Brixham to Plymouth – reflection – tidal race

(Continued . . .)

This series of five posts outlines a September passage from Plymouth to Teignmouth and back.

(Click on image to enlarge)


The interruption to my passage plan has meant that I have to get from Brixham to Plymouth, a distance of a little over 40 nautical miles by this evening. This is no problem on paper – but there will probably be no time for fishing. Also the tide will be wrong going round Start Point. I had planned to round the Point, which is about 13 nm along the coast from here, yesterday evening with the tide carrying me, I will now reach it around the middle of today with the tide against me. The wind has gone round  to the north east – almost the opposite of yesterday morning.

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Plymouth to Salcombe

This series of five posts outlines a September passage from Plymouth to Teignmouth and back.

My son had a few days holiday owing and wanted to sail. We had a choice of Falmouth or Teignmouth. The wind direction and tides suited Teignmouth. To add interest on the way, we decided to overnight in Salcombe and Torquay. He was going to leave the boat in Teignmouth and I was going to return to Plymouth alone. In the event, we were weather-bound in Teignmouth for a week. A family holiday was imminent, so when the weather eventually eased, I had only a short time to return Blue Mistress to Plymouth. I planned a direct passage to Salcombe, to overnight there and then on to Plymouth. As it happened, I had a major problem off Berry Head which completely altered my passage plan.


(Click on image to enlarge. Double click magnifies)

04. Plymouth to Salcombe

If we had had a trip in which we fell out with each other, I would probably not have mentioned this, but we had a good time and I want to acknowledge it.

For a single-hander having someone aboard adds a whole extra dimension. The boat has been set up for one person. Ropes and gear have been placed to-hand and manoeuvers thought through in advance so that much of the routine on the boat has become automatic to me. I’m ahead of the game – most of the time. Few people want to be a passenger on a small boat, they want to be part of the crew. Therefore, having another person on board, someone who will inevitably do things differently, means my having to stand back and create ‘space’ for them to do it. How much space depends on the person.

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Rite of Passage

(continued from . . .)

I am watching the Udder Rock buoy further up the coast. The tide is taking us inshore and I head further out to sea to stay to the seaward of it.

This is the third day of this trip, finally a day of wind, sea and sail. The cloud cover is still low, clinging to the tops of the cliffs. There are no other boats visible and, despite being close to the shore. I can see no one on the coast path.

The early mist had given the harbour a silent, closed feel.

(Click on image to enlarge)



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A voyage of my own

It has taken a while to get used to people saying “What? By yourself?” as in “I took the boat down to Falmouth and returned to Plymouth via Fowey? It was a quick three-day trip.” “What? By yourself?”

How do you explain it? To the uninitiated it invites the disapproval of

  • the safety industry – “the tiny crew”;
  • the health industry – “the older man on his own”;
  • the social industry – “all alone”;
  • the professionals – “a rank amateur”;
  • the bigger boats – “a smaller boat”;

Despite all of them I succeeded – as do many, many others in far more challenging circumstances.

It has taken many years sailing to be able to say with confidence “I do it like this. I know it is possible to do it like that but I have chosen to do it like this. Yes, the most knowledgeable of intellectuals, the most graceful of athletes, the most creative of artists, the grandest of grandees, they all know better than me. But not quite. Individually they know certain areas of my life better than me and combined they know many areas of my life better than me but the whole of my life belongs to me and I choose to live it like this. I will listen to them but I will make up my own mind whether it is useful for me or not. There’s no side to it, no competition, I respect their point of view but I am taking responsibility for me so I can give back what I learn as I go along.”

Time and money – (not enough of either), have meant that it has taken not months but years to bring Blue Mistress to her current standard – a standard that makes me comfortable in taking trips along the South Devon and South Cornwall coastline.

‘Single-handed’ means thinking things through long before they are needed. The layout of the boat, its contents and every maneuver that may or may not be made has been gone through in your head, maybe on paper, certainly on a computer, and books and videos and charts and tables studied, with the intention that all this be absorbed into experience.

Even then mistakes will be made – some of them very memorable with solutions needed in a breath-taking hurry, but mostly things will go right. Very few of the latter are memorable because what is going on outside the boat is as interesting as what is going on inside. Have you ever seen a coastline from the sea? The Devon and Cornish coasts are particularly stunning. (And, yes, there are plenty of other stunning coastlines too).

