View Full Version : Lulu Bounces Off

John R Smith
09-13-2000, 05:03 AM
Lulu Bounces Off


We had a day's break after the trip to Coombe, then we were ready for the BIG one. A whole day out, on two tides. Our objective was St Mawes, about as far down the river as you can get without actually going to sea. St Mawes lies opposite to Falmouth, and has its own Tudor castle built by Henry VIII, which is a smaller partner for the one across the bay at Pendennis. The town was once a tiny fishing village, but these days is a busy magnet for tourists, and visiting yachtsmen in particular. This was the first time we had ever tried to go down river on a falling tide, and we arrived at Sunny Corner early with the promise of a perfect late-summer day.


Lulu on her mooring at Sunny Corner

Lulu was floating by the quay, at about two hours after high tide. Now I should explain here a teensy snagette which has influenced all our boating so far - we can't afford a tender yet (dinghy, punt, whatever). This is the cause of great hilarity amongst the other boat-owners on our beach, and means, quite simply, that if our boat is floating we can't get on it (or off it, either, if we are already on). Normally it presents no huge problem. We simply womble down there just as the tide creeps up to Lulu, pop our boarding ladder up at the bow, clamber aboard hauling our wellies and the ladder up afterward and wait for the tide to float us off.

But of course, to go out on a falling tide means getting aboard when the water has dropped to just below welly height, but before the boat has grounded. Tricky stuff, only achieved in the event by wading out, clambering aboard up over the bowsprit, casting-off quick and getting going before the briny crept out too far. Even so, I still got a welly full of water.

I hear you laughing, but all this adds to the challenge, folks. And the difference that going with the tide made to our speed was a real eye-opener. We positively whizzed down past Malpas, Tolverne and King Harry Reach where normally we would creep and plod. The wind was light and heading us, so we stuck to the little Yanmar on this outward leg. Today we were aiming for the long haul, all the way down Carrick Roads - at least 9 or 10 miles as Lulu flies. We passed a huge Fleet Auxiliary ship moored in the deep channel which made us feel very small indeed, motored down by St Just Pool and into hitherto uncharted waters.

Soon new sights opened out. St Antony's Light on its headland, Black Rock in the centre of the bay, and Pendennis Castle were lit by the mid-morning sun. Of course, we had seen all this from the Enterprise river boats in the past, but never from our own ship. Kate and I were alone in Lulu, able to set our course wherever we desired. The excitement was tempered with due caution, and a sense of risk as well as delight lent sharpness to the view, never before so keenly experienced. Out beyond Black Rock sparkled the open sea. It seemed so endlessly tempting. All we had to do was head on out and we could anchor next in Fowey, or Hugh Town, or Brest, or the Azores . . . well, perhaps not in Lulu. And certainly not today.

Despite the sun and clear skies, a fair breeze was picking up now from the south-west, and we headed in past St Mawes Castle aiming to miss the dreaded Lugo Rock. We were immediately confronted with a mass of moored boats, bank to bank. There were so many of them, and all so close, it seemed impossible to make our way between them. St Mawes certainly is a popular spot for yachty types.

By this time (after some two and a half hours motoring) we were getting a bit tired and ready for a cup of tea, so we anchored off Cellars Beach for a while. A real novelty for us was clear water - we could actually see the anchor down below and sand instead of mud. Exotic shores, no question. We could even watch the progress of Kate's sunglasses down to the seabed after they dropped off her nose. I have to say that St Mawes was a bit of a disappointment, though. From the quayside it is enchanting, if busy in the summer. But from our boat it seemed crowded and confused, and what I had expected to be an inspiring view was blocked out by white plastic hulls and serried aluminium masts.

Even more of a let-down was Percuil. We crept up there through the moorings, but the ebb was well advanced by now and we had to anchor just below the yacht club. The scene we knew well from old photographs had been transformed for the worse by some hideous new buildings on the far shore. Oh, it was pleasant enough lying there and having lunch, but also frustrating. Normally we are on the river when the tide is high, but now at low water all the interesting little creeks I had hoped to visit were dry and denied to us. Lulu sulked back down through the ranks of yachts, confined to the centre channel.

As we came out of St Mawes we realised that the wind had really strengthened. Ahead of us yachts were beating out of the bay into the teeth of it, heeling at what seemed to be impossible angles just like those New Zealand chaps in the magazine. A hard man flew close behind Lulu in a racing dinghy, and carried on a casual conversation with us as he wrestled with imminent capsize. We battled on into a steep chop and spray came back over the foredeck. This was the real thing at last - the sea, waves, and all that kind of stuff. The shades of Slocum, Hiscock and E F Knight stood by us in the cockpit. This was obviously the day for a sail.


