Sailing Solo Around Britain

FALMOUTH TO BRIXHAM - 85 miles

Falmouth to Brixham

Sunday June 25th Falmouth Yacht Haven

Truro and the Cathedral Horrible morning with mist and rain but I spend the morning preparing Dark Star for sailing tomorrow morning with the usual food, water and diesel.

I book a trip boat for 1pm which goes right up to the cathedral city of Truro, the navigable limit on the river Truro which empties into the Fal estuary. Truro is the UK's most southern city and the Cathedral was only completed in 1910.

You certainly can't miss it and since time is short for sightseeing, I make a beeline there. I fall into a long conversation with one of the Cathedral volunteers, an ex bank manager who relates the familiar struggle over maintaining these beautiful buildings, with a Sunday congregation of 120.
Truro Cathedral The semi-professional choir is still going strong and at 4pm there is a choral evensong in honour of the mayors of Cornwall who turn up in strength. Unfortunately I can't stay for the whole service, but the choir are excellent and I am able to help in the congregational hymn "I Vow To The My Country" before slipping out to catch the return trip boat to Falmouth.

On the way up to Truro there was an excellent commentary from the skipper as we leisurely passed little creeks, large, laid up, sea-going vessels and country houses. The return boat trip is much faster and without any commentary!

Monday June 26th Falmouth Yacht Haven to Salcombe - 62 miles

Leave Falmouth at 08.00 on a pleasant morning with very little wind. The original plan is to head for Plymouth and anchor off the beach at Kingsand for the night before heading on to Brixham on Tuesday.
Eddystone Light Old and New There is a tidal choke point off Start Point which stands guard on the final run to Brixham. As we progress under mainsail and engine in welcome sunshine, it becomes obvious that I will be anchored off Kingsand beach around 15.30.

It's not worth getting the dinghy out for a quick trip ashore, so a few hours could be spent doing not very much. Would it not be better to carry on sailing across Plymouth Bay and get nearer to Brixham? This will make it much easier to catch the tide going around Start Point tomorrow.

And so the decision is made to head for Salcombe, for the most part against a foul tide. Slap in the middle of Plymouth Bay, some 12 miles south west of Plymouth Sound are the drying Eddystone rocks which until the successful erection of a lighthouse, were a threat to every ship heading into one of the most important naval harbours of England.

The Eddystone light is nearly 50 metres high and the flash of its light carries for 22 nautical miles. Seeing it loom up against a foul tide, it seemed to take hours to crawl pass the lighthouse at 14.00 hours, with hardly 4 knots on the GPS. We grind on until 3 hours later, at 17.00 hours, the tide turns favourable and speed picks up from 5 to 6 knots.

By 1900 hours Dark Star is edging over the harbour's sand bar and through the narrow cliff lined entrance channel to Salcombe harbour.
Salcombe Harbour
Boat Rage in Salcombe!
Salcombe estuary is tiny compared to Falmouth or Dartmouth, and the tightly packed moored boats present the usual puzzle to the visiting sailor. There is no marina or "walk ashore" pontoons in Salcombe and boats must tie to a visitors' buoy or find somewhere to anchor.

A VHF call to the harbour master brings the instruction "Dark Star proceed to V9". Me "Sorry, where is V9". Harbour "Its a visitors buoy". Me "Yes, but where is it?". Long pause, then harbour "Look for a catamaran already tied to a buoy and raft up against it".

I have just passed the catamaran in question so turn and slowly approach it. Normal etiquette is that the moored boat takes your warp (rope) and secures it to his boat. You then have time to pass another warp through the eye of the mooring buoy which then holds both boats securely.

But there is no movement on the catamaran. The portly skipper shakes his head and make no effort to get up take my warp. "Sorry mate. You can't pass your rope through the mooring buoy". I am now close enough to see that this selfish ...ard has pulled the mooring buoy up tight between the hulls of his catamaran, making it impossible to reach the mooring ring and so raft alongside.

"Try that one". He indicates the yacht ahead which is a low hulled, sharp racing type. Approaching this moored yacht I realise that no one is aboard and I am now alongside holding a securing warp, but with nobody to receive it.

