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Here comes a Nuclear Submarine – Welcome to Plymouth!

From Salcombe we continued our journey west to Plymouth. Our destination for the night was Mayflower Marina so we could stock up on some food and explore Plymouth again. But mainly because they were the only ones in the area to have stock of the 907 2.7kg gas bottle we needed!

Last year we visited Plymouth and stayed a night at King Point Marina so it was nice to try somewhere different. We had just planned our passage down from Salcombe when we received a call from Charles at Mayflower who kindly informed us that the port would be closed for two hours due to the arrival of a nuclear submarine (31st May 2023). Fortunately with the tide times and direction it meant we could get in before it shut, and as it turned out we flew down, completing the passage in 4 hours from anchor up to mooring up.

After tying up in Mayflower we made our way to Plymouth Hoe to watch the arrival of the submarine. As the port started to close down it was interesting to watch the police vessels quickly ‘shoo away’ any boat or persons that started to head out into the harbour.

HMS Victorious (S29) arriving into Plymouth

The submarine sailed past RFA Lyme Bay, a Bay-class auxiliary landing ship, which was moored in the bay before it was slowly tugged through the harbour by 4 Serco tug boats – SD Adept, SD Powerful, SD Careful and SD Faithful. Some of the crew stood on the hull as she made her way to Devonport, the largest naval base in Western Europe.

Information surrounding the arrival was limited. There seemed to be very little coverage by the local media and the notice to mariners only informed of the port closure. The twitter page @NavyLookout later posted that it was HMS Victorious, a Vanguard-class nuclear submarine which has come into Devonport for a 4 year refit, estimated to cost in the region of £300 million.

The nuclear submarine heads to Devonport

After the excitement of watching a nuclear submarine arrive we took the opportunity to enjoy a bit more of the city. First up we headed to the top of Smeaton’s Tower, probably one of the most iconic landmarks in the South West. The lighthouse was originally built in 1759 on the Eddystone Rocks, a dangerous set of rocks approximately 9 miles southwest of Rame Head, but was moved to the Hoe in the early 1880s when it was discovered that the sea was eroding the rock it was built on. At 72 foot high, Smeaton’s Tower offers fantastic views over the city and waterfront and has been carefully restored to its originally glory. Plus admission was only £5, so we can highly recommend it!

Smeaton’s Tower

A pleasant stroll around the water’s edge takes you to The Mayflower Steps in The Barbican area of Plymouth. It is close to the site from where it is believed that the Pilgrim Fathers finally left England aboard the Mayflower on 6 September 1620, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to settle in North America. There is a portico made from Portland Stone and a small platform over the water to commemorate the spot.

Mayflower Steps

The Barbican area is a beautiful old port, with quaint historic buildings, art galleries, cafes, restaurants and pubs that you know have heard many a salty sea dog tale! Interestingly the Barbican area also has the largest concentration of cobbled streets in Britain, so comfy shoes are a must! Check out our post from last season for some more photos.

Heading up into the city centre we came across the remains of over 100 trees that had been cut down in the middle of the night by Plymouth Council to make way for a £12.7m development. The ‘massacre’ of these healthy trees sparked outrage across the city and led to protests.19 trees remained and a injunction was put in place to prevent these being cut down but it was all too late for the others. Locals left messages and tied coloured ribbons to the fencing in front of the felled trees to express their disgust.

‘Every Tree Matters’
The remains of the trees cut down at night

Back at the marina we were surprised at just how swelly it gets in here, especially from passing boats. The tyres that act as snubbers should probably have set off alarm bells in our heads! 😬 The yachts on the outer visiting pontoon really took a pounding when a swell came in, and even though we were in a berth on the inside of it we still bounced up and down. There was also an incredible amount of seaweed/logs/twigs build up. However there was no denying that the Royal William Yard offered an impressive backdrop!

Tyres acting as snubbers!
Quite a build up!
But a fabulous backdrop!

The nightly rate at Mayflower was £4.30 per metre (May 2023) which includes electricity. There is a Lidl supermarket approximately 20 minutes walk away with an Aldi shortly afterwards.

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