To the Med via the French canals

N 50° 06' W 05° 33'

Around Land's End!

September 02, 2011

Following a brief overnight stay in Padstow, I set off again at 0800 on Thursday to reach St Ives. There was little wind, so the engine plodded away assisted by the strong spring tide. I arrived just as the sun was breaking through in the early afternoon. By then the tide was out and crowds were thronging the bright, yellow sandy beaches. Forgetting that my depth guage indicates actual sea level depth rather than depth beneath the keel, I bumped gently aground as a curious seal circled the boat. Down went our expensive new anchor and within 20 minutes or so I was afloat again. When the tide was up I took the dinghy into the pretty town and bought myself a real Cornish pastie for tea.

As the light faded, I reflected rather prematurely how lucky I was to have arrived in this most exposed position along the coast in such calm conditions. However a northly breeze got up in the night which bumped me around uncomfortably. It also made my departure unpleasant and I couldn’t recover the dinghy which I had to tow behind me as I set off at last for Land’s End itself.

Once on the move the wind became an aid, and I enjoyed a pleasant tide-assisted sail on the genoa (foresail) down to the final jagged rocks of the peninsula. By this time the wind had gone east and freshened, so in came the genoa and on went the engine, and Gwennol bashed her way around the other side up to Newlyn.

This is a serious fishing port absolutely packed with fishing boats of all descriptions and sizes. Gwennol is one of only a small handful of yachts that are tolerated in this tight-knit maritime community (home of the famous Penlee lifeboat). I enjoy places like this. It has a gritty down-to-earth atmosphere and seems stuck in a 1970s time-warp (like me?), but there is a fierce sense of independence and signs that this bloody-mindedness ‘to do things our way’ has an honourable tradition here.

So I had a very welcome day off yesterday to do various domestic tasks – a lovely sunny, warm day. It did me a lot of good, and I’m ready this morning to resume my journey with light westerly winds to blow me east around Lizard Point and up into the Helford River where Frenchman’s Creek is the famous setting for one of Daphne du Maurier’s popular novels, of which I’ve read none!

I feel the toughest part of the journey is behind me now and that I can start to enjoy the sailing life, having got my sea-legs and the chance to enter a variety of lovely Cornish harbours. I’m missing ‘Olive’ and our dog, Jac, but I must press on for Plymouth with strengthening westerly winds on the horizon.

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