Boom! Caught with the Main up (and Pants Down) in Squalls Sailing Past Plymouth

Our longest passage to date without experts on board, and we made a big mistake…

to torquay

17 July 2019

17:30 Departing Falmouth Marina under power in high spirits, aiming for Weymouth in moderate wind. There’s a huge cruise liner in the harbour, so we tootle a few cables up the Fal until it’s out of the way.

falmouth cruiser

18:15 Sails up, engine off, and we’re really underway!

21:30 Putting theory into practice (and paying proper attention to the tides) has really paid off as we’re off Fowey, doing six knots over the ground. Getting gusty and swell rising, but nothing serious.

18 July 2019

00:30 Aleksandra at the helm, deliberately racing up and down the waves. The Garmin plotter tells us the previous highest SOG recorded on Amneris was 7.1 knots. Aleksandra’s just made her do 7.8. My other half is a secret speed freak!

01:00 Wind picking up more, and swell a couple of metres. It occurs to us that we should probably have put the main away by now, or at least put a reef in it. Off Eddystone lighthouse, but it’s only visible when we’re not in the trough of a wave. Ditto that bloody great cargo ship on the port bow. Sure there wasn’t anything on the weather forecast about this! Poor Aleksandra now seasick; hardly surprising, given the amount the swell is kicking up.

04:00 Yes, we should certainly have got rid of the main (don’t they say that if you think you need to reef you should already have done it?). We’ve spent the last three hours riding squalls of 30-plus knots, and to make matters worse the wind swung right round behind us. Combined with our lack of experience the result is that the main sheet shackle snapped and we’re flying along with the boom pinned to the shrouds. Looking for a silver lining in these rapidly moving clouds, at least it puts the main in a good position for running directly downwind in bouncy seas. All I’ve got to do is keep Amneris on course – or we’re going to get an almighty jibe. Decided to drop the Weymouth plan and head for Torquay… but first we need shelter in Start Bay to do something with this boom.

08:00 Tucked in behind Start Point. The wind has already begun to die off, but the shelter we have here means it’s really calm. Boom retrieved and tied off with a preventer (mistake two – didn’t have one of those on earlier, either), and after a look at the larger-scale charts for Start Bay and environs we’re underway. Engine first to negotiate Skerries Bank, then sailing again. It’s only with the genoa, but it’s a beautiful morning!

10:00 What a contrast. Now there’s almost no wind, and we’re making slow progress under sail. Very slow – but at least we’re sailing.

12:00 Coming into Torbay. Time to make a pilotage plan. I’ll save the Weymouth one for later.

13:00 Practically dead calm, engine on.

fixing torquay

14:30 Tied up on one of the Torquay Harbour pontoons. The marina a few metres away is twice the price, and it’s not as if it offers anything that we don’t have. Harbour – GBP 2 per metre per night, with the fourth night free; perfectly acceptable and clean facilities, and very friendly staff. We’ll stay here for a few days to explore, fix the boom, and get Amneris ready for the journey further east.

Read all our (B)logbook entries here.

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