Falmouth to Dartmouth, then Poole and beyond

Sat 9 Aug 2014 10:26
The fourteen hour sail to Dartmouth was uneventful in light airs and we had to motor just to cover the ground. Last summer, when we covered this route on the way back from Ireland our brand new engine overheated and we found a massive amount of weed with a wooden dowel in the middle had wedged itself in the engine water intake and starved it of cooling water; so uneventful is good!

Both Falmouth and Dartmouth are truly fine places to visit and explore time and again. The visitor's haven marina in Falmouth needs to rally itself and get good free wifi connectivity and non slot machine electric supply on the pontoons, to be properly in line with current standards for the visiting yachtsman but the town facilities are generous and many are unique, like the maritime museum.

In Dartmouth we moored alongside an island visitors pontoon on the Dartmouth town side. Our dinghy was inflated so it was easy to lift it over the pontoon and paddle the few feet to the next pontoon that was linked to the shore. 

Two days of relaxation visiting new pubs and old favourites, a fascinating museum in the Butterwalk about the town's maritime and industrial history, an energetic scramble over the Kingswear side up the steepest set of steps we've climbed since Simi in Greece, all served to re-introduce us to land life.

Casting off in Dartmouth was a little radical, the tide was on the rise and Rob let go the stern line which meant the tide got between Zoonie's stern and the pontoon, so before I had taken the bow line and spring off up forward she was gently swinging away from where I was standing. So I quickly released both lines (if they had been made slippery, ie just looped around the cleat, I would have done it from on board) and leapt onboard at the high bow end, reminiscent of my high-jumping days!

What followed was an almost perfect day's sailing across Lyme Bay, final resting place of my dear mum and home to naval gunnery exercises, but not that day as they don't do firing practice in the school holidays. I say it was almost perfect because we did have to motor for 3.5 of the 14.5 hour journey but the sailing was splendid with a generous 12 - 15 knot wind from behind, a little too much for the cruising chute unfortunately but then Zoonie likes her goose wings!

At the east side of the bay is Portland Bill and as with most headlands whose rocky fabric continues into the sea, there is a race. The east/west flowing tide has to go over the rocky escarpment which is under water and this causes turbulence, overfalls of busy waves peaking and breaking, which can be anything from almost non-existent in fine weather at the turn of the tide, to raging and extremely dangerous in high winds with spring tides.

We were approaching on a rising spring tide which would be turning and in the final two hours of west flowing ebb when we were due to arrive. So the rate was likely to be 4 - 5 knots against us unless we slowed down for a couple of hours, then there would be little activity before the flow would be in our favour.

Some attractive choices came to mind. Firstly we could slow down, hug the Bill infront of the lighthouse no more than 30 metres from the shore and take the race enabling us to bear round and go into either Portland Harbour and the marina (another favourite place) or into Weymouth, OR we could take the route south of the race where the tide is much less but the route longer for Portland, but more direct for our continued journey towards Poole.

The wind was giving us fine sailing (the next day forecast promised light winds) and we would have a full spring flood tide with us, so although it meant an approach in darkness we decided to continue. The Jurassic coast whizzed by and soon we were turning around Anvil Point towards Old Harry rocks. The wind was now heading us so we had to start the engine and that gave me the fear of an unseen lobster pot wrapping itself around the spinning prop. I squinted through the best part of my spectacles to use the last of the light to see any hint of a buoy in the water, but luck was with us and under a starlit sky, with the flickering anchor lights of other yachts in Studland Bay, we dropped the hook at 22.45 and celebrated with a glass of Metaxa.

Early the next day, Weds July 30th we moored up in Port of Poole marina for a few days of sorting Zoonie out. Within minutes, in blessed light airs both sails came off and were folded and driven to Sanders in Lymington. The genoa (foresail) needs a new UV strip, this time in blue fabric. The mainsail is a little more involved. When it blew out of the mast on 40 knot winds a couple of years ago the leech became stretched and now it can snag in the mast groove and be a real pain to pull along the boom into use. Whether it will be a re-shaping exercise or a new sail we wait to see.

Marine engineer, Dave Ford, came to look at the diesel tank and is pricing up two custom made plastic tanks to fit into the existing tank once the top has been taken off. He will also look to fit a watermaker for us which we will buy at the Southampton Boat Show. We may also ask him to re-fit the black water tank. So its work in progress for the next few months in final preparations for our departure from these shores next summer.