Other PicoMicroYacht

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

For those in peril in the sea

The plan was to row from Plymouth to Looe on the South Coast. Although there would be a light head wind, the tides were in neaps and the weather settled.

As I left the Queen Anne's Battery there were many boats ploughing up and down, including some quite large ones, so I had to keep a good lookout.

But crossing my bow were a large group of sit on kayaks, so I slotted in behind and this helped clear a route out towards  the Plymouth Sound.

The headwind was somewhat greater than I had anticipated and the tide was initially against me but eventually I was opposite the long Plymouth breakwater, built to make the Plymouth safe during the Napoleonic Wars. An irony of history is that Napoleon is reputed to have passed it on his way to exile in St Helena in 1815.

Looking out to sea there were yachts returning from the Eddystone Lighthouse as part of a annual charity race. The leader came in, reaching with spinnaker set.

Further out to sea there was a line of yachts out towards the horizon.

As I approached Rame Head I could see the small chapel prominent on the headland with the coastwatch station just beyond.

Rounding Rame head I switched on my radio, tuning into Channel 16. Although it is no longer a legal requirement for ships to monitor Channel 16, it is somewhat advisory. 

Just as I had switched on I started to hear the coastguards coordinating a rescue, involving a helicopter and the Salcombe lifeboat. They were explaining that a diver had surfaced too quickly from 80 metres and was in trouble,  his dive boat being about six miles off Salcombe.

The Salcombe lifeboat with the HM coastguard rescue helicopter on exercise in Salcombe

I realised the day before I had been in Salcombe standing by this boat and speaking to a diver who was telling  me they were visiting a sunken second world war British destroyer, 70 feet down.

Sadly, it was announced the day after my voyage that the person in trouble, ferried to the Derriford Hospital in Plymouth for decompression, had not survived. The man was 51 years old, whilst I had chatted to a younger diver.

I rowed on, setting a linear course across to Looe, about ten miles away. In the distance I saw the massive Tregantle Fort, one of  many forts built to deter the French from invading England in the middle of the 19th Century.

The wind had lightened, making it easier to progress west. About four miles from Looe I was crossing some shallow water called the Knight Errant Patch when I saw in the distance a smallish bright orange motorboat. 

As it got closer I realised that there were three people on board wearing helmets and this was the inshore lifeboat from Looe.

They told me that they had been in the area to deal with another boat but had seen me and asked me where was I going. They offered to tow me into Looe, which in a grateful fashion I declined, saying I wanted the satisfaction of completing my voyage.

The lifeboat report indicated that both lifeboats had been launched to rescue a 16 foot cabin cruiser who had run out of petrol one mile south of Looe. So the smaller one had travelled three miles further east and spotted me.

After about an hour and half I was approaching the entrance to Looe as the sun was setting.

Just outside two fishing boats were waiting for the tide to rise enough to enter. 

I found the slipway just within the entrance and PicoMicroYacht was hauled out of the water using the portable trailer I had taken with me.