I like aloneness but enjoy company. A week ago we took my London-based, four-year-old grandson for his first trip. Enthusiasm on all sides. What’s not to like?

And every trip, every voyage is different.

I took few photos on the Falmouth trip but I will make a short storyboard next post. In the meantime, here is Blue Mistress in Fowey on the last day of September 2014 with the morning mist rising. As I say, what’s not to like?

Blue Mistress, Fowey

(Image taken by Bill Whateley)

(to be continued . . .)

Back to studying

For those who tune into this blog occasionally and are wondering why I am dodging around topics, it’s because I am doing a short course with WordPress – Writing 101. It lasts a little under three weeks and involves participants posting a blog most days. The topics are varied and a little out of my usual line. My intention is to get back to a writing habit that I lost over the past year. Bear with me, something good will come from it.


For those who are wondering what has happened to Blue Mistress, the refit is nearly complete. A lot has been done in between longish pauses and I see the chance to get back in the water in the next two weeks. The boat is looking good but needs to be afloat!




And if you are also wondering when I am going to talk about New Zealand, it will come. In the meantime, this is the Bay of Islands where Webb Chiles (see below) is headed.



If you are not following Webb Chiles, you should be. Aged 72 and circumnavigating in a boat smaller and lighter than Blue Mistress. It is his sixth time round, I believe. He prefers the solitude of single-handed sailing and was reluctant to fit the Yellowbrick – technology impinging on personal space. In the meantime, we have the privilege of sitting back and admiring. He has been sailing at over five knots for most of the voyage. Fair winds to him.

You can follow him here

(All images taken by Bill Whateley)


Lifting Blue Mistress

There are a number of reasons why I might not have shown this image – personal embarrassment being high on the list, But then I thought, “Hey, this is what happens if you don’t lift the boat often enough. Not many people have seen this on their vessels, so maybe it will make them feel even better about the refitting work they do.”

I haven’t posted this year. One of the results of a difficult year has been a lack of time afloat. So when, on one of the few times I was able to go to sea, I had engine trouble, I finally decided it was time to lift her and spend some productive refit time over the winter.

And yesterday we did lift the boat, and this is what we saw in the early evening gloom (click on image to enlarge) . . .


. . . not just barnacles but a whole colony of mussels – on the rudder and around the propeller. So this was why the helm was sluggish and the engine was difficult to start.

There were some ripe comments from the lifting crew!

However, Blue Mistress had always cleaned up well and today . . .




She won’t be back in the water until early May. There are a number of jobs I want to do on her, including major work on the engine. And we also have other adventures planned before then.

I will post on the boat again.

An elderly pencil

We have had the decorators in and everything but everything has been boxed up. The job has been so long that all our cardboard boxes are now hidden wells of discovery,  Looking through one such box. I found this pencil.


Walter Brennan taught me to sail. I was 13 or 14 at the time – so the pencil is a little over 50 years old.

It was inexpensive – free, in fact, because he gave them away. It hasn’t been used constantly but it has survived over the years where a number of expensive and increasingly sophisticated computers have not. And whereas those computers became obsolete, this piece of kit will still do what it was designed to do – act as a printer for whatever is going on in my head.

2013-11-08 15.34.56a

Obviously it is ancient hardware and I don’t offer it as an alternative to a computer – (certainly not with my brain!), but as a design that stands the test of time.

Having found it again, I am able to use it instantly – no recharging,  no cables, no wireless router, no waiting for startup, no searching for software and apps, no need to update.  It is portable and versatile. So is my mobile phone – but I guarantee my pencil will outlive my mobile too. (And I can’t chew the end of my mobile).

On the boat, I have three versions of gps – plus a clutch of 2B pencils.

If you’re younger than thirty you possibly don’t care. That’s ok. But at the weekend I watched my three year-old grandson climb the stairs while watching a television programme on the iPad he was holding. He had found the app and opened the programme himself. I don’t suppose he will be impressed if I leave him my pencil in my will. However, my pencil will last longer than his iPad.

2013-11-08 15.34.45a

Perhaps the pencil will be the shape of computers to come.

Who knew they would reduce a computer to look like a large postcard?

Who knew a smart phone would become the size of a small chocolate bar?

All power to the pencil.