Report on West Country Cruise (2019)

The following report is from Ian Davis – entitled “Round the world to Dartmouth” :

The July West Country Cruise proved popular this year with eleven club members setting sail from Queen Anne’s Battery, Plymouth in two vessels chartered from Liberty Yachts. Many thanks to Hazel for the organisation.

Bertie and Miranda, the yachts which we had chartered in previous years were unavailable. This time the names of the yachts were altogether more challenging:

  • Devenu, a 36ft Bavaria was skippered by Nigel Watsham with crew Jan Goodwin, Jules Graham, Phil Edwards and Karen Harrison.
  • Ventis Secundis (more on that later!) a 40ft Delphia was skippered by Ian Davis with crew Roy Demery, Hazel Bagnall, Mick and Marion Park and Ian’s wife, Jane. Roy Cullers was to be part of this crew but unfortunately slipped at home on the morning of the trip. Pleased to hear you are recovered Roy!

The Skippers and Mates completed a full handover and both crews obtained first night victuals (Devenu at Rockfish in Sutton Harbour and Ventis Secundis eating spag bol on board).  It had been agreed to sail separately but berth the boats together each evening so the full complement met on the bigger boat to discuss the master plan for the week.

This was a heart versus head dilemma. Most wanted to go west into Cornwall. Mylor Bridge near Falmouth had been much enjoyed in 2018, a hotel cream tea at “mates rates” had been mentioned and exploring the Helford River was on several wish lists. However, practical sailing considerations such as wind forecast for both the weekend and middle of the week suggested to go east would be preferable. A compromise position was taken to go west to the Falmouth Estuary the next day before turning east.  

Saturday morning was dry but overcast. Both boats slipped their moorings and motored out of the bustling Plymouth Harbour rounding Rame Head to leave behind red and white striped Smeaton’s Tower.   As expected, conditions that day were lumpy and uncomfortable in places although the rain held off. Progress was slow under sail and it became apparent after lunch that reaching Falmouth was too ambitious. With some difficulty in communication (Ventis Secundis ignoring all messages) the decision was taken to put into Fowey instead.

After tying up to the visitor’s pontoon and drinks on board, the crews reversed the previous evening position with Devenu eating on board and Ventis Secundis taking the water taxi to eat at the Ship Inn ( the oldest pub in Fowey).

With conditions unchanged for the next day it was decided to go east to Salcombe. Both boats took advantage of short stay mooring at the town quay to top up with water and essential local provisions (Cornish pasties!) before setting off. 

Once out of the harbour, Ventis Secundis headed to the Eddystone Lighthouse (and the former base of Smeaton’s Tower). This was a longer route than staying near shore but on a reach, proved fine sailing. The lighthouse was spotted first as a faint grey matchstick on the horizon but rapidly grew. As the sunshine increased the crew were delighted by the appearance of five or six dolphins (including a mother and baby) who headed straight for the bow and performed acrobatics around the boat for eight to ten minutes. Sailing with sunshine, dolphins and pasties – perfect!

Entering Salcombe, lining up the transit and taking careful note of the depth over the bar was simple in comparison to the next challenge! Ian attempted to call the harbour master to request a berth (ideally alongside Devenu). “Ventis Secundis” became many variations during the course of the conversation including “Victor Chandler“ and “Windows Security”. A second harbour official helpfully intervened to confirm Devenu was on the Visitor’s Pontoon but wisely just called up “the yacht asking about Devenu”.

The aim was to shower and eat at Salcombe Yacht Club but unfortunately this was closed as it was Sunday. Showers at the town quay were a little basic but supplied the most essential requirement – plentiful hot water. A restaurant had been booked supposedly called Escobar’s. The search for this was fruitless (unsurprisingly as the table was actually booked at the Fortescue Inn!) but in the process Ian managed to acquire a set of wine glasses that Ventis sadly lacked. Many thanks to the Estuary Club for giving away unwanted stock.

The next morning began abruptly before 7am when it was discovered the French yacht both Devenu and Ventis were rafted outside, really did want to leave early! Both boats decamped to the town quay for a short stay before leaving Salcombe. Sunshine was soon replaced by sea mist. Discussion of the hole in the bottom of the Dartmouth Daymark became irrelevant because most of the coast between Salcombe and Dartmouth along with the entire 24 metre high granite daymark was invisible.

At the entrance to Dartmouth harbour, a huge shape loomed out of the mist. It became apparent that this was a ship at anchor and the transit was clear. The ship was “The World” – luxury apartments for the super-rich!

Leading lights were followed into the harbour and berths at Darthaven Marina on the Kingsweir side were duly attained. Shore facilities were rather a trek through the marina and across the railway line but were very good and much appreciated after two nights on floating pontoons. In the afternoon most crew members used dinghy or ferry to visit Dartmouth so it was decided to spend the evening in Kingsweir. The merits of Darthaven Yacht Club were widely advertised but it was found to be closed. Instead, a table booking was secured at the Steam Packet Inn. This offered an upstairs table with view across to Dartmouth as the sun set and lights began to twinkle plus amazing pizza varieties – Peking Duck pizza was particularly enjoyed.

By now days of the week had merged but the next day (Tuesday) saw a pleasant half day sail to Brixham Marina, part of the same group as Queen Anne’s Battery. The rest of the afternoon was free for walking, swimming, shopping or lazing. The South Indian restaurant visited in previous years was closed (rather a recurrent theme here) but a group booking was made to eat at the Breakwater Bistro on the beach. This provided another excellent menu and another excellent view, across Torbay to the lights of Paignton and Torquay.

The plan was to return to Plymouth on Thursday as the boats had to be returned and vacated by 10 am on Friday. It was agreed to break the return journey by revisiting Salcombe as it offered diverse opportunities to explore the ria in the dinghy and /or indulge in a little retail therapy.

Wednesday morning was uneventful, other than more dolphin sightings and having to concede “might is right” – although Ventis was under sail, the Brixham trawler was not altering course!  However, with a southerly wind over ebbing tide, the swell across the bar into Salcombe was huge. Stand up paddle boarders were reduced to heads in the troughs and small open boats completely vanished. Once more both boats were moored on the floating visitor’s pontoon in the bag and grateful to be there as spaces filled up rapidly. Salcombe Yacht Club was open for showers and drinks but unable to accommodate eleven to eat so the group moved on to the Ferry Inn (once again enjoying good food and a stunning view.)   

The final full day was a little frustrating. Despite valiant efforts to sail back to Plymouth, there was a point when each tack left the prominent lighthouse on Start Point just as close. Finally it was agreed to put on the engine. There was a visit by a lone but playful dolphin before a sea mist developed. The crew on Ventis opted to head straight into Plymouth Sound but Devenu took a meander into the Yealm where Jan and Phil enjoyed a swim.

The mist disappeared leaving bright sunshine in which to sort out the yachts and enjoy drinks on board before a final crew meal of curry at the Jaipur Palace (in Plymouth!)

They say every day is a school day. In addition to a very enjoyable week of good sailing in good company, we learnt:

  1. A little Latin (Ventis Secundis translated as Second Wind).
  2. A little Poetry (Tennyson’s poem “Crossing the Bar” written in Salcombe was in the Pilot guide).
  3. A little dubious Geography (who knew Salcombe to Dartmouth involved going around “The World”?)