Jo, Sim and their daughter Lotte had been living on board their Inchcape Motor Sailer in South Dock Marina, London, for a year or so when they decided it was time for a change. While they were there we became good friends, with Jo and Lotte often helping helping out in Arthur Beale’s chandlery when it was still based in London. After a minor hiccup on their first departure, they eventually got away from South Dock in August 2020 and ended up wintering in the River Fal. They certainly chose a great spot. So we were delighted when we were invited down to visit them for a weekend. As my boat was in Scotland, it was not a practical means of transport so we jumped in our little camper van and set off.

It is a fair trek from London to Cornwall, so we were very grateful to break the journey in Plymouth to meet up with Will Stirling at his covered slipway in Plymouth.

Will Stirling in his covered slipway

The Number One Slipway is the oldest covered slipway in the world. The slip was built in 1763 and covered in 1813. It allows Will to haul out ships up to 14 ft draft and 173 ft long using his ex RNLI winch which is rated to 200 tons.

The world’s oldest covered slipway
It is 174 ft long and will take boats up to 14 ft draft
Will installed this ex RNLI winch which will haul boats up to 200 tons.

Although Will is a hugely talented wooden boat builder, the big project on the slip was a steel motor yacht which was undergoing a total rebuild with new plating, “zero hour” engine rebuilds and work on just about everything else. It is due in Greece next year so it is a pretty mammoth task. You can only imagine that it will need air con, fancy navigation systems, and probably fielded timber panelling and leather upholstery – although this is just guesswork on my behalf. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it!

Showing off my telephoto lens with this Risor “Colin Archer” style ship that Stirling and Son had recently completed a full restoration.

But it wasn’t just steel motor yachts. There was a very nice looking Charles Nicholson designed yacht having some work done on the stem.

One of Stirling and Sons famous clinker dinghies.

There was also a chance to see one of Will’s now famous clinker dinghies nearing completion. This 9 ft version is number 50 which is pretty impressive. If you are thinking of Christmas presents, I believe Will’s new book about building clinker dinghies is due out soon from Lodestar. I have heard great things about it – and not from Will!

Two years ago I sailed on Will’s yacht “Integrity” to Greenland where we had quite an adventure! Dan, who works at the yard, was there too so we had a chance to reminisce and realise that we actually had quite a narrow escape.

Integrity” in Greenland getting squeezed by the ice! Photo courtesy of Will Stirling.

Too soon, but it was time to move on. We had a bit of a drive ahead and Will and Dan had boats to build.

We had booked a pitch for three days at Come to Good Farm near the River Fal. It is a small site with space for about seven camper vans, motor homes or caravans. It was a very quiet and simple site with one loo and a shower, just how we like it.

Pitched up with our new homemade windshield made to match the van – which I am rather proud of.

As it happened it was also perfectly sited about two or three miles from Loe Beach and maybe three or four miles to the King Harry Ferry. Ideal distances to slightly wear out Tilman, our energetic Parson Russell Terrier. We managed to find paths away from the roads for the most part but were occasionally forced to walk along the narrow lanes, which, being summer, were rather busy with flashy cars mostly sporting private number plates. We found a few of the Ordnance Survey marked paths were private, or became private about a mile in, which added to our walking regime setting off goals on the Garmin watch.

Wild plants besides the paths. We need that drizzle!

Lotte has taken to gig rowing, so we arranged to meet Jo and Lotte at Loe Beach to watch her evening training session.

Rubbish picture of Lotte’s rowing gig

I had a quick swim then we enjoyed a local beer sitting on the wall until mild hypothermia began set in with the drizzle and brisk breeze (well it is England) so we headed back to the van. Our new route back took us past Ashley Butler’s Boatyard, another boatyard treat!

Ashley Butler’s Yard – We’ve heard a rumour he is moving again?
Outside Ashley Butlers Yard is another “Colin Archer” style yacht. Risor is a favourite port of mine.

The wealth in this area is staggering, every property is freshly painted with manicured lawns and electric gates and triple garages. It makes Bishops Avenue look like the Old Kent Road.

There are some fantastic houses in the area but not all of them blend in with the environment as well as this one.

On the Saturday we met up with Jo, Sim and Lotte at Trelissick House Café for coffee and of course the inevitable Cornish Pasties which were very good indeed. We went for a wooded stroll alongside the river where we spotted Cilix, a Vertue which I had first spotted in Troon Harbour, Scotland.

Cilix at home on the River Fal
While on the subject of Vertues, we believe this is a Laurent Giles Wanderer Class yacht. A bit bigger than the Vertue and made famous by the Hiscocks who needed the extra space for their darkroom – those were the days!
(Apologies to the owners, those sails did fill beautifully as they rounded the corner).

Jo and Co had moved their Inchcape Class Motor Sailer onto a pontoon near Smuggler’s Cottage which was convenient place for a little dinghy ride across the river. They are good friends with the owner of the pontoon having endeared themselves to almost everyone in the area by spending much of their spare time clearing the nearby foreshore of plastic rubbish.

Halcyon Oak moored alongside – a rare treat. The ladder is for the installation of the new wind generator and not a high tech ratline.

Live-aboard life when you are effectively off-grid is not as straightforward as living in a house ashore or even being plugged into to a marina socket. You need to collect your water and generate your power from solar and wind, so lights and taps are quickly turned off. Food shopping involves a sometimes wet dinghy ride and any post needs to be collected from a land address with a postcode.

They had just invested in a new wind generator called a Super Wind and it looked like a really well-made bit of serious kit. It will be interesting to see how much power it generates, who knows, maybe they will be able to fire up the fridge from time to time! They are enthusiastic “menders” and have even managed to saw out batteries from laptops using dental floss and then actually get the things to work again, despite the efforts of the manufacturers to try to build in obsolescence so you are forced to order a brand new one.

Sim needs access to the worldwide interbubble to carry out his work and so anchoring spots have the added complication of requiring a decent internet signal as well as good holding. Maybe a new chart symbol is needed? Despite the quirks of living aboard, they all love it and are beginning to plan for next year’s adventure. I wonder where they will end up?

Lotte with Tilman, Jo and Sim

We all enjoyed a beautifully cooked meal collected by Jo from a takeaway kitchen in Playing Place, near Truro. I’ve forgotten the name of the kitchen (Red Hut?) but maybe someone will comment as they deserve some praise.

News Flash: It’s called The Shepherd’s Hut Kitchen https://www.theshepherdshutkitchen.co.uk/. Definitely worth a try!

After we had wined, dined, and chatted about all those important boaty things, Sim dropped us off at King Harry Ferry so we could return to the van.

We met up for coffee the next morning before we headed back off to London, a nine hour drive hitting all the returning weekend holiday traffic.

A fantastic weekend!

Thanks Jo, Sim and Lotte.

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