There is no visible cleat on the yacht on which to secure a rope. It's obvious that I need to get off Dark Star with my warp, drop down to the moored yacht and find somewhere to make fast.

There is something that makes you hesitate to get off your floating home in the middle of a harbour where the tide is flowing fast, carrying just a single rope...

Fears overcome, warp secured, I hop smartly back on Dark Star and then lay flat on the deck, at the bow to reach down for the ring on the mooring buoy and make all secure.

Probably due to tiredness after an 11 hour trip I retreat to the cockpit and curse this overcrowded excuse for a harbour. My jacket is hardly removed when a launch draws smartly alongside asking for a mooring fee....

Dark Star rolls in the wash of the dozens of passing dinghies and work boats. Truly Salcombe is yachting purgatory. However, two sailors I had spoken to said they found it delightful.

Later, looking up the excellent notes on visitmyharbour.com regarding Salcombe, the author strongly suggests that you "steer clear of the hugger mugger of the visitors moorings and move further upriver". The moral of this story is "do your own research properly".

Tuesday June 27th Salcombe to Brixham 23 miles

The leaving of Salcombe was what I enjoyed most. By 07.30 Dark Star is on the move, slowly butting the incoming tide and returning over the shallow bar and past the narrow entrance. It's misty but with little wind.

The mainsail had already been raised whilst still attached to the mooring buoy so the course is set for the next headland and tidal gate of Start Point. Within half an hour we catch the new, rising tide beautifully and 6.5 knots over the ground stays permanently on the GPS.

The entrance to Dartmouth Harbour appears to port, but we sail on and soon Start Point is abeam just before 09.00. I have been warned that Darmouth has no pontoon space available. Pre-booking is necessary.

The course is altered sharply by 90 degrees to head almost due north towards Berry Head. By 11.00 Berry Head is abeam and I can see the breakwater for Brixham harbour to port and over to starboard is Torquay harbour.

These two harbours lie in the shelter (and deep water) of Tor Bay which served as the fleet anchorage for the men-of-war of the Royal Navy in the early 1800's. This area has a powerful history.

By 11.30 Dark Star is safely tied up the excellent MDL marina at Brixham. Marine civilisation at last with shore power, great showers wifi and a laundrette.
Steph and Sheila on Shearwater Dr Harrison I presume?
Around 14.00, Shearwater, sporting a huge Devon flag, sails into Brixham and rests just two berths from Dark Star. The owners, Steph and Sheila Harrison (LOA members), have been sailing Shearwater around the UK in the same anti clockwise direction as I took, for the past five years.

Theirs has been a more sensible and leisurely journey, starting in Portsmouth and taking in the Orkneys, the Scillies and any small harbour Steph could find in between. They even sailed into Dunbar and Granton (on Firth of Forth)!

Steph and Sheila had provided me with charts and pilot books before I set off and have been a great help by email as I charged around the UK in more manic style.

It was lovely to meet up at last with an appropriate handshake and the (stolen) greeting allegedly given to Dr Livingstone when found alive in darkest Africa.
John and Elaine Foreman

Wednesday June 28th Brixham Marina

More Leisure Association members
The weather has really fallen apart and today it never stops raining. A great consolation is that I could be stuck on a buoy in Salcombe which would be undoubted maritime misery.

Fortunately, John and Elaine Foreman who keep a Leisure 27 just along the coast in Dartmouth, have driven over from Somerset and invited me for lunch at the Brixham Yacht Club. The dining room has a great view over Brixham and Torbay and after a couple of pints of Doom Bar the weather seems not so bad and we "chill out" in Brixham in the afternoon.

Despite the pouring rain John and Elaine insist on seeing Dark Star. By the time they have trudged back to their car they are soaked through. Sensibly they abandon the plan to drive over to Dartmouth to stay on their L27, Cariad, and drive home to Somerset. I appreciated their company and they brightened up a miserably wet day.