Lulu's home waters, the Fal Estuary. In the foreground is Malpas, Magotty Bank is in the centre of the picture. The big ships are laid-up in King Harry Reach. Beyond them the River opens out into Carrick Roads.

Steering a drunken course around the Lugo Rock, we cleared the Castle Buoy, rounded up into the wind, and rolled out the sails. For once I had to use the winch to swig up the outhaul. Wow, but this was good. We could hold a reach right back up the Roads, a good 4 miles - and we did, too. Now I know that a reach is probably the easiest point of sailing, but still we felt a sense of solid achievement. Lulu bowled along in fine style with her new club burgee cracking away from the mast-head (er, well, no, not the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club - Truro Boat Owners Association, actually. But it's a very nice burgee, nonetheless). The wind dropped off a bit as time went on, but there was still enough to keep things interesting. Ahead of us a swarm of dinghies was racing round the buoys. As we approached they all magically disappeared in a cloud of coloured sails and sheltered in St Just Pool. Had Lulu's reputation spread this far?

Of course, things had gone rather too well and it was time for us to blot our copy-book. To get back into the river at the top of the Roads it is desirable (and good seamanship) to round the green Turnaware Buoy. This marks the end of a sand-bar, which in turn has a series of yellow buoys along its length. Naturally, the wind chose this very moment to drop and the young flood took over. It soon became obvious that we were not going to keep the green buoy to starboard. Such wind as there was had only the sorry effect of pushing Lulu sideways, not forward. Meanwhile the tide conspired to press us diagonally upstream, directly towards the first yellow buoy. Despite much anguished wailing from the cockpit, Lulu hit it solidly on the bow and the buoy bounced down the side of the boat.

It's not the pain, it's the shame that hurts, my friends. We had committed this faux-pas right in front of the busiest Bank Holiday anchorage on the river, and the critical gaze of the assembled yacht crews was turned upon us. We slunk into Tolcarne Creek with our burgee drooping, needing a cup of tea to restore our shattered pride. There, still somewhat flustered, I managed to dig the anchor in the wrong way round and as we swung to the tide Lulu dragged back up the creek, resulting in a rather short tea-break. Ho-hum, just as well we didn't try for the Azores today, perhaps.


Lulu heads for home through King Harry Reach

I checked the bow for damage, but there was just a smear of yellow paint. Thank God these modern buoys are plastic. Back on home ground, we enjoyed a pleasant evening run back up the river. Lulu was feeling a bit tired, you could tell. But with the tide we made good time, moored-up without a hitch at Sunny Corner, and settled down to supper aboard. Supper aboard? Well, we couldn't actually get off the boat, you see, not having a tender . . .


Ian McColgin
09-13-2000, 08:33 AM
On the multichoise test for my first ticket, one question ran something like:
You have just rammed a bouy. You should first:
a - Radio the Coast Guard
b - Continue on, remaining in the channel
c - Direct the crew and passangers to don PFDs
d - Sink it so it won't be a menance to navigations.

I must confess that a Moffett Cup race, i misjudged the current off West Chop. Fortunatly the nun was the same color as my boot stripe and the a glancing blow applied about 20' of red over red.

Welcome to the club.

Don Olney
09-13-2000, 08:55 AM
Thanks for the report and pictures. LULU is a fine looking boat.

You could always say that the smear was from a Yellow Cab that cut you off -- a completely plausable explanation here in NYC.

Keith Wilson
09-13-2000, 09:15 AM
John - wonderful tales, easily the best stuff on the forum! "From Sunny Corner to Maggoty Bank" - sounds very allegorical; John Bunyan would be proud. If you'd like to keep your feet dry, here's a design for a very capable little tender that even I can afford, and that can be knocked together in a weekend with little or no trouble or skill. It's a little like the hat - they'll laugh, but not as much as they do watching you try to get on board now. http://www.instantboats.com/tortoise.htm

Chad Smith
09-13-2000, 09:31 AM
Hey John I enjoy your stories. Sounds like a great time. Wouldn't fret over what the other guys thinks, I would just have fun and enjoy. Thought I would give you a link to a nesting dinghy that might fit your needs. When nested it is about 6' and nearly 11' when assembled it is the FB11 by Jacques Mertens. It is a stich & glue boat that he says can be built for about $300 American. Here is the link http://www.bateau.com/plans/small/FB11.php3

I'm building one of his boats and it is going together rather well and his support online is real good.

Please keep the stories coming.


