View Full Version : Lulu Makes New Friends

John R Smith
10-05-2000, 04:02 AM

Lulu Makes New Friends

The end of my short break had come around all too quickly. Heavens, but time flies when you are on the water. Today we were off on the evening tide for a night on the mud. Tomorrow we would aim for Falmouth and Penryn. On Monday, back to work. Once again, the weather was perfect as we dropped our moorings and went astern into the channel. There was even a light northerly breeze, so we broke out the sails and dispensed with the engine altogether. There was no rush.

As we sailed down towards Malpas, I looked back over the stern and realised that we were being followed. Percy and his son Adrian, in their respective little boats, were plodding along behind at zero throttle just for fun. Percy has just bought a sailing boat, an old Sillouette, and is telling us that he is going to learn to sail. His younger son, Peter, will teach him. Perhaps they believed we actually knew what we were doing, and were looking for some tips. Trying to look competent and knowledgable, we drifted on at about half a knot.

Soon they got bored with our slow progress, and zoomed past down-river with a great deal of waving and friendly banter. We were headed for a new anchorage tonight - Mill Creek, a short way up the River Fal. On our last trip when we failed to reach Trelonk, we had diverted into this delightful spot and taken soundings across its width. Our survey showed a good two metres of water at high tide, and flat ground to settle Lulu on for the night. Mill Creek is tiny, in truth, no more than 100 yards across and perhaps twice as long. Its shallow waters are surrounded by steep oak-hung slopes with no access from the shore, sheltered from every direction but due north. We motored gently in as purple shadows deepened, dropped anchor and made everything shipshape for the night.

If you press me, I have to admit that messing around in these little creeks is my true delight. I grew up with the foreshore, mud, the call of curlews and looking for crabs under stones. It was good to be here again setting the riding light, entering up the log, and checking how Lulu sat with the tide. Opening a beer, the clink of bottle against glass was a most comfortable ritual in the midst of water, slate and woodland. Watching darkness descend, we saw the surrounding trees become dusky guardians of a secret lake. Our boat was now a lamp-lit haven lying at the centre of this elemental place. And we were children again, struck dumb with the wonder of it all. Soon we fell asleep, soothed by the soft call of owls.

The Fal from Mill Creek (watercolour by Kate)

Next morning dawned fine, with mist hanging in the woods, promise of a hot day to come. Lulu was sitting on the mud, but the young flood was already creeping up towards us. Several dark obstructions had been revealed, two posts and a fallen tree (thank heaven we missed them last night). I quickly noted them onto my chart before they disappeared from view beneath the water, then tucked in to bacon sandwiches with Kate. Lulu lifted off, curtsied to the tide with dew glistening on her decks, and came alive again. Time to start engines and head down river.

The old girl seemed eager and ready for the day's adventures as we opened out the river at Tolverne. We were against the tide, but no matter. A whole Sunday lay ahead. As we neared the scene of our shameful impact with the buoy at Turnaware we felt the force of the wind, SE if anything, straight up the Roads. Now, then. Wind against us, tide against us. Could we possibly? Ignoring common sense and prudence we unfurled our sails and prepared Lulu for her natural element, proud of our mighty ship. This was a good wind. She heeled to it, close-hauled, then steadied and forged ahead. We had already hoisted all our flags - Red Ensign at the stern, burgee thirty feet up at the masthead, and the Cornish Cross streaming from the backstay. We would at least look the part today, if nothing else.

I have to admit we did have a bit of lee helm, but this should have been our finest hour. Pity there was no-one else to see it - the other sailors down this way were obviously still abed. As we neared Falmouth the wind strengthened again and our boat's increasing angles of heel began to cause niggling doubts amongst the crew. She was going really well, but just suppose she leaned a bit too far? Would her lack of proper keel cause Lulu to to trip and fall right over? I kept counting the number of strakes still showing on the leeward side, hoping by scientific means to quiet our mounting fears. Eventually we cried enough, handed our sails, and motored into harbour. Sorry, Lulu, we do trust you really, it's ourselves that we're not sure of.


