Trip on Me-Go starting 2011-07-27 in BSAAug11

PASAB trip – 27th July to 2nd August 2011 – report by skipper Bill Thomas

Crew: Jeff Birkin, Joe Buxton, Don Hirst, Nick Kinsley and Bernard Smyth, Bill Thomas (skipper)

We travelled down to Cornish Cruising for the handover of the Bavaria 36 Me-Go at 1600 on Wednesday 27th. Nick of Cornish Cruising had been called away on a delivery trip and the handover was carried out by Rhiannon, who is a 17 year old Coastal Skipper, aiming to get her Yachtmaster later this year, when she is 18.

Rhiannon was very efficient, but unfortunately there was a major difficulty. Although there was a spinnaker on board, there was no spinnaker pole on board, nor any spinnaker halyard, uphaul or downhaul fitted and we couldn’t find any blocks for the sheets, to attach at the stern or amidships. We were promised a rigger would come and sort it out. A rigger did come and look at it that evening and fitted the halyard, saying they would come back and sort out the remaining points. There was no further progress that night and we went into FalmouthMap by taxi – a bargain at £3, and had fish and chips overlooking the old harbour.

Next morning we took the dinghy around the boat and we scrubbed off as much as we could of the weed growing on the hull and rudder, while we waited for the rigger to return. Finally at about 1300, we had a pole, uphaul, downhaul, 2 large blocks and a 2 smaller blocks rigged up amidships as barber haulers. When we started the engine, the alarm came on and stayed on. We were told that it was a wiring problem and we could switch off the ignition, and run the engine without jeopardising the other alarms. Which we did for the rest of the trip, without mishap, but with an annoying intermittent peep from the alarm.

We had taken an early lunch and spent the afternoon in Falmouth Bay, hoisting and gybing the spinny and also getting in some tacking practice, in a light southerly breeze. For most of the crew, it was the first time they had sailed with a spinnaker and they mastered a steep learning curve throughout the trip. That evening, we picked up a mooring in Helford RiverMap, and after pasta on board, went ashore for a beer in the Shipwrights Arms and the Sailing Club.

On Friday morning, we slipped at 0900 and sailed out past the Manacles. The wind died and we motored on round the Lizard. The wind increased to Force 4/5 and we were able to sail close hauled - due west. Ultimately we were being headed away from Penzance and had to motor sail, arriving to pick up a mooring buoy south of the Pier at 1605. The crew went into the town to buy some pasties for supper and we then attended the race briefing at 1830.

The Race started at 2000. The first leg was a dead run down to the East Low cardinal. After the strong breeze in the afternoon, the wind died right away for the start. We had a conservative start and hoisted the spinny as soon as we were over the line. The second leg was a close spinny reach across Mounts Bay to the Mountamopus cardinal. The wind stayed largely in the north and increased and we had to spill wind from the spinny in the gusts. The next leg was to Wolf Rock (leaving it to Starboard to keep the fleet away from the Traffic Separation Zone), we gybed the spinny and carried it on a close reach aiming to pass some 2 miles to the south of the Rock. The wind increased further and we lowered the spinny and continued to make good progress. At 0200 we had 10 miles to go and the GPS predicted arrival in 2 hours. Unfortunately, the wind started to decrease and at 0500, the GPS showed us doing 1.6 knots, 1.98 miles from the finish. The wind then died away to nothing and the tide was taking us north past St Mary’s towards the Eastern Isles. We were tantalised by the occasional zephyr, but could not get much closer to the line. The closest was 0.9 mile and at 1025, as we were going south past St Agnes - fast, we discussed whether we wanted to spend all day outside St Mary’s, or whether we should call it a day and retire. The decision was unanimous and we motored in.

The visitors’ moorings were all taken and we rafted up against a Beneteau, which had fenders out down the starboard side. We then went ashore for a beer and to book somewhere for the meal that night. The first 2 pubs were fully booked, but we were able to book in the Kavorna Café, and bought some delicious fresh crab meat in the nearby deli, which we ate on board, followed by a few ZZZZZZs. The Kavorna was unpretentious but we all had a tasty meal – the fish stew and the gurnard fillets being especially good.

Having had no wind all day, the harbour had been very calm, but in the middle of the night, the wind got up and we started to snatch at our moorings. We tightened up all the lines and things improved – but only for a while. The motion became more violent and we moved, finding a spare fishing boat’s mooring, which we picked up, and turned in to get a couple of hours of relative peace. The wind was in the south and had increased and it was raining.

