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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Reflections on Rowing Round Cornwall

Many thanks to family and friends who supported this event and also for generously supporting CASPA.
Rowing out into the Atlantic in a 12 foot.6 inch boat, even only two miles away from land, definitely creates a mild sense of anxiety even if it wasn't mine but my family and friends. I see fear as a welcome reaction in this instance, helping me to take care not to do something stupid.
I was aware that around the west coast of Cornwall there are numerous shipwrecks and people have considerable respect for the sea. Chatting in the pub at the Bridge Inn near where I stayed in the winter to help explore the coastal path, one local described how a fisherman had recently drowned and his body was found several miles up the coast. There was concern about my plan to row round the coast and I found myself reassuring people about my caution and level of experience.

In a small Norman church in Zennor close to the Cornish coastal path I found this card:

To me, it sums up the fear of the sailor. There is a Portugese proverb - "if you want to learn how to pray, go to sea."
Fear can also bring with it contentment for some.
"I tasted once again the greatest joy which small boat cruising can offer: the satisfying contentment of an anxious passage successfully achieved. Eric Hiscock, Wandering under Sail.
Not to be complacent, of course.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

PicoMicroYacht Rounds Land's End

Overnight, in the hotel overlooking Sennen Cove I could hear the surf pounding on the beach.  But by the morning it had calmed down and the surfers were going to be disappointed.

I had the morning to prepare and gradually a group of CASPA runner support people and friends turned up in anticipation of the runners arriving from Pendeen and also to see me go.
I chatted and then went down to the beach and several people helped me drag the boat off the sand into the water. We bantered.'You must be mad - I have looked at the sea and it is rough out there.' 'no it isn't it's quite calm really' I replied, knowing it was not.


Inside the harbour it was calm and I was able to get PicoMicroYacht completely ready for the voyage.

I called up the Falmouth Coastguard on the radio. They asked whether I had a shore party. I hesitated in my reply because I thought they might not believe me if I said "well there are about 20 people running along the cliff tops looking out for me and my wife is on the mobile phone"

There was time to take photographs of the people seeing me off.

I had been studying the sea carefully and saw there was only white water where it broke against the rocks. There was a commotion but not enough to upset PicoMicroYacht.

Quickly I was off, rowing down the Tribbens, a narrow channel between some rocks and the shore, feeling my way along trying to find the right line to avoid the worse of the turbulence. I had chosen the best time to use the channel, high tide.

PicoMicroYacht was pushed upwards by the oncoming waves and bouncing down the other side, but no water broke over the boat and I felt in control.

As I pulled away from the land the waves became considerably larger, with smaller cross waves, but I was struck by how little wind there was given the commotion of the sea.
I was looking to position myself between the Longships lighthouse and the shore, enough out to sea to avoid any overfalls but trying to avoid two treacherous rocks, known as Kettle's Bottom. Everything was going to plan, and I moved forward gingerly looking out for rough patches.

                                 Longships Lighthouse with large wave passing in the foreground
As I neared Land's End I could see the gothic like architecture of the cliffs with houses perched on the top. The people sending me off had disappeared from view. I had to force myself to stop and take some photographs because the temptation was to keep moving forwards.

I became aware of the noise of a ship and looked round to see a large catamaran motoring towards me with sails up. I altered course to signal I was manoeuvring out of the way, following collision regulations. But the catamaran kept alterning course as if not seeing me. So I turned 90 degrees and rowed hard to make sure I was clear and in doing so I was seen.

        The catamaran heading off past Land's End on the right with Cape Cornwall in the distance

I headed the for the Runnel Stone buoy, which marks the passage avoiding a hazardous rock pinacle off Gwennap Head. As I drew near I heard a bell clanging and a moaning noise. The buoy is fitted with a bell that sounds with wave movement and also with a whistle set in a tube, which makes the moaning noise whenever there is a good swell. The doleful atmosphere it created contrasted with the bright blue sky.