Dave R
09-13-2000, 09:44 AM
Great tale. I always enjoy your stories.

I was going to suggest a little plywood tender that would be cheap and easy to build but then I started thinking. So what if some folks laugh at you (they're just jealous, anyway) With the limitation of waiting for low tide to get on and off your boat, you get to move at a more relaxed pace. Besides, it's not like you are going to a fire.

I would make this suggestion, though. Get a pair of hip waders to use instead of your wellies. That way you have a bigger window to work with in case the tide is coming up sooner than you thought.

John R Smith
09-13-2000, 09:45 AM
Yes, we are really going to have to do something about this tender. Thanks a lot for your suggestions, chaps, maybe this is our winter project. We are a bit in a quandary over it, 'cos the tender has to be left on the beach. Everyone else has a really cheap / nasty plastic tub, because it will be vandalised or stolen otherwise. Often they are (vandalised or stolen) anyway. So really you can't have anything nice. Says something about the sad state of society, I suppose . . .


09-13-2000, 11:00 AM
Sounds like you had a great time, which is the point of all of the work.

If you've mentioned, I've forgotten; could you use a very lightweight craft (say, for example, Platt Monfort's Classic 12 or Westport 8) as a towed tender, carry it to and from Lulu on the car top, and suspending it from the garage ceiling at home or standing it in the corner of the garden?

Thieves and vandals ... sigh. Some children seem to take the damage to their things as a lesson to be careful of everyones' things, others as a lesson to be destructive of everyones' things.

maurice poulin
09-13-2000, 11:59 AM
Thank you once more for the tale and the photos. Made my week.

Please Mr. Smith do undertake to build a tender as a winter project. This way, you could regale us with building as well as sailing adventures.



Don Bailey
09-13-2000, 12:39 PM
I craved, I looked, and I found another Lulu story. You are the greatest John. Couldn't you put a permanent anchor buoy at your mooring spot and tie a tender to it and leave it when you sail? Lulu is a beautiful boat. Keep the stories and pictures coming.
Don Bailey

John B
09-13-2000, 07:45 PM
Thanks for the photos too john . What a great looking place. You will have to build a tender you know, but i suggest that at your exponential growth rate it'll be a doddle for you to build .
A rather experienced yachty was presented with the light off the top of a buoy he hit just a couple of weeks ago at a Classic Yacht Association dinner here. If he had just stayed at home on the couch it wouldn't have happened..........

Phil Young
09-13-2000, 08:21 PM
We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, sounds like a great title for a book. We Managed Not To Go To Sea. Even better. John another thought which is probably useless, being way off beam, but if your mooring has a line ashore, or can be rigged with one, you cab set it up as a running mooring. A pulley on the mooring bouy, and a rope coming ashore and then back out. Lulu completes the loop. Whatever the tide as you approach you go in till she just touches bottom, step ashore, and haul her out to the mooring bouy on the running line. When you come down to Sunny corner next, you can haul her in, as shallow as she will go, step aboard, then haul back out, then depart at your liesure. And another thought. That forestay from the top of the mast to the end of the bowsprit is just crying out for a sail to be hanked to it. You're sailing her well reefed down, even now that we've got the roller thing sorted out. And finally, have you thought of pumping the diesel out of your tank and selling it ashore. Should just about pay for new sails right now. Thanks for the tale.

Ed Harrow
09-13-2000, 08:30 PM
John, another masterful story, and I think I have the perfect solution to your problem. You mentioned how your neighbors use old, ugly, plastic tubs so there is no real harm done when the old tub disappears. Get yourself an old tub! There aren't many who'll take off with an old iron tub! http://media4.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/wink.gif Perhaps you'd like a sailing dinghy - I have the plans for the one we named Nefertiny. Two sheets of ply, a bit of muslin or, if you prefer, blue poly tarp, and you'll have a neat little (5' boat).

Dave Hadfield
09-13-2000, 11:27 PM
Another fine tale John. Thanks.
Don't sweat the buoy. It happens. I was "racing" a reconstruction of a Mackinaw boat the other day while in my 8ft tender (2 sailboats going in the same direction near each other. It wasn't really a race, but I was gaining), and she picked the wrong side of a nondescript buoy and came to a gentle full stop on a mudbank. The thing is, I would have picked the exact same route if she hadn't gone there first!
I think Phil's ideas about the mooring and the headsail are worth some thought -- particularly the sail. If it was high and slim (like an old-fashioned flying jib, though yours would be hanked on) and sheeted right back to the corners of your stern, I don't think it would worsen your lee helm. The extra thrust might just reduce it. A simple version cut from a polytarp would test out the idea.
I built a geodesic canoe from a Monfort design. At 10ft, it weighed 14 lbs. I don't think it's the ideal tender, but it certainly is portable.
I'd keep the engine. After all, you're sailing in a river.
Don't stop exploring, and don't stop telling us about it.

