Restoring Lena-Contact-Sailing Home-Sailing Logs-Uphill photo Tour
Three day cruise - Weston - Ilfracombe.

11th -14th Sept 07

To pre-arrange a three day trip - then hit beautifiul settled high pressure in mid Sept - has to be a good omen ! Our luck was in on this one.The first 'cruise' in Lena, away from home.


Down to Lena late in the evening - to stay aboard for an early 6 am start - -2 HW

Wed 12th

Drop the mooring at 6.40. Motor out past the south of Stee[ Holm - no wind, cloudy and overcast early on.

Ian reckoned we could reach Ilfracombe by the LW - which I thought was a bit optimistic - it being 45 miles. I had been told there was a reverse current close inshore once past Foreland Point - or a least, little tidal effect against you once the flood starts.

With a steady low revs 4 kts on the motor - and the spring tide running at up to 4.5 kts at peak - we were past Foreland Point at slack, leaving about 8 miles to go against the start of the adverse tide. Motoring now, with little wind - and we really could have gone in a lot closer to shore than we did. As it was, we were in Coombe Martin bay with just a little way to go at the start of the 2nd hr of the flood tide'

Saw a shoal of dolphins off foreland, briefly - and circled a dead seal, just to check out what it was. God it stank some !

The skies had now cleared and it was a balmy, still warm day.

Crossing Coombe Martin bay we passed the Balmoral Criuse ship - close in on her afternoon trip before heading back across to Swansea.

Had to hit the motor hard once out to round Rillage Point - getting the full force of the stream on the nose.

Entered the outer harbour about two hours after LW.

Easy visitors buoys there - straight in to firm level sand bottom - and 'wow', you can 'see' the bottom in about 2 m !

She justed touched bottom about 40' form the pickup buoys - so we let her tick over in gear and she gradually nosed in as the water deepened.

Visitors Buoys

Easy pick up buoys. Line of about eight, right in front of the outer harbour wall. Yellow - with a small pick up buoy of the 'handhold' type - so its easy to hook up. There is then a short tether which picks up the foward mooring rope painter, with a soft eye - and clipped to the short tether with a carbine clip, is a stern line - comprising a short tether, to a rope painter with soft eye, about 8' long, attached to a heavy ground chain. We used the soft eye on the samson post - and I cleated off the stern rope about midway. She stayed nicely square on to the wall - as any slope on the sand would probably go that way. Its very level there - almost as good as a hard standing.

So. there was Lena, proudly moored up in the outer harbour ! Got the dingy blown up ( carried it with us, roughly rolled up and stuffed down along the side deck ) and went ashore to pay dues, etc. So nice to look down on a picturesque harbour and be loking at my own boat ! I've been waiting to do that for a long time !

Decided on fish and chips aboard that night.

She dropped onto dead level hard sand at about 11 pm. Great nights sleep - after the night on the mooring on a steep heel.

Thursday 13th Sept

Thought of going out to Lundy, given the settled weather, but Ian had to be back in Uphill for the Friday night, and we expected little wind. Settled on getting out of Ilfracombe as late as possible before the LW - then motoring close inshore around to Coombe Martin bay to kill time untill the flood east.

We had all the time in the world to get to Blue Anchor on the east flood - so hugged the shoreline close in to get a look at this fabulous stretch of coast. Even went past Foreland Point about a hundred metres off ! - balmy, warm and still.

Little tide close in - it would seem that inside of a line from Foreland Point to Ilfrracombe, the tidal stream is virtually non existent - and sometimes reversed. Great views of Woody Bay, Lynmouth and Linton - the Valley of the Rocks, Lee Bay - really quite a treat of a day. No wind and no sails, but so what - you can't knock this !

Anchored in Blue Anchor bay. Now did my nav theory for real.

Scratch head, - 'we have 8.5 m now, LW is 1.2' - 'it's going to drop 7.3' - we want at least 4m. Scratch head again, harder - find at least 11.5.

Seemed a hell of a long way out - but I'd done a careful tidal curve for Porlock Bay, which was only just around the corner - but suprisingly, when I checked - it actually was 1m lower on the HW than Watchet, even though only 10 miles away.

Dropped anchor on 11.5 - then just put out 30 m rode and chain. We would be aboard and awake on the HW so could always let out more. Held well - set a waypoint on the Garmin. Set the anchor alarm to about 150m - ( my patent 100 decibel pietso buzzer would wake us )

Its useful to set the waypoint, as you can leave the gps on, on the map page, zoomed right in. Then at night. laid in bed, you can see your position in relation the the original waypoint - ideally the arrow making a nice little circular track plot of twice you rode. Reassuring !