You could tell that she was a bit miffed, reined in as she was by her timorous crew, but we anchored up at Kiln Quay in our favorite two metres and had a nice cup of tea. This quay was once part of the Trefusis Estate, built to serve a lime kiln and is now over 200 years old. Still in perfect condition, it is a masterpiece of vertically bedded slates. To one side is a tiny beach where a boat may safely take the ground, an inviting prospect for a day such as this. And moored right alongside us was a row of the most exquisite sailing boats that we had ever seen. They all had "V" sail numbers, and I realised that we were looking at the Falmouth Sunbeam fleet. Long, low, with just a tiny cockpit, racing is their sole purpose. A 1920s Westmacott design, they are being built again in pitch pine and oak at Mylor.

Falmouth, though more gritty and commercial than St Mawes, was also much more fun. There was lots of traffic in the harbour to watch, for a start. And there was a proper fairway with buoys to follow as we pootled up channel towards Penryn. There were bunkering barges, tugs, the Enterprise boats on their moorings, and many fine old wooden craft. A busy sort of place, it felt alive and real, not just a watery theme park for tourists. The tide was falling now, so we could go no further and Lulu headed back to the Roads. On our way we passed "Dulcie", a lovely little bermudan cutter which has spent all her 70 odd years on the Fal, and "Iris", a Fowey registered ketch of obvious antiquity.

Inspired and heartened by such sights, we gathered up our courage once again and set Lulu's sails. Soon we were cracking out of Falmouth on a good reach with confidence and as much style as we could muster. The Roads are over a mile wide here, so there is plenty of time to settle down and trim the sails. After a while I realised that we had company. To weather of us now was a perfect old wooden bermudan sloop, about the same size as Lulu, being sailed enthusiastically and heeling to the breeze. We sailed together for some time, and it slowly dawned on us that we were keeping pace. Neither of us said anything, but the thought passed through our minds - hmm, perhaps the old girl's not so bad, after all.

We had to turn to port eventually, to head back home. Now on a broad reach, Kate took the helm and I had the chance to look around. Hell's teeth, there were more of them. Just behind was a superb little gaff cutter, all sail crowded on. And a modern plastic yacht over on the starboard quarter. Lulu had a whole new set of friends. The gaffer drew alongside very slowly, but we held our own after trimming sail again. All winter we had dreamed of sailing in our own boat, inspired by magazines showing classics in the Roads. Over there were the same low cliffs, the patchwork fields, the watertower on the hill so familiar from those articles. And here we were, doing it, in company with Cornwall's finest. Pinch yourself, John, it can't be real. But it was. Look at me, sailing.

Trelissick House and Channals Creek (watercolour by Kate)

Of course, it couldn't last. The wind dropped, and the gaffer drew away. But we had a new objective now. We were coming up to Turnaware, the start of the river, and that confounded buoy. This time I was determined to round it, under sail. Lulu crept towards the western bank, and I kept her further on. Tide still ebbing, wind almost gone - could she do it? Come on, come on - yes! We crawled past the buoy and with honour satisfied allowed ourselves the engine to anchor in Channals Creek. Lulu had an almost jaunty air as she swung to her cable and we prepared our tea. Relaxing in the cockpit, we reflected on our late-summer holiday. Coombe Creek, St Mawes, Ardevora, Mill Creek, Falmouth - we'd done pretty well, really. We had learned to trust our boat, build on her strengths and face our own fears.

All that was left was an easy run up river with the flood. But we had to wait for the tide, anyhow, so why not here? The sun shone, Kate did some sketching, and a seal obligingly surfaced to roll on its back and enjoy this Cornish afternoon. Heavens, but time really does fly when you are on the water.


