The reason we started so early on Saturday 30th was that we wanted to get to a really safe haven before the storms started. These were not just storms, they were extremely strong, more than gale force storms, gusting 9 & 10 on the Beaufort scale. Padstow has an inner port with a tidal gate, which is only open at high water+2 hours. Once you are in, it is like a lock up – you can’t get out. So you and your fellow sailors frequent the local restaurants, pubs and shops and exchange stories.
Padstow tidal barrier opening
That’s how we met Geoff and Jerry. Geoff is rafted next to us in a classic 1977 35ft Nicholson and Jerry is outside him in a classic 32ft Contessa. Both are returning from Gulf’sWeek, a classic boats rally, 11-17 May, in the Gulf of Morbihan in Britanny, but the weather had been so bad that they had already been away from their home port in Portishead for a month. Both had lost their crews, not to a misfortune, but to pressure to get home. So they were both lone sailing but had each other and radio contact to tide them over.
Yesterday Geoff invited us round for coffee. What a delight it was entering his cabin – just like a 1970’s sitting room – we felt immediately at home. We exchanged stories on our recent passages from Falmouth – we had both come from the same port and we asked them if they’d previously experienced a storm like the one due that night – when out came this amazing survival story from Geoff.
Geoff and Jerry aboad Fly, a 1977 35ft Nicholson Classic
It had been 8 years ago, about the same time of year, in the estuary of the same port, -Padstow. A storm had blown up from nowhere and Geoff (lone sailing in his 37ft Ohlson called Fly) had missed the tidal gate and was dropping anchor in a sheltered part of the estuary in a heavy swell. He saw the lifeboat go out and take four people off the yacht Cawesande that was in trouble further out and had seen it towed back into port. They then came out to his yacht while he was securing the kedge anchor – circling him many times making it difficult for him to balance in the wash. They persuaded him he needed rescuing and in the process of trying to come alongside they rammed his yacht broadside , stoving in the whole side. Geoff was on the same side waiting to be rescued and the collision did not just pitch him into the water, but also injured him quite badly. He ultimately had to be airlifted by helicopter to hospital (Geoff was full of praise for the helicopter crew) but was furious two years later when he saw the blue plaque on the north harbour wall bearing the entry, “2007, 25 JUN YACHT FLY ONE LIFE SAVED’. “The cheek of it” he said, “I was coping, I didn’t want to be rescued, they insisted and then nearly killed me!!” Sadly as he had not finished securing the anchor properly, the yacht drifted onto the rocks in the night and was an insurance write-off. It was after this that he saw the Nicholson in very poor state in Glasgow, bought it and has reconditioned it to its proud state today. As an ex-aeronautics engineer, Geoff just loves the free ride that you get with sailing – using aerofoil technology to get you to where you want to go. Prior to the incident in Padstow estuary, Geoff had sailed Fly solo non-stop from the Azores on one single tack for 8 days covering 1200nm – using a self made wind vane steerage control system.
We learned that both Geoff and Jerry had worked together at British Aerospace in the 60’s. Ros mentioned that she’d worked there in 1968 for a year as a computer programmer and it turned out that Jerry had working in the same building at the same time and they had colleagues in common.
Another yacht in the harbour is Jacomina. We had met Lena, one of the crew, in Falmouth and learned that they’d sailed non-stop from La Coruna in Spain in four days. When Jacomina arrived in Padstow, we met John Eacott the skipper and could see that they were flying a huge promotional flag with www.floodtide.eu in large letters. From March to August 2015 Jacomina (and Floodtide) journey around UK and Europe making sonification performances of many tidal waterways in conjunction with local musicians and arts organisations. Jacomina set sail from Antwerp in Belgium, visiting northern France and Britanny before crossing the Bay of Biscay to Northern Spain. This was followed by the 500 mile passage from La Coruna to Padstow. From Padstow they plan to go to Wales and then arrive in Bristol for Bristol Big Green Week (www.biggreenweek.com) from 14th to 20th June 2015. They invite performers, musicians, artists and scientist to join them on different legs of the journey and rendezvous with local musicians for concerts at weekends. For anyone interested in joining them read their blog on www.floodtide.eu.