Sailing my Paradox and country living


North Devon launch sites. May 2013

I’d long fancied a trip in my Paradox sailing boat on the Bristol Channel and the purpose of this road trip – taken without the boat  – was to research the possibilities.

I previously spent some time on Google Earth looking for likely launching spots.  But nothing had really stood out as an ideal base for me. I really prefer to use boatyards or marinas as they have secure parking places where it’s possible to leave my trailer and old car for a fee.  I’m uncomfortable with parking in an exposed  public car park or on the street  for a long period.

So I set off in my green Citroen for an all day excursion to see what I could find, and suss out some likely launching spots.

First area I checked out was the Taw / Torridge Estuary as that looked like it would offer an expanse of sheltered water with many possible anchoring places. There’s a super slipway, operated by the local Council  at Appledore and it was there that I headed for first.resized_looking down appledore slip

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Looking down the Appledore slip at low tide. After launching there is no place where a boat can tie up while the car is being driven off to a parking place. Not so bad for boats with 2 or more people  where one could stay with the boat to stooge around, but no good for solo sailors

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The top of the slipway and public car park beyond. Some of the car park was taken up by a travelling fair while I was there. It’s also the bus terminal.

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The rules and regulations. It’s not clear if one can leave a car and trailer parked there for a number of days or not. No security.

This is a great slipway – wide and with a brilliant non slip surface that must have cost loads and loads of public money to build but seems to be aimed at a couple with a little motor boat who can launch when the tide is in,  go for a whiz about for a few hours and then recover before the tide goes out  . A shame that I can’t use it easily.. I bet that it wouldn’t get built in today’s financial circumstance. .

There’s another little slipway nearby


Which looked so very steep that it would tax my old car to pull boat and trailer up..

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And this one at Bideford. Very cluttered ,a reasonable slope but no parking area.

Next I went off in the Citroen to Braunton . I’d seen a slipway on Google Earth  which looked a possible and it turned out quite intriguing

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The mighty Citroen at Braunton Quay. This is the muddy informal car park used by the locals .The cars and vans in the background belong to the boat dwellers. I feel safer in this kind of environment as boat dwellers must be good people……

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The houseboats at Braunton

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Quite a little community there. The Taw / Torridge Estuary is a ‘free port’ where no harbour dues are collected from boats I understand, which would make boat living inexpensive.

There’s an ‘official’ car park nearby –   although this is a very rural area and a good distance from the village – complete with big notice board for the rules and regs. The Local Authority had recently painted the words ‘no overnight parking’, over and over on each bay in white paint, and worse. recently erected an expensive looking galvanised steel gantry over the entire site to limit headroom.. Obviously intended to discourage Travellers or motor- homes from pitching there. but must have cost lots of money and there are plenty of places near-bye where the travellers could pitch unimpeded  One really wonders how the official mind works. They seem always ready to waste money on being spiteful and obstructive.

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The steel gantry at the car park. The huge notice board is for the regulations…….. this is a free car park BTW. Anyway, it’s the slipway that we came here to see…resized_braunton quay

A general view at Braunton Creek near the slipway. It’s still low tide.

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The end of the actual slipway at Braunton. there’s a 2 foot drop at the end into the mud

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Another view. The slipway has a rough loose surface. I doubt if my car would cope with a loaded trailer there.

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The disused former railway has been converted into a track for walkers and cyclists and there were a good few using it on that day.. Nice views over the estuary from there.


There’s a yacht club at Instow and I wanted to check the possibilities there. Not easy to get in – an electronic barrier across the entrance and discouraging warning notices everywhere. Members only welcome and so on. I couldn’t see any way that I could drive in for a look-see so moved on.

But more about the yacht club later.

I’d exhausted the slipway possibilities in the estuary that I knew about from Google Earth, so moving on Time was running out anyway, as I had to be back home near Shaftesbury by late evening. Decided to drive to Ilfracombe for more research.

I found tiny streets crowed with holiday makers that wouldn’t be easy with a car and boat trailer. It was still near low water when I arrived and the inner harbour had dried out. There’s a nice slipway and somewhere to park cars and trailers. The harbour master told me that it would be OK to use one of the parking places for a couple of days .

I was astonished to see that the locals drive their cars right into the harbour to get alongside their fishing boats. They look quite decent cars too.

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The slipway at Ilfracombe

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Ilfracombe entrance

So Ilfracombe looks to be reasonable launch spot for a trip to Lundy Island  for me.

Time pressing again so drove onto Watermouth..for more investigations.

It looks a very nice spot although the entrance is difficult – I hear.

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Watermouth general view


Someone collects old lifeboats at Watermouth

Watermouth looked like another possible for me too with a reasonable slipway and secure-ish parking.

My last stop before returning home was to Lynton. Two slipways, one very steep and one shallow. Both locked with barriers across, so I’d have to make prior arrangements with the harbour master to use either one..Doesn’t look like there’s much parking available nearby but the harbour master could no doubt advise.

Nice little drying harbour there.


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Lynton entrance. Tide coming in

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Lynton entrance again.

And that’s it. Out of time. The drive home involved some very steep hills. The one coming out of Lynton, heading  for home had me in first gear with every one of the Citroen’s 602 cubic centimetres doing its utmost. Normally my little green car climbs hills with aplomb, but this hill did stress things a bit. I have doubts about whether the white Peugeot 309 which I normally use for towing the boat would have made it . Front wheel drive can be a disadvantage and I’ve had some wheel spin climbing up steep gradients previously. I do try and avoid the the routes with steep grades when towing as the boat and trailer are heavy and the total weight is almost up to the car manufacturers limit…

So this consideration pretty well rules out some of the harbours discussed here.

