Trip on PoGo starting 2011-09-10 in BSAOct11
The Trip That Didn’t Happen and the Trip That Did 10th -17th September - report by skipper Jeff Birkin
The crew of Colin Hodges, Alan Gray, Penny Luck, Jill Hunter and Lesley Reedand skipper Jeff Birkin had been looking forward to a trip to the Scilly Isles. Unfortunately, strong winds from the west were not ideal for our trip. Anyone who’s been to the islands knows how little shelter is available so, when the forecast for Sunday gave average 35 K westerly with heavy showers, it was decided to abandon the Saturday collection so we didn’t spend Sunday sitting in Falmouth marina. Sure enough, Sunday arrived dry and bright with moderate winds and the occasional strong gust as we collected PoGo, a Bavaria 36 from Cornish Cruising.
One of the most notable things about this boat was the freeboard. It was a stretch getting aboard for all of us, but watching shorter crew members climb on was a real hoot. The ample main saloon was matched by the size of the forward cabin shared by Colin and Alan. Penny and Gill were severely confined in the rear cabin they shared and despite the size of the main saloon, there was only room for one in an uncomfortable berth.
Other problems were both annoying and very basic. The lower starboard safety rail had been rolled up and attached to the stern stanchions. Various odd pieces of equipment were missing including the additional winch handle, hand bearing compass and the 6th mug; Essential for a 6 person cruise. It wasn’t until later that we found one ring of the cooker was totally useless. The boat has no wind instruments and the log and depth sounder are off-set to port so to get the log to read it had to be angled at about 30° from straight ahead. We also had a fault with the bow nav light and the slow pace of rectifying the shortcomings and faults meant that after a peaceful night in the marina we finally left midday on Monday in bright sunshine and strong winds.
Leaving the berth, it was apparent the bow was not keen to let the rudder dictate direction. Safely out, we headed for Falmouth fuel barge where a dolphin played around the boat as we approached. What a treat! After topping up the tank, we were allowed to try a few touch and go’s in the challenging wind conditions before sailing up the River Fal for lunch and stopping at the visitor pontoon just north of Turnaware Point. Here we set the depth to read in metres below the keel as opposed to feet from nowhere in particular. Also, we noted fuel in the bilges but could not imagine how it got there. After lunch we made our way to the Helford River but that short passage showed that PoGo did not want to go to windward. Perhaps the combination of in-mast furling, very high freeboard and weed below the waterline were responsible for a tack angle of around 130°. Motor sailing became the norm.
That evening, after the first of many excellent meals on board, we decided to tour the south coast rather than the Scillies and settled down for the night.
Tuesday morning gave a brief downpour before warm sunshine arrived and we slipped the mooring and made for Mevagissey and Fowey. Nearing Falmouth we saw a large passenger ship that had been prevented from going to the Scilly Isles because of the conditions. No chance PoGo’ing there for us then. Heading east to clear the coast, we began losing the lee and, in trying to reduce sail the Genoa jammed with 2/3 still out. This resulted in a fraught 30 mins of sail flogging until we spotted the spinnaker halyard wrapped around the forestay and rectified the situation. I then went below to take a look at the chart and found the GPS plotter had quit. Thankfully, we had a manual plot running, the compass option and my handheld GPS for back-up. For me it was yet again a perfect example as to why you should never rely on electronics.
During passage we repeatedly swilled the bilge to remove the offending fuel before arriving at Mevagissey, and nosing into the tiny harbour. It was low tide so, with strong winds funnelling down through the town and out to sea, any manoeuvring in such tight confines would have been extremely risky, especially with the characteristics of the boat. We therefore anchored just outside the entrance in calm sunny waters for a late lunch. Afterwards, tide and wind were with us as we crossed the bay to Fowey and moored on the pontoon opposite the lifeboat station. Another great meal was followed by a short ferry ride to town and a drink at the yacht club.
On Wednesday morning, some crew went by ferry and others by Rib to town, but the net effect was we all had a shower at the yacht club before taking advantage of the beautiful weather to relax walking or shopping for a few hours. After a very leisurely lunch, we made for Plymouth arriving just after dark when Penny did an excellent job of reversing into a QAB marina slot. Another good meal followed including the special treat we had acquired in Fowey.
On a bright but breezy Thursday morning, the crew split with Penny, Jill and Alan going to the Americas Cup pits at Millbury docks and Colin, Lesley and I going up Cattewater to the river Plym where Colin went ashore to enquire about selling his boat. Lesley then practiced some manoeuvres before heading west crossing Drake Channel just prior to the closure immediately before the day’s racing started. It should be noted that the restricted area covered almost the whole of Plymouth Sound up to the breakwater during the racing day, effectively closing Plymouth. Gathering the others in Mayflower Marina, we made our way up the Hamoaze to the Tamar Bridge dodging the chain ferries and warships as they were moved in the tight confines of the river. Heading back and dropping anchor just off the SE corner of Drake’s Island, we watched the racing as we ate a snack. Racing finished early so we headed into Wembury Bay, up the River Yealm and moored on the pontoon for the night.
Friday morning’s 05:00 forecast of SE 3-4 turning SW 4-7 later, meant we left at first light to make the most of the prevailing winds. Sure enough, by about 09:00, ‘later’ had arrived and the wind was on the nose and strengthening. It was still bright sunshine but we needed the engine as the wind swung south west. Shortening sail throughout the day, we neared the overfalls off Dodman Point and faced the prospect of sharp seas from the overfalls (with a wind-over-tide situation) or, go further out to sea and take the much larger waves and stronger winds. At about this time, the main decided to unfurl itself from the reefed 1/3 level so it was fully furled away and we pushed on through the short rough water on offer, sticking close to shore and entirely on the engine making barely 2-3kts over the ground. Arriving at Falmouth as the dinghy racing was concluding on a bright evening, we filled up and berthed for the final time. After we again noted fuel in the bilge, it was a rapid change and off to dinner at Oliver’s.
Saturday morning was spent cleaning and clearing the boat before we made for home again in bright sunshine. Special mention goes to Penny and Jill for the superb catering and provisioning.
It was an interesting trip in many ways and one that showed up the shortcomings of the boat. Although it was annoying missing our intended destination, to have tried in this boat, could have been hazardous. Failures such as unfurling sails are not something you generally want to encounter in the open waters of the Western Approaches.
This is now the third boat I’ve been on from Cornish Cruising. Each has involved either a delayed start due to problems with the boat or serious failures in the on-board systems and equipment. However, Nick Jordan, Cornish Cruising’s owner, and his team try very hard to deliver and often go out of their way to rectify problems. It’s just a shame that we have them in the first place. This may be the result of the hard use these boats get when used on training courses, often immediately before a charter.