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10 beaches 10 days winter challenge

🏴‍☠️ DAY 1 - 14th Feb 2020

/ by Aude /

Some would have said pretty traumatic, others at least intense. The first day of the 10 days, 10 beaches was we can say, impossible to forget.

We got up around 7.30am to welcome a local radio journalist (very enthusiastic) who was reporting on our departure. Then Milo and Simon joined us on an eager-to-go Annette that was bubbling on the dirt of the Helford River. So we went on, the engine helping us going to the sea, leaving the calm of the Helford river.


Under the grey low sky, the wind starting to get stronger, we managed to get the canoes in the water and paddle to clean some beaches impossible to get to by land. Some ropes, some bottles but not much. We had our lunch; hummus and pork pie, on a little sheltered beach, Rosie circling around with a brown friend she made on the way. In between, some of us caught sight of what appeared a black whale swimming in the middle of a fish group, loads of Seagulls flying above it and a small sky-blue fishing boat following the group.


This surprising sight would follow us later during the day. It happened after Milo and Simon went alone to clean a beach surrounded by rocks with a strong stream pushing the canoes towards them. We saw it after avoiding a small rocky risky point. Milo and Simon thought it was a wrecked ship, then Monica shouted, little Simon in her arms, “It's a whale. She's alive!”. Her tail was thrown into the air and hit hard on the rocky ground.


Still moving we all accelerated and almost ran through the slippery rocks to see the body. It was enormous. The whale was on her belly the head towards the beach. Blood was running from harsh wounds all along her body. The small sea water ponds around her were all redish. She still was breathing, but really slowly. Her eyes were going circle really quickly. Monika called Helen, who was volunteering for BDLMR this day by chance. “We need to keep her wet before the medics come!” shouts Monika.

So all of us start to empty the plastic bags we bought to pick up rubbish, fill them with sea water and pour them, in turn, all along her body. After what seemed eternity, but might have been 2 or 3 hours, we started to lose hope that she could survive.

I remember Alex, his camera in hands, saying “The high tide will be in 5 hours, she will never make it until then.” It did happen.

At some point, almost exactly when the BDMLR rescuers arrived the gigantic whale started to get agitated, breathing more and more quickly and deeply, her whole body shaking with each breath, her big tail soaked with blood hit the rocks, hurting herself even more. Then, in one last effort, she opened the best she could (a human could have got in there) and a sound between a shout and a song came out of it. Then she collapsed.


🏴‍☠️ DAY 2 - 15th Feb 2020

/ by Simon /

This journal entry written tied up by King Harry Ferry in the rain.


We pulled up the anchor at 0930. We had put down over 50 metres of chain the night before and Milo/Alex/Simon heaved away. The last 10 metres Steve had to leap into action with his superior technique. We were soon heading towards Falmouth – but the shelter of the Lizard gave way to big swells.


Force 9, a southerly wind and we bounced away on the heaving seas towards Pendennis Castle. A number of huge waves pushed Annette over to one side and back again. Pots and pans fell down, boxes flew out and cupboard’s sprang open.

We all clung on to the hanging bits of the cabin for support. No-one spoke.

Steve helmed up and over waves skilfully. Occasionally he opened the door and looked out at the waves following and checked if bilge pump was working.

For an hour we swayed over the waves until we could make out Pendennis Castle and Black Rock – once we were inside the mouth of the river, the seas dropped somewhat.

Simon took the helm up the river as Steve checked bilge pump. We came upside King Harry Ferry quay – a pontoon Steve manoeuvred 30 tones of Annette alongside with some skill and Simon jumped on to the pontoon and several ropes. Phew!


🏴‍☠️ Day 3 - 16th Feb 2020

/ by Milo /

Having been told a lie it was possible, I took full advantage and slept until 10:00.


In dire need of some kind of social media interaction we set off at 11:00 for the Trelissick café. The café was part of a national trust estate drenched by torrential rain we were halted by a guard and asked for memberships. Daddy was the only eligible person with one other guest, forcing Aude and Alex to a longer route.

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Daddy and I walked through the direct path to the café which was worth £40 without membership. Once arrived we headed to the bar, flapjacks had never tasted so appealing. Dad ordered a cappuccino, initially I went for the usual hot chocolate but when asked “marshmallows and cream?” I was powerless to decline. Dad literally gulped down his hot beverage and we left to meet Steve at a beach to commence cleaning it.


