Wheels to Keels 50.21.89N 04.07.93W = Plymouth for new (keep the mast) standing rigging.
Mon 15 Jun 2015 18:00
After all the wind and a glorious brisk, sun-drenched walk the 8 miles around Portland Bill we set sail in very light airs to round the Bill and head west for Dartmouth. The day of our walk the ‘Race’ which is where the sea rushes over the irregular shallow seabed around the bill, was a raging torrent of angry white foam. You wouldn’t think it was the same place the next day, flowing flat and gentle as if exhausted.
We motored most of the 55 miles in the company of many others and meeting a few heading east, looking like one-winged flightless birds humming across Lyme Bay under a blanket of grey. In the water around us 2ft .diameter giant orange jellyfish undulating ghostlike about a metre below the surface, perhaps the grown version of the millions of tiny ones we saw close to the Azores last summer.
Like homing pidgeons when we find a mooring we spot we like we return to it time and again. In the steep-sided, picturesque valley of the river Dart we moor alongside an island pontoon (not connected to the shore) near the higher Kingswear chain ferry. We just feel comfortable there and at £20 per night its affordable.
So, a day free in Dartmouth, what to do? The Round Robin of course. All aboard the steam train and step back 50+years, smell the steam and hot oil, hear the hissing and the grinding of metal parts and feel the strain up the gradual climb out of this exquisite valley along typically rising and falling valleys of beautiful Devon to Paignton. We stopped at at couple of tiny stations on the way and how hard did that little engine have to work to move on.
Paignton, like Skegness, is enjoyed by many as a seaside holiday resort. The harbour is for fishing boats and sailing dinghies not the deep-bellied likes of us. The morning was cloudy and cool, the beach almost empty and I felt for the expectant holidaymakers, deprived of their longed for sunbathing, sitting outside restaurants willing their fish and chips to be an adequate alternative.
Our second trip would be our last on wheels in the UK. At the top and front of an open-topped, 1950’s double-decker we bounced up hill down dale and screamed around bends (at least it felt like that) to Totnes. Loving hands had perfected her old paintwork but the same hands needed to take a look at the engine as she stalled each time we stopped, like a recalcitrant donkey!
Totnes had the steep hills that characterise Devon and Fore Street is lined with cultural art and craft shops as well a tea-shops, pubs and a Hotel. The local history is valued and accessible and a big open market sold local foods as well as locally made clothes from sheeps’ wool, wooden ducks, second-hand books and bric a brac, you know what I mean. Lovely place, stepped in culture and history, a little like Hay on Wye I thought.
Our final leg was aboard a modern river cruiser and took an hour back to Dartmouth. We sat alone and in warm sun on the top deck (again) passing fields of green (we’ll miss those when we’re gone) woods, private homes hidden from the roads and facing the water and canoeists who had made camp on the only area of level bank for miles by a depositing bend in the river.
We reached The Dart Arms,our favourite pub, for a last drink, phoned the river taxi once more and back on board had supper and reviewed our homework of tides and weather for Plymouth tomorrow.
There is a massive high settling over us for a few days at the moment. The yachts that left Dartmouth with us had one of two purposes in mind. One to do some sailing and the second, like us, to make passage. So single-winged (mainsail) to steady us once again and eyes peeled for lobster pots, we motored the 35 miles to Queen Anne’s Battery MDL Marina and spent the evening taking off and folding her sails, disconnecting the electrics from the base of the mast and rehoming in the forward loo all the contents of the fore-cabin.