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Portmellon

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Overview





Portmellon is a small cove with a settlement situated on England's southwest coast about twelve miles northeast of Falmouth and close south of Mevagissey. In good conditions with offshore winds, it offers an anchorage between its headlands.

The cove provides a tolerable anchorage in moderate conditions from the south, round through west to northwest quadrants. Positioned at the southwest end of a bay that is clear of outlying dangers, a daylight approach is straightforward at any stage of the tide.



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Keyfacts for Portmellon
Facilities
Hot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.



Last modified
February 27th 2019

Summary

A tolerable location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Hot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed



Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 15.755' N, 004° 46.925' W

This is on the 2-metre contour just between and outside the two headlands of the cove.

What is the initial fix?

The following Portmellon Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
50° 15.780' N, 004° 46.815' W
This is on the 5-metre contour about 250 metres outside the heads of the cove.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location and adjacent Mevagissey Click to view haven directions for local approaches.


    Not what you need?
    Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Portmellon for your convenience.
    Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
    1. Mevagissey - 0.2 miles N
    2. Gorran Haven - 0.8 miles S
    3. Charlestown - 2.6 miles NNE
    4. Par - 3.6 miles NNE
    5. Polkerris - 3.7 miles NE
    6. Fowey - 4.5 miles NE
    7. Lantic Bay - 4.9 miles ENE
    8. Portscatho - 5.4 miles SW
    9. The River Fal - 6.3 miles W
    10. Saint Mawes - 6.8 miles SW
    These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
    1. Mevagissey - 0.2 miles N
    2. Gorran Haven - 0.8 miles S
    3. Charlestown - 2.6 miles NNE
    4. Par - 3.6 miles NNE
    5. Polkerris - 3.7 miles NE
    6. Fowey - 4.5 miles NE
    7. Lantic Bay - 4.9 miles ENE
    8. Portscatho - 5.4 miles SW
    9. The River Fal - 6.3 miles W
    10. Saint Mawes - 6.8 miles SW
    To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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    Chart
    Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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    What's the story here?
    Portmellon is a small fishing village built around a diminutive sandy east facing cove, located ½ a mile to the south of Mevagissey. It is a quiet location with a popular inn, a sandy beach and a public slipway leading down to the beach for launching boats.

    The shelter and holding are good but it is only suitable as a temporary anchorage in settled weather and offshore winds.


    How to get in?
    Portmellon with Mevagissey Pier visible in the backdrop
    Image: Michael Harpur


    Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location for seaward approaches.

    The southwestern end of Mevagissey Bay is made up of rolling hills that turn into cliffs at the coast, or deep valleys that fall into the sea at Mevagissey and its adjoining village of Portmellon. From the north Portmellon is best identified as being the bay located a ½ mile south of Mevagissey Harbour, from which it is separated by a small promontory. From the south, it is easily identified by being ¾ of a mile north-westward of its sheltering Church Point. Use Mevagissey's Click to view haven directions for local approaches.
    Portmellon Cove as seen from the east at high water
    Image: Michael Harpur


    Initial fix location From the initial fix, on the 5-metre contour about 250 metres outside the heads of the cove, sound in westward to a suitable depth. Keep an eye on the sounder as the bay shelves gradually at first but decreases rapidly close to the shore.

    Haven location Most vessels tend to anchor off the middle of the small sandy cove. This is convenient for landing on the beach at the head of the cove which is around 150 metres long. The beach is completely covered at high water when boats can be tethered on a public slip on the northwest corner of the cove.


    The shoreline leading out to Chapel Point
    Image: Michael Harpur


    However, in winds from the southwest, this position is subject to swell that can wrap around Chaple Point and cause an uncomfortable roll. A better position during these times is to anchor off the mainland between Portmellon and Chaple Point which avoids this and provides a better degree of protection should the wind back southerly.


    Why visit here?
    The origin of the name Polperro is uncertain. Then name is the conjunction of the word Porth, meaning 'harbour', with mellon, meaning ‘mill’, so the name means ‘harbour or port of the mill’. Mellon is often also spelled melin, mellin, melyn, or vellan and in Cornish the area name is spelled Porthmelin.


    Portmellon Cove
    Image: Michael Harpur


    Portmellon developed much later than Mevagissey, but the small village's prosperity has also been just as closely linked to the sea as its larger neighbour. Mostly that means fishing and particularly, during the 18th and early 19th-centuries, smuggling. In the latter part of the 18th-century smuggling was an open practice in Cornwall, and Mevagissey made a fortune smuggling duty free goods from the Channel Islands. Mevagissey's ringleader was a fisherman turned smuggler called James Dunn, or Captain Dunn as he became known.


