A visit to Appledore

3 – Bideford Bar

I have never crossed Bideford Bar but it seems that I have known it all my life. I thought I would check it out. Who knows? I may yet get the chance.

Many sailors have crossed this Bar, and many still do. To them I say, please bear with me. I am doing what I should do – looking at the water, reading the entries in the pilot book, looking at the chart. Also, I am looking at it from two different viewpoints – what it’s like now and what it might have been like in the nineteenth century. I have always had  problems envisaging what it would have been like to live in a castle that now stands in ruins, but envisaging being at sea in a wooden sailing ship is different altogether – the sea is the same sea, the wind the same wind.

That there was a gale blowing and rain was in the air last week just made it more interesting. The outside bar was hidden in the murk . . .

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‘Ethel May’ – a great grand-daughter remembers

The following arrived during the week:

“I was thrilled to find, by chance in your collection, a photo of my Great Grandfather’s boat. The Ethel May was built at Rhyl, North Wales, in 1878 (65 tons) owned by John Kearney of Co. Down.  I am assuming it was a schooner?  My Great Grandfather, Richard Coppack was her captain.  My Aunt was named after the boat, although she always felt it should have been the other way around. 

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Short Story

Google captured Teignmouth entrance at low spring tide. At high tide the  sand bars are covered. Teignmouth is a working port. Several ships a week safely navigate this channel.

On 30th January, a large wave picked up the Girl Rona, a local trawler and dropped her onto the sandbank to the north of the channel. The fishing boat capsized and the five crewmen took to the water, to be rescued within half an hour by the local lifeboat. The wind was easterly and strong and remained so for the next three or four days.

The picture below was taken on 4th February. The main hatch had been opened and the catch had floated free,  to be consumed by thousands of seagulls – to the relief of the local council

The sand is constantly moving as river meets sea and the channel is continually dredged for shipping to enter and leave the port. The longer the boat lies there, the more the sand will build up around her and fill her hold.

At the first opportunity, a salvage operation must get under way.

Sunday, 5th February, the gear has been unloaded and fuel pumped out.

Lines were attached . . .

. . . and tested

The strain is taken and the boat begins to upright.

There is much discussion. Several hundred ‘experts’ watching from the shore all know how to do this better.

The afternoon wears on.  The salvage boats are in the channel. It would seem that the sand has built up between them and the trawler.

As the late afternoon sun catches the pier. . .

. . . she begins to move . . . but rolls over again.

By now the tide has ebbed and the operation is finished for the night.

The boat was finally freed the following night, “floating and stable at 0300 and back in harbour at 0430 on Tuesday morning.”.

This afternoon, there were five men on board . . . working hard. For them the story continues.

An exhilarating blow today

Teignmouth (Approaches)
Sunday Jan 15, 2012 UT/GMT
▼  03:40 1.1m
▲  10:10 4.4m
▼  16:00 1.2m
▲  22:40 4.1m
50º33′.0N 3º29′.0W
Strong winds are forecast.
24 hour forecast
0600 UTC Sun 15 Jan – 0600 UTC Mon 16 Jan
Wind  Southeast 5 to 7, occasionally 4 later.
Sea state   Moderate or rough.
Weather     Occasional rain in far west, otherwise fair.
Visibility  Good, occasionally moderate.

10:30  Merle approaching Teignmouth on the top of the tide . . .


. . . an exhilarating ride through the entrance (missed it) . . .


. . . ending in a tricky turn and stern-first into her berth.


Can this be good for a car?


Exmouth and the entrance to the Exe Estuary in the distance


No takers for morning coffee


No wind yesterday . . .

No wind yesterday but a fine day to run the engine.

I removed the sail cover and attached the halyard but left the lazy jacks in place as I didn’t expect to set the sail. As the Sound opened up it, it was almost empty – two vessels in sight, one trying to set a sail. A little later he had given up.


It was also a perfect day to anchor and run out the rode. I dropped anchor around 1300 close to Jennycliff near the Withyhedge beacon.


Then time for lunch, and, as I had bought the dinghy with me, time for some photography.


There were three naval vessels at anchor. The village of Cawsand can be seen in the sunshine on the far side of Plymouth Sound – (just aft of the pulpit).


All the metal work makes Blue Mistress look positively industrial. The depth is 7.7 metres – it had dropped from 8.4 metres in the 3/4 hour I had been at anchor.


The washed-out colours of January.


This simple rig holds the course giving plenty of time to go fetch something from below. It works just as well under sail..


The tide was low and the water slack as I passed the Cattewater Wharves.


Flinterlinge, registered out of Groningen, was busy unloading.