The tale of the three old bags and other Cornish yarns

....I am told there are 3 old bags on board. Ron will want to use one of these. I will bring my own....” said the skipper just before we joined Spellbinder on her West Country cruise from Plymouth. Well, the mind boggles, and what were we about to encounter you may wonder, dear reader!

Spellbinder was resplendent in Plymouth Yacht Haven after her race round the Fastnet. We (Mary Lewcock, Ron Clark, Hazel Wilcox and myself, with skipper John Liddy and mate Robert Lewcock) settled on board for a week of fun and good sailing. Day 1 was a baptism of fire (or was that water?) with an uncomfortable, wet and lumpy trip to Fowey. Thankfully we were able to raft up on a pontoon and recovered with a G&T, the Skipper’s spaghetti carbonara and a good sleep. By contrast Day 2 was bright and sunny with light winds and we headed off to Falmouth. Despite keeping a good look out at all times, there was no sign of Poldark galloping over the hills.

At Falmouth, we went up past the town to Mylor, a lovely spot where we found some Roskilly’s ice cream – a local delicacy, yum. Over dinner one crew member let slip that he had been rather chilly the previous night and that he might have to avail himself of one of the old bags!

Sailing trips are always bedevilled by the complexities and variability of wind, tide and time, and so we decided the best option was to return to Fowey the next day. We left Falmouth in jovial mood to the strains of “Happy Birthday” to one crew member over our breakfast.   This was a lively sail with plenty of wave action including a huge wall of water hitting me on the back of the head (fortunately I was wearing oilies!) much to the amusement of the helmslady! Rustling up a cake with candles was just too difficult so the hunt was on for a Cornish cream tea to celebrate. Finding a mooring in Fowey also proved to be a bit of a challenge with several visitors buoys marked as unavailable so we eventually moored up the river on the pontoon at Mixtow.   Although it was too late for cream tea we had a lovely walk to the ferry to go into Fowey. Still no sign of Poldark although a mug inscribed “I’d rather be watching Poldark” was spotted in a shop window. The infamous rogue pirate Sam served us an enjoyable celebratory dinner ashore.

Next morning as we motored down the river we became aware that the tugs we had seen earlier going out were now escorting a 28,000 ton cruise ship into Fowey! There was barely room for us to squeeze past (with harbourmaster’s permission), and we were thankful to be out at sea before the cruise passengers descended onto Fowey.

Leaving Fowey

Another beautiful day with a calm sea and light winds saw us heading East initially towards the River Yealm but then re-routing onwards to Salcombe as Spellbinder found a few waves to surf and fresher winds. Would we be there in time for a cream tea? Sadly not, however once safely into Salcombe, the harbour master directed us to a pontoon in The Bag (those old bags again, I hear you say!).

Once ashore we headed to the Yacht Club for a shower and a drink (great view from the lounge) before dinner in a pub followed by an ice cream. At the yacht club, we followed the signs to the showers and found three unmarked doors – one was fire exit, one seemed to be a cleaner’s cupboard and so we entered the third door. A welcoming notice to visiting yachts’ men and ladies greeted us. We noted some six or seven shower cubicles to the left and although there a couple of urinals to the right we assumed the facilities were Unisex. And so we proceeded to avail ourselves of a welcome shower coordinating our timings to maintain decorum!   Whilst combing my hair afterwards and musing about a hairdryer, a couple of guys came in only to beat a hasty retreat!   It was only after that the cleaner’s cupboard revealed itself to be the home of the hairdryer and the ladies’ showers!

On Thursday morning whilst the guys attended to a few diy tasks and replenished our water supply, the ladies went in search of additional provisions in Salcombe. Then we headed off to the River Yealm, anchoring in Bigbury Bay along the way for a sunny lunch stop to wait for rise of tide. Entering the Yealm requires a steady hand on the wheel and enough water. We were rafted on a pontoon and enjoyed our own cream tea at last!

the River Yealm

Friday was spent exploring the delightful twin villages of Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo, and visiting various hostelries for coffee and lunch. We departed on the evening flood tide and returned to Plymouth Yacht Haven. Saturday morning saw us heading up to the Tamar bridge to take a look at various RN ships and submarines in Devonport complete with our own guided expert commentary, before returning to the Yacht Haven for boat cleaning and handover to the next crew.

All in all a very enjoyable trip, especially with the added relief of knowing that the skipper’s opening message about three old bags referred to the availability of sleeping bags on board, and nothing else!

Diana La Rue

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