    Portmellon Cove as seen from the south
    Image: Michael Harpur


    Dunn owned several vessels that were well known to be involved in smuggling. His many ships plied a steady trade back and forth to Guernsey in the Channel Isles. There they would legally purchase spirits in large barrels which were decanted into smaller bottles during the return passage. Arriving back to Mevagissey these were then ready to be efficiently landed and distributed for sale throughout England by a highly organised, well-run supply chain. The whole process made Dunn an exceptionally wealthy man which he could manage without concern until 1799.

    William Pitt
    Image: Public Domain
    In that year William Pitt's government introduced a novel new tax called 'income tax' in order to finance the war with France. Pitt who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer and the youngest British Prime Minister, had to contend with major events in Europe including the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Pitt believed that the new 'income tax' would be regarded as a fairer form of taxation, an idea that has continued to be debated to the present day.


    This new 'income tax', however, was a major threat to a cash-rich man such as Dunn who needed the means to conceal the origins of illegally obtained money. So he used the profits from smuggling to set up a large scale shipbuilding business in Portmellon. The business started with a partnership with the reputable shipbuilder Thomas Henna. They were in partnership from 1799 to 1806 and built many fine cutters.


    What severed their original partnership was a dramatic change in the smuggling business that then existed. In the early part of the 19th-century, the government started to clamp down on illicit trade. Ships were being seized, smugglers arrested, and convicted smugglers were receiving stiff punishments. Fewer men were now prepared to be involved in the risky business and those that did had to go undercover and become covert.


    The disused launch-way for the old boatyard
    Image: Michael Harpur


    But in owing a shipyard Dunn was perfectly placed to adapt to the new environment. His shipwrights could build boats with false hulls and hidden compartments. These double skins and hidden locations meant contraband could be stashed away, so that they could still evade detection by a revenue man. Dunn either owned the boats he built or sold them to Guernsey, Rye and elsewhere, but he would just as happily build a fast cutter for revenue men to chase them. In its heyday, Dunn’s boatyard was even home to Mevagissey’s first lifeboat, the 'South Warwickshire’, which could be launched from the beach of the sheltered cove.


    The disused launch-way for the old boatyard
    Image: Michael Harpur


    Dunn continued as a shipbuilder in Portmellon until his death in 1842. The long history of wooden boat building in his yard continued through its various different owners and even down through family lines until 1983 when it finally closed. A reminder of its many launches can be seen by the remains of the old slipway that is now out of use. The yard is now only used to store boats including the gig of Mevagissey Rowing Club who have used Portmellon Cove as their base since 1987.


    The public slip in the northeast corner of the bay
    Image: Michael Harpur


    Today Portmellon is a quiet and peaceful little cove. It is seldom crowded with most visitors preferring the beaches at Pentewan or Gorran Haven instead. The east facing cove’s gradually shelving sandy beach is tidal and covers completely at high tide. For those who would like to land and relax, the overlooking ‘The Rising Sun Inn’ public house serves good food during the season.


    The Rising Sun Inn overlooking the beach
    Image: Michael Harpur


    For the more active there is much to see along the coastal path, as Portmellon Cove lies at the start of the stunning Roseland Heritage Coast. From here the coastal path heading westward towards the Roseland Peninsula and St. Mawes, is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt sections of the South West Coastal Path. The walk out to Chapel Point which can be seen from Portmellon, behind which is Colona Beach, is a real treat. Likewise, Mevagissey is a 20-minute walk to the north.


    Colona Beach tucked in around Chapel Point
    Image: Michael Harpur


    From a boating point of view, Portmellon is a delightful small cove that makes for an attractive anchorage in fine weather. But this is not a place to be if the wind should turn to the east. A quick glance at the stout wooden shutters on all of the houses that line the seafront provides a hint of what it is like then. When an easterly storm arrives the waves overtop the sea wall and, were it not for these protective boards, the windows would be driven in.


    What facilities are available?
    Portmellon has a popular inn and the fishing village of Mevagissey to the north has a range of shops, restaurants and pubs.

    St. Austell is about 7 miles away and provides a much wider range of shopping facilities, including large supermarkets, with the high street recently having undergone a multi-million-pound rebuild and development programme. There is a mainline train service from St Austell to London Paddington (about 4 hours). Newquay International Airport (20 miles) has a daily flight to London Gatwick.


    With thanks to:
    eOceanic


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    Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
    The above plots are not precise and indicative only.






    Portmellon aerial view



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