Before turning in we dropped out the rode to 45m in case it blew up.

Friday 14th Sept

My first night on a boat at anchor ! - I was well glad of that gps little screen. The tide is running here at 2 kts, maybe more - and looking out he cabin window in the dark and hearing the water rushing by, it is difficult to convince yourself that you are stationary. Enjoyed it though and sleep really well - and it suits my persona somewhat, especially if singlehanded. I enjoy solitude - and somehow, anchored in the dark, offshore, singlehanded, sort of fits the bill for a solitary activity ! Not that I've tried it yet, on my own, but it won't be long I think.

It had been forecast for Friday - a cold front dropping down to spoil this spell of settled, warm, light airs we've had of late. I had a good night - and was surprised really to find that it was actually blowing about a 5 westerly by about 8am. Didn't really seem to notice it laid down - I did once I got up and about !

We'd had had just 3.9 on the LW in the early hours - I left the depth on as well as 'bedtime reading' - so I must have done my sums right. Had about 15m on the HW about 8.40am.

Now blowing about 6 or more in gusts - and 'slight to moderate' as they say ( ie, a bit rough ) even with the wind with the tide in the bay. We knew it would be far worse once it turned.

Ian weighed anchor with not to much difficulty, while I pushed her up with the engine - both managing to remain relatively 'un-queasy' - but neither of us mentioned the planned bacon sandwiches for breakfast - or the proposed re-anchoring in closer inshore, to dingy ashore to the cafe on Blue Anchor beach ( Ian knows the area here, ashore ) We'd sort of presumed another calm balmy day after yesterday evening - quite the reverse.

Had to kill time until slack water - about 2.40pm, for the fair tide back to Uphill. Felt it better to motor or sail around the bay than remain anchored - which we did, and it didn't seem too tedious really - since it was really quite rough water, so kept us occupied. Still warmish though - and we just missed any rain that was about.

Two small fishing boats were out from Watchet for the duration, anchored further out. Sea anglers must have strong stomaches !

Forecast was for it to veer NW later and drop - you could almost see the the bad stuff moving across and heading east. By about 1.30 it was settling in the bay and brightening to the west - and at slack we had a NW 4 or so, and dropping.

Pan Pan, Pan Pan...

Listened in on a pan pan distress - a 34' yacht, Bavaria I think, had lost steerage over near Cardiff. The boat was reporting force 6 winds over there. Swansea CG, after initial contact, asked if they were currently anchored. No, was the reply, we are in 20m and do not have enough scope !

Lena had just been anchored in 15m with 45m out - with 40m spare rode in the locker, and another 65m spare rode with the spare CQR - and I've got the old 50m of polyprop multiplait stuffed down in the other locker - which I fancied might make a good drouge line.

( also, I made sure when I put in the new rode and chain, that the strop that holds the bitter end in the anchor locker, was long enough and attached in such a way that it would pull through the chain pipe - and be easily detached. So adding the extra if needed would be as hassle free as possible.
Farting about up at the pulpit in rough water is probably the most unpleasant thing you can do on a boat ...)

Barry lifeboat was in the water within ten minutes for a tow - I would expect the owners would get a little lecture on how much scope a 34' boat needs to be carrying in the Bristol Channel !

Head for home

Set off at about 2.30pm on a direct line to Steep Holm - with the dingy in tow and nearly full genoa, no main - making 3.5 kts with no tide at all with us yet.

We had no rush - we had four and a half hours to get to Weston Bay - and couldn't get up the Axe until 7 pm - and had about 22 miles to do, with a tide directly behind us of up to 4 kts at peak.

Wind was dropping off and veering all the way back - and weather clearing. Steep seas though out mid channel still running in from the W - despite being with the tide. At least 2.5m with some breaking crests - despite the now lessening wind with the tide. Dingy still towed no problems - and Lena seemed to swoosh it all under her in her stride. Maybe would have helped to have the main up, with the one reef left in - but she was making all the speed we needed - and was not particularly rolling much back into the steep seas coming in on the stern quarter - so I left it all as it was.

A bit like riding a horse, not that I've ever ridden a horse - he's plodding along happily and is going to get you where you want to go in good time so its no point trying to gee him up - I don't think I'd be much good at racing !

(Need to be careful with the dingy in tow if you use the engine - best really to pull it right to the stern. I worry over the prop - maybe make up a heavyish polyprop tether for the purpose which would float.)

