Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Bristol Channel and the End of Land.

It was time to face the the tumultuous tides and seas that make the Bristol Channel.  Open to the Atlantic the Western Approaches can be wild but with careful timing and clement conditions it is nothing to be afeared.

We left Neyland at 11:00 hrs and proceeded out to sea passing inside Thorn Island with 3 metres to spare, that's top and bottom as there are electric cables to the top and rocks to the bottom.  I rather hoped the yacht behind didn't follow us at he was much taller! 

Before sunset the sun shone horizontally through some cloud and gave a rainbow prism effect badly captured on the photo I'm afraid.

The Bristol Channel was kind to us and the dolphins turned out to play from 16:00 hrs to nightfall.  Even by torchlight one could see them playing in the bow wave.  Pod after pod turned up to have fun.  Assuming they were all different I estimate we saw over fifty all told.  We closed the coast off Devon and Cornwall overnight and dawn saw us 17 miles from Longships.  

As we closed the buildings could be see marking Land's End.
 We took the inshore passage as there was little groundswell.  With the Longships to seaward.


The lighthouse with helideck perched atop.
By 07:00 were were off the Armoured Knight and Lands End.  Not clearly seen here but lurking nevertheless.

 We had made it without falling off the edge but we still had a bit further to go past Tater-du and the light.

Before making into Penzance Bay.

The wind was due to blow from the east so we took shelter up behind the Mount of St Micheal.

Where the Steward promptly spread his bed on the back deck and fell fast asleep.

He had been on the go for 24 hours so I let him off a charge.  We clocked about 125 miles from Milford Haven to St Michaels Mount.  And in the morning we awoke to this rather rakish beauty anchored alongside.

Welsh Wales and South Wales.

We departed the pretty and hospitable Port of St Mary in the good old Isle of Man and headed due south for 'olly 'ead as the previous Steward would say.

It is a realatively short hop to the set apart island and after passing the Skerries light made for the harbour entrance.

Ferries were avoided and we picked up a mooring in the new harbour.


And were treated to a passable sunset.

The tide served at some unearthly hour and we left the confines of harbour to round the North Stack.  It is a good job it was dark as I would like to have seen the overfalls but we certainly felt them with over 8 knots of ground speed.  The South Stack was taken a little further offshore.  The sun gave us a pleasant rise and made our day.

Such was the benefit of the tide we were able to take it through the Bardsey sound off the end of the Lleyn Peninsula.  Bardsey sound is used by kayakers at it runs white water particularly near the "Bitches", some pretty offensive rocks.

Food seemed to play its part in the long day and the Steward rustled up a homemade tomato sauce to go with the pasta, sadly dried.
The tide was still with us as we rounded north through St Tudwal's Sound and its light.

And into the roads of the same name.  Here the tide ran out and a mooring was aquired for a few hours.  

A Spanish omlete was created for lunch.

Such was the buisiness of the place the mooring was soon dropped the delights of Abersoch were left behind.  A day of sailing had us at dusk at the Porthmadog bar trying to find the approach channel without success.  The wind had puffed up and there was white water all around and we headed offshore and into the hidden delights of Pwllheli.  Alongside a holding berth we listened to a concert followed by fireworks at five in the morning.  Being awake anyway we released the lines and headed out to a better sea and a return to the Porthmadog bar, that's the sand bar of course.

This time it was obvious as we found the channel marks had been moved over 2 miles to the south.  Once located it was a straightfoward task to follow the marks in and we tied up on the Madog yacht club drying pontoon.  After five minutes we were told to move.  What a welcome, but it was for our own good as Tutak would have fallen into a big hole regardless of legs.  They moved boats around and found us a suitable space for the duration and held a celebration that night in the bar.  The next morning we were told it went on until the early hours.  That explains why I was confused when I awoke late the following afternoon having experienced nightmares of life happening around me and dogs paddling canoes and strange things.........

Apparently most folk just go across Cardigan Bay and miss out the delights of the armpit of Wales.  A geographical term alluding to its place on the map and nothing else.  It is a place of much tooting, being at one end of the Ffestiniog steam railway.  Porthmadog is a happy place it seems.  Holiday makers abound and the scenery is quite nice with Portmeirion tucked away just around the corner, home of giant bubble gum.

A view from our berth up and down the harbour at high water give an idea of the place.

We had a real good time there and, should you ever be near, make the effort, it could be worth it, you never know.  It was with some saddness that we left Porthmadog behind.

Off course the reason for no-one visiting is apparent when the wind blows.  The bar becomes exciting in even moderate conditions from the onshore.  Once over the bar one can become embayed as the prevailing winds trap one to leeward and one ends up on a beach somewhere.  Local destinations to the south dry out and as one has to leave at around high water the tide does not serve well for adjacent harbours.  New places on a falling tide being out we set off for a longish passage to South Wales breaking the navigation at Fishguard.  We had a good bach south.

After sunset

we felt our way into the anchorage which was dotted with moorings.  We managed it more by luck than judgement.  The night had spawned a fast ferry.

But our side was clear at any rate.

Fishguard does provide some shelter but we did not dally.  Heading instead, south, for Strumble Head and on to St David's Head and Ramsey Sound.  Reaching there at a time when the water is not white and the kayakers are playing.

Indeed it looks rather pleasant but the gps tells a different story as we accelerate up to military power and thread our way through the crazy paving of hidden rocks.  It's what makes you feel alive!