10-05-2000, 06:07 AM
Just when you think a Lulu story can't get any better, John springs Kate on us! What wonderful watercolours to accompany wonderful writing of Cornish cruising. The Fal from Mill Creek especially; I thought I was looking at one of Noel Cooke's pieces from Stevenson's "An Inland Voyage".

If you ever want to put these wonderful reminiscences together in a book John, come to me!



[This message has been edited by dngoodchild (edited 10-05-2000).]

Peter Kalshoven
10-05-2000, 06:54 AM
John, I see that David has beaten me to it, but I must say that three thoughts came to mind while reading this latest installment.

Write the book.

Write the book.

Write the book.

Thanks again for sharing the adventure.

Dave R
10-05-2000, 08:46 AM
What a lovely treat to start my morning with. Thank you, thank you. And I agree, You should publish these stories.

10-05-2000, 09:03 AM
Darn it John. Will you knock it off. Here I am stuck on little details which will surely keep me from launching Prairie Islander this year and you keep coming up with stories that make me want to get going just that much more. It hurts. It really hurts.

Kate's watercolors are perfect additions to your delightful stories.


Keith Wilson
10-05-2000, 09:26 AM
John, this really is in the same class as Maurice Griffiths. You may, with traditional British modesty, deny it if you wish, but Kate's lovely watercolors clinch it. In another year or two you'll have enough material for the book. It'll go on my shelf next to The Magic of the Swatchways. Don't let us down.

Alan D. Hyde
10-05-2000, 11:34 AM
Dear John and Kate,

There is an enchanting quality to your words and pictures, which is all the more powerful because of its unforced and casual charm.

Don't worry about doing anything differently, just collect and preserve what you have done so far, and keep adding to it.

The book will grow as it goes.

I look forward to it, come when it may, and meantime wish Lulu and both of you well in your further adventures.

Fair winds and following seas.


Ed Harrow
10-05-2000, 12:32 PM
Too much to bear. Not only does John have the gift of language, but now we see that Kate has the gift of light. When the book comes I'll clear a space by Racundra's First Cruise, and Ransome would be honored by the company.

Wayne Jeffers
10-05-2000, 12:52 PM
Kate's art is, indeed, the perfect complement to your stories, John. Exquisitely done! Keep them coming. Both Michelle and I look forward to each new installment in John and Kate's further advenures aboard Lulu.



10-05-2000, 02:06 PM
The very finest kind of reporting, all three of you (John, Kate, and Lulu.)

B. Burnside
10-05-2000, 07:01 PM
It's humbling to read your writing, and see the sketches. Thank you once again for a beautiful team effort.

One would be tempted to just give up trying to write or paint, after seeing what a wonderful job you two do, but instead, I'll be inspired, and continue to try to share the water experiences we have on this side of the planet.

garland reese
10-05-2000, 07:36 PM
Mr. Smith,

It is a true delight to sail along with you and Kate....and Lulu. Thanks for sharing these wonderful adventures........and I'd like an autographed copy or three of that book.....yes the book. Signed by you. And Kate. And Lulu. And don't forget to have the publisher put in a color section of those wonderful watercolors of Kate's.
Very fine stuff!

Keith Wilson
10-05-2000, 10:04 PM
Light dawns over Marblehead! I just remembered that WoodenBoat publishes books. Are you following this, over there in the book publishing department? Would you like to discover the 21st century Maurice Griffiths? A small volume of Cornish cruising tales, perhaps?

Phil Young
10-06-2000, 12:29 AM
What they said.

10-06-2000, 08:35 AM
Thank you Kate, John, and of course, Lulu. It's Friday. The weekend beckons. No sailing in sight, but SWMBO will let me work on my leaky shop windows if I get the bathroom papered. Sleep late, coffee in the rocking chair with my feet up. The leaves in the garden outside the back window are beginning to turn scarlet and day-glo yellow in the dewy morning sun. Thanks again John.

10-06-2000, 09:24 AM
John, thank you for the wonderful story. What a nice way to ease into the weekend! While browsing the board for technical information, I found your story. This is my first post on this board and I'll be back again.

