A Salcombe Sojourn -
It's not very often that you have really
memorable sailing days but 1st September.2005 was one of
What could be nicer than creaming along in a
Salcombe yawl on a lovely warm autumn day, driven by a fair
wind and surrounded by beautiful Devon views?
But I get ahead of myself. So as Julie Andrews
said. 'Let's start at the very beginning'.
We'd been invited by friends, who have a flat
in Salcombe, to join them for a few days following the August
Bank Holiday which we eagerly accepted especially as he had
recently become the proud owner of a Salcombe Yawl.
'What is a S.Y?' I hear you ask. Well
it’s a locally built traditional wooden boat of clinker
construction being 16 feet long and about 6 feet wide with a
large open cockpit, and a short covered deck of about 3 feet
long which extends in front of the main mast to a straight
bow on which is mounted a bowsprit of some 18" long which
nowadays carries the roller reefing gear for the foresail.
The cockpit layout is similar to the GP14
with side seats under which are buoyancy bags. The side
decks are approximately 9" to 12" wide upon which there are
slatted wooden seats for the comfort of sitting out (what
luxury). They also save the blood supply to your legs from
being cut off by the 2" high edge coping which surrounds the
cockpit to keep you dry (very civilised). The cockpit
contains a centre board case which houses a great chunk of
metal drop keel of a size to make even Bosun owners envious,
especially as it is easily operated via a large drum pulley,
so no grunting required.
The Mizzenmast is stepped on a small aft deck
and held in position by 4 stay wires. The tiller passes under
this deck and out through the transom, into the stock and
rudder, which are mounted in the normal dinghy fashion. The
Mizzen sail has a small boom but no control lines so it's
able to do its own thing and be forgotten about when
The powerhouse of the rig is a traditional
triangular mainsail with centre sheeting and, on this boat,
was only attached to the boom at its toe and heel but the cut
of the sail was very full along its foot and it didn't seem
to gap from the boom.
Surprisingly there wasn't much clearance under
the boom, about 2' above deck level so it was still necessary
to duck when going about.
All in all a very pretty boat, easy to handle and light on
the tiller. However the problem of sailing it was where it
was moored !
Being a new boy on the scene, my friend could
only get a drying mooring which left the boat high and dry on
mud flats at certain states of the tide which meant we could
only sail a couple of hours either side of high tide... and
you need something to get you there and back. In this case it
was a RIB, which was tied up with 20 or so other inflatable
tenders at Salcombe harbour pontoon.
So the first job is to locate yours, then leap
from one to another to get to it, disentangle its painter
(making sure not to leave others untied) and then push your
way through them all into clear water before daring to start
the engine. All of which requires a certain amount of agility
and ensures you start with wet feet!
You then motor through all of the mouth
wateringly expensive boats bobbing about at their moorings
until you find your mooring. You then ferry yourself around
the Yawl wiping off the seagull guano and removing the cover
before clambering aboard and hoisting the sails, all of which
takes the best part of an hour. And you think you've got it
tough to launch at Aquarius eh??
It was however all worth while for once we'd
slipped our mooring and had started to sail down the main
channel past the town ferry, the yacht club and all those
lovely old buildings piled up through the town from the
waterfront, you're in another world.
We beat out over the bar in a nice 2-3 breeze,
though it took quite a while to punch through the incoming
tide, but we managed it OK with yours truly at the helm. Once
beyond the bar the sea state changed to quite a significant
swell as it was funneled into the estuary between the
headlands on either side, so we turned and ran before it
swapping drivers as we did so.
This was a much more relaxed sail and we were
able to admire the scenery as we creamed along with the wind
and tide. We got back far too quickly and decided to carry on
all the way up to Kingsbridge which is at the head of the
estuary before returning to our moorings at Salcombe, which
we picked up without trouble having had a wonderful two and a
half hours of sailing in lovely surroundings. I thoroughly
Thus it was that we arrived back at the flat
somewhat tired but with feelings of high elation and a
resolve to get up early (7am) the next morning to catch the
last couple of hours of the tide before we had to return
home... but that's a sailors tale for another time perhaps?