We leave the Scillies early the next morning, just as the sun is rising. We are aiming for Padstow, the nearest place with a deep enough harbour on the southwest coast, but it is nearly 70 NM away, and we also need to be there in time before the harbour lock gates close before low tide. We have done all our calculations carefully and think we can just about make it if we leave at 0500 in the morning. Our mooring neighbours, Noggin and Serin y Mohr, who are travelling together, have the same idea. We motor out of the Sound, past Cromwell’s Castle, and set a course for the northeast towards the sunrise.
The wind has gone round to the northeast, the same direction we are heading, but it is just enough off our nose to catch some of its energy without tacking. Close hauled, we speed along at a merry rate, even reefing from time to time as the wind reaches 20 knots.
The Isles of Scilly fade from view. The First Mate goes below to have a nap, and I sit alone in the cockpit. Just me and the sea. Now and then the radar and AIS pick up a vessel somewhere in the distance, usually well before I can see it visually. The wind is cold and I put on one of the jackets we bought in Portsmouth. There is lots of time to think.
The small boy wakes up early and rushes into the lounge where the Christmas presents lie under the tree. His parents are already up. Eagerly, he opens the ones labelled for him; one is a book by Robert Louis Stevenson called “Treasure Island”. He curls up on the sofa and begins reading, and is immediately taken into a swashbuckling world of pirates, schooners, shoulder parrots, tropical islands and treasure chests. He envies Jim Hawkins and the adventures he has looking for the treasure left by Captain Flint – he would love to do something similar, to sail in a boat and discover new islands, fight evil buccaneers, and find buried treasure to make his fortune. Perhaps one day he would. He parents call him for breakfast …
We eventually near Padstow where the River Camel reaches the sea. The town and harbour are a little way up the river and we must cross the ominously named Doom Bar and navigate our way up a narrow channel to reach them. As calculated, it is near high water and we have enough depth to cross the bar without mishap. Luckily the channel has red and green buoys making its extent, but even so, we take a wrong turning, and end up in The Pool, a patch of deeper water where a number of small boats are moored. A weary-sounding voice comes on to the VHF and warns us that we are heading in the wrong direction, and please go back to the last red buoy and turn left. It is the Padstow harbourmaster, who had been watching us come in. It seems as if it must be a common mistake that visiting yachtspeople make.
We make it to the harbour gate eventually, and are given instructions to turn to starboard immediately after entering the harbour and raft up to two other boats as space is limited. We find the boats, edge alongside, lines are thrown across, and we are safely tied up for another night. The only thing is that we have to cross two other boats to get to shore. But we do have power and water at least. The harbour gate shuts behind us.
Our new neighbours turn out to be four retired friends, David, Mike, Mike and Patrick, on their annual sailing expedition. The boat is based in Falmouth, and this year they have been exploring the Bristol Channel and had made it all the way to Gloucester up the River Severn. Now they are on their way back. Apparently the Severn is navigable to Gloucester, where there is a port, but they say that it wasn’t easy and that they had grounded several times where the depth was less than that shown on the chart. Nevertheless, they had enjoyed it immensely, and recommend that we try it. Unfortunately, we don’t really have the time, but we mark it down as a potential future expedition.
We explore Padstow. It is an old fishing harbour, and is still used as such – tied up opposite us are two large trawlers. However, its main reason d’etre now seems to be for the summer tourists. It has a chocolate box charm, but most shops are selling only arts, crafts and fast food. One woman we talk to tells us wryly that there is nothing for local people any more, and that they have to travel to Wadebridge for their supplies. We try and imagine what it must be like in the winter, once all the crowds and good weather have gone.
We eat our dinner that night on deck in the warm balmy evening, feeling part of the nightlife. On the other side of the harbour, guitar chords come from the Custom House pub, the crowds of tourists drink, laugh and sing, and the other sailors sip their wine slowly, also on deck. There is a vibrancy in the air, the sky is blue, the water is smooth as a mirror, and we feel something special about sitting on Ruby Tuesday and being in the middle of it all. Everything is alright with the world, tonight at least.