Thursday June 29th Brixham Marina

It's still overcast, chilly but not pouring rain. Steph and Sheila in Shearwater are feeling the onset of cabin fever and we all decide to catch a ferry across the bay some four miles to Torquay Harbour.

Quite why we then clamber aboard a road "train" full of parents and toddlers going to Torre Abbey is sill a mystery, but we manage to hop off in the centre of Torquay for a nose around and a coffee.

Torquay has long fostered an image as the capital of the "English Riviera". Great branding but the reality is some way adrift of the hype. Hotels abound, but I could not see a beach!

Returning to Torquay harbour, three intrepid mariners who have navigated successfully around the UK, become confused and can't find the ferry departure point for a worryingly long time...

The first meal out since Ramsgate
Back safely in Brixham and ensconced in a local waterfront pub without "musack", we enjoy "happy hour" and pints of a local brew. I had not "eaten out" since Hartlepool where I had felt odd eating alone as billy nomaites. The visit to a local curry house was much enjoyed in the company of Steph and Sheila. The food was good too.

Friday June 30th Brixham Marina

Weather still miserable and the forecast keeps changing with this low pressure system sitting right over the UK. The next leg is a 55 miler with a big tidal choke point off Portland Bill. The object is to get past the "Bill" at the end a 10 hour passage, before the tide changes against us.

Off Portland Bill the tides run up to 3.5 knots. Dark Star's cruising speed is just 5 knots. It might be possible sail tomorrow but the forecast is not too encouraging.
The Golden Hind The Golden Hind
In the middle ages Brixham was the largest fishing port in the south west of England. Its far ranging boats helped establish the fishing industries of Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft.

It is still a busy, fishing harbour and character exudes from every street leading inevitably uphill from the bustling harbour area. In 1588 The citizens of Brixham watched Sir Francis Drake harry the Spanish Armada just off the coast. Drake went on to circumnavigate the globe and a replica of his ship, The Golden Hind. is anchored in the harbour and is a big tourist attraction.

Drake was the first captain to complete and survive a global circumnavigation (Magellan died on his voyage). Ten years before the Armada, in 1578, Drake set sail to pinch the treasure being shipped to Spain from South America.

It was becoming too difficult to attack the Spanish treasure ships in the Caribbean. However he knew the Spanish were shipping their plunder from Peru up the west coast of S America and then taking it across the Panama Isthmus by mule where it was sent under heavy guard to Spain.

Drake sailed down and around S America popping up on the west coast to surprise the unguarded treasure ships. His plunder successfully taken home, is valued at half a billion in today's currency.

Queen Elizabeth (a sponsor) paid off the national debt and Drake got about £60 million. Sailing north to California he realised he could not return south as the Spanish were searching for him so he set off across the pacific to return by Indonesia, S Africa and Sierra Leone.

The Dutch/Orange Invasion - The Protestant Ascendancy
About a hundred years later, in 1688, a largely Dutch army landed as an invasion force at Brixham. At it's head was Prince William of Orange, a Dutch protestant prince who had been invited by influential political and religious leaders in England to overthrow the Catholic King James (his father in law).

William's force met no resistance. His bloodless coup spelt the end for the Catholic Stuart dynasty and established the Protestant monarchy in England.

If you have Irish connections, yes this is King Billy of Battle of the Boyne fame. Told you Brixham had history - and there's more!

Men- O'- War
Brixham merchants replenished the English Men O' war anchored in Tor Bay. The Royal Navy used Tor Bay as the main anchorage for the channel fleet, taking advantage of it's shelter and deep water from 1700 until around 1815.

Abide With Me - Author is Scottish
This most English of hymns was composed by the Anglican minister Rev Henry Francis Lyte who was born near Kelso in the Scottish borders in 1793. Lyte was minister here in Brixham from 1824 until 1847.

Written in 1847, the year of his death, the famous hymn gained national significance when it was included in Hymns Ancient and Modern, whose author, Henry Monk, set the words to his own composition, "Eventide".

The hymn became a favourite of George V and George VI and apparently has been sung at every FA Cup final since 1929.

Thanks for reading this.