Summer ‘Round the UK’ sailing trip 2021
Well, it’s been a bit hectic and I am just sitting down now (Friday 11th June 2021) to start my blog/diary, whatever you want to call it. We are now in Milford Haven and this is how we got here.
Before we set off
So – even before we set off on our epic voyage, there was a bit of a set back. Chris went out for a run and all was going so well until he tore his plantar fascia muscle – right leg. He hobbled back to the boat but has been fairly immobile since then and it is very painful. Supposed to rest – not much chance of that though. We have our walking gear with us to do some walking in Scotland – hope it’s better by the time we get there.
Monday 7th June
Having waited until the lovely engineer came to finally replace our windlass motor, we set off on the first of several long passages to get us north in quick fashion which we hoped would allow us plenty of time to cruise the Western islands of Scotland (whisky territory) and make our way through the Caledonian Canal.
Today’s passage would take us to Falmouth for an overnight stop. We had a full fuel tank and would need it as there was little useful wind and we were in for a long motor. Just outside Portsmouth we realised that the instruments and chart plotter had lost their communication between them – probably a loose connection brought about when the engineer fitted new wind instrument last week. So we turned around and headed back to base. Luckily the engineer was still around and fixed the problem in about 5 minutes. So – off we went again at 11.30am. We put up the main sail and motor sailed for the rest of the journey. First dolphins of the trip spotted about 9.30pm. Filmed by Chris. I was down below getting a snooze in before my night shift on watch later. About 11pm we realised the radar was not working and one of the battens in the mainsail was coming loose.
I took over the watch at 3am – not a bad time as all was calm and the sky was full of stars. By 4am the sky was getting lighter all the time. The sun rose at 05.12am and was a beautiful sight. Several Lobster pots were spotted once it was light enough to see them. Makes me wonder how many we avoided during the night!? There were several fishing boats out doing their thing – which means they go round in all directions and you never know what they are going to do next. Best to keep a wide berth!
Tuesday 8th June
Chris was up by 9am and fixed the radar (loose connection at mast base) and loose sail batten before breakfast. By 11am we were only a few miles outside Falmouth and the wind filled in enough to sail for an hour or two. Sailed into Falmouth harbour, took down the sails, motored on to the fuel berth and filled up. We then went and found a visitors buoy for the rest of the day until we were due to set off again at 5am tomorrow morning. This trip took exactly 24 hours. So far so good.
Wednesday 8th June
Today we set off for Milford Haven. We dropped off the visitors buoy at 4.50am and motored towards the Lizard. One single common dolphin stayed with us for about half an hour at 6am. Bacon sandwiches for breakfast. Very lumpy around the Lizard. Despite maximum doses of sea sickness pills, that rough patch made me (Helen) sea sick – which didn’t bode well for the rest of the passage.
Once we altered course West across Mounts Bay we were able to sail. By the time we reached Lands end the visibility was down to about 100yds so decided to go outside Longships. Turning north there was insufficient wind to sail so motored for a couple of hours until it filled in, and then ran under just the genoa for the rest to the trip.
I spent much of the rest of the trip below decks trying to sleep off the sea sickness. I did do a couple of stints on watch to give Chris a break, but it was tough. The Bristol channel and St George’s channel leading up to the Irish Sea was exposed to a SW swell which rolled the boat from side to side plus the waves produced by the tides and wind rocking us up and down every which way - not another boat, lobster pot, dolphin, anything for hours on end.
At about 12.35 we were contacted on VHF radio by the warship Northumberland asking us what we were doing, where we were going and how many people were on board! Well – turns out the there is a G7 summit going on in St Ives and the warship is guarding the waters!
At about 4.30pm we had to change course to avoid a car transporter massive thing which was engaged in a ‘high line exercise’ with a coastguard helicopter, practising putting a man down on the ship from the helicopter. Chris watched as I languished below!
Thursday 10th June
Fog set in from about 2am, but was not much of an issue as there was nothing else out there!
It was still foggy as we approached Milford Haven and there was plenty of radio chat between MH Port Control and the oil tankers milling around outside the port. The Port Authorities telling the tankers to go and wait 10 miles away until the fog lifted enough for the pilot boats from Milford Haven to go out and guide the tankers in safely!
