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Weir Quay Sailing Camp 2022

Weir Quay was a small camp for those particularly interested in dinghy sailing on an adventurous river. Weir Quay is on the Tamar River, and to the North the river is rural and narrow, with the gusty and flukey winds that rivers have; to the south the river opens wider, and there’s a lovely sail to be had to Plymouth Harbour and beyond. We were hosted by Weir Quay Sailing Club, and we were made to feel very welcome. WQSC Committee Members facilitated arrangements with local landowners to allow us to hold this camp, and we are very grateful to them for allowing us the opportunity to share this beautiful and interesting part of Devon with us.

This report with photos was created by pretty much all the members of the club who attended the camp – thanks to them for their photos and words.

Day 1 Friday

Many of us arrived, pitched our tents and joined Weir Quay Sailing Club for their Friday evening sail.

There were loads of both adults and youth waiting to sail and we stood back to let them have a fair crack at the slipway before we launched. There was a lovely moment when they introduced us and apparently the way of introducing new members is they find the name and then everybody shouts “hello Mel, hello Steve” and so on. It was really nicely done. The sail was quite brisk and a sort of north-westerly force three-slightly-four and an ebbing tide which made for chaos and gentle, brilliantly enjoyable fun on the water with people ending up on the shore as either side with some people needing to be pulled into deeper water by the safety boat. When we noticed that we couldn’t sail fully across the channel against the tide anymore because the tide was ebbing so strongly, we struck for up-river and tack tack tacked up the side, out of the main force of the tide, up to the corner where the wind died and we gently sailed back to the slipway. We walked up and said hello to the people at the club, they were all very busy putting engines away and sorting the kids out and drinking hot chocolate, so we just saw what a beautifully organised sailing club it was and came back to our field to socialise for the evening.

Rob arrived overnight and bivvied up under a clear dark stary sky for the rest of the night, seeing some fantastic shooting stars to round off the trip down.  He was the first to meet “Kevin”, who wondered what this mound of moving Goretex on the field was. More on Kevin later.

Day 2 Saturday

The weather on Saturday was an extraordinarily clear blue sky from horizon to horizon, full sun, warm and with a gentle breeze initially from the north. Ged arrived with his Storm in tow in time for the afternoon sail. We waited until 1 o’clock, when the flood tide started, for a 5 mile sail to Cotehele and we beat into the wind all the way there.

Boats tied to the shore

Unfortunately earlier on in the sail Andy and Vanessa capsized on one of the second or third tacks of the day. They were able to get their boat up but Vanessa’s dry suit was leaky and so Vanessa was quite damp for the journey to a destination. There were moments of river sailing where there was no wind at all so we drifted a little bit and there were eddies and we enjoyed the variable winds that came at us.

Drying in the sun

Mel and Steve saw a squirrel swimming across the river. Mike, Rob and Adri saw an otter. When we arrived at the National Trust property the tide was a couple of hours before high. We beached the boats on the mud and tied them to the shore and enjoyed ice cream, millionaire shortbread, more ice cream, some beers and lounged around in the Sun while Vanessa dried herself in the sun.

Day 3 Sunday

The weather was windless and wet, apart from a f5 for 20 mins while we were enjoying breakfast at the boatyard. While Rob went into Plymouth to do his shopping and run some errands for Steve and Mike, we went for a walk with Rosie around Cotts Loop and had an invite from a senior gardener to his beautiful garden. That set the tone for Rosie getting us invited to many other people’s houses, and we went into a huge barn, and the industrial landscape of a smelting works for silver, lead and tin, now landscaped beautifully into an impressive garden.

Later that afternoon we drove to Morwhellham quay and enjoyed cheese scones and tea and coffee. Bistromathics was in full effect, and the number of scones we asked for, the number that arrived, the number on the bill and what we actually paid were all different. The scones were hot from being baked just for us and were delicious.

Day 4 Monday

The overnight dense fog lifted to a cloudy day with no wind being reported on XCWeather below Milton Keynes, no wind anywhere in the south. The clouds built while stationary and then the gentle movement of wind from the west drove the rain over us. Lisbeth arrived. The forecast every hour looked like it would stop raining shortly, so much sleeping and resting occurred until about 5pm when the rain finally stopped leaving barely a whisper of wind. Adri, Lisbeth, Mike, Andy and Vanessa took to the river and drifted about, Ged then rowed up river solo and when a gentle breeze of wind arrived Mel and Steve launched and headed up-river against the spring ebb. Rob then solo-sailed his Trio, and we all gave up when the tide was stronger than the wind. Martin and Ben arrived. We had a late night campfire which everyone attended, we enjoyed a conversation about favourite foods (in the style of Off Menu Podcast)  and repaired to bed at 2330.

Day 5 Tuesday 

The day started cold. Kevin Duck was fed. The forecast was for wind at 09:00 with showers, then bubbly clouds and sunny. We left in very light airs, Storm17 Ged Ben Lisbeth, Trio Rob Adri, Trio Mel Steve, GP Mike Debbie, Vision Vanessa Andy. 