                                                                        The Runnel Stone buoy
Soon I could just see the Minack Theatre and the two beaches of Porthcurno. At this point I was 1.5 miles out and the shore party could just see me, my rowing blades catching the sun and flickering.
The sea became calmer and the wind dropped off near to nothing and I was joined by two small fishing boats, one of which seemed to keep station about 100 metres away but then continued fishing.

Eventually PicoMicoYacht was rounding the headland into Mounts Bay and St Michael's Mount could be seen in the distance. Mousehole was on the left and I was reeling in the miles.
I arrived on the hard sandy beach at Marazion to be met by two friends who helped me take the boat out of the water.
I checked the distance - it was 19 nautical miles and had taken five hours.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

No rowing yesterday but today PicoMicroYacht rounds Land's End

Yesterday the wind was too strong, a headwind gusting over 20 knots and the sea too rough to be out in a small boat, giving PicoMicoYacht at rest.

I had various alternatives to rowing - one was to put a rowing machine on the sea front in St Ives and 'row' the same distance whilst collecting money and the other was to cycle instead.

But I opted for going with the CASPA runners. We set off from Carbis bay, going through St Ives and on to Pendeen.

I haven't been doing any running training, so I was allowed half an hour head start and also I jogged through St Ives whilst the CASPA runners took their time having refreshments and wandering around with what they call the red boot in which people who want to donate can put in pound.

The red boot carrier, who I nickname the golden boot because he is so aimable that people find it even easier to give to CASPA, has to empy it at the refreshment stops because it gets too heavy.

Gorse everywhere

I pushed on ahead, wondering when the CASPA runners would overtake me, but then it dawned on me that most of the time we couldn't run properly - as on a flat road - so they might not be catching me up very fast. The coast path was strewn with rocks which meant picking your way at fast walking pace and then getting into a jog when it became more smooth. The up and down cliff tops were so steep it was like doing step  training in the gym.

My knees ached, but the good thing was that all the muscles that I had used the day before didn't seem to be required - instead a different set of muscles, which complained in a different way, but nevertheless were fairly fresh.

Along the way I was distracted by the spring flowers, seals and people coming in the opposite direction peering at my bright yellow CASPA shirt.

The weather has improved today, so I am going have a go at rounding Landsend and round the coast to St Mounts bay.

 View of the rocks off Sennen Cove with Cape Cornwall in the distance

Friday, 3 May 2013

Portreath to St Ives - An Early Start

The first day of the four day row was to be a 9 mile voyage down the north coast of Cornwall.

The plan was for everyone to set off for St Ives  Portreath at 1.00, coinciding with high tide - I would have the advantage of the westerly ebb tide down to St Ives.

But the forecast predicted strong head winds for the afternoon and my only chance was to go very early in the morning when the winds were light, catching the last of the ebb tide.

This meant a 4.00 am start, rigging PicoMicroYacht in the dark and leaving Portreath at 5.30.

Rowing out of Portreath bay I went inside the large rock just west of the bay - a large wave swept up the side of the rock and created a snarling noise as if to say 'don't mess with the sea round here.'

As the sun rose, the sea and sky became a deep blue colour and the coastal scenary a mellow green, the sun gradually burning off the haze over the land.

There was a long swell with superimposed smaller waves caused by the wind and  every so often PicoMicoYacht crashed into the steeper ones with a thump, with a fine spray covering the boat. I had expected  a somewhat confuse sea, but PicoMicroYacht was coping really well with it.

My course took me several miles out to sea to avoid a huge reef called the 'Stones' close to the Godrevy lighthouse. As I headed for the outside of the reef I could see the sea breaking over parts of it. The wind was rising and the tide turning against me and it was hard going getting past it. I reached the Stones buoy, marking the outside of the reef, and turned sharply into St Ives bay.

The Stones buoy with some of the 'Stones' just visible in the distance

The tide and wind was sweeping me back along the bay, but I kept moving as fast as possible to get close to shore where the tide was weaker and I was more protected from the wind. It was slow going but I arrived in a small bay near St Ives - Carbis bay - the trip taking four and a half hours.