Trouble at Cremyll

May 16, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Duet and I left the comfort of Plymouth Yacht Haven yesterday afternoon and headed over to Millbrook to pick up some stainless steel fittings for the Navik. I stopped to pick up Bill Churchouse who was anchored at Cremyll on the way, and we ducked in alongside at Voyager Boatyard at high tide, very conscious that it dries. All went smoothly and we beat a hasty retreat.

After dropping Bill back off on his boat I dropped anchor nearby in 8 meters, just by the entrance to the channel up to Millbrook, at the end of the Cremyll moorings. The SW wind was pretty fresh and I let out 20m chain and another 20m rope as the wind was due to freshen over night. It did, but we held fast. However, I was aware that with so much scope I was in danger of riding out of the channel and onto the nearby mud flats. Low tide at 11pm passed without too much incident. We touched briefly but right on low tide, and I started the engine and pushed us off back into the channel where I threw out the little Danforth kedge I keep in a bucket on the pushpit, to help keep us out in deeper water. I didn’t sleep at all well at all though. The wind did freshen and I was mindful of dragging, or swinging round on the tide out of the channel onto the drying mud. I slept with the anchor alarm set to 20m on my handheld gps under my pillow (so if we moved more than 20m it would sound and I would wake). But I still woke a good few times as waves slapped the hull. The wind in the rigging had an ominous tone and it was very cold, even with my hot water bottle and thermals.

By 7.30 I was up and we had swung round on the tide, as the height of tide had lifted the kedge out and we were only in 1.2m of water (under the keel), and with 3 1/2 hours to go til the next low tide I knew I was heading for trouble, so I pulled in the dangling kedge and then upped anchor and moved, anchoring again further out in 7m again, probably only 10m away, such was the steep sides of the channel under the water. I didn’t bother with the kedge again though I didn’t let out as much scope this time either.

We held again well in the soft mud, however at some point next the wind veered to the NW and was by now gusting a good, regular f6.

The effect of this was to push us round and up onto the mud, but I didn’t notice in time… At just after 10am I was lying in my bunk and could feel Duet was touching the bottom, just a gentle sticking in the soft mud and an odd motion, but the depth sounder said there was still 0.8m of water under the keel. Which was odd as it had been bang on in the night; I tested it with a weighted line.

By 20 past 10 I’d tried to motor off, and Bill had arrived by dinghy but we were well and truly stuck fast. I’d done a quick calculation on the tidal curve in the almanac and knew we still had at least half a metre to drop: We were in trouble.

As I’d come to accept we were stuck, but still had some side to side movement I’d stood on the leeward side, which also happened to be the side away from the tide so she would settle that side down and wouldn’t get swamped by the incoming tide later. It was pretty clear that with still more than an hour to low tide, we were going over.

So started our gradual incline. I say gradual but it was actually pretty quick… Bill and I prepared by lashing the jerry cans (my heaviest items aboard) to the high side rail. I shut the seacocks so they wouldn’t fill with mud, closed all the locker doors along the sides of the cabin and moved items from the high side of the boat to the low side as they started sliding about.

By 11am I was wedged in the bottom of the cabin sole as the boat was at more than 45 degrees and sitting on the bunks was by now impossible. And Bill was sitting on the cockpit floor. We had Radio 2 on and joked about making a cup of tea.

It was all pretty solid and actually quite peaceful with the tide tinkling on the last parts of the hull in the water. It was also interesting to see what moved, as might happen, worst case scenario, in a knock down. I was surprised to find jars came out of the lower lockers at a relatively benign angle.

I have to admit now, that I was persuaded to abandon ship just before low tide itself, and watched her refloat from the comfort of a neighbouring boat, drinking coffee… But it was pretty quick again, and she came straight back up with no problem at all. After all, that’s what the keel is for, and luckily we were in lovely soft mud. A rocky shore, or a bigger fetch and bigger waves would have needed different tactics to protect the boat from puncturing her side, but she’s solid and just lay on her side like an indignant seal.

The wind and the tide did try and push her up onto the shore as she lifted, but her anchor snubbed her and she righted with a little rocking motion.

By 1230 she was upright, and I was back aboard. No real drama, but I’ve learnt alot today.

And if it’s never happened to you; it will… And when it does; don’t panic ;o)

Thanks for the photos and the help Bill.

And Denis for the coffee.




You can just see me to the left practicing my "Abandon Ship" drill. Smug bilge keeler to the right...

You can just see me to the left practicing my “Abandon Ship” drill. Smug bilge keeler to the right…

Dolphins and Moonlight. On the same passage.

September 21, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I got as far west as Helford before my time started to run out… I’d decided to keep Duet in Plymouth for the winter, and I really wanted to do my first solo night passage to round off my season.

