Friday, 6 July 2012

To Falmouth, for Orders*

Vagabond and the scribe were re-united on Monday night – the weather was so foul that I erected the tent for the evening and stayed snug underneath it whilst it rained in torrents. The forecast said it would clear by Tuesday morning (4th July**) and the wind would be Beaufort 4 – 5 from the SW then backing towards the South.  Our destination was Falmouth, more or less due SW of Plymouth. To catch the tide westward, we would have to leave at 08:00.
I woke at 12:15, 02:15 and every half hour (or so it seemed) and finally at 5:15, just in time to catch the first weather forecast of the day. It was unchanged. It was raining. I felt awful. I had breakfast and still felt awful. “B!!!!r sailing”, I thought and went back to sleep waking about 5 hours later, feeling much better.  The sun was shining. “Never mind the best laid plans, let’s go” I thought.
Well, with one thing and another, we didn’t cast off until midday. The wind was still SW, so we sailed more or less due South for an hour, as the Eddystone lighthouse loomed larger and larger. We were following a Grey funnel line frigate of some sort *** and then were chased by a Brittany Ferry. 'This is getting tedious', I thought.
Let's all play at towing
So we tacked to the West, assuming that, when the wind went round to the South, we could angle more to the SW and reach Falmouth on one long tack. We came across other “Grey Funnel” line vessels (this time Dutch and German, who seemed to be playing at taking each other in tow. Other yachts seemed to be going my way and the coast of Cornwall went past on our starboard side, a mixture of green slopes, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, dappled here and there in sunshine. Needless to say, the sun shone continuously to those of us at sea.
A message came over Channel 16 in English with a light accent “This is the German warship (I didn’t catch the name) – ve are about to open fire.....” There was then a loud bang and a grey shape on the horizon was surrounded by discharge smoke. Two fast jets (Tornados, I think) screamed over head and did complicated figure of eight manoeuvres for several minutes and then disappeared into the haze in the West. The Nato navies were playing together.

The coast of Cornwall slid past

I don't like the way the tide is flowing

At last - the entrance to Falmouth
Vagabond was enjoying herself, ripping along in the fresh breeze at just about 6 knots (some of which, she has to admit, was due to the tide. By about 5 o’clock, we were half way and there was no evidence that the wind was going to shift to the south. We were tracking too far north and would have to tack. Thunderclouds piled over the land ahead of us and our speed had slowed to about 4 knots as the tide changed. Had I left at my planned time, it would still have been with us.  To add salt to the wound, we were now off St Dunstan head, which as concentrating the tide as it rushed past. Tacking here and it would have pushed us backwards.
On came Freddie to punch us through the current; he stayed on until we entered Falmouth. At last we were in the “visitors” harbour, rafted up on the end of a pontoon, having met (and missed) two merchantmen and a tug towing a lifting rig in the entrance! It started to rain.

Day off tomorrow.
 * In the days before steamships, Falmouth was the first English port of call for merchant and RN ships. The first time Owners (and the Admiralty) knew that their ships had safely come to England was when a message arrived to say they arrived at Falmouth ( a messenger on a horse could get to London from Falmouth much more quickly than the boat). They would leave their orders for the ships at Falmouth so the phrase entered the English Nautical lexicon.

**Note for non-US readers – this is “Independence Day”, at the end of the war between the fledgling US and the Brits. It’s all the fault of one of the Georges (Kings of that name), but which one I can never remember.
*** This was from the British version of the Grey funnel line: HMS something or other

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