Niki Alford, skipper of Bessie Ellen and co-owner of Venturesail gives her insight into her favourite sailing grounds around the beautiful South Devon Coast.
If there is one goal for 2020 it should be getting out on the water for a long weekend right here at home in the UK. Even if you have never sailed or stepped foot on a boat, there is just so much to explore along our shores and rivers that will delight and inspire you no matter what the weather. And the best thing is – you don’t even have to know how to sail.
I’m going to take you on a tour of the South Devon coast, exploring secret coves, bustling harbours and quiet estuaries on board our fleet of Devon-based traditional craft. Along with their welcoming and knowledgable, the captains and crew are there to give you the very best of times, both onboard and whilst exploring the shore and feeding you wonderful food!
DEVON CREEKS AND BAYS
Protected on both shores by two dominating castles is the historic merchant port of Dartmouth is by far the most picturesque in the whole of Devon. The old town overlooks the Rover Dart, tumbling picturesque timber-framed houses line narrow cobbled street housing delightful; independent shops and galleries. The wide River Dart winds through rural Devon farms and woodland before arriving at the very hip town of Totnes. If you are joining Escape or Our Daddy in Dartmouth, it is well worth starting in Totnes (better parking and train links) and taking the River Ferry down the River Dart. Both boats run coastal exploration weekends and day sails from Dartmouth so it is worth taking time to wander the streets to discover some 600 years of history.
I prefer to anchor than berth overnight in the harbour. It’s a real chance to “get away from it all” and Devon has two of my favourite beaches to drop anchor. The long sweep of the golden beach at Blackpool Sands is a perfect backdrop to watch the sunset with the boat murmuring at her anchor. Further up the coast to the South of Berry Head is St Mary’s Bay and no doubt a favourite of our third Devon-based boat, traditional trawler Pilgrim of Brixham. With clear waters of crystal blue, St Mary’s is a marvellous spot to dive over the side and explore ashore.
As always the British summer is never always sunshine and sparkling seas, but what we do have are sheltered secret places away from rougher seas. Our Devon harbours, rivers and creeks just scream “Explore me”, with each bend opening to another seemingly new world to discover. Old oaks bow down to the river’s edge, Herons like statues stare in dark water while families of ducks and swans cruise in the tranquillity of river life. Even as a beginner to boats, it’s a wonderful feeling to take the tiller, gently potter along under sail and enjoy the calm and quiet.
Of course with all this activity and fresh air, food is an absolute high point and what better county in England produces such fine fare. Sharpham, up the River Dart, produces some outstanding cheeses of course best washed down with local apple juice or ciders from nearby villages. Stoke Gabriel is surrounded by organic orchards and of course, must absolutely finish with a Devon Cream Tea.
Whichever boat you choose, whether sailing up the River or out to sea, this coast really is perfect for those wanting to try something new or simply see Devon from a different view.