MERLINS CRUISE  (Single handed Falmouth to Poole ed.)


Extract of letter from George Josselyn to the Chairman (reproduced by kind permission of the author).


London SES 9AX


5th August 1988


The rest of our holiday was great fun and the sailing most successful. I managed to get Merlin as far as Poole where I have taken her out ready to trail back to Suffolk this weekend — a total of about 150 miles in four legs. As I could not find anyone else mad enough to join me, I eventually did the whole lot alone, with my cut—down mainsail. The wind stayed where it should have done in the southwest and was abaft the beam for all except 15 miles of the journey. I even managed to have my old spinnaker hoisted for about half the total distance.


The first leg from St. Mawes to Plymouth on 22nd July was a rather wet day with light airs and not very good visibility. At St. Anthony’s Head it was only a mile but luckily the clouds rose and I was able to see the Dodman for some while and eventually picked up Rame Head about 5 miles off. The following day was much wetter and a bit windier so I had to feel my way out of Plymouth Sound and set a compass course across Bigbury Bay. Being an east coast sailor I had not realised that an onshore wind lifts away from the water close to these headlands you have, so I spent some while rather close to both Rame Head and Bolt Head with imminent rain, very little steerage way and a most uncomfortable chop; apart from that, the boat got along very well and I managed to average about 4 1/2 knots.


The second part of the voyage, by contrast, was blessed with perfect visibility and sunshine. On Wednesday the 27th, I had a fast afternoon’s sail from Salcombe to Torquay. The only slight difficulty I had being gybing the spinnaker round Start Point, which took a few minutes to work out how to do it. The following day I spent sheltering in Torquay with a Low going rapidly across northern England and rain all day. It was the one that passed over very fast though, and by the evening there was a clear sky and the wind had dropped. The following morning it was still clear and blowing force 3 from the south—west so I set off for Weymouth and across Lyme Bay after the early morning shipping forecast. As it had been forecasting 5 for all the previous legs I had done and had never blown more than 3 to 4, I was not too disconcerted by the forecast that morning of south westerly 4 to 5, occasionally 6.


During the morning it blew up from 3 to about 5 shortly before lunch. I had a very fast crossing of Lyme Bay, averaging 7.3 knots in generally calm sea with the tide under me and superb viz — at one time about 10 miles off Torquay I could see all the way from Start Point to Golden Cap which was a wonderful sight. Crossing Lyme Bay was so much faster than I had expected that it put out my calculations on the tides at Portland Bill where I arrived at the end of the eastbound tide at 12.30 instead of the end of the westbound tide at 4.3O.  The wind then of course increased to 6 and with the tide setting against me and a nasty sea building up, It was difficult for me to get over to  Weymouth on a reach towing my rubber dinghy (which became rather prone to


turning over). I decided it was best to continue running down wind until the tide turned and then to find a decent lee round Anvil Point and get into Poole in one go. For a while in the afternoon it blew up to 7 which I felt was most unfair and not at all forecast so I ran under the jib and watched the cliffs around Lulworth passing by all too slowly. I was nevertheless able to keep outside both the Portland and St. Albans races and when the tide did eventually turn the wind eased and I was able to sail fast into the lee of Anvil Point and then on to Poole, arriving in the marina there at 8.30. In the evening, 70 miles and 15 hours out from Torquay, with a great sense of relief, I thought I deserved a steak.  In the clubhouse there it was awfully stuffy and things felt a little unreal.


Overall I covered 151 miles In 35  hours, including entering and leaving harbours; a very reasonable average of 4.2 knots over the voyage, without using the outboard motor.


I think I might find it a little difficult to go back to points racing for a few weeks now but will do my best!




POSTSCRIPT 2005-06-26


I found this letter in my files recently.  I scanned it and sent it to George.

This was his reply.

He tends to understate wind strength and did admit that he was planing under jib alone round Portland Bill 12 miles out to sea!  (John Williams Ed.)


Hello John


I'd forgotten about that letter. I expect I thought it was safer to sanitise it a bit from time to time.


Rounding Bolt Head into Salcombe was fascinating because the cloud had come down and you couldn't see the top of the cliffs. It was also a bit difficult to see exactly where the channel across the bar was but luckily someone came out and I saw the bar buoy then.


Reading again what I wrote about Torquay - Poole, perhaps I did keep the jib up after all. Come to think of it, I suppose it helped me to keep her on course and it would have been difficult tying it down on the foredeck without her rounding up. There was a definite feeling that it would not have been a good idea to turn into the wind but I do think I remember there being not as much spindrift as there should have been for a full 8.


I didn't mention getting the spinnaker down off Portland. We'd had one or two pretty good surfs and I realised I'd done it at the right time when I found she was still surfing afterwards.


You reminded me when we last spoke, about the exercise of getting the main off. That was a bit later, once we were past Portland and before I tried to turn up to reach into Weymouth. It was a question of going up to undo the halyard off the cleat and getting back to the tiller again with it, and then lowering in stages on the run without giving her time to round up. It was certainly a great relief after I'd done that.


The coastal station report I heard on the 6 o'clock shipping forecast, after it had moderated and I was round St Alban's Head said it had been 9 at the Channel LV at 3 o'clock. I didn't really believe that at the time and I'm sure it will have been a force stronger in mid-channel so maybe it was gusting 8 where I was.


Do put the letter on the site if you wish, with this as a postscript, and I'll see if I can write it up more fully if I can locate the log-book sometime.


All the best