The Exe – 2/6

The night was cold. At 0400, I put on a sweater. It was too heavy – at 0500 I woke in a sweat. Perhaps that’s why it’s called a sweater.

The day began with a light breeze down the estuary and a fine pale sky. The incoming tide would not be high enough until 1030 at least. I watched it slowly cover the sandbank opposite – a solitary seal enjoying the sun.


This is a day for a short passage under motor – the wind is against me and I will have to follow the channel carefully. The rising tide covers all hazards. The buoyage is good and easy to follow – red can buoys even-numbered, green conical buoys odd-numbered; I have read the pilot books and know what to expect. In the event, the up-to-date chart, depth sounder and binoculars prove essential.

Cockwood, on the west bank, soon appears. (Two good pubs here, The Anchor and The Ship)


The Exewake water skiers have a base in the middle of the estuary


and the River Exe Cafe is moored off Starcross.


Powderham Castle peers through the trees


and, all at once, the price of neglect strikes home.


The channel winds close to Starcross Yacht Club, reputed to be one of the oldest sailing clubs in the British Isles,  and then crosses the estuary towards the east bank,


finally wending west again. The long bridge is part of a new cycle path. We have cycled it several times, having often, over the past thirty years, walked along the wall. Seeing it from the water is a first for me.


The passage takes about an hour. I watch the depth reading constantly, the shallowest point was about 3 metres; I need at least 1.5 metres, so no worries there. I pick up a mooring at Turf Lock; judging by the amount of mud on it, I suspect it has not been used since last year.

The lock is the entrance to Exeter Ship Canal, and the Turf Hotel a long-time favourite.


In the middle of the day, the wind changes and rises . . .


it becomes distinctly colder, and, as the tide drops, I settle down to work.


 (to be continued)

Images by Bill Whateley