Back from Ireland, and less than promising weather charts, and it must be time to bunk down and find a job that provides lots of off-cuts for my woodburner. After pottering around Mylor for a while, I took Lorema back over to the Helford.
This short trip got quite exciting when the wind got up to a seven and the heavens opened. I was sailing with a certain Mr.Dodd, and we were pretty soaked through, even after just a couple of hours. There seemed to be more water that air in the… err… air. As we broad reached into the mouth of the river, surfing down waves, an orange speck quickly turned into a certain Mr. Green, arriving with immaculate timing and admirable determination – He knew we were on our way, and had taken it upon himself to come out 4miles from Gweek and meet us in his little orange ex-police dinghy, completely undeterred by the lack of breathable air in amongst the rain, to make sure we got in okay and pilot us to the secret creek where I was planning to moor up. He bounced along towards us with a big grin, and when he was within a few meters, threw some much needed emergency rations into our cockpit – two cans of cold, cheap lager. He hopped aboard, and we continued west into the helford, towing two dinghies now, which acted as quite useful sea anchors. A few miles and lots more rain later, and we pootled into a tiny creek where The Annette, Steve’s old Scandinavian Schooner, was tethered to some oaks.
I tied alongside, and we had a terribly pleasant evening trying to dissuade her from squishing my delicate little vessel with her 50 tonnes of hull as the tide ebbed away.
I kept Lorema in this creek for a couple of months, while I worked away in Plymouth doing a loft conversion, of all things, for a friend. We made a sort of shanty town pontoon out of scaffold poles and sticks and a sledgehammer, and became fond of out little anti-health-and-safety marina.
Getting to the boats at low tide involved beating your way through a dark wet forest before tight-rope-walking Annete’s taught bow line, clinging onto an overhanging limb, and then climbing up onto her bowsprit. Coming home from the pub was interesting, to say the least. Bringing a lady back was fairly out of the question. Luckily, I met a rather nice girl with a warm caravan, and I hope she won’t mind me saying she made the winter more than bearable, although her hill-top caravan tried to take off more than a few times in the worst of the storms.
After a while in the creek of occasional beauty and endless mud, I started fearing for my sanity, and one spring tide I untied from the perilous pontoon and skulled back to Gweek, glad now that I hadn’t said anything too rude as I left last time, determined not to return. Ah well, the best laid plans….
I had some work in Gweek on the rebuild of Kelpie, a 1928 American built 65′ (82′ LOA) schooner. I got stuck in, working with and getting to know a wonderful bunch of completely mad characters. During this time I worked long hours, making occasional forays to the local pub and even sometimes into Falmouth when I was feeling brave. I kept the woodburner going all day, got quite rained upon quite regularly, and as if I wasn’t exposed to the weather enough, I decided for some reason to buy a silly orange motorbike, a machine designed for cruising a sunny highway with a bikini-clad goddess riding pillion, not for pottering around muddy cornish lanes in the rain with precariously tied planks of wood and sacks of tools.
Anyway, it was a bit of a wet and stormy winter, but I got through it thanks to all the wonderful friends I’ve made in Falmouth and Gweek and around. Eventually Kelpie was launched and motored rig-less around to Falmouth early on a crisp spring morning, to catch a much needed big tide. I had stayed up all night finishing my new fore-hatch and combing, and left just behind her, as the first hints of light began to reach over the horizon. I skulled the first mile, and then hoisted sail as the sun started to burn off the mornings mist, and a light sou-easterly rustled the ancient english oaks on both banks. The experience was the polar opposite of my entry into the Helford a few months earlier.
Round to Port Pendennis marina in falmouth, and I tied Lorema to Kelpie, who was herself tied to Mariette, the 144′ LOA Herreshoff Schooner with the same owner. As I tied up, one of Mariette’s crew handed me a cold beer, and Cat, Kelpie’s new first mate, asked if had anything to put in the waching machine. I couldn’t believe my luck! The showers in the marina were free and had heated floors, the water stuck around regardless of the tide, and civilization was metres away, not miles…these were all big changes, and I didnt quite know what to do with myself! Needless to say, I went to the nearest pub for a ‘few light ales’.
My commute was now a step over Kelpie’s cap rail – not too bad. The best thing about it, though, was the fact that I could go sailing after work, at any state of tide. I went out for a blast around the harbour almost every evening, even if it was just for half an hour, getting back into the swing of tight engineless sailing, picking up friends from the town quay and taking them across to St.Mawes, or out fishing (we never caught anything though).
Eventually Kelpie’s rig went up, and we took her racing in the Pendennis cup. I had somehow gone from being up to my ears in sawdust in a small muddy village to sailing a classic in a superyacht regatta, complete with lots of swanky uniforms and champagne and mega rich owners comparing their multi-million-pound toys. It wasn’t really my scene, but I did my best to enjoy all the champagne and get my little boat in the way as much as possible.
Racing Kelpie was a real joy – she sails beautifully, and I spent most of my time on the bowsprit hanking on headsails and occasionally calling trim. Over the week, we came fourth, which we were quite pleased with, being by far the smallest boat in the fleet, and considering we were still mounting halyard blocks on the morning of the first race.
At the end of the Pendennis Cup, we anchored Kelpie and Mariette together off Gyllyngvase beach for the red arrows display, along with every other boat within a 50 mile radius. I think I had the best seat in the house, up at the top of one of Mariette’s masts. Horrendously fast red metal flying machines above and a horrendously long drop below. Terrifying. But truly amazing.
More deliveries, more sun, lots of floundering in the carrick roads and football on the beach. Now it’s late June and we’re getting Kelpie ready for the delivery down to Barcelona. Iv’e just made myself a new boom and done some much-needed varnishing and the days are long and sweet. Aaah, Summer is here and it’s good.