Anyway, a few days later I had a good think about what I’d discovered during my exploration. Looking back , the most promising launch site would be the Yacht club at Instow. I’d not actually seen the slipway.as the security gate  had put me off while I was driving around there. but Google Earth showed it to the most likely.spot. I next had an interesting E-mail conversation with  the Secretary of the North Devon Yacht Club. Yes I’d be welcome to launch there if I joined as a temporary monthly member at a cost of about 30 quid. No problem to leave the car and trailer in their secure car park. and they’d be looking forward to seeing me. The only snag is only the upper part of their slipway would bear the weight of a car, so I’d have to launch and recover during spring tides.

So this was a slight blow, as I’d hoped to visit when tides were smaller and easier to cope with , but I mustn’t let this put me off..

So much happened in my life over the last year or two that – to my shame – I’ve not yet taken up this kind offer. I’m not sure that I’m ready for the challenge of sailing the Bristol Channel and as I get older and more cautious It’s less and less likely.. Sad.




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Faith’s homespun charcoal heater

Took it out today to give it a wire brushing and shake out the dust. While it was in the winter sunshine I took a few pictures. As a couple of people have asked about it, here’s a detailed  description.

It’s made from a short length of 2 inch copper pipe- which was bright and shiny originally but has now become a bit corroded and slightly pitted due to the heat..

The basic carcass, flanged copper ends, one fits inside and one out. The bottom one riveted, the top one brazed in place . A criss cross of smaller diam copper tube allow it to stand nicely.. the top has a little piece of 22mm tube brazed on for the flue outlet. I’ve added an extra layer of copper to make it a snug push fit into the flexible flue pipe.

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The two copper sheet ‘hit and miss’ air regulators

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The old army mess tin. Two little self tapping screws opposite each other  hold things in place as shown below.

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Assembled. Showing the 2 holes open

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The 1 metre of 1 inch semi flexible metal flue tube push fits directly onto the heater, goes through the main vent hole , through a 3 inch hole in the inner baffle and then to outside through the deck vent hole.

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There’s only one extra hole in the boat and I’ve never had any rain drips or splashing get through. The discolouration is due to some tar residue running down from the flue pipe.

The additional metal  tubes are from a scrap vacuum cleaner The stainless one simply pushes onto the flexi one where is pops up though the deck vent when the stove is in use. The aluminium one has the end bent over. I ensure it’s facing downwind  to give more suction so the fire burns bright.When sailing I don’t use the stove and stow the extra bits inside the boat, but leave the flexible section in place. I’ve fitted a CO detector inside the cabin

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This cleat holds the  handle of the mess tin firmly in its place within the boat. The bolt is longish and has a compression spring and washer behind the ply panel to keep the oak cleat nicely tensioned

To light the heater I half fill it with charcoal or tiny wood chips .Then squirt some meths (alcohol) inside through the upper hole with an old washing – up liquid plastic bottle and it’s usually burning brightly within 2 minutes. I use my fingers or sometimes a teaspoon to add more fuel  Once going well I need to adjust the draught with the regulators to control the burn. The draught all depends on how much wind there is .Using some old pliers saves burnt fingers.

Charcoal is best if you want a nice gentle glow. That’s simple lumpwood charcoal without any additives . The ‘easy light’ stuff is to   be avoided as the flue soon gets bunged up with residue and the smoke is evil

Wood chips burn a bit faster and give off a good heat but unless you have a ready supply, you’ll have to spend some time doing tedious cutting.

Although the heater is tiny and only holds a cupful of fuel it gives off a fair heat. So OK for raising the temperature a bit when one is sitting aboard during a chilly evening. I’ve blanked off the aft vent but leave the centre vent open and my research has shown that the airflow comes in through there to balance out what goes up the flue. Since the fresh air flows in around the warmish flue pipe before it gets to me it’s pre warmed – so to speak. The flue pipe is generally cool enough at the upper end to enable me to warm my hand on it.  And I ream it out from time to time with an old car clutch cable, in case it’s getting plugged   I’m aware of the dangers of this kind of heater. I could set the boat on fire or gas myself with CO if I acted unwisely.. I can assess and guard that risk myself, but please, if you do something similar assess the risk for yourself.

I’m sure that other materials and methods would also work. A slight enlargement , to say, 3 inch dia tubing would be warmer for a cold climate. and stainless steel would be a good construction material if you had it.


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I’m a shopper now

Had to run an errand for a good friend today. She’d just had to go into hospital for a long awaited  knee replacement operation but had ordered a new TV from Argos in Blandford, which would be there today ready to be picked up. So I  volunteered to do the necessary for her.

It’s the first time that I’ve ever been to any Argos  store and  I found it all very strange. They seem to have no merchandise on display at all.Both the outside of the store and the inside where customers wait was very plain. Reminded me of a public convenience, but with computers.. The customers chose what they want from a catalogue, pay and get a receipt and then wait for the staff to fetch the item from a back room.

What a funny carry on.

Stopped at an independent store  in Shaftesbury for a few items for the house  on the way back. What a contrast . Picked my own items from the stock on the shelf and at the check-out desk the chap added the value of the items in his head effortlessly and accurately.  You don’t often get that today . So unusual that I was slightly amazed. More usually the check-out operator zaps the barcode with a laser pen thing and the computer works out the total and even how much change to give back. Nice to see the old ways aren’t quite dead.

I thought later that ‘shopping’ is something I never do so today was a novel experience for me. I go to Lidl or sometimes Waitrose to pick-up the groceries for the week and if I need to get something more esoteric I order it online. But to be honest I don’t actually buy much stuff. Our cottage is already pretty full and my wife’s habit is more than enough for us both.

The little green Citroen was running very well today.   It thrives on cooler weather.