We cleaned up the first beach surprisingly quickly and went over to the headland in search of more prolific plastic pollution. Dad, Alex and I jumped over a fence on to a private beach. At first it seemed spotless but as we ventured further into the lead rivers forging off the cliff more litter appeared. Dad stumbled across a stunning loo seat and carried it back with Alex the photographer asking him to model. My father agreed to quite a worrying degree.

As we dropped off the collected litter Steve caught direct eye contact with me and stared back to the canoe. Without any hesitation whatsoever I leaped into the canoe and began my journey to the derelict beach.


After cleaning the beach and touching base we decided on a pub dinner. We took the sinking dory to the other side and in the dark began our 40 minute trek to the pub. At our bitter disbelief the structure that was supposedly our pub had no signs of life. We had to accept the denial of a prepared hot meal in a heated facility.


Demoralised we got back onto the road and watched the trail we had just trekked. Only consoled by the idea od a single bottle of cider between 6 of us back on the boat. Morale slightly lower we slipped back into our fire heated bed.


🏴‍☠️ Day 4 - 17th Feb 2020

/ by Alex /

The morning began with a fond farewell to salty Sandy, veteran clean ocean sailor and charming shipmate Aude. After her departure at 9.30am we remaining volunteers were visited by the harbour master. With the skipper awol collecting nappies and delivering Aude to a land-dwelling volunteer, Simon and Mike managed to sway the long arm of the maritime law until Steve returned. For warned due to the captain’s charm and the nobility of our mission, we spent the morning kayaking and dorying along the creeks picking up a significant amount of plastic.



The afternoon was spent sailing to Mylor, with a brief pause to throw Alex overboard to get some shots of Annie, sails up. We arrived safely with another display of expert parking.


Following last nights epic disappointment, a much needed and enjoyable evening was spent in the pub eating and drinking. Upon returning to the boat a bottle of wine was drunk and an impromptu cheeseboard was assembled. 



🏴‍☠️ 18th Feb 2020

/ by Monika /

We spent scary night tight along side a pontoon in Mylor – ropes were crying all night, so Steve didn’t sleep well like most nights on this trip. We decided today will be our resting day.

Alex, Simon and Milo jumped off the boat in the morning heading home. Steve went for a walk on the beach and collected quite a large amount of rubbish. He found a huge plastic rock. I was tidying the boat downstairs changing sheets on bunks and getting stuff ready for laundry. We distributed a couple of leaflets about our #10beaches10days challenge in town and went to pick up firewood on the beach.


All day we did things nice and slowly and we rewarded ourselves with cake, coffee and a pint in the pub. Rosie and little Simon were charming all of the visitors at the pub.


I had the idea that in summer when we are sailing around we can distribute our leaflets to the boats in the harbour to encourage other sailors to join us.


Back on the boat I cooked dinner, Simon had a lovely bath with Daddy and went to sleep peacefully.

Ha ha, I totally forgot we had a great sail to Penryn where we anchored almost in darkness by the Green Bank Hotel. It’s a great sheltered anchorage in neeps. The night was calmer. I caught up with some office work as there was really good 4G signal over there.

We are looking forward to picking up new crew Abiie and Rowan in the morning - at noon.

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🏴‍☠️ Day 5 - 19th Feb 2020

/ by Rowan /

After a slow morning we had a bit of a rush down to Penryn to meet Steve. Steve greeted us with a bag full of beer! So far so good! Me, Abbie and Steve jumped on the dory and motored towards Annie. On board it was lovely to meet Monika and Simon.


My first job as crew was to lift the anchor. It was only 20m of chain, but it felt like a marathon. When the chain was up we briefly motored out of the moorings and towards the high seas! Abbie was doing good at the helm and we were quickly approaching St Mawes harbour. “Just turn left after the buoy” said Steve. CRASH!!!

Pots and pans were flying everywhere, but Monika quickly had it all under control. Soon we were upstream at Percuil and set anchor down. The weather looked a bit gloomy as we tucked into some soup. However as we hopped into the boats, it lightened up and we paddled over to an unnamed beach.


With Monika, Steve and Simon in Bess, and me and Abbie in the canoe we leapfrogged across the shore collecting smaller bits of plastic. We eventually got to the unnamed beach and realised that this was the meeting point for ocean plastic.


