Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
It was just a day sail from Falmouth to Brixham. With the boat hoisted, engine fired up by engineer Christian (from Switzerland), anchor up, we steamed out of Falmouth against the light southerly winds and fell off on a starboard tack steering eastwards and set all sail. With the wind veering nicely into the southwest and picking up, soon the Picton Castle was slipping along just fine on her way along the coast of England. It became a pretty day. Seas small and with the sun opening up and warming us the sails turned from a mottled greyish brown to the pale creamy colour of the cotton canvas they are they dried out in our new-found sunlight. We sailed a few miles off Ham Rock and then past the mouth of the Salcombe River. These two areas play important roles in the loss of the 4-masted Bark Herzogin Cecelie in 1936. We rounded the Start, braced up and rounded Berry Head. In the falling light of late evening we let go the hook and clewed up just off the breakwater of Brixham Harbour, Devon.
Brixham is not very large, but it is a very significant fishing port in England. Behind a long north/south break-water, the inner harbour and the three basins that have been added onto it are probably not much more than 100 yards across. High stone wharves, a wrap around harbour loop street lined with shops, fishing suppliers, ship chandleries and the ubiquitous waterfront pubs The Crown and Anchor and The Blue Anchor all seem as ancient as the wharves themselves. Rows of two story houses raise in grade up the hills like rice paddies in the far east. The quays are crowded with fishing vessels of all types. Large 120′ beam trawlers (so called because a large beam like telephone pole holds their nets open rather than the kite-like paravanes of an Otter Trawl), little day trawlers and even the little tiniest trawlers of only 20′ to 30′ or so are spread around the small harbour, rafted up and often keel on the bottom at low tide. Tide must be 10′ to 12′ or so. The four fold increase in fuel prices recently is hitting the fishing fleet pretty hard these days. These forms of fishing could only develop around the premise of having large heavily powered stout vessels dragging big nets through the water or over the bottom using a good deal of cheap fuel. Cheap fuel is over now, probably never to be seen again. I think soon, over the next few years, we will be seeing slimmer, smaller vessels with much, much smaller engines using some form of hook and line fishing method selling to a local market in smaller amounts. Maybe we will even see auxiliary sailing rigs. Of course that still depends upon the fish cooperating by showing up, too.
What did people do ashore? I don’t really know. Soon it came time to sail and head on up the channel. But we had gale warnings on the radio, pretty strong ones so we shifted our berth around the corner to a less exposed spot in Tor Bay, set two anchors, plenty of chain and we waited it out. It came on to blow pretty hard and the shift from the SE to the SW which made the seas lay down but still blowing hard with rough to very rough seas in the channel, so we would wait another day. Since we were in a nice lee, a protected spot, we didn’t feel the winds and seas outside, so what to do? I was told that people actually wanted to go swimming. I couldn’t believe it but it was true. Cold water, but not as cold as Nova Scotia or Maine so they got the swing rope rigged up and those daring enough went over the side. The rest of us watched. Later, we carried on with a canvas-work workshop in the form of making canvas rigging bags down in the warm, comfortable main salon in the ‘tweendecks. Donald fed us massively while we waited out the winds. In the morning we got up, loosed sail, hove up the anchor and got under way for passing through the English Channel past Dover, past Holland and onto the Kiel Canal in Germany. That is after we freed the anchor from a long one inch thick wire cable a fishing boat had disposed of here in the bay.