So I decided to do Helford to Plymouth overnight.  It’s a straightforward run, with the Eddystone Lighthouse to keep me company most of the night. At 42 miles I figured it would take about 11 hours at least. As there were no headlands to round and the tide atlas said the streams weren’t that strong I decided to ignore the tide and left at 5pm so I would have a good few hours to get off past Falmouth and the lobster pots before nightfall at about 8.30pm.  This should get me to Plymouth after 6am, when it would be light and I decided to head back to Cawsand to anchor and catch up on my sleep.

The forecast was for variable becoming NW 4, then 5 later and it was pretty calm as I motored out of the Helford River. Engine on then.  But at least I could lash the helm and relax a little.

Old Gaffer.  No horizon.

Old Gaffer. No horizon.

As I got a little way off Falmouth I found I was motoring through acres of sea birds bobbing about on a mirror sea.  I thought they were Guillemots, but it turns out they are actually Manx Shearwaters. There were acres of them and I amused myself playing wildlife photographer for a bit:


Manx Shearwater

Manx Shearwater



Manx Shearwater

More Manx Shearwaters…

And then the dolphins came… Please forgive my “whoop” in the video.

The dolphins are coming!



Just after sunset, but before the light was completely gone some wind came in from the North West and I was soon humming along to a f4 and a really big moon (turns out it was the harvest moon), still amusing myself mimicking the shearwaters taking off (if we ever meet, do ask me). However, in the dark I realised that the light behind my handheld GPS did not stay on permanently and I could not see the compass as it was unlit and did not even glow in the dark! Effectively I was sailing blind and for the first time ever I wished I had a chart plotter.

There were also lots of fishing boats on both sides of me that kept me on my toes all night, presumably they were out of Polperro and Looe and running at right angles to the shore as they seemed to keep crossing me at right angles and then turn and run parallel to me before going off back inshore. I found their presence a comfort though as I wasn’t totally alone but could see their course and direction clearly with their lights, and with the engine off I could tell from their engine volume how close they were. Yes they kept me alert in the small hours!

But the moonlight on the sea was pretty mesmerising.  I do love night sailing.  Was pretty exhilarating on my own too:

But sure enough the wind went a bit over the top, and the sea was starting to feel quite big in the dark, so at about 3am I dropped the main and continued under a reefed genoa. We were well into a Force 5 and the moon had gone so it was pretty dark now. I was also a bit ahead of schedule and by 4am I was less than 10 miles off Plymouth but I didn’t particularly want to approach in the dark. About this time I checked the battery and it was running low even though I’d turned the VHF off long ago and was running only with the lights and the windometer (there will be another blog post about this!). I definitely didn’t want to approach in the dark without lights! So it was a little before first light at 5am that my navigation lights died completely and I went into ‘stealth mode’. But in any event I put the engine back on as it was clear that I couldn’t point high enough to get me into Plymouth which was now dead upwind. Dawn also showed me I was now in a fairly significant swell and the wind was still a good Force 5. Of course with no lights on the fishing boats all were now on a collision course with me, and I turned to run parallel with one trawling at right angles to my course turning back to my course once I was well astern.

But you know, we bashed to windward, the dawn broke and I was exactly where I expected to be, and now visible again to the fishing boats… Anchored at Cawsand at 8am with no power for the depth sounder feeling pretty pleased with myself all in all. First solo night passage, and the longest of the season.

Plymouth to Fowey

September 10, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Yes, so there may well have been a window on Wednesday, but on Tuesday evening I got drunk, by mistake, with the neighbours… and then the weather came in as predicted so in the end I didn’t get out of Plymouth until the 31st August!  (12 days in total!)

It was a good passage, I made good time, and managed to sail pretty much all of the way, putting the engine on about 3 miles off Fowey which was by then dead upwind, and the light was starting to fade.  However, I felt quite anxious the whole way, to the point of nearly turning back a couple of times.  Something didn’t feel right but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Maybe I had been in harbour too long?  Maybe I’d been spooked by the incident with the mooring buoy?  Maybe I was worried about the sea state (the wind did rise a bit).

It wasn’t until I got to Fowey and I took the main down I realised that the topping lift had been caught and was tight, to the point of slightly scandalising the main sail (lifting the boom and depowering the mainsail).  I wonder if I could feel that the boat wasn’t powering properly and wasn’t right, and it was that making me anxious?

Despite this it was a good passage.  We had a lovely beat in a steady force 4 and I even managed to lash the helm with bungee and she steered herself.

Fowey’s pretty too. Oh and it’s pronounced ‘Foy’, like ‘toy’, not ‘Fowey’ like ‘Bowie’.  Just so you know.

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