We all got to work cleaning the beach, starting at different ends, we met in the middle and had already filled half of a large bag. Steve met the owner of the beach, however we were still none the wiser on the name! After cleaning the beach we headed back to Annie. We were confused as to why it was so dark so early, however time had just flown and it was already 6pm!


After a great dinner and a couple of beers everyone was yawning and sleep soon followed.

🏴‍☠️  Day 6 - 20th Feb 2020

/ by Abbie /

Today we picked up Alan, Steve’s brother, and gathered round for some more warming soup. Whilst making plans over the river map we noticed if we go further up Porth Creek we could walk over a small stretch of land and reach Towan Beach! There was even promise of a warm café but it turns out it was still under construction. However we later found the beach was actually sheltered from the wind, nice and sunny.

With Steve, Moni, Alan, Simon and Rosie in the dory and myself and Ro in Bess we made our way with the wind up Porth Creek collecting rubbish as we went. We tied off and walked over to Towan. Bright blue skies (with squalls further out to sea), soft sand and not a lot of plastic at all – this beach was a winner!


Back at the little boats, and now fighting back against the wind, we collected more rubbish than any of the other days of this expedition. With the boats full to the brim we returned to Annie (myself & Ro having a little help from the dory) and compiled all our findings into a dumpy bag. It is now bursting full of tyres, bits of old abandoned boat, plastic bags, bags for life, netting, rope & more.

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Our day was rounded up as we sat eating a delicious dinner, washed down with a few little beers and listening to the sailing tales Steve & Alan had gathered from around Europe. This all had us raring to go for more sails to clean distant shores around the world – maybe the Scylly’s first!

🏴‍☠️ 20th Feb 2020

/ by Monika /

Today we sailed from St Mawes to Falmouth and parked alongside a pontoon in Pendenis Marina. They kindly let us fill the water tanks, and stay overnight waiting for fresh crew members jumping on board next morning. 


Abbie and Rowan went canoeing around the harbour doing thorough clean up. Steve, me and Simon were getting the boat ready for the second half of the trip. 

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In the evening we headed to the Chain Locker pub to meet COS awesome volunteers, supporters and friends and some members of the new crew. What a feast and beautiful company of dear plastic hunting pirates. 


🏴‍☠️ Day 7 - 22nd Feb 2020

New crew joined Annie this morning, Imo, Julia and Jowan, with Guy having bunked the night. Took on additional kayak as well as fresh food and offloaded old life raft. With everything stowed, we departed Port Pendennis just before midday.

Steve manoeuvred Annie sharply off the pontoon to avoid the shallows and motored clear off the marina, the sail having been laid out ready, was hoisted and fastening on pins was quickly mastered by the crew. Imo took the helm guiding Annie on a general heading towards the channel into St Mawes.


Winds were firm but playful and lulled Annie awake from her slumber at shore. The crossing made time for tea and chatter and soon minds were occupied with somewhere to anchor out of the winds grasp. Such peril sanctuary was found slightly between the numerous mooring buoys dominating the river.

The anchor was fallen smartly into the water with evident eagerness to secure its change. With satisfactory chain let out, a moment was taken to insure the wind and currents had surrendered their influence at least to let us remain tethered around the same point. We settled minds change to lunch.


With weather gear donned, two of the canoes were launched to land just up river from Amsterdam point. We began to scout the slightly shingled beach for all things out of plastic. Our search did not overly disappoint, with items such as tent components and sunked rubber fenders being recovered we continued south on the coast path over the headland to the next stretch of walkable shore. Little was found and we returned to Annie.


Respite and warmth wore out the chill and fatigue layered by the wind and rain, and the late afternoon was spent playing questionably remembered card games. This gave way to dinner at the appropriately felt time with Imo knocking together some tasty veggies. After dinner chatter ensued until beds called. We settled into unsteady bunks and were rolled awake more times than we were rolled asleep.

🏴‍☠️ Day 8 - 23rd Feb 2020

After a wobbly first night sleep and some banana and peanut butter on toast for breakfast, we went over to the little beach off Amsterdam Point for the second time around in the dinghy. Rosie decided to tag along and joined Jowan, Imogen, Guy and me (Julia) on a walk over the headland towards Saint Anthony’s Head.


