West Country Cruise - Exeter to Falmouth

Recommended places to take your Cape Cutter 19 with details of anchorages, marinas etc

West Country Cruise - Exeter to Falmouth

Postby Runrig » Wed May 31, 2017 8:01 am

Some information small boat sailors may find useful when cruising in the West Country. The information draws on a 10 day cruise in Fraoch (Cape Cutter sail no. 111) in May 2017.
May seems to be a time when easterlies and southerlies blow in the Channel so this seemed a good time to cruise west from Exeter.

Topsham on the outskirts of Exeter has good motorway and rail links, useful if planning to cruise in one direction.
It also has a very helpful boatyard in Trouts boatyard with a pontoon accessible at all states of tide, facility for craning in and storage on the edge of Topsham for cars and trailers. Topsham is also a very pleasant old town to spend an evening in with some fine inns and a café serving home made ice cream. My favourite is 'The Pig and Pallet' tucked away at the end of the quay, a café, a bar, a restaurant and they make their own salamis. Worth a visit.

An early morning HW was the time to leave the Exe giving time for the cruise across Torbay to Brixham.

Brixham has visitor pontoons directly in front of you as you enter the marina. These are close to town, have good showers, wifi and a flock of seagulls who can be noisy and messy in the early hours! £16 for a 19' boat per night. 'Simply Fish' does great fish and chips to take away and has a fine seafood restaurant. Live music is a feature of many of the pubs in the town

It is a short hop around Berry Head and Sabbacombe Head to the beautiful River Dart. Pontoon moorings are available for short stays or overnight outside the Dartmouth Yacht Club immediately to port after the Lower Ferry. £7 for a short stay up to 4pm. Dues are paid in the harbourmasters office just up from the pontoon. Public showers are further along the promenade by the Royal Avenue Gardens.

One of the beauties of small boat sailing is cruising areas larger boats would struggle to reach. Cruising the Dart up river from Dartmouth, Bow Creek is off to port after Dittisham. On a rising tide the buoyed channel in the creek can be followed as far as the village of Tuckenhay. 'The Maltsters' is a welcoming riverside inn renowned for its fish dishes. There is a floating pontoon free for pub visitors and showers for a nominal fee. The pontoon dries at low water.

Continuing south and westward from Dartmouth Start Point needs to be given a wide berth if the weather is poor. Salcombe provides good shelter and when not busy the harbourmaster will allow you to stay on the pontoons with walking access to the town next to the Normandy Pontoon. Good showers and a fine bakery along with great views of the estuary from the Ferry Inn provide an enjoyable evening but supplies in the town are limited with a good butchers only one small grocers / greengrocers and the bakery.

The next leg of the cruise was Salcombe to Plymouth. This proved to be one of the more challenging legs largely due to calling into the River Yealm by Newton Ferris for a lunchtime stop. The bar at the mouth of the Yealm is easily navigated keeping to the buoyed channel to starboard and following the 2 sets of leading marks. There are several visitor buoys and mooring pontoons in the pool before Newton Ferris but none have walking access to the town. There is one pontoon below the town which provide short stay access to the new toilet and shower block but it is not intended for overnight berths.

The difficulty for us arose when leaving the Yealm and needing to round Mews Rock to gain Plymouth Sound. With a freshening breeze and confused sea, staysail and motor were the best way to make headway. Once into the Sound and inside the breakwater things calmed considerably!

Queen Anne Battery Marina has easy access, by means of a footbridge, to the historic centre of Plymouth around The Hoe and The Barbican . The quayside in the Barbican can feel like any city centre on a Friday night but The Dolphin Inn provides a very warm welcome (literally - they had a roaring coal fire going in May). Further along the quay 'Platters' a fish restaurant not only serve lovely fish pie, they will also come and collect you from the Dolphin Inn when your table is ready and allow you to bring your pub drinks with you to the restaurant.

Plymouth to Fowey was another hop along the coast passing through Looe Bay. The entrance to Fowey opens up and leading marks give a sector of safe arrival between 33 and 22 degrees. There are several opportunities to moor in the sheltered harbour but sailing past the town brings you to Penmarlam Quay to starboard, opposite the china clay loading dock. This is a pontoon and moorings managed by the Fowey Harbour Authority. It is a beautiful tucked away spot which boasts a chandlers, a boatyard, a friendly café bar, clean showers (£1 coin required) and parking for boats, trailers and cars. A short steep walk up the hill is a well stocked campsite shop which has all the essentials including a range of fresh fruit and veg. The only downside is it requires a walk and a ferry to cross to Fowey town.

The forecast for the following day after leaving Fowey was for heavy rain and very strong winds. The plan was made to sail to Falmouth and use the good rail connections from there to spend the storm bound day returning to Exeter to collect car and trailer ready for haul out. Although my preference may have been to moor at Mylor Yacht Haven the need to reach the train station early led us to moor on the inner pontoons of Falmouth Marina. A long beat covering 42 miles led us to arrive late on a Sunday evening to Falmouth. Not the best time to find somewhere to eat and we were reduced to a takeaway Chinese eaten in the Seven Stars in Penryn. Most days Penryn would be a good destination for food and supplies and is closer to the marina than the walk into Falmouth. The unwelcome surprise when returning to Falmouth Marina after cruising further west was the whopping £150 standard fee for lifting the boat out and putting on the trailer. I should have asked!

Once the bad weather had blown through the cruise continued west across Falmouth Bay to the Helford River. A large starboard buoy marks the edge of August Rocks at the entrance to the river and a North Cardinal marks the dangers to port further into the river. Having tried and failed to find a channel that would give access to Port Navas Yacht Club pontoon, we returned to the main river to find the passage as far as Gweek boatyard. Past Frenchman's Creek to port and the river winds between drying banks. Keeping to the outside of the bends provides the best water and the final mile to Gweek and its seal sanctuary is a well marked channel. The cruise up-river to Gweek was one of the highlights of the cruise Not least thanks to the friendly liveaboards on the restored fishing vessel 'Brittania', Martin and Beverely. They allowed us to moor alongside their freshly painted hull and offered refreshments and directions to the excellent Black Swan Inn and well stocked village stores. The boatyard has toilets and showers with VERY hot water. Reporting to the boatyard office next morning we were greeted with the unheard of news that 'oh we don't charge visitors'.

Sailing back across Falmouth Bay we practised hoving-to and steering without rudder by balancing the sails. The Cape Cutter performed both admirably.

Returning to trailer and car at Falmouth Marina there is a sill with a depth marker which has to be crossed to access the inner pontoons and lift out. It can be cleared for about 3 hours either side of HW.

A great cruise for a small boat, combining coastal cruising and the chance to explore some great places upstream. The joys of Cape Cutter Cruising.
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Re: West Country Cruise - Exeter to Falmouth

Postby ianrmaciver » Wed May 31, 2017 8:33 pm

An excellent log of your cruise and a terrific resource for anyone cruising the area.
I hope to sail the South Coast next year and will use the log as my informal "pilot".
Well done.
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Re: West Country Cruise - Exeter to Falmouth

Postby Dennis » Thu Jun 01, 2017 2:19 pm

I enjoyed reading your account Paul.
What a super cruise you must have had. You describe beautifully the reason why many of us own boats like the Capecutter . :)


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Re: West Country Cruise - Exeter to Falmouth

Postby oak » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:06 pm

Thanks for the postings,very interesting haven't cruised the west country since the late 50s early 60s,things seemed to have changed.£150 lift out ,crikey thats my budget for the year here in Ireland.
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