John R Smith
10-06-2000, 10:16 AM
Yes, I am listening, but I'm having a bit of a problem with my Internet connection at the moment. First off, thank you all for your kind comments - I'm happy that you enjoyed the latest Lulu saga. You are quite embarassing me with all this praise - I really am no Maurice Griffiths, you know. He was a quiet genius who inspired a generation, and there are few who could fill his shoes, certainly not me. This stuff is just for fun.

Second, Kate is pleased you liked her paintings. But she rarely does watercolours, mostly she works in oils or wood-engraving. So those pictures were a bit of a one-off. However, I might persuade her to let me use some of her pencil sketches sometimes. Have a great weekend, folks.


Peter Kalshoven
10-06-2000, 03:36 PM
John, I don't mean to be unkind, but as my kids would say, "Well, DUH!!!" http://media4.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/smile.gif If Kate does other art that she considers BETTER than the watercolors, please feel free to share it here. (It makes me wonder if Lulu has consented to sit still long enough for an oil portrait). Keep them coming, these posts are often the bright spots in a crappy week.
Fair winds,

10-07-2000, 04:34 AM
John; I'm sure Kate's oils and pencil sketches are as excellent as her watercolours, but the watercolours have a misty quality which perfectly compliments your writing. The oils and pencil would have a slightly harder edge and your stories so well picture the cool and misty fragrances of Cornwell that they are a perfect match.

Dave 'doc' Fleming
10-07-2000, 11:10 AM
John, that is some very nice writing, it helps that it is about boats. <BG>
I must second or third or fourth, the comments by others, do put it all together and think about a book. For a 'left coast yankee' who has read a bit of the works of other inshore cruisers of British Isles, I must say what I have read is right up there with them. As an aspiring scribbler, I wish you well and look forward to reading more either here or in a nice little book published perhaps by Terence Dalton?

"ayep, the Tales are still there." www.pipeline.com/~djf3rd (http://www.pipeline.com/~djf3rd)
Tales of a Boat Builder Apprentice

10-08-2000, 06:42 AM
What's the matter with D.N. Goodchild? We're not exactly chopped liver you know with over 300 titles in our list now!

See John, you haven't even written the book yet and we're already fighting over the rights to publish. I was in first, then someone mentioned WoodenBoat (who are those people anyway) and now there's Terence Dalton.



[This message has been edited by dngoodchild (edited 10-08-2000).]

Dave 'doc' Fleming
10-08-2000, 12:40 PM
Sorry Dave, just had a copy of Terrance Dalton catalog sitting on desk top and "impulsively" I used it in post. Plus I have ordered several times from them.
Last was,From Tree to Sea, another how it was done book and not too shabby, says I.

PS: gots ye a web site for yer stuff?

John R Smith
10-09-2000, 03:28 AM
Er, just to clarify about the watercolours. It's not that the oils or whatever are better or worse or anything, it's just a matter of practicality. Her oil paintings tend to be so large I couldn't scan them in, and the wood-engravings are beautiful but not much to do with Lulu. Those watercolours were actually painted in Lulu's cockpit, so they have a nice immediacy, but she hasn't done many. Don't forget, though, that she takes all the photos, too.


10-10-2000, 05:37 AM
John, I'm sure I speak for many when I say that we would all sincerely hope that you can convince Kate to do some more watercolours to accomplish your delightful reminiscences. They are the perfect accompaniment and would be sorely missed. Also, when we publish your book we will insist on them! Cheers.

10-20-2003, 09:04 AM
Got to thinking that maybe some of the folks around here don't know who we are talking about when we mention John, Kate and Lulu so I thought I would pull this up so Lulu could make some new friends. Sorry to say that the photo links don't work no more.


10-21-2003, 06:49 AM
Thanks Chad. I thought I had read them all, happily I was wrong. Nice way to start the day reading one of John's stories.

Like the others have said John, I do hope you consider publishing your works at some point.