Along the muddy estuary, on the way to the coastpath to Molunan, we found a tyre and the makeshift flag, Imo and I had accidently dropped on our way back to Annette after our clean the day before, along with a few more items the tide uncovered. I had never seen as many seashells in Cornwall and collected a couple of keepsakes. A couple of buoys were wedged at the end of a cave and we found heavy fishing ropes at the end of another but overall Molunan was fairly clean so we made a move back to Annette. Imogen foraged seaweed and nettles on the way and made some kelp crisps using the wood burner as a hot plate later in the afternoon. Upon returning, we untangles the anchor from our station and slowly motored out to Gweek. Moni showed me how to tidy up the anchor chain in the box as it gets pulled from the bottom. 



We hopped into canoes a few miles away from Gweek to clean up a section of the estuary that hadn’t been done for a while. We had a good haul between the two canoes including a life ring and stained glass tile, lots of yoghurt pots and fishing lines as carpets - usual. 


Paddling into Gweek felt very appropriate for Guy’s first time here. He had only seen it on Youtube! The famous Gweek. We paddled past the seal sanctuary and Cornish Seaweed Co. where Imo went on to work the next day whilst we waited for the tides to change. As we paddled towards Annie, we took in the atmosphere admiring the wild and various vessels along the way. 


The night drew near when we got to Annie’s dock, she was a bit stuck so we had to lend Moni a hand running from side to side to rock Annie and push from the front to make sure she wouldn’t be completely stuck in the muddy banks. The day ended with some dinner and beers at the Black Swan.


🏴‍☠️ Day 9 - 24th Feb 2020

It was a rainy and windy morning in Gweek and we started the day by unloading all the large bags of plastic which had been collected over the last couple of days (and by the previous weeks crew) from Annie’s foredeck. These were put ashore where they were then transported by Cecil and his unique cantilever crane attached to the big green shed.


We weighed each bag using Steve’s new digital scale and sorted the first bag of plastic. Most of the contents were fishing gear, but the other odds and ends included a broken Openel knife, a RSPCA branded sock and a Gul neoprene pouch. We struggled to weigh each pile of sorted plastic as the wind and rain was blowing into the shed.

After sorting the plastic, we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by Jowan, and after some preparations to the boat, left Gweek on the afternoon tide.


As we continued down the Helford river, the sky cleared, we were able to put some sails up and enjoyed a beautiful red sunset.


By the time we arrived at Porthallo, it was very dark. We dropped the anchor, had some food, beers and a couple of games of cards. Eventually we all returned to our berths and Annie gently rocked us all to sleep.


🏴‍☠️ Day 10 - 25th Feb 2020

Anchored up near Porthallow we swayed through the night and most slept well. After finding out it was pancake day I (Imo) started off the day with an obligatory attempt to conjure up a recipe which suited all using the ingredients we had on board. This restricted us to gluten free flour which resulted in us having more of a pancake mush. However, we had milk, sugar and they still tasted pretty good, just lacked the satisfaction to cook.


After breakfast we set off in a couple of kayaks , a canoe and Bess. The low tide made landing tricky so the guys in the canoe stayed afloat ferrying the waste which the kayakers (Jowan and I) collected from the rocky shores and coves. There was so much more that we could manage in the given time. With heaps of rope around each rock in places it was especially disappointing to hear that the area was cleared so recently (over Christmas).


Following the big rope haul, we met up with Steve, Moni and Simon who’d been cleaning beaches nearby. Simon seems to be picking up good habits young, he was caught on film tugging on some fishing wire trapped under some pebbles and then proceeded to clear it away in a bag!

The weather was pretty crazy and strong offshore winds, hailstorms, rainbows and sparks of sunshine too. Although it was the coolest day so far at 4 degrees, a few of us braced it with wetsuits for the morning and many finished the day with wellies full of water.


We were greeted by a couple of other fellow warm blooded creatures on the water today. The seals followed us inquisitively yet at some distance between each spot. Overall we covered over ¼ ton today, no wonder we were all snoozing by 10pm!


🏴‍☠️ Day 11 - 26th Feb 2020

Upon waking we were greeted by a sunny and calm morning. The aim today was to complete the short stretch of coast between Porthallow and Nare Head. Perforated with deep caves and submerged gullies, some rope had been noticed the day previous, so Steve and Julia went to investigate initially, with Imo close by on the kayak and Guy and Jowan exploring some caves close to Porthallow beach. Soon all were requested to the cave opening where the rope had been seen. Steve and Imo were busy cutting through the 20cm rope entangled at the narrow top of the cave opening.