B. Burnside
09-14-2000, 12:16 AM
You've made an ex-pat Cornishman a tiny bit homesick, I think. The old homestead is just off the lower right hand corner of the aerial photo. (What a great photo! Is there one like that that shows Bar Creek?)

Here in BC we usually have big tides to deal with, and in my chequered past I have sailed some boats with awful handling characteristics. I always read the tide tables before the weather report. In my experience, even a cow in a bog can do some wonderful things with a lee bow tide, which - I hope - means the tide going where I want to go in spite of the wind going the other way. Maybe next time you head down river on the ebb, conditions will develop so you can try that. It doesn't help much if you don't have a lee bow on account of not having any wind, though - why do they put those bouys in the spots with no wind...

Thanks for another great story.


John B
09-14-2000, 12:23 AM
from dave...
which reminds me of the race "we" had with an 8ft dinghy whilst aboard a 36 ft concrete boat.(the one and only time I have been aboard a stone boat) we tacked against the tail of the ebb across the rangitoto channel on a very quiet afternoon.
I personally spent the afternoon swiftly calculating the closest shore to swim to at any given time but was outraged when the aforesaid dinghy we were racing ,unfairly and in a very unsporting fashion uplifted her anchor and left.
ahh...., wood is the way and the path.

[This message has been edited by John B (edited 09-14-2000).]

John R Smith
09-14-2000, 07:01 AM
Well, thank you all for your entertaining (and useful) input. I must admit I am still rather bemused that you find this stuff at all interesting. I mean, compared to what you guys get up to our exploits are rather tame, to say the least (I've seen the pix of your boat, John B, and I know ...) Anyhow, there are couple more instalments from Lulu's Holiday Album to come yet.

Phil, do you know I have just been re-reading "We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea". First time since I was about 12, I suppose. And it's still good. We have thought about a running moor, but I fancy it might work better with a smaller boat. Yes, and we have contemplated a jib hanked onto the forestay - but the next move is to try the genoa itself in that position. It should easily fill the triangle.

Ed - the old bathtub sounds like an excellent idea. Sure as hell no one would steal it.

Barbara - glad you liked the picture of the estuary. I checked through our aerial photo collection, but sadly we have nothing showing Bar Creek. What a drag.


John B
09-14-2000, 03:39 PM
John, I was thinking about this last night ( your adventures)and the conclusion I came to was that not only are you bringing insights from another part of the world (for me at least) but you are capturing the feelings we used to get when first sailing, when every voyage was an intense and exciting experience( no matter how short or small).it's still great fun of course but there is that edge.........
keep em coming.


[This message has been edited by John B (edited 09-14-2000).]

09-16-2000, 09:39 AM

What John B posted last,.... my feelings also, expressed better than I ever could.
Keep venturing, and please, keep posting.


09-18-2000, 10:16 PM

I, too, enjoy your postings and enjoy reading your tribulations, reminding me, as they do, of my younger days. Please keep them up.

Now, please, a questions: Lulu in your photo is tied just this side of and adjacent to a lovely little power boat. Now, being an old - and I mean old - sailor, one forced to take up power or give up boating, one keeps an eye peeled for the odd nice-looking power boat, and they are the odd number - but this one looks real nice. Can you enlighten me on the design name, designer, or anything that might help nail her down, so to speak? I would be most appreciative of anything you can furnish.

Again, I enjoy your postings, and please keep them coming.


John R Smith
09-19-2000, 05:10 AM
www -

thanks for your post. The boat moored alongside Lulu is nice, but now rather neglected, sadly. I don't know too much about her history, but she is fibre-glass, not wood, and was built as a home project some while ago. In those days she was apparently very smart and well-used. The owner / builder died, and his son (?) took her on. But she is used very rarely now, and could use some paint and TLC. She is a good, solid sea-boat, no question, and has been to the Isles of Scilly several times.


09-19-2000, 04:43 PM

Thanks very much for your kind reply. Pity, what happens to some nice boats. Being located in the Pacific Northwest make me a very long way from your dock, so pursuing this would be futile. Thanks. And, once again, your postings are most refreshing and I look forward to them all.


Lucky Luke
06-24-2004, 08:54 AM
Wouaouh! The delightful "Lulu saga" jumps into the "misc-non boat related"!! smile.gif
Clever move dear Scot ;)