Trip on Liver Bird starting 2012-09-10 in BSAOct12

Week from Plymouth to Scilly Isles 10-16 September – report by skipper Jeff Birkin

The crew ofChris Baxendale, Becky Goddard, Liz Stubbs, Hairy Cake, Jenny Ball, Jo Fergusson and Pete Howard and skipper Jeff Birkin met at Plymouth QABMap before the 12:00 handover time when Liberty introduced us to Liver Bird, an Elan Impression 384. At first, Liver Bird appeared pretty good given her condition and excellent accommodation including a large stern cabin and a capacious forward cabin with a large double bed to the port side. This we subsequently referred to as the boudoir, thanks to the modifications made by Chris and Pete. We didn’t ask too many questions but the arrival of the flock wallpaper and chandelier were clues. For the seven or eight crew, depending on how you count, there was plenty of room.

After loading the ‘world tour’ wardrobe Jenny had decided was necessary and found locations for the 40 or so tea towels we had brought between us, just in case there weren’t any, we left QAB just after 3pm and headed for Fowey. Crossing Plymouth Sound we realised just how necessary was the advice to reef early – very early. Unfortunately, with strong westerly wind and heading west in an east going tide, there would be little progress without the assistance of the engine. And so it proved for the ‘west’ of the week with motor sailing as the usual mode of propulsion for that, predictable forward speed, and stability combination.

At this point it’s worth mentioning there were a number of minor problems with the rigging including a missing baton, incorrect roving of the port sheet car control line and, because of the lead for the sheets to the main winches we experienced frequent riding turns. Also, the hawk kept moving atop the mast and the final failure was when the top baton retaining clamp fell off, bounced on the deck and disappeared over the side. Additionally the warps were a ragged set of fraying, stiff, worn thin, moss impregnated mismatched leftover pieces of rope accompanying a collection of partially deflated fenders. All in all, there was a clear need for some maintenance but nothing so critical as could prevent us from making necessary progress given the weather conditions.

Arriving at Fowey at dusk, we motored up the river and moored on the pontoon opposite the

commercial terminal where, after a superb meal, we spent a peaceful night - apart from the impromptu fireworks detonation by our neighbours just before midnight.

An 08:00 start on Tuesday saw us attempting to sail toward Newlyn but needing the engine

to get round the Lizard and cross Mounts Bay. On arrival we paid £18 for a berth with admission to the nastiest toilets I’ve ever seen at a marina (they have a moat at the entrance) before we

walked to Penzance and had an OK meal at the Lugger.

Wednesday, departing at first light, we headed for the Scilly Isles initially trying to sail. A few hours into the passage and shortly after seeing a pod of dolphins feeding on shoal of fish that was simultaneously bombarded by a flock of sea birds, the westerly wind began building further, forcing us to reef down and use the engine. A few hours later and varying tidal steams, at times, made the seas very confused. It became clear the smoothest seas were down-tide of the Scillies in a narrow corridor of water that, for a time, ran across the TSS. Unfortunately, crossing the TSS was something of a compromise as a course 90 degrees to the lanes sometimes resulted in less than 1 kt. Fortunately, there was very little shipping and after the last few nasty squalls and showers, we arrived at Spanish Ledge in bright sunshine. A quick check of St Mary’s Pool (Hugh Town harbour) confirmed it was untenable so we took one of the recently installed moorings in Porth Cressa, having the benefit of some shelter from the land and buildings. After another excellent meal onboard, we all settled down for a bumpy night.

The new moorings in Porth Cressa are too close together and have a massive chain attached to the top dictating the use of a tight line through the links. This leaves both the chain and buoy bashing against

the bow. Furthermore, as the boat swings it thumps the buoys astern. As the wind rose, I tied the stern preferring the continuous disturbance from the wind on the hull to the occasionally uncomfortable wallowing, lurching and banging we had experienced. At £20 per night, I would prefer anchoring but, given wind and large freeboard of the boat, the anchor was not the safest option.

Thursday and Friday saw the crew ashore taking the chance to explore the island, some taking

a pleasure trip to see the smaller islets and wild life, others walking and cycling. Of special note, Chris managed to locate lost members of his family who fled to the islands to avoid him. We had a reasonable meal at the Pilot Gig on Thursday night but moved on Friday evening anchoring in The Cove, the large southern bay of St. Agnes. After another great meal onboard, under the most incredibly starry sky and surrounded by tiny phosphorescent sea creatures, we settled down for a very comfortable night.

03:00 on Saturday we left the anchorage and hoisted the main in expectation of the predicted stiff north westerly to blow us back to Falmouth. Needless to say, there was hardly a breath of wind until we rounded the Manacles and could sail for the last hour or so into Falmouth arriving at our mooring on the visitors’ quay just after 4pm. We all used the excellent facilities, followed by nibbles and the odd libation before a really excellent meal at the Warehouse Bistro.

A combination of tide, predicted lack of wind and the need to hand the boat back by 5pm, saw an 05:15 departure on Sunday morning. A few hours later, making our way across Whitsand Bay with no other vessels in sight, we were puzzled to see the tug Mogawr slowly motor up behind us to speak on Ch 8. We then learned we were headed directly for a submerged submarine. We agreed to change course and head south towards the Eddystone and were soon rewarded with an F4 westerly allowing us to sail all the way into Plymouth Sound and meet our deadline. Throughout the passage we heard the repeated pleadings of the tug requesting sailboats to stay out of Whitsand Bay – not something that was likely on a Sunday with a good sailing breeze.

Because it was such an amiable crew, we had a great trip despite the limited sailing and difficult weather conditions. There were some problems in the forward cabin, especially when digestive problems caused sleeping bags to swell to the size of a small zeppelin and Hairy Cake complained. Just to clarify, HC (as he became known) refers to the mouldy fruit cake that Chris keeps in his bag with all his sweaty dirty laundry. We’re not saying how much it matured but, at by the end of the trip, in addition to making hot drinks and doing the dishes, HC was also learning how to trim sails.

Special thanks to Becky for the great job of catering and teaching HC how to use a comb.

QAB Plymouth  50.3649,-4.1318
Weather at EGDB   13 kts from SSW 18C, 1011mb Scattered Clouds