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.
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
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.
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..
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
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……
The houseboats at Braunton
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.
A general view at Braunton Creek near the slipway. It’s still low tide.
The end of the actual slipway at Braunton. there’s a 2 foot drop at the end into the mud
Another view. The slipway has a rough loose surface. I doubt if my car would cope with a loaded trailer there.
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.
The slipway at Ilfracombe
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.
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.
Lynton entrance. Tide coming in
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.