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.

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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)

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

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and the River Exe Cafe is moored off Starcross.

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Powderham Castle peers through the trees

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

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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,

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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.

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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.

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

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

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 (to be continued)

Images by Bill Whateley

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for Spring

Sunday: the sun shining, the air warm, just a little wind. A day for airing the boat, clearing out and re-stowing the fore-cabin. I added eye-bolts for extra anchorage. The oars are strapped off the cabin sole; the bin for the anchor rode will now stay put.

The engine turned over and started after a shaky few minutes. Actually, it didn’t start first time. I left it. When I tried again, it started – (why not the first time?). It needed a run and I wanted an excuse to motor down river to the Sound.

There was hardly a boat to be seen – a classic yacht in the distance, too far away to photograph.

Plymouth was looking . . . well, iconic. 

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The yachts were stacked away.

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The identically liveried Bro Gemini and Luhnau – the one empty, the other loaded, lay quietly against the wharf.

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Not a lot happening – but great to be alive and on the water.