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West Country Cruising: A Recap of 630 Nautical Miles

If you’ve been following our blog then you’ll know that we spent the summer of 2022 cruising the beautiful West Country of the UK. Our last post found us in the beautiful anchorage of St Mawes, close to Falmouth in Cornwall. As our journey home east was pretty similar to our journey down west we’ve ended the more detailed posts there. We’ve been documenting our travels since we started back on the Isle of Wight, and if you want to start at the beginning then click here, but if not we’ll give you a quick recap now of our 108 nights cruising the West Country!

Now some people do not class ‘Dorset’ as the West Country. A YouGov poll showed that only 55% classed Dorset as being in the West Country but Wikipedia does include Dorset, with the boundary up where it meets the Solent. Personally we don’t feel that the ‘West Country’ really starts until you’ve crossed Lyme Bay into Devon! But Dorset is part of the South West, so we’ve included it here, and of course it all falls under our ‘South West’ cruising section!

Heading West

First night at anchor was in Totland Bay on the Isle of Wight where we spent the night watching a thunderstorm and praying that a bolt of lightning wouldn’t hit us and end our cruising season before we had even started! The next day we had a fairly lively sail out through the Needles Channel over to Poole where we spent a few days at anchor in the South Deep in Poole Harbour before heading over to Studland Bay to wait our weather window to cross Lyme Bay.

Our crossing to Torquay was calm but unfortunately a motor sail of some 67 nautical miles due to a lack of wind. We spent a week at the town quay in Torquay exploring what the English Riviera had to offer however it was here that we witnessed a shocking boat fire resulting in a Superyacht being completely destroyed 🙁

Dartmouth, Devon

Moving on we sailed the short distance to Dartmouth and got to enjoy the delights that this quaint town had to offer during the Jubilee Celebrations before heading around Start Point and into the beautiful estuary of Salcombe, a stunning place that we absolutely fell in love with but somewhere we found to be rather swelly! 🥴

A rolly departure out of Salcombe presented itself before a close hauled sail along the coast to Cawsand Bay where we anchored for the night before heading into King Point Marina in Plymouth. We spent a night here catching up on some laundry, stocking up on supplies and got to briefly explore the beautiful ‘Ocean City’ of Plymouth before we anchored back at Cawsands for a few days.

We endured a rolly old sail to our next stop Fowey but it was worth it as this really is a gem of a place! Sadly with some bad weather coming in we only got to enjoy Fowey for a few days before deciding to make our run further west and take shelter in Falmouth.We stayed here for a few days and explored this popular Cornish town before setting off on our big one – the sail to the Scilly Isles!

We decided to split the sail into two legs. Our first leg took us around the southerly most part of the UK – The Lizard – before we tacked our way up into Mount’s Bay and took a mooring buoy outside of Penzance. The next day we headed out past Land’s End, out into the Atlantic Ocean and enjoyed a somewhat heavily heeled sail over to the Scilly Isles!

The Scilly Isles

Porthcressa, Isles of Scilly

This had been our target for this year and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, rugged coastlines and lush ferns, the Scilly Isles truly are a touch of paradise. With it being early July it was starting to get quite busy with visiting yachtsmen, and we particularly noticed an increase in French flagged vessels as the days went by. We chose to stay on a mooring buoy in St Mary’s, the main island, and explored a couple of the other islands either by ‘tripper’ boat or in our own dinghy. However we were always keeping a close eye on the weather. As others had commented ‘any sign of the weather turning make your run back to the mainland’; the Scilly Isles are not a place you want to get stuck in when the weather deteriorates.

Heading East

And so after 9 nights exploring this beautiful archipelago of islands in the Atlantic Ocean it was time to start heading back. Our sail started off pretty perfect; despite being against the tide we had a good 17-20 knots of wind on the beam and were averaging around 5.5 knots. And this is when we encountered our first ever pod of dolphins at the bow – an incredible experience! However the latter part of this sail was not as enjoyable; we had wind against tide, the wind had picked up to around 22 knots from the direction we needed to go in and the waves were steep and short. Needless to say we were relieved to finally reach Falmouth nearly 15 hours after leaving the Scillies!

After the excitement (if you can call it that!) of the sail back from St Mary’s it was nice to head up the Fal and enjoy some tranquility. We anchored in the Truro River and benefited from some peace and quiet for over a week before retreating back down river and spending a night at St Mawes, close to the entrance of the Fal.

We then enjoyed a nice sail from Falmouth to Plymouth, a distance of just over 38 nautical miles. Pretty much a beam reach all the way with an average wind speed of 14 knots, the conditions don’t get much better than this!

After a hot weekend in Cawsand Bay we headed on to Dartmouth. As we weighed anchor we were experiencing the effects of a katabatic wind from the hills in front of us; it was gusting up to 20 knots. But as soon as we moved away from the shore the wind dropped down to 7 knots. We had to motor most of this ‘sail’ as the wind was light and pretty much on the nose however after rounding Start we could switch off the engine and enjoyed a beautiful, if somewhat short, sail hugging the coast of Start Bay up to the entrance to Dartmouth.

After 10 days in Dartmouth catching up with friends who were holidaying in the area we were ready to cross back across Lyme. The day started with a 5.20am departure but with a wind speed of just 3 knots, it was a motor sail for us. However we did get dolphins again! By 12.00 the wind had switched to a south-westerly but with only 5 knots of wind we had to rig a preventer as there just wasn’t enough to keep the sails filled. An hour and a half later we were in position 50˚27.170N 2˚28.989W, south of Portland Bill. With the tidal race ‘whizzing’ us around the Bill, even touching 10 knots at one point, we were making good progress. Our initial plan was to head into Portland for the night but as we still had some tide in our favour and plenty of daylight hours ahead of us, we resorted to our ‘back up’ plan which was to continue on to Swanage.

The latter part of this sail was hard going! Although we were going well with an average speed of 7.5 knots both the wind and the sea was increasing in strength. The boat was ‘surfing’ the following seas but was ever so rolly; so glad we had the preventer rigged! By the time we arrived near Durlston the tide was starting to turn and we were beginning to experience a case of wind against tide, very similar to that we had endured on our sail back from the Scilly Isles. The tidal race at Durlston was starting to kick up a bit and with rolly seas it was rather uncomfortable. As we rounded the coastline into Swanage the wind suddenly picked up to 25 knots and picking up a mooring buoy here was challenging to say the least!

Moving on from Swanage (which is such a lovely town but it really needs to get a good dinghy dock as there isn’t really anywhere suitable to land a dinghy and leave it) we spent a week or so around Studland and Poole Harbour meeting up with friends and family before our last sail back up into the Solent. A gusty 15-20 knots from the north-east meant this was a lively end to our West Country cruise as we crossed Poole Bay and tacked our way up back up through the Solent.

West Country Cruising Companion Book by Mark Fishwick*

And there you have it – 108 nights and 630.5 nautical miles of cruising the West Country! Before we set off on this trip we purchased the ‘West Country Cruising Companion: A Yachtsman’s Pilot and Cruising Guide to Ports and Harbours from Portland Bill to Padstow, Including the Isles of Scilly’ by Mark Fishwick* and we have to say that this book was invaluable. It offered some great, useful information about ports, anchorages, pilotage and even places to go! We highly recommend it and if you click on the link above and purchase the item on Amazon we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, so it helps us too which we are highly grateful for 🙏🏻

Thank you for following our journey and we hope that this blog has helped those interested in sailing down to Devon and Cornwall. If you have any questions then please drop us an email and we’ll do our best to help!

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