Guy and Jowan headed into the cave to check out the mussel farm flotation barrel reported to be wedged half way in, about 10 metres from the entrance. They set about rigging a Spanish winch to attempt to dislodge it. The barrel began to move after being punctured but the rope failed before any meaningful progress was made. 


Meanwhile the rest of the crew were working hard to remove the rope with a hot knife and saws. The majority of the rope was removed, and all attention turned to the barrel with stronger rope. 5 pairs of hands and minds we set about getting it out. After a lot of nagging, sweat and lightheaded-ness, the barrel jumped free!


Back on board and lunch had, we made ready for sea, preparing the sails, and stowing what we could. We decided to do two trawls, one on the windward and one on the leeward side of the muscle farm. We then headed around the headland to Coverack.


When we arrived, it was quite choppy, so we consulted multiple forecasts and “ummed” and “ahhed” about our anchorage. It was to stay on the wobbly anchorage or do another 3-hour passage to calmer water. We decided to stay and agreed to head to shore to visit the pub for some drinks and food. We headed off in the dory and enjoyed the warmth of the pub, filling ourselves happily with beer and food. Then to bed, little known of the night ahead.

🏴‍☠️ Day 12 - 27th Feb 2020

Our anchorage in Coverack was rocky from the start but the wind direction changed in the middle of the night brought the rocking to the next level making it by far the worst night of the trip. Pots and pans banging relentlessly, kitchen cupboards bursting open, water sizzling into the woodburner flue, drops intensifying, leaky portholes gushing, gas bottle changing on deck and the anchor alarm setting off at an increasing pace through the night.


Steve was up intermittently to check on the anchor. I got a few minutes sleep here and there between sets of waves and loud noises. I was also worried about Rosie; she had left her bed and was lying on top of the stairs in the gulley so I could see her from my bunk. The gulley was by far the loudest place on the boat. It is fair to say none of us got much sleep that night.

We woke up, still rocking, the water was still very choppy. After breakfast, Imo and Jowan kayaked round the corner from Pras. It was not safe for the canoes to go out in this swell so the rest of us stayed onboard. They returned an hour and a half later with a couple of large bags. Imo said the amount of polystyrene there almost made her cry. She started thinking about how she could come and clean this spot regularly. She jumped in to cool whilst we waited for Jowan to paddle in with the heavier bag.


With strong winds we managed to sail past the Manacles and then motored into the Helford river to shelter from the winds. Steve entertained himself by ‘teaching’ Rosie how to sail and we all watched the scene unfolding with delight. Once the entertainment was over, we headed out in the canoes and Bess to clean up the few beaches nearby. It was fairly clean, so we all took the opportunity to collect some wood for the wood burner. 

The canoe I shared with Imo started to take on much more water than previously and by the time we got to the Ferryboat Inn we were half full. We tipped it over and realised the pub was shut so we decided to paddle over to the Shipwrights, both Imo and J’s favourite pub around. We had a lovely meal, enjoyed a couple of gifted red wine bottles, and debriefed the few days past. Imo and I decided to race ahead in the dark to Annie as we were taking in water quite quickly, I think it might have just made it on time! We shared a few laughs tying the canoes back onto the side of the boat and headed off to bed hearts full. 



The canoe I shared with Imo started to take on much more water than previously and by the time we got to the Ferryboat Inn we were half full. We tipped it over and realised the pub was shut so we decided to paddle over to the Shipwrights, both Imo and J’s favourite pub around. We had a lovely meal, enjoyed a couple of gifted red wine bottles, and debriefed the few days past. Imo and I decided to race ahead in the dark to Annie as we were taking in water quite quickly, I think it might have just made it on time! We shared a few laughs tying the canoes back onto the side of the boat and headed off to bed hearts full. 

🏴‍☠️ Day 13 - 28th Feb 2020

Seemingly unaffected by last night’s pub stay, Steve was up in the dark getting ready to motor the last few miles up the Helford river back to Gweek. As soon as there was almost enough light to see we started the engine and released the mooring ball.


We had just enough time to get to Gweek before high water and Steve skillfully steered Annie upstream through the channel, after ignoring the many misplaced channel markers. We arrived back at Annie’s spot on the riverbank at high water with the depth ……..not sure…….only 10cm of water under the keel as we arrived.


After we arrived, we unloaded and weighed the plastic we had collected this week, bringing the total collected for the 10 days 10 beaches clean up to 863kg.

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