the pub, there was a private birthday party. Despite being our pyjamas we had to sneak along and have a bop behind the marquee where, we thought, no-one could see us!!
Party train/bus/boat , it took us a while to work out exactly what it was
Doug and Penny joined us for a night too, they stayed for a night in the yurt in the pub garden, before heading on their way west to the Lizard, were they were booked into a holiday cottage for a few nights.
What a spot for a yurt
We stayed in the canal for five nights, we cycled, walked, caught buses, trains and ferries around the Exe Estuary, and along the South West Coast Path, it was quite different from anywhere else, and I really hope we come back here one day.
Last visit to the pub before locking-out on Wednesday. Much needed pint after a long and hilly walk from Teignmouth to Torquay along the coast path, bikes, ferry, bus and trains all seamlessly connecting to deliver us to and from the walk.
South West Coast path