Sunday was a race around the Islands. There were a number of possible courses in the Sailing Instructions, and at about 0800 the course – clockwise around all the land shown on the chart as drying at lowest astronomical tide – was given out over the radio. Start time was 0900. We had a dreadful start – which was my fault. We were stalled near the line and when the gun went, we had little or no steerage was and were caught on Port, so had to do a 720 degree turn as a penalty. The wind was SW and reasonably light at that stage. We had a beat out into St Mary’s Road and then down St Mary’s sound, leaving the Spanish Ledge Buoy to Starboard. Unfortunately Me-Go did not point as well as most of the opposition and we were not competitive on this first leg. The wind built and so did the sea. We didn’t have any wind instruments, so it isn’t possible to give accurate wind speed figures, but we needed a reef in the mainsail and the seas were 3/4 metres. We were able to hoist the spinny and shake out the reef as we went out past Bishop Rock and carried the Spinnaker up around to the top of the Islands. Visibility was poor reducing to 400 metres at times. At the top we started back down to St Mary’s and had a beat. Unfortunately, we had the same problem as on the leg from Penzance – decreasing wind and foul tide. We had 2/3 long tacks, when were moving well through the water, but ended a mile behind where we had started. We found ourselves with a dilemma; there was less tide inshore, but less wind as well. Making no progress towards the finish, we again decided that we would not finish within the time limit and retired at about 1600. We motored back through the Crow Channel, which comes into St Mary’s from the north. Jeff did a fantastic job of the nav. throughout the race and back through the Crow Channel.

We made a note of the position when we retired and advised the Race Officer. Unlike the race over, where we had some 12 hours before our time limit expired (and only a mile to go), it was accepted that we could not have finished within the time limit and accordingly we were given a deemed finishing time – but don’t ask me to explain the detail – ahead of nine others who did not finish..

We had to raft up again when we got back and went ashore to have the official meal at the Mermaid. There were 2 sittings at 1900 and 2000 and we were booked in for the later one. Unfortunately, there was some slippage in the communication between Sailing Club and Mermaid and, as a result, the 1st sitting didn’t actually finish until gone 2100. We were told that only 13 boats had finished and we were 13th.

The weather was very calm and we had a much better night, but there was still a big swell coming into the Harbour. Next morning, we got ourselves sorted a bit earlier for the 0900 start for the leg back to Penzance. We had a much better start – close hauled out in to the Road, to tack and go down the Sound, leaving Spanish Ledge buoy to starboard and then Wolf Rock to port. The wind was light to start with and we were able to hoist the spinny after Spanish Ledge and held it all the way to the Rock. We were concerned that we might not get to the Rock before the tide started to flow north, and find ourselves swept past the wrong side of the Rock. We made it in time and then were able to bear away for Penzance. We aimed for the middle of Mounts Bay and found we were getting the benefit of some tide running into the bay. Some of our competitors went inshore and appeared to get more tide than us. The wind died away and we concentrated hard to keep the spinnaker flying. We could see a number of boats in the distance apparently becalmed and started to catch up with them. We had a very close race over the last 4/5 miles with a smaller rival, with a huge spinnaker. We finally finished at just past 2000 and radioed our time through to Race Control. Although we were last over the line and last on corrected time, eleven of our competitors did not finish, or were disqualified and we did extremely well to finish as we did, coming 18th out of 29 starters.

We were too late to get into the Penzance Wet Dock (opens 2 hours before High Water and closes 1 hour after), so picked up one of the mooring buoys of the south end of the Pier. We then went ashore to hand in our declaration form and have something to eat. We ended in a Chinese restaurant at the top end of the main street. We were the only people there but had a good meal – very good value. We came out to find the rain coming down stair-rods. We got back on board about 2300 and didn’t need much rocking off to sleep.

Tuesday morning, the sun was out again and very little wind. We slipped at 0700, to ensure that we would get around the Lizard and then get as far as possible before the tide turned. The wind stayed light and we motored all the way back to Falmouth. When we got back to the Marina, we found that the pontoon from which we had picked up Me-Go had been taken away as part of a major refurbishment of the Marina. No-one was available from Cornish Cruising to hand the boat back to, so we called them and agreed to leave Me-Go on the outside of the pontoon.

Although the results were disappointing, we did not disgrace ourselves. The weather was difficult. We were a scratch crew, sailing a chartered boat, which was not set up for racing and were up against some very quick boats with crews, who are used to racing them regularly. The crew did very well – in particular mastering the spinnaker, enabling us to fly it whenever the wind direction allowed.

The Scillies were fascinating and it would be great to go back there with the opportunity to spend some time to explore them in a more leisurely fashion.


Falmouth  50.1528,-5.0623
Weather at EGDR   9 kts from North 19.0C, 1022mb Partly Cloudy
Helford River  50.0972,-5.1332
Weather at EGDR   7 kts from NNE 19.0C, 1024mb Mostly Cloudy