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Sailing Dartmouth to Salcombe

This was one of those sails that we just didn’t get on with! Nothing went wrong as such but it just wasn’t one of our best 🤣

It didn’t really flow from the start when we were late leaving. Low water was in Dartmouth at 15.52 and we had planned to catch the last of the ebb tide out, with a plan to slip lines at approximately 3.00pm. We needed to fill up on water and dispose of our rubbish, but getting onto the water/rubbish pontoon on a sunny Sunday afternoon was rather troublesome as it was hugely popular! As such this delayed our departure meaning we didn’t leave the waste pontoon until 4.30pm. The tide had started to flood back in and it was a bit of a lumpy motor out through the entrance.

Of course the wind was pretty much coming from the direction we wanted to go and was higher than forecasted, averaging around 16knots. The sun was replaced by grey clouds, it was cold and we were the only boat out there. An hour after departing we were at 50˚16.966N 3˚33.11W, close hauled with a reef in both the main and head sail.

We kept pushing along but by 7.00pm we were only approaching Start Point at 50˚13.543N 3˚35.947W. The sea was uncomfortable and it felt as though we had tide against us, although according to the tidal stream it should have been in our favour, so this may have been a case of wind over tide. On the plus side the sun was trying to push through!

Start Point Lighthouse
Start point Lighthouse

Our West Country Cruising Companion book by Mark Fishwick* recommends arriving in Salcombe after half flood, and with high water in Salcombe expected just after 10pm, we were getting very aware that time was starting to slip away. The entrance to Salcombe is very dangerous in onshore winds and an ebb tide due to the bar which has a depth of just 1m LAT. We had to get in before 10pm otherwise we would have had to carry on to Plymouth, another 20 or so nautical miles away. Reluctantly we made the decision to put the engine on.

The ground swell here was fairly considerable and made for quite a ride! Even with the engine on and sails up we were only managing around 3.5 – 4 knots. The wind was still a south westerly at around 13 knots and by 8.00pm we were at position 50˚11.918N 3˚42.820W. Pot spotting became more difficult due to the ground swell, and there were plenty of them about to dart around!

As we approached Salcombe the entrance became quite dramatic with high cliffs and jagged rocks. There is a leading line to help guide you in, 000T˚, lining up the red and white beacon on the Poundstone and another beacon on Sandhill Point behind it, plus sector lights.

We crossed over the bar at around 9.00pm before lowering the main and proceeding into the harbour where we were met by the very friendly harbour master who advised us that they had a couple of buoys vacant off the Salcombe Harbour Hotel. He offered to take our lines as the buoys do not have pick up lines but we opted to lasso as we still needed to get ourselves sorted. Once on we attached our main lines, removed the lasso and got the dinner on!

It may not have been the best of sails, or the comfiest, but we had made it safely to yet another new destination and that’s what counts.

After a good night’s sleep we awoke to a beautiful morning…it was time to get exploring again!

Sunrise in Salcombe

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