Ran the engine these three days for about a good fifteen hours or more. and only managed to top the tank with fifteen litres from the spare cans I carry - so thats a litre an hour or less at mid revs. Also reassuring to run an engine for a long spell - it was more luck than judgement that I plumped for a boat with a decent engine already installed - its a huge bonus, despite what some purists might think, especially in an area as tidal as this one. Its an awkward and expensive business to re-engine a boat - and often is the reason old boats are sold on dirt cheap.

By the time we were in Weston Bay the sun was out and setting, silhouetting Steep Holm, with the dingy in tow at the end of the day - just like in the glossy mags ! I'd joked opptimistically to Ian earlier that the day would end like this.

Weston bay pretty choppy - and very 'brown' , after the lovely green waters further west.

Inched up the Axe at 18.50, pushing it for daylight now. HW was 21.35. Had about 3.5m depth up to the red buoys - but saw 1m at Black Rock ( Lena grounds at 0.9m ! ) Theres a shallow shelf there just for a short stretch. That's the shallowest I've seen there coming in - it was early though.

She just floated alongside the mooring buoys - which took me by surprise - I was in ramming mode expecting to bottom out on the soft mud. We managed to get her on the stern buoy first time - and she strained the guts out of it, despite a desperate blast of the engine in reverse - with the river doing about 2.5 kts. By which time the dingy had overtaken us and the line was all tight around the suzuki and rudder - and trapped under the stern painter on the cleat.

The whole problem really was that I'd not towed the dingy before and should have moved it to the port side cleat and pulled it in tight to the transom before coming up the river - thought about it earlier but forgot. Hence a mess that could have been avoided. I was lucky really - as when I gunned it in reverse getting on the mooring - I could so easily have fouled the tow line - and that would have been a real sods law end to a great trip. Really speaking, I'd forgot I had it behind me.

I'm still working on an efficient way to inflate the thing if it is stowed on the side deck. Its no problem there - and it suits it to be rolled up crudely - since that way it ends up long and thin, just right for the side deck. My electric inflator is a Tesco air bed pump - £7 ! - its great but will only roughly fill the tubes with the valves open - you then have to quickly lock them shut and finish off with the foot pump. I may invest in an LVM proper inflator, about £70 ! - which will forego the need for the pump - and I'm thinking the dingy would inflate hanging over the side rail.

I could get a much smaller roundtail - but I like the wetline 2.4m. Its very stable - I can get loads in it, even with two up - I'd trust it in open water ( its even got a 'C' ce rating ! ) and with the Suzuki 2 being so light to carry on the transom - it makes a useful runabout for cruising.

I have thought about a really lightweight, almost 'toy' sort of thing - small enough to live in a cabin locker , and suffice for punting ashore fifty yards in a harbour. Also - as a spare, since if I'm just out for the day, I generally leave the dingy on the mooring. I might be a less annoyed person if someone pinched it - if I had a spare to get me off the mooring. I have this vision of me doing a 'Kontiki' up Uphill Pill on a raft of fenders, liferings and spare washboards - muttering expletives about the specific ways dingy theives should be hung drawn and quartered !

In the said dingy by dusk - Lena all sorted out and secure, after a right fight with all the stern mooring bridel and tow line.

Suzuki fired up first time and we were down the Axe and up the Pill to Uphill yard slip at just about dark - in our now sparklingly clean dingy ( one of the advantages of towing a dingy )

Decidedly wobbly after 36 hrs afloat - but a great trip. Amazing weather for mid Sept, after all the summer we've had - even if Friday blew up a bit early on.

Made the effort of owning a boat all worth while.

Got my eyes set on Padstow now - or the Gower and Milford Haven. That clear green water is enticing !

Plans are a foot for a cruise up the West Welsh coast next year - or down to the Scillies. Now that would make me feel I'm really getting somewhere.

In the meantime I'm hoping on the weather this week to maybe repeat this trip on my own - or at least go out and anchor overnight. It opens up agreat deal more sailing windows - especially on the midday neap tides and shortening daylight. The restricted access to the Axe can feel a bit of a burden until you are confident to go off and come back in the next day, or whenever.

Ilfracombe is really quite good access at any state of the tide - and having Coombe Martin just around the corner is a bonus if you want to wait it out until the outer harbour has depth at the buoys, which is probably easier if singlehanded or if the sea is up a bit.

Lena is set up as a cruising boat - and this trip has made me realise how nice it is to actually 'go' somewhere and stay on the boat. Feel much more confidence now for that - especially anchoring overnight. I've always wanted to go places - not just sail around in circles, although it does help quite a lot to sail around in circles before you attempt to 'go' somewhere - if you get what I mean.

Three memorable days - and you can't ask for more than that.