Two reefs and the storm jib

We timed our passage back from Scilly to make Falmouth ahead of a summer gale blowing in from the Atlantic. Strong winds ahead of the gale gave us the chance to try Guiding Star’s new mainsail with two reefs in. The boat went like a train with reefed main, the staysail and the storm jib.

We reached up and down the coast south of Falmouth and then scurried to Fowey before the gale made land. The harbourmaster put us on a pontoon well up the river but the wind was southerly so blowing right through the harbour entrance. The pontoon was heaving up and down as you can see in the video.

The boat went splendidly without the storm jib; the new staysail made by Steve Hall pulled strongly on its own. The main is so powerful, though, that we’re going to need that third reef more often than I expected. I need to buy a roll of Hempex and tie on the points.

More sail, more speed

Three years ago at the Falmouth Classics, we drifted round the course in hot sunshine lagging behind luggers with bigger sails (and more skilled crews) and I came away wondering how to make Guiding Star sail faster in light wind.

The result was a new sail plan designed by Chris Rees, the shipwright who built Spirit of Mystery and Grayhound, and new sails cut by Steve Hall in Tollesbury. This year we kept moving in all but the lightest and most fickle breeze.

We enjoyed some good close racing with Our Boys, the one other lugger to take part in all three races . Phil and Liz sailed her superbly and even after their outrigger broke and they had to take their mizzen sail down, they beat us over the line. Still, Phil said we had them worried at times.

Guiding Star’s new sail plan working at the Classics Parade of Sail

For a morning, we had wondered if we’d ever reach Falmouth. We sat in Fowey in fog so thick we couldn’t see the rocks at the entrance of the harbour. When it lifted briefly, we made a dash south.

The Falmouth Classics coincided with the G7 summit at Carbis Bay on the north Cornwall coast, and reporters covering the meeting were based in a two-storey temporary building in the car park outside the National Maritime Museum. We motored to our mooring past a barge carrying what I thought at first was a shameless attempt by Boris Johnson to pre-empt protests by climate activists.

It did look too good to be true, though, and when I saw workers in hi-vis vests taking the billboard to pieces the next day, I realised it was actually a shameless attempt by climate activists to get their message into the background of broadcasters’ live shots. In the event, the people who made it on camera most dramatically did so entirely by accident.

The Falmouth Classics had to be cancelled last year because of the pandemic and the organisers went an extra mile to welcome us all. When we picked up our mooring buoy, I was touched to find it had a label with the name of the boat. In the water taxi heading for the first evening’s pontoon party, we were hailed two women who I thought wanted to go ashore. In fact, they wanted to hand us bottles of beer and warm pasties.

This was Charlotte and Jess, who have turned Tethra, a 36-foot fishing boat built in Looe like Guiding Star, into a beautiful floating restaurant. The only sad part was that Charlotte was too busy to enter her own engineless lugger Gladys in the Classics racing. On previous form, she’d have beaten us all.

The passage back to Fowey after the regatta gave us one of Guiding Star’s best days: hot sun, a cloudless sky and the satisfaction of beating to windward in only a breath of breeze. By the end of the day, John was the same colour as his shorts and we tumbled into Sam’s bistro for a giant fish stew.

Many thanks to Ezster and Cathy for photos, Ezster on the boat and Cathy on shore watching the Parade.

Swinging the compass

Do you remember the hot, breathless June of two years ago? I can’t go sailing yet this season; I can’t even haul out Guiding Star for painting because my wife, Sue, has mild symptoms of coronavirus and the whole family is isolated at home. So I thought I’d share a memory which I’ve finally had time to edit: Allan Hopton adjusting Guiding Star’s compass in Carrick Roads on one of those hot summer days.

Even in these days of satellite positioning and electronic navigation, merchant ships are required to carry a magnetic compass, so compass adjusters such as Allan are still working. Thank goodness, because I always suspected there was something odd about Guiding Star’s compass in its fine 1930s bronze binnacle. Most of the time, it seemed to read correctly but sometimes it seemed to be anything up to ten degrees out. Or was that just the leeway we were making?

My suspicion was correct. I had always imagined that if a magnetic compass was wrong, it was wrong by the same number of degrees whichever way it pointed. But Allan found Guiding Star’s compass deviated by several degrees only when the boat was pointing north-east. On most other bearings, it was fine. As you can see in the video, he fixed a tiny magnet to the side of the binnacle and the compass now reads correctly.

Musical moments in Paimpol

Two hundred traditional boats, six sound stages and brilliant summer sunshine: the Paimpol Festival du Chant de Marin this year was huge fun.

In the midst of all the noise and heat, one man in a small boat created a moment of delight:

Our friends on the French lugger Le Grand Léjon perform as a shanty group called Les Fortunes de Mer. Here they are on stage.

The crew dinner, paella and pudding for 400 in Paimpol’s community hall, surrounded us with song.