We're Off !

August 5th Camaret
Theoretically the earliest date for our departure was July 22nd, as Holly was working until then and wanted to do the channel crossing with Fred. As it happened Holly Mae wasn’t ready then for a couple more days.
The crew was all sorted for the first part of the trip; Noley and myself, along with Dave Need (an old friend), and Chris Hall ( a friend of Holly and Annie Mae). Holly and Fred were signed on for the the crossing. The course for the Chenal du Four, our point of arrival, from Penzance is 170 degrees and after weeks of glorious weather with easterly winds, on the week of our departure the wind went around to the south and stayed there day after day and so in desperation to get away we decided to start with a jaunt to Scilly. On Thurs night we had a call from Joe and Immi……………” could they come too ?”
On Thurs evening we moved Holly Mae from Penzance to Newlyn as the restrictions of the hours when the wet dock gate opens makes it inconvenient for the best timing to take advantage of the tides to Scilly. So final departure was set for midday Fri, which became 3pm Fri. Eight crew on board !
Gentle southerly winds pushed Holly Mae and her crew to St Mary’s where we dropped anchor at Watermill cove on the North coast to shelter from the swell. Now with only 6 berths for 8 crew members, Holly went head to toe with Fred and Joe had to draw lots with himself and ended up sleeping on deck. Lucky for him it was a dry night.
Joe and Immi went home the next day and the rest of us moved on to St Agnes.
Somewhere on the islands, sailing alone was Jef, a friend from L’sle d’Yeu. When we had signal we’d text him. And when he had signal he’d reply. But it took us 2 or 3 days to meet up in Hugh Town, St Mary’s where he moored up alongside on a very rolly night. He had with him his accordion and guitar and we had a great musical evening the result of which was we rang Holly and got her to put Noley’s accordion and my banjo on the Scillonian the next day.
The Scillies were beautiful, but as on previous occasions the almost ubiquitous swell led to sleepless nights and crew fatigue, but still the wind was in the South. We did find one quiet anchorage, recommended by Jef, in St Martin’s Bay where we stayed for a couple of nights. It was beautiful and a great discovery. We’ll go there again.
After a week the forecast was giving winds from the west southwest and so we made a break for it on Sat morning. A fine sunny day was a bonus. We left the mooring on St Mary’s at 8am., hoisted the main with one reef along with the No1 Jib and staysail in St Mary’s roads and were putting the islands behind us by 9 o’clock. The wind was just ahead of the beam which was fine, and so was the swell.
After a bit we decided to give the self steering a go. This is the second hand Monitor wind vane that I’d bought and fitted over the past couple of months. I’d never used this or any other self steering device before and large part of me wasn’t really expecting much. Holly Mae is a heavy boat to steer, and gaff cutters are reputed to be harder to balance than more modern rigs. I had been reading and re-reading the manual and obviously many other newcomers to this wonderful Heath Robinson contraption had spent weeks or longer getting acquainted. Perhaps it’d never work for me……………….. what a waste of time and money. The swell was making it quite hard work for us to maintain a steady course.
Half past ten it was we engaged the control lines to the tiller. After 5 mins we had her steering 160 degrees which was our desired heading. The wind vane flopped around and although it’s movement seemed random it seemed to be holding a course. This went on for a few minutes and slowly a beam of satisfaction spread across my disbelieving face……………………….. this went on for hour after hour including a course change at 8 o’clock until 1 in the morning when the wind backed. All we had to do was keep a look out for shipping and watch the dolphins who visited us all through the day. Twelve and a half hours this little beauty did it’s duty. What an amazing machine ! This will revolutionise our sailing making short handed passages much less tiring. But as we were appoaching the French coast a little human cunning was required to cope with a foul wind and tide so we disengaged the Monitor and took over.
We considered re routing to L’Aberwrac’h to shorten the trip but eventually we tacked around between Le Four and Ouessant in the last hours of darkness waiting for the tide to turn in our favour when we beat down the chenal du Four and around the corner to Camaret, where I now sit drooling in anticipation of my first Moules mariniere and Muscadet of the season.
That’s all for my first blog, dear reader. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to include some photos. I haven’t taken any yet but have been trying to get to know the Gopro which the children have given me to record the trip.