At about 7.30am we entered Milford Haven – although you wouldn’t know it as the fog meant we couldn’t see any land! We used our GPS to creep alongside the channel into the waterway, hopping from one channel marking buoy to the next until the fog lifted enough for us to see the entrance to the Marina. The entrance is controlled with a lock and we motored into the lock at 8.30am. The lock keeper was very jolly and made the process easy. Out of the lock and into the marina in 10 minutes. And, at last, tired and washed out we ‘parked’ safely on a pontoon - thankfully right next to the Marina office and showers!!
Then there was just the task of tiding up the boat, and getting some food, drink and rest. We will stay here for a couple of days to plan the next part of our journey.
Friday 11th June
Relaxing day in port, with a chance of re-stocking the boat with fresh food, milk etc. There is a massive Tesco just near by. Chris has set up his ‘Go-Pro’ camera to attach to the boat while we are sailing – that will be interesting. Apparently it picks up audio so he will have to be very careful what he says to me!
We tried to book in to a restaurant for dinner tonight but all the restaurants around the Marina seem to be fully booked – well I suppose it is Friday night – but the marina doesn’t seem that busy, and we haven’t seen any other visiting boats. Anyway, it is what it is and so I will cook Mushroom Stroganoff and drink wine!
Saturday 12th June
Left the marina through the lock on free flow and motored up to Dale where we anchored for Lunch.
We then set off intending to go to anchor in South Bay on Skomer and the go through Jack sound at slack water but changed our minds and went around Skokholm and Skomer so as to be sure of getting to Ramsey Sound at slack water. Saw plenty of Puffins past the islands. The plan worked well, after a bit of a scare as the tide against us was quite fierce. We could see where we were going but were not getting there very quickly! No need to panic though, we got to Ramsey Sound with perfect timing. We then had a fair tide across Cardigan bay to Bardsey Island. I was on watch from 9pm (while Chris tried to get some sleep), keeping a look out and keeping us pointed in the right direction by tinkering with the auto-pilot (we call the auto-pilot 'George' - something my Father-in-law got from his days in the RAF). We had my Spotify playlist blasting out after dinner and U2 were playing when a seal popped his head up to see what was occurring - obviously a U2 fan! It was a beautiful sunset this evening and was still light enough in the cockpit a 11pm to be writing this. We whizzed along with the tide into the darkness.
Sunday 13th June
When Chris took over the watch at 1am we had passed the end of Bardsey Island, and I had set another waypoint for a few miles further on making sure we were round Bardsey Island and not too close inshore. We were ahead of schedule so we slowed down and sailed for a couple of hours so that we reached our intended anchorage in some daylight. We put in to Port Dinllaen, timing our arrival for am twilight (0400), dropped anchor and grabbed some two or three hours sleep before we needed to set off for Caernarfon, at the SW entrance to the Menai Straits.
So, we upped anchor at 08.30 and set off again under sail for The Menai Strait. Crossed Caernarfon Bar with plenty to spare and berthed in Victoria Dock marina, just under Caernarfon Castle, at 1120. A very lovely spot and a beautiful sunny day, with Caernarfon Castle in sight from the Marina. Popped the pink champagne for lunch - had to be done! Quick nap and dinner on board.
Monday 14th June
After looking at the weather forecast (promising fog patches tomorrow) we decided to set off again. We are bound for Conwy but it is not possible to get there in one tide so we planned to anchor at Beaumaris after passing though the infamous Swellies, in the Menai Strait. We have, of course, prior experience of this a Chris's Dad owned the Island 'Ynys Gorad Goch' there in the late 80s. We set off at 11am after remembering to go and pay our harbour fees.
While in Victoria Dock Marina we discovered that we were moored ahead of a yacht called "Kate" owned by David Rainsbury, author of "The Irish Sea Pilot" who gave us a few tips, and confirmed that Beaumaris pool was a perfectly good place to anchor and not as exposed as it looks, and so indeed it proved.
After safe passage through The Swellies we anchored in Beaumaris Pool in plenty of water and watched over the next few hours as the tide fell and the sand appeared all around us! Chris tried fishing for a while as we had seen some Bass jumping, but with no luck. Slept well.