Launching at the public slipway

Just at launching and soon after leaving we were hit by cold rain which killed the wind and we drifted south. People had got cold so we stopped on a horrible muddy, rocky lee shore at the Ferry House Inn and the Tamar River Sailing Club (TRSC) just south of the bridges. However, we were greeted by a very hospitable chap by the name of Graham who saw us landing from his house and came out to welcome us. He turned out to be a member of the TRSC, living in the house next door to the club and with his yacht moored within sight of his sitting room off the beach (some life!). He gave Andy and Vanessa (fellow yacht owners now) his details, and we chatted about Cody and mentioned our Helford Camp, which he may drop in on us from his yacht which he will be sailing to Helford over the summer from the Tamar.The pub served us well with hot drinks and lunch. When the tide turned we carried beached boats to the water and beat back in a gusty F4, with the fast moving tidal current under us, to our slipway, in sunshine interrupted by bubbly clouds. Some landed on the slipway in a controlled manner with their mainsails down… some approached on a broad reach, both sails pulling!  It took us about 1 3/4 hours from the bridges to the slipway but it seemed much faster.

Day 6 Wednesday

The forecast showed no wind all day which turned out to be Not True, however we found other things to do, so we walked the Tamar Trail to Bere Ferrers and enjoyed a late lunch at The Old Plough. Some shuttled in cars home. Some sailing was snatched at the very end of the day, along with a visit to the Stannery Arms pub in Tavistock to listen to and join in with some local Shanty Singers having their rehearsals which was much enjoyed by Mike and the rest of us. Rob left with his boat that evening for Jubilee celebrations at home, to be replaced by Morgan and Simon arriving that evening and the following morning respectively.

Kevin joined us for porridge.

This is Kevin. He is Very Bold. If you don’t feed him he’ll nip your legs.

Kevin was an unexpected treat; a very tame and yet wild duck who visited us each day for food. He’s been being fed by the locals for a long time, and he knows what the sound of a crisp packet means. If you don’t feed him he’ll nip at your shins. Adri led the way with providing Kevin with porridge oats and water, and he was a very happy duck.

Day 7 Thursday 

Glorious sail to Bovisand in full sun and a F3 from the East.

We decided to go sailing whatever the forecast because the forecasts had been inaccurate all week. 

Launching at the public slipway
  • Trio Mel Steve 
  • Storm Ged Debbie
  • Versa Martin Ben 
  • Trio Simon Morgan 
  • GP14 Mike Adri
  • Vision Andy Vanessa

Having got to Cremyll in a very good time, the Easterly caused us a challenge; every landing place nearby was a lee shore. We decided to sail across Plymouth Sound to Bovisand, which was full of swimmers and a beach just to the south was ok for beaching dinghies.

On the beach south of Bovisand

We beached, had our lunch, got cake and drinks from the shop and waited for the tide to come back. The return journey was downwind and with the tide with us we made it back in a couple of hours. Nearly 24 miles of daysailing and a lovely lunch stop made this a special day. 

Day 8 Friday

We were invited to join Weir Quay for a sail to Drakes Island, for which Steve from Weir Quay SC had gained permission from the QHM. It was a fairly windless sunny day. We had to hide from the incoming navy vessel and spent a while in a wind hole. The destination was excellent and felt remote and exclusive apart from all the other people also on the island.

On the beach at Drakes Island

The return was punctuated with wind holes and rowing or outboards were used to get over the drifting bits. 

  • Trio Steve Mel Ben 
  • Trio Simon Steph Morgan 
  • Vision Andy Adri 
  • Storm Ged Vanessa Martin 
  • GP14 Mike Lisbeth 
  • Bosun Alan Debbie

The day was superbly organised and we were made very welcome. Thank you.

We attended the WQ boatyard BBQ in the evening, as guests of WQSC, and enjoyed music and burgers and sausage and ice cream, and chatting to the locals. WQ Boatyard featured prominently in breakfasting and in hiding from the rain, and we were made very welcome. Thank you.

At the Jubilee Celebrations at WQ Boatyard.

Day 9 Saturday 

Rain from 2am and thunder in the distance welcomed Saturday and the rain cleared mid morning. The forecast was still solidly F6 although there was less wind across the camp. We mobbed Weir Quay Boatyard for breakfast and watched the wind increase.

This is why we did not go sailing on Saturday…

Day 10 Sunday

We sailed from 10am up river until the tide stopped us making progress in light airs. At 14:00 we sailed for two hours downriver as far as just before the Torcross ferries and then sailed home. Steph and Alan’s boat lost a jib fairlead and sailed half the upwind leg on main alone. 

Sailing under the bridges

All but Adri, Mike, Mel and Steve left, and we shared a curry and cakes. 

Day 11 Monday

After a heavy dew wetted everything the sun came out and mostly dried the tents off. We simply packed up, said our goodbyes and left for either home, or as Adri did, an additional extension to the holiday for another night.