This year our pace is more leisurely than normal, but as we all know, 2020 is not a normal year! Staying in the UK for now seems to be the most sensible option for us, so we‘ll continue our slow trip along the south coast of England.
The coast of Cornwall and Devon is rugged, but also has some amazing sandy/pebbly beaches and small bays. The coastline known as the “English Riviera” has a temperate climate attracting visitors from across the UK. From Helford River, we continued east and dropped anchor at Plymouth harbour, Dartmouth and Tor-Bay.
From Helford River to the south of Falmouth, we sailed 40nm to Portland Harbour and dropped anchor at Cawsand Bay. The anchorage at Cawsand Bay on the southwest corner of Plymouth harbour is a good place to hole up from SW/NW winds. With a few days of strong wind forecast, we decided to stay a few days at the Mayflower Marina, located about 3kms from Plymouth centre. It gave us the opportunity to cycle around Plymouth and replenish our supplies.
Plymouth, like most of the major towns along this coastline, has a solid maritime history. In 1577, sea captain and explorer Sir Francis Drake, departed Plymouth and was the first captain to circumnavigate the globe aboard the ‘Golden Hind’. He eventually returned to Plymouth in 1580 laden with spices and goodies from Indonesia plus booty from his plundering of Spanish treasure ships. A replica ‘Golden Hind’ is docked at Brixham for tourists.
This September marks 400 years since the ‘Mayflower’ set off from Plymouth harbour loaded with Pilgrims seeking a new life and opportunities in the New World. Over 160 years later, in 1787 the cargo ships ‘Friendship’ and ‘Charlotte’ carried convicts from Plymouth to Australia. With nine other ships, this First Fleet arrived on 26th January 1788 at Port Jackson, which became Sydney, New South Wales.
There’s also plenty of good walks from Cawsand. The walk from Cawsand to St Michael’s Chapel along the Rame Head Heritage Coast is a good 9kms return.
Another 40nm or so sailing day from Cawsand we reach Dartmouth. The approach to the River Dart has Dartmouth Castle on the port side, then opens up to the picturesque town of Dartmouth. Two ferries cross from Kingswear to Dartmouth, and half a mile on a chain ferry crosses the river. The Britannia Naval College, opened in 1905, sits high above the town and remains as important to sailors today as in the past.
Despite restrictions around social distancing, cafes and restaurants are filled with tourists enjoying the few days of warm weather.
The River Dart is narrow and deep and a popular destination for a variety of water craft. From the Dartmoor National Park, the river flows its way south into the English Channel. For a yacht with a 2m draft, the river is navigable for no more than 4nm to Dittisham. There are hundreds of moorings although August is the height of the season so places on the visitors pontoon are limited. Anchoring can be found just south of Anchor Stone, located south of Dittisham on the west bank. It’s a good spot, although room for no more than four or five well anchored boats. Harbour dues are payable each night whether at anchor or on a mooring.
Ferries take punters regularly from Dartmouth to Dittisham where they can visit Agatha Christie’s holiday home ‘Greenway’ or perhaps take a steam train ride from Kingswear to Paignton. The river is filled with all sorts of water craft – kayaks, punts, paddle boards, as well as yachts and power boats.
The South West Coast trail is a decent 7.5km walk from Dittisham to Dartmouth on the western bank, through the fields, and the forests around Old Mill Creek.
On the east bank at Greenway Quay, it’s a nice walk to Galmpton, or all the way to Ellbery Beach in Tor-Bay.
To the east of Dartmouth around in Tor-Bay is the fishing town of Brixham at the south of the bay, Paignton in the centre, and Torquay to the north. Motoring the 12nm or so from Dartmouth, we dropped anchor at Fishcombe Cove located just outside and to the west of Brixham harbour. With the weather so calm we would stay here as long as conditions remained so.
Overlooking the anchorage is Battery Gardens. Besides great views of Tor-Bay, Battery Gardens is recognised as one of the best-preserved military emplacements in the UK. On sunny days the cove is filled with people sunning themselves and swimming in the cold water. There’s a small snack and ice-cream shop open during the summer hours.
It’s a pleasant anchorage, particularly since the wind has been favourable and no more than 10kn. A strong easterly would change the situation for the worse, but we were lucky and had no such winds.
With the sea temperature creeping just over 20degC, I threw on my togs and jumped into the cold water. Second swim in two years! With the ambient temperature in the mid 20s and extremely humid, the inside of the boat had over 80% humidity and I could feel the dampness seeping into the fabric.
This is the first time our hull has been inspected since launching in December last year. The fresh water within Whitehaven Harbour and cool seawater has kept growth to a minimum. The anodes, prop and hull looked pretty good. The remains of a plastic bag wrapped around our prop cutter was easily removed.
Not only is this a picturesque place to stop, it’s also convenient. At the small cove is a step landing. From here I can jump ashore to either walk along the coastal trails, or into town for groceries. There’s a visitor pontoon in the harbour where we can tie up the dinghy for a couple of hours. Not far up the hill from Fishcombe Cove is a laundromat, which are not easy to find outside of marinas. It’s free to anchor here and with the average cost for a marina berth between GBP30-40.00 per night, it makes sense to anchor as much as possible.
On a hot, humid sunny day as I walk up the steep roads with brightly coloured terraced houses, it reminds me a little of walking around St Georges in Grenada. Similar buildings from the same era I suppose.
The technique of trawling was first developed in Brixham and today Brixham remains a major fishing town. Near the ‘Golden Hind’ replica ship stands a statue of King William III (aka William Prince of Orange). With his Dutch army, protestant William invaded England in 1688 and ousted his father-in-law and Catholic incumbent, James.
Tor-bay is protected from southwest through to northwest winds, but fully exposed to the east. In the past ships would find refuge here from storms, or to stop to load supplies. Berry Head, the headland at the southeast of the bay, was a military site with guns positioned to defend naval ships during the various wars.
This year there are plenty of tourists around, few wearing face-masks. I imagine a typical summer would have many more people visiting these coastal towns. We are still required to wear masks in shops and on public transport.
Wayne’s just finished running the watermaker and our water tanks are full. We’ve managed to keep our batteries charged with a combination of solar, wind and Honda generator. Our wind generator worked a treat during Storm Ellen but at the height of the storm we had to turn it off as wind up to 50kn were too much.
The summer season is waning and Storm Ellen is a reminder that autumn isn’t far away. Soon we’ll continue our journey eastwards to explore the next interesting coastal town.