8 – Carrick Roads, On being Cornish
The buoy at Turnaware Point is some three miles from the entrance to Carrick Roads. In the distance is Pendennis Point and ‘a gateway to a boundless ocean’.
The wind is stronger here, south by south east. Both wind and tide are against me. Deciding to motor sail under working jib alone, I make the Arick Buoy off Restronguet on a single tack and then tack directly into the wind up the deep water channel towards St Just in Roseland.
The middle of the channel is over 20 metres deep – 30 metres plus in some places. Approaching the mud banks the depth drops 8 . . . . 7 . . . 6 . . ahead, the colour of the water changes. “Loose the leeward sheet, prepare the windward one, helm down. As we come into the wind, ease the first sheet and haul in the other quickly, a turn round the cleat, and we are away again . . .”
It is 1000 on a Sunday, the sun is shining, I am alone in the middle of Carrick Roads. I have a moment to acknowledge what this passage to Cornwall has meant to me. How can I explain the deeper feelings that bring me back?
This stretch of Cornish water has remained more or less unchanged since the Ice Age – the winds have blown, the tide has ebbed and flowed, while the human race – that’s you and me and everyone else on this planet, has spent that entire time refining itself – buffeted, united and divided by family, tribal affiliation, ethnicity, religious belief, nationality, gender, age, politics, economics, science, art, education. That refinement has been the road to spectacular success . . . and also abject failure – (read any newspaper for recent examples).
Before human refinement, there was the raw, unrefined spirit of the planet. Despite us and our so-called civilisation, this spirit remains. It is especially prominent in some places. Cornwall is one of them. This raw, unrefined spirit, this sense of place, lives in those who are born there.
Sometimes you have to leave a place to understand its significance. Forty years ago, in New Zealand, we quite by chance came upon the grave of a young Cornish miner. He had been about my age – 27, when he had died working, a hundred years previously. The sudden tears were more that sentiment. Had we met, I doubt we would have had more in common than our birthplace. But we could have looked each other in the eye and known . . .
8 . . . . 7 . . . 6 . . ahead, the colour of the water is changing. “Loose the leeward sheet, prepare the windward one, helm down. As we come into the wind, ease the first sheet and haul in the other quickly, a quick turn round the cleat, and we are away again . . .”
On the third tack, I come close to the yachts moored in St Just Creek. Another tack, I can ease away enough to kill the engine and head towards the Narrows Buoy, risking a corner of the shallows. I snatch a photo of the lighthouse on St Anthony Head – a cliché perhaps, but it suits mood of the moment.
Ahead, a solitary ketch crosses from the direction of Flushing and comes to a stop. She sets a foresail and heels dramatically in the wind before gaining momentum.
I past the Pendennis shipyard and Falmouth docks looking for a visitors’ mooring off the Yacht Haven. The weather has brought my trip to a temporary halt. It will be over a week before I return.
(Images by Bill Whateley)