Marabu Cruises


By Denise Scott Fears






3 to 10 July 2004

Onboard: Nicky Twort (Skipper), Philip Mann (Mate), Rodney Brunt, Geoff King,
Denise Scott Fears, Martin White

What had happened? We had booked our flights to Glasgow and the train onwards to Oban to meet Marabu, and yet here we were somewhere in Dorset en route to Cornwall! Something about some trouble with Marabu’s hull, and pulling her out of the water in boatyard near Falmouth? The result was that she would not be sailing up to Scotland in time for us to meet her. We were a philosophic lot, though, and were really quite thankful that we had found out about this before ending up in Oban with Marabu nowhere to be found.


There were six of us that first week in July. Nicky Twort, our Skipper and Phillip Mann, our First Mate, long-term members of Marabu Sailing Club and both very experienced. Then Geoff King, who had sailed a fair amount on Kestrel.  And finally, three newcomers to the club – Rodney Brunt, who had done a fair amount of day sailing, his son-in-law Martin White, with a little experience of dinghies, and myself, a complete novice who thought she was most likely to be useful as quartermaster! The plan was to get to the Scilly Isles and back in our week on the water. It sounded like a good plan and we were all looking forward to it. Our first night on board in Mylor was convivial and full of happy anticipation.


The next morning we left Mylor on a rising tide and headed for Fowey. And then the wind dropped and we motored a fair part of the day.  Not for us the invigorating rush of a Force 5 as we tacked our way into the harbour. But we managed to berth and make our way into the town and enjoyed wandering around the shops, with the quartermaster on a major quest for a tin opener! And there was still plenty of time to get to the Scillies and back.


Woke to a beautiful sunny morning – and no wind. Never mind. Fowey is very sheltered and once we were out on the open sea it would pick up. Well, it would pick up before lunch. No, it would certainly pick up before tea. Oh well, the Helford river is a nice place to tie up and we might just have time to get to the Scillies and back. And there was a very nice pub in the village, complete with a troupe of lady Morris men!


All this time Skipper Nicky was doing what skippers do and listening to the shipping forecasts. There was word of a Force 8 storm heading our way, and she was wondering if we should try to get to the Scillies as it looked as though we might well get caught by the storm while we were there and not be able to get back in time to hand over to the next crew. Perhaps we should lower our sights and aim for Penzance, which was also a very nice town. And we could pootle around the Lizard. Sounded good, so off we set. We had a good wind and were making good time. In fact, it was the best day's sailing. We saw a pod of dolphins – it is a thrill to see these beautiful creatures arching through the water. And we couldn't help notice a Royal Navy helicopter buzzing about overhead and some distant booms, rather like the sound of heavy guns, to the south of us. And then the radio came on and gave coordinates of a firing area. Warship Chatham was on exercise and we were in the middle of it! First Mate Phillip sounded surprisingly calm as he called up Warship Chatham and asked them not to fire on us. And they very kindly agreed not to.


In spite of all this excitement, it became clear we were not going to get to Penzance. The wind was getting up too – the Force 8 was moving more quickly than forecast. We all agreed we should head for the nearest harbour for shelter and found ourselves in Falmouth, where we tied up among some seriously large and impressive vessels and enjoyed sundowners as we secured the boat.


In the morning Nicky thought it would be wiser to stay put as the storm was definitely too near to make sailing safe or pleasant, and we spent the day exploring Falmouth, a town of excellent pasties and some very fine museums, including the new National Maritime Museum. That night we secured the boat especially carefully, as the storm was nearly upon us. And what a storm it was! Force 8 became Force 11 and more, and by midnight the wind was howling and Marabu was pounding the yacht between her and the pontoon and being pounded by the sea. It was wild. It was noisy. It was terrifying. I doubt any of us will forget that night. But Marabu stayed in one piece and when we went above in the morning to survey the damage, there was surprisingly little.


By this time it was Thursday, and still too wild for our last days of sailing, and we reluctantly agreed that the only sensible course was to head home early. Our week had been totally different from what we planned or expected: we never got to Scotland, we didn't even get to the Scillies, and we went home two days early. Nonetheless, it was a memorable trip and, for me at least, whetted my appetite for much more of the same. (Except for the storm bit. And perhaps being fired upon by the Navy.)