After Anne left I had a list of jobs to do of course and two nights before the arrival of John Joe followed by Derrick the day after. I ended up staying in Brest this time and not going out to anchor. As a result I had power and decided to do some sanding and other jobs. But soon enough the crew arrival was imminent and with the boat sorted and food onboard, I started looking at the weather for the crossing of the English Channel, about a 15 hour trip with lots of shipping to deal with. What I found on weather forecasting websites, was that unsettled weather was coming in and swell of over 4 metres was due for the day Derick arrived. A couple of days later there was 20-30 knot northwesterly wind as well. This meant that the Scillies would be out as you need settled weather for there so we decided to cross to Falmouth in Cornwall and then cruise to Padstow as the weather permited. The day after Derick's arrival we decided to go on a forecast of light southwesterly winds, with the swell being the only concern, but even that was due to lighten. When we exited the Chenal Du Four where we were protected by the Islands the swell was 3 metres and powerful enough that the crossing would not be comfortable. So we pulled in to Aber Benoit, a quiet anchorage full of moorings 2 miles from L'Aberwrac'h. There the skipper made a mistake. I picked up a mooring buoy which would have less than a metre of water at low tide. I was forced to get the others up at 4am when we had less than half a metre under us to move to another buoy. Sorry lads! The worry of it all meant I did not sleep much, not the ideal start for a long trip.
The following day dawned windless and we motored out into a swell down to only a metre. For the first three hours it was motoring until some wind built from the southeast. This was not what I expected as the previous evenings forecast gave southwest 2-3. We knew that in the early hours of the folowing day the nothwesterly blow would start but reckoned we would be well in by then. The wind was reasonably consistent and we were heading comfortably just off downwind. After a few hours it rose a bit to 22 knots, with drizzly rain, still good and Suckin' Diesel was romping along at 7 knots. The seas at this stage got a bit confused with southeasterly wind chop and the westerly swell. But with our speed the boat coped well. Two thirds of the way across, the wind started to veer into the south and ease a bit. We gosewinged for a while but it became rolly and, with brightening skies, the winds dropped and we were back onto the engine. We had at this stage to keep our speed up as we were conscious of the blow to come in the early hours. As we spotted land, Lizard point was 15 miles away, but the land started to darken as rain appeared again. We also saw the wind go from the south into the northwest over the next hour. It was just enough to sail but I kept the engine on as we needed to keep our speed up (with the crew were dreaming of pints !!). The rain neared and I put a double reef in the main sail and luckily I did so as a squall hit us with over 30 knots. For the next hour the wind remained high as we neared the coast. The seas became more confused and as a result the boat slowed as we punched through them. But then the winds eased to 20 knots and we found protection from the land as we approached Falmouth entrance. We then had to thread our way between 10 merchant ships anchored offshore and identify the lighthouse and flashing lights marking the channel. We anchored at just after midnight after a 17 hour passage that had included a bit of everything. Thereafter followed the sleep of the just.
The following morning we had a gusty 25 knots blowing but we were well anchored. We had a good rest and a stroll around Falmouth in search of Cornish Cream, a beer like Guinness which Derrick and I had last had on the Scillies. Sadly we had no success but enjoyed our stroll and picked up some good looking steaks to reward us for the efforts of the previous day. It was still sunny but winds gusted higher to over 3o knots. Still holding well, we relaxed onboard before a great feed followed by the search again for Cornish Cream.... A grand night followed even though the search was fruitless.
Saturday dawned windless, despite a new gale being expected. We showered and fueled up before heading the 4 miles to Helford River where we would be sheltered. It is a quiet creek full of moorings, wooded on both sides, except for the quaint village of Helford. Now normally I don't do sailing clubs, finding them often elitist and not very welcoming. But the Helford River sailing club is definitely an exception with a good bar/restaurant, laundrette, showers, in fact everything you would need except for a good grocery. After a wander ashore we retired for dinner before heading to the opposite bank in the Cornish Cream search. The pub overlooking the water was an idyllic spot.
The forecast wasn't too good, with force 5-6 westerly predicted. In fact in the morning the wind was lighter as we left the river but the new forecast gave a gale warning. We thought about giving it a go but the wind was starting to gust so we turned for Falmouth. Within 20 minutes it was gusting over 20 knots and we felt glad to have turned back. Entering Falmouth, the wind gusted to 30 but eased enough for us to tie up to the visitors dock near where we had anchored when we fist arrived. So another day of doing little jobs onboard followed by the eternal Cornish Cream search. (At this stage I was wondering if it was a fantasy!!!!!)
Sundays in Falmouth are touristy so we left the crowds to stroll out of town to the other marina looking for boat porn ("will ye look at the lines on her !!!!" etc). But by 4pm most things were starting to get quiet as the day trippers went home. We were glad at this stage to hear an improvement in the foecast as we wanted to be moving on. I was conscious that John Joe's flight was approaching and Derrick's mum and wife Jean will be wondering if he was ever coming back. Anyway, we left on monday morning with light winds on the nose for the run to Newlyn, a small fishing harbour near Lands End. Since I was last in there, they had installed pontoons so we didn't have to raft outside trawlers like last time. The village is a quaint quiet spot, dwarfed in tourism circles by Penzance, a mle away along the promenade. As a result it doesn't get too busy and the pubs retain their charm. Since we were to be stuck awaiting the weather to go around Lands End, we were to get to know some of the pubs well. Sadly this meant that John Joe would not get to Padstow as his time ran out so he got the train from Penzance to take him to Newquay for his flight. On the last day we did laundry, cleaned up etc and prepared the boat for the next leg, a 60 mile trip with no places to stop along the way.
We left with sunshine and a forecast of southwesterly 4-5 which meant wind on the nose for the first part until we turned the corner and then downwind. The seas off Runnel Stone and Longships were rough as the strong tide of up to 3 knots surged over the uneven sea bed. We sailed well through most of it but the wind eased so we had to go back onto the engine. But after passing Cape Cornwall the wind from dead astern became settled and we were able to sail, with the cruising chute and main goosewinged. It was a bit rolly in 2m seas but great sailing. Nearing Trevose head the wind strengthened and we had great fun getting the chute down and then shortly after we entered the reliative calm of the Camel River to head up to Padstow. A cracking day with Suckin' Diesel looking after us once again.