As the tide identified to move Lilly from The Quarry drew nearer, the preparations intensified and the reality of leaving Pembrokeshire, and our beautiful community of friends, dawned on the crew. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, friends and family were invited down to enjoy one last party on and around Lilly. Gifts of rum and whiskey overwhelmed the boat’s normal liquor stores and with hazy heads on Sunday morning the time had come to slip the mooring lines.
After tearful goodbyes, we headed downriver to be met with significant swell churned up by the shallows around the mouth of The Cleddau. The ocean was greeting us and testing our stowage. Plates and mugs thrown across the boat revealed our shortfalls before we settled for a peaceful night at anchor by Dale.
Lilly then needed to retreat up river to sit out a storm and we were afforded a few more days of final prep during which Iona (a community refurbishment project of an 18 foot Plymouth Pilot) was completed and we foraged bounty one more time from the community garden. Oh how we will miss that place!
Friday 28th August we once again set off down river, this time for the last time, with a full boat including stowaways Tess and Tess, Tom and Abi, all close friends from Pembs that we were delighted to be able to share the passage to Cornwall with.
Consistent, firm 20 knot northerlies were forecast and a brisk crossing of the Bristol Channel was anticipated. With suspicions that the ship’s log was over-reading, we were soon ploughing along, apparently at 8/9 knots. It wasn’t long before a pod of dolphins came to say hello, wish happy birthday to Seren (6) and play around the boat. This also signalled the point at which two crew members were forced down below to stoicly sit out 24 hours of sea sickness as the boat pitched and rolled in the short, confused sea.
Particular mention goes to Abi who admirably threw together a delicious pasta in between moments of sickness. It was much appreciated! Night came, the watch rota began. There was no letup in the conditions during darkness so the crew all enjoyed the sunrise as we rounded Land’s End and the sea thankfully became a millpond.
We made landfall up The Helford and enjoyed idyllic river exploring, pasty hunting and a fabulous welcome from new friends Greg and Katie – riverside residents of a wonderfully creative and eccentric nature. We all celebrated Tom’s birthday at a picturesque pub in Helford before more intense goodbyes as friends left to return to Pembs. The ‘hellos’ are a refreshing antidote to the dwindling ‘goodbyes’ as we are warmly welcomed by the Penryn community.
I have had several moments of pinching myself as this adventure begins: how on earth have I ended up on a gaff schooner preparing to sail round the world?! Who’s idea was this?? It’s thrilling, intimidating but also feels oddly natural. Couldn’t have guessed this life path a few years ago… However, it’s one step at a time and our attention is now turning to the 95 mile crossing to Brittany early next week when the winds look fair.