Police, Pigeon and Parachutes

From the 2001/1 Newsletter

I joined Ron and Maybe in Plymouth on 22 June last year. We spent two nights in Sutton Harbour Marina, which gave me chance to re-provision and tidy up below decks, before making our way up the Tamar, under the spectacular rail and road bridges to Parsons Quay where we spent two lovely lazy days on the mud.


Owing to the imminent confinement of my daughter I was reluctant to go any further west so on 26 June we decided to make for the River Yealm. We were afloat by 10.30 and motored down the river. As we approached the Chain Ferry a Police RIB came speeding towards us and, coming alongside, advised us to keep well to starboard as a warship was about to turn the corner. We didn’t need telling twice and as we put the power on to get inside the moorings, what looked like a grey block of flats turned the bend in the river off Devonport. It was JAMS Ocean, an Amphibious Helicopter Carrier just back from operations off Africa. She was a magnificent sight, accompanied by five tugs, her decks lined with Marines and preceded by two Marine landing craft manned by very sinister looking characters in black dry suits.

After this excitement we had an uneventful sail to the River Yealm, where we spent one night. We then went on to Salcombe, the River Dart, the River Exe and Topsham, mostly doing what Seals do i.e. sitting on the mud!!


And so to the return across Lyme Bay. There was little or no wind and we resigned ourselves to motoring. As we left Exmouth behind the visibility was hazy with the sun trying very hard to get through the top cover. Ron went below to have a nap and I sat scanning the horizon and occasionally giving the Autohelm a tweak. As the visibility got slowly worse it seemed we were alone in the world - I saw no other boats and could not see land.

Then a bird appeared - it made a pass very close to the boat, turned, flew back behind us and then appeared to be flying straight at me!! It flew past my ear by inches and, landed on the coach roof I could see it was a racing pigeon and offered it some water, which it ignored, promply putting its head under its wing and going to sleep. It stayed on the coach roof for about two hours and then took off and flew north. By this time Ron had re-appeared and the visibility had deteriorated even more. When we heard the fog horn of a large ship we decided to follow the pigeon and turned north to Lyme Regis where we spent an uncomfortable, but safe, night on a visitors’ buoy outside the Harbour.


At 05.00 the next morning the fog had cleared and motoring at first and then sailing, we made Studland Bay by 13.00. I was down below making lunch when we first heard the Hercules making a pass right overhead. We are both suckers for anything airborne, and watched as this lumbering beast flew off towards the Isle of Wight at about 1800 feet. I went back down below to carry on with lunch when the engine noise started to get louder and round it came again. This time however, as it left Sandbanks to port, figures started to fall from the aircraft. Then four parachutes opened and as the figures landed in the water two RIBs sped towards them, took them on board and then onto a Naval auxiliary vessel, anchored a short way off. This pattern was repeated about five times over the next hour and a half, avidly watched by me and Ron, fighting over the binoculars. Finally it was all over and peace descended again over Studland Bay.

We were back home in a crowded Yarmouth Harbour by 12.30 next day. Ron had been away for a month and I had been away for two weeks. I was almost sorry to be back!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering - the baby arrived a week later so I am now Granny Barnes.

Mita Barnes
Parker 27 ‘Maybe’ 27/131