I launched Lorema at the beginning of July, 2013. What I thought was going to be a few months in Gweek had turned into nearly a year, but as we shifted my tent and the crane lifted her out of the pond of offcuts, tools, and random bits of my life that had gathered around her, I saw the outcome – a boat that I really did know and love. There was still plenty of work to do before I could leave, but the launch was the moment that I knew I actually would leave.
A couple of weeks on and I was ready to depart the Quay. With wind blowing straight up the creek, I sculled out from my berth, using the sculling oar that I had made from an wooden dinghy mast. As I left, a friend took an amusing video from the quay of another boat running aground whilst trying to overtake me. I was so involved in my sculling that I didn’t even notice at the time!
I had been deliberating for a few months whether I was going to reattach the outboard brackets that had come off the boat, but in the end had decided to do without an engine at all for a few reasons; stowage space, the experience of having an outboard bouncing around off the stern in a choppy swell, and the challenge of cruising under sail and oar alone, not to mention my own farfetched romantic and aesthetic personal values! At this stage, however, I had only had a brief sculling lesson from a friend in the yard, and having sweated my way round the first couple of bends into bit of a breeze, I gladly accepted a tow from a workboat going downriver!
I spent the night anchored off Tremaine Quay with some friends I had arranged to meet there, drinking tea and wondering if I had actually started this trip or if I was suffering one of those dreams which cause so much frustration to wake up from. Lo and behold, I woke up in the same spot, and left at 6am in convoy with my friends. Their 45′ ketch soon left me behind though, and I was really alone, tacking into an easterly f5/6 to get around the Manacles (nasty cornish rocks!). We had arranged to meet in the Scillies that evening, so I rounded the Manacles Cardinal and headed south on a beam reach to clear the Lizard, buzzing with excitement and fear. There was a fairly short and large swell, but Lorema took it in her stride, careening through her own spray at what seemed like a ridiculous pace for such a small boat.
Round the lizard and then a dead run for the next 40 or so miles to the scillies. My self steering gear was holding her on course so well that I could keep the sails goosewinged, and I was enjoying the ride. About halfway there the wind increased to f7 and the swell was building, so I hove-to, to put the second reef in. As she bounced with the swells, the blade of my self steering gear dislodged (in my rush to leave I had neglected to put the split pins back) and went over board. I sailed around to pick it up, but couldn’t get a grip on it with the boat hook, and by the time I had tacked for a second pass, I had lost sight of the small dark object in the swell. A good lesson from mother nature about proper preparation, but thankfully no real harm done. The rest of the way I helmed by hand, hoving-to every time I needed to navigate or get the biscuits.
The wind was gusting 8 and the wave height was increasing. As she slammed into swells, thoughts of other possible forgotten jobs whirred through my brain, but there was nothing I could do except trust the work I had done and helm as best as I could. A couple of waves came over the stern, and I was glad that in the face of considerable scepticism, I had opted to cover over my cockpit with an aft deck. The water sloshed harmlessly off, and securely clipped in, I felt safe and stable even with a higher perch. I came into the Scilles on a bearing and sailed to St.Helens pool, where I anchored near my friends. The trip had been fairly hectic, but even though the weather had been worse than forecast, and I had lost part of my self steering gear, Lorema had performed amazingly well. They say that sailing close hauled is the most exhausting point of sail for a crew, but that a dead run is the hardest on the boat, so I was pleased that nothing had broken. It had been a serious sea trial, and a maiden voyage to remember!