All that made me hungry so I call for a snack.

To keep me going.  That evening we anchored in the bay adjacent to the Sound of Ramsey going by the name of Porthlysgi.

Departure the next day was time to coincide with a tide to take us into Solva.  A little drying gap in the cliffs that I visited on foot many years ago.  I thought it would good to return and show Tutak.  And here is Tutak legged up against the wall in Solva.

As the waters recede the local heron goes afishin nextdoor.

 Apparently the Steward tells me there is something of a craze for adorning street furniture with knitted covers.  It has reached here too by the looks of it.

The sweet little harbour of Solva looking down from the cliff path.

What a pleasant place that was with moneyed incomers mingling, sometimes not too well, with natives.  A world away from Portmadog.

Departing Solva bound south.

 Jaunty rocky face into the wind as we face it too.

Out near St Ann's Head light.

We took a bit of a pasting coming round the corner into Milford Haven and took the opportunity to pickup a solitary buoy in Castle Bay for the night.  It was big enough for a tug and we were glad the Port Authority didn't want it back.

The trip up river was pleasant if industrial. But it looked as if it had been landscaped to mitigate against the hard iron with the defences adding to history.

Lunch of chille fried rice intterupted the scenery for a while.

But still the oil berths carried on.

 And on.

The names of former vessels for all to see, well not all perhaps.

And then we have the Irish ferry making for Pembroke docks I think.

We eventually ended up at a place called Neyland.  There we took on fuel, the first since the end of the Caladonial canal at Corpach.

Neyland is rather nice being tucked away from the industial clutter by wooded banks and colourful houses.  They put on a hog roast and music for us but we had to decline as the weather window for the Bristol Channel called us back to sea.  Milford Haven, I like it but sadly we only brushed the surface.

Bangor and the Isle of Man.

We had eaten most of the fresh supplies so a raid was planned and the unfortunate town of Bangor was the victim of our pillage.  We managed to sail through the breakwaters without being spotted but the the Royal Ulster Yacht Club had spies abroad and we were spotted and coralled to the far corner where it is half a mile of pontoons to reach the facilities.  I confess the facilities were very good and probably up to the 20 or so golden anchor awards and only a few percent more than the lesser places.  There were more than a few fine boats there.  We were moored bow to bow with a big daddy Fisher 46.  I reckon you could fit five Tutaks in her hull and still have room.

Yes, through the lingering haze the block housing the facilities can just be seen in centre picture.

The Steward rustled up some brekky for us and the day was off to a good start.

And continued apace once the harbour walls had been left behind as we raced eastwards.

 Rounding the corner of Belfast lough we headed sarf wing a wing.

Many miles later we passed the old lighthouse on the South rock even though the North ones seemed worse to me!

Cold, tired and hungry, (the line from a song by....) we rounded up to drop the hook in Knockinelder Bay.

That evening I was subjected to this!  The sacrifices I make for sailing.

We were overlooked by this rather pretty castle.

 I bet they can't see the barn from their front window mind.

The morning had us up happy as the wind was light and blowing us across the Irish sea.  So with every scrap of cloth hanging off the rig we scampered offshore only to lose the wind completely after an hour.  All that work had to be undone and acres of nylon had to be repacked.  Another hour of motoring had us heading into a stiff breeze, and yes, it was on the nose!

Sometime later that day we reached Calf Sound.  It separates the little island of the Calf of Man to the south west from the main island and the tide runs well. 

Whether it is a spectator sport, watching boats run the sound, or whether there was something else going on I know not but the car park was full to overflowing.

Safely through, and it was a piece of cake really, we took the coast round to the north and east for a mile or two to look for Port St Mary. 

There we picked up a visitor mooring and settled down for the evening.
The weather was due to blow from the south so we were going to be around for a day or two.  We decided to become tourists for the duration and armed with bus timetables and a list of what to do and see we set forth just before lunch.  The hotel was next to the bus stop and we had just missed one so we stopped for a pint.

That evening we staggered out of the bar and headed back to the boat!

We didn't miss the bus the next day and ended up in Douglas to see the castle in the bay.

Before heading on to the electric railway to do Snae Fell, sadly topped with cloud and blasted by a gale.

 Our descent was timed to conincide with a conection to take us to visit Issabella.
Issabella is still in fine fettle and will continue to turn for many more years.  Our entrance fee has seen to that!

After such a shock we took to sugar and partook a portion of cake.

Another day had us back in Douglas where we ventured to look at the marina.  One locks in over a drop cill and lift bridge.

Many euros have been spent here with a good mix of harbour wall and pontoons.

Sadly spoilt by the upper reaches being used for the storage of abandoned or unloved boats.  Even the swans look down beat.

We had moved Tutak to the inner harbour as it was getting boisterous on the mooring.  Leg out she settled nicely on the sandy bottom.

 They thoughtfully reserve placed for visitors in the inner harbour as the visitor buoy are a little exposed in some winds.

The inner harbour with the tide out probably taken from the Albert Hotel window.

 We took the opportunity to pack the inflatable away once the wildlife had been encouraged to vacate.

Still at peace with the tide in although a surge can work its way in as we found out.

The Steward takes his role seriously you know.

And later on prepared some fresh vegatable savoury rice with frikadellen accompanied by a couple of tropical screwdrivers.  What joy.

Enough is enough, one can only do so much and we had reached that point.