This was a complete surprise : not the Helford river as i know its one of the loveliest of the west country rivers but the whole weekend. I was expecting a mild, dull and cool weekend and instead got sparkling sailing with an easy downwind sail out to the Helford river and a close reach on the way back. When we got to Mylor on Saturday…..i had to have a rest day on the Friday due to being totally bushed both wind and ebb tide were telling me to at least drop downriver but down in Falmouth roads the clear and obvious thing to do was run broad-reach across the bay and go into the Helford. I have really only been in there on passage before and never explored further upriver than the village itself so on this trip i decided to at least poke up the river a bit.
With the wind firmly in the North-west and cold too my normal anchorage inside the river on the south side wouldn’t have worked well so i sailed clear west of the eelgrass beds and fetched-up just off the small beach at Polgwidden cove in clear clean water and anchored there to wait out the ebb and just relax for a while. Nice to see lots of people out just enjoying the day and during the day several cruising boats came in and joined us at anchor : it was only when the motor boats and PWC’s started buzzing around in their annoying way that we moved off up the river and through the mooring field. This neat looking Folkboat made a good job of working up under sail in the fluky wind shifts in the river.
Without a chart i can’t say how far along the river we were when we stopped and turned around due to running out of water : it was still flooding but the day was cooling so at a place where there is a cable across the bed we turned back downriver and anchored in a small bay outside the channel for the night. After we anchored a group of larger yachts all anchored in the river downstream of us and in the morning we found most of them tied up against a useful wall : they seemed to have made an impromtu camp on the quay and were getting a breakfast fire going as we left .
The real treat for me was this big gaffer making sail as we got back to the moorings, it looks like a fair amount of heave and grunt to get that big spar up and once they started to pick up some breeze they surged off downriver…..i think its that feature of gaff rig that can pick up the breeze that isn’t getting down to us little boats ! anyways we hung on to their coat-tails out of the river and then hardenned up for the close reach/near beat back up to Falmouth roads in a breeze that had me almost but not quite thinking about a reef.
Back into Falmouth harbour and it was ‘busy-busy’ with boats everywhere : several very smart Folkboats having a race out of St Mawes by the look of them, with the tide in the river still ebbing i didn’t fancy the uptide beat back upriver so we sailed just into the inner harbour and anchored at my favourite spot just off the little beach and pier at Flushing. If you like Falmouth and don’t know this spot its just in between the outer-most moorings on that side and the flushing shore, i have been anchored there with several other boats before now and its easily possible to land a dinghy on the beach there. I can see from the photograph that the depthsounder was surprising me by actually working and i can say that i clearly saw the anchor hit bottom at about 13 feet.
The Helford river is totally one of the treats of my un-anticipated cruise of the west-country : i hadn’t expected to get here for years yet and i am glad now that i made the slightly harder passages to go west from Plymouth rather than east. The boat is still in Mylor and i can get back there in a few days time to continue exploring the Falmouth rivers and creeks.
‘Bloody marvelous’ as our man Dylan would say.