On sailing a Folksong

An afternoon’s sail

On Friday afternoon, I sailed away from the mooring – a first for me.

Moored fore and aft in a trot line, with boats either side, this is restricted water – only wind on the beam or quarter will suffice. The forecast was north west 3-4 but it was more north east 2 on this stretch of the river at that moment, the tide was slackening and it seemed easy enough for me to chance it.

I chose the No.1 jib alone and inevitably the wind began to die as I inched my way along the line of boats. I had the engine ticking over but didn’t need it until the wind died completely as I prepared to raise the mainsail – and then only briefly as the tide began to take the boat.

The wind strengthened just enough and then it was dinghy sailing – tacking back and forth across the Cattewater in the flooky wind until there was a clear course passed Queen Anne’s Battery. It headed me again adjacent to the entrance to Sutton Harbour and took Blue Mistress close enough to the end of Mount Batten Pier (and the fisherman), before we could ease off into the Sound.

Then it was ‘dodge the warships’, followed by a long, glorious, close-hauled stretch in the sunshine with the promised northwest 3-4 blowing true and steady – across Plymouth Sound, out through the Western Channel,

to seaward of the Draystone Ledge buoy with Penlee Point in the background and

on to my waymark due of south of Rame Head – (in the image, we have some way to go).


Time to work with the Autohelm, make several sail adjustments, reflect on why I didn’t choose the genoa to start with, work out that there are ways to leave the mooring under sail in most winds (but I would need the practice), check my gps against compass bearings, keep a lookout and get away from the continuing flow of depressing news.

On the way back there was a time when, from Jennycliff to Cawsand and from the Breakwater to Plymouth Hoe, Blue Mistress was the only boat moving. Not totally surprising as it was getting late and the tide was strongly against us.

I picked the wrong side of the trot to approach, and went round the boats again to pick up the mooring with a fierce following tide, running along the line of boats slow enough to find out how much stern throttle would be needed to stop the boat in the water to give me time to pick up the aft warp. I have said this before: these are the times when I really appreciate the long keel.

I picked up the mooring a few hours older, slightly wiser, very happy – and late for tea.

One thought on “On sailing a Folksong

  1. Incidentally i watched someone bringing in an Omega dinghi along side the pontoon this Saturday…and they do not have the option of the engine. It looked like dancing, as they had to travel parallel to the pontoon a couple of times before they were at the correct (i am guessing) position to turn in and actually make the approach 😀

    Getting out of the mooring on sails sounds even more challenging!

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