So! We finally set off at 10:30 am on Friday 17th of April 2014 with a passage plan to Cork . The forecast was 15 knt winds from the North East and all was going well.
As it started to go dark, we reefed the main down to a little triangle of cloth and left the Genoa with one or two turns and were zooming along with the wind behind us doing a steady 5.5 knts.
By Midnight, we made our first Waypoint and began our turn South around the outside of the Holyhead Traffic Separation Scheme. The wind had got up to a steady 22knts, no gusts but we decided to reef the Genoa down a bit more as our SOG was now 6.5 to 7 knts. There was no moon at all and it was difficult to make out the difference between a big ship near us or lights of the towns on Anglesey. At this point, I was really pleased that Amanda had forced me up the mast to sort out the AIS antenna!
By 04:00 the wind had increased to around 28 knts, but our boat speed was now touching 11 kts. The boat seemed quite happy, but I wasn’t, we were going far too quickly for my liking and at that point it seemed a better option to crash on regardless, rather than turn in to the wind and try to reef again!
At first light, it was blowing force 6 constantly and we could see how big the waves were. I wished it was still dark! Looking around, we realised that we had lost our non-slip table cover (so that didn’t work) a fender was missing and one of our lovely new cockpit cushions had gone – good job we hadn’t brought the dogs along!
By 07:00 we were away from the TSS and 20 miles from Arklow. We decided we didn’t fancy another freezing, windy night like we had just endured so looked at our options. I really didn’t like the prospect of getting to Arklow with an onshore wind and also trying to negotiate the banks, so we turned left; like you do and we headed for Pwllheli (North Wales). It was a pivotal moment, like in the film Apollo 13, when they realise they won’t be going to the Moon, I realised we wouldn’t be going to Ireland this trip.
We dropped anchor off St Tudswalls Islands around 14:00 in flat calm and glorious sunshine and waited for the tide.
It was nice to eventually get in to somewhere familiar, even though I did crash in to the pontoon at Pwllheli AGAIN! (Becoming a bit of a habit there, got to watch that
After a couple of days to recover we set off for Fishguard on Monday morning.
I called up the firing range at Aberporth, to see if they wanted to use us as target practice, but the range officer said we would be fine to pass through as they were tidying up today, collecting unexploded ordnance with their RIB’s – GREAT ! We motored until lunch time as there was no wind at all – what a contrast to the beginning of the trip.
We had some company along the way in the form of a Dolphin pod who followed us for hours. I managed to get some good video footage and I think they realised and put on a bit of a show for us.
We approached Fishguard old harbour at 18:00 and dropped anchor after circling round and round to find the deepest bit. It was tranquil, calm and sunny and a perfect end to a great day. Our confidence restored.
Around 02:00 I awoke abruptly, being bounced around the boat. My immediate thought was that we were drifting, so I raced up on deck to see what was going on only to find the Irish Sea Ferry had just arrived in the harbour! No consideration.
Tuesday brought another fine day for our trip to Skomer Island bird sanctuary. So before leaving Fishguard, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the fabulous surroundings, before pulling up the anchor and setting off on our next leg. The wind was great, pushing us in the right direction, the sun was shining and life was good. We arrived at Skomer Island about 14:30 and the weather was glorious. However, didn’t really think it through too well before hand. Being a bird sanctuary has it’s downfalls, mainly from the birds!
The trip from Skomer to Padstow was going to be a fair old hike, so we set our alarm for 04:00 to get moving by first light. Waking up before dawn in this setting was so peaceful, no background noise, no ambient light – It was fantastic.
We checked the weather on every available medium as usual and settled for the NAVTEX version of Force 3 to 4, occasionally 5 later, which seemed to be the general synopsis from all. We decide that by “later”, we would be tucked up in Padstow. Hmmmm!
Anchor was weighed and off we went before sunrise. I suppose the clue was in the sky, “Red sky in the morning…etc. etc.”
Once we cleared the islands, we were happily zooming along, dodging the tankers and having a great time.
Once past the entrance to Milford, I decided to reef a bit, the wind was blowing around 20 knts so slightly more than expected. The sea had chopped up a bit by the time we had got level with the Bristol Channel but the wind which was now at the top end of our comfort zone of 25 knts. It was a constant breeze, not gusting and we were sailing along quite happily, but the sea state was pretty awful, with waves seeming to come from all directions.
By 11:00 we had reefed down to virtually nothing. The wind was NE 33 knts constant, directly on our beam. We were side on to the breaking swell with a crazy, confused set of smaller waves coming from our Starboard side. The motion was horrible. The auto helm was making things worse, so we were doing it the old fashioned way and steering ourselves!. I know this went on for 5 hours, because that is how long the gap is in our log (Amanda was virtually unconscious with seasickness!!).
Inevitably and much to our relief, as we approached land things started to calm down a bit.
The weather went from sublime to ridiculous and we had to motor the last two hours in to Padstow, as the wind had dropped away completely and the sea was as flat as a mill pond.
As we pulled in to Padstow, still in all our storm gear, we looked around to see people in shorts and ‘T’ shirts pointing and laughing. There was hardly any point trying to explain what we had encountered for the last 14 hours, they just wouldn’t have believed us!
As luck would have it, our stay would be short lived. We slept like logs and woke to a fantastic morning. We went off to explore our surroundings, trying to count just how many restaurants Rick Stein does own?
Once back on CA, we decide to get a wash on and I went for a chat with the Harbour Master. He was a great guy and seemed genuinely impressed that we had sailed down from Fleetwood (although I could have misinterpreted his incredulity at these Northern folk on a folly).
Padstow was lovely and having treated ourselves to a nice cold beer, all that had passed before was forgotten and we looked forward to a few days chilling in this lovely part of the world, before the next leg, rounding Cape Cornwall and the Lizard!
As we were wandering around aimlessly, we bumped in to him again a little later and I introduced the Captain of our ship to him. I had failed to mention to him earlier, our onward journey and when Amanda explained that we were only here for a couple of days before heading off to Falmouth, there was an obvious sucking of air through teeth moment, which resulted in us all sat around his computer studying the weather.
It was now 16:00 and we had been in Padstow 23 hours. The decision was made; we would leave on the evening tide for Newlyn (in two hours).
As it happened, the Harbour master also had a Yacht, which he kept at Newlyn, where he also used to be the Harbour Master before taking over at Padstow. He had an intimate knowledge of our proposed route South and drew it on our chart for us in crayon, so that we couldn’t get lost.
Suitably rested! After our arduous previous day, by 18:30 we were underway again. We had been given specific waypoint times to take advantage of the “Tidal gate” rounding Land’s End.
Trust me! That is Lands End in the background
Mousehole, aptly named.
By 09:00 we were tied up in Newlyn, with a cup of tea, having successfully achieved what we thought was going to be the hardest part of our sail. In the end it was fairly straightforward, all to do with timing, so I am told, despite me going in to panic mode around 01:00,when I thought we were about to crash in to a buoy right in front of us, only to find out (Amanda pointed out) it was the Pendeen Lighthouse about 10 miles away! (I think it s called sleep depravation hallucination )
We didn’t see too much of the Cornish coastline, due to the mist, but we got the basic idea.
Newlyn was a bit like Fleetwood but with hills, so we did a quick restock, had a good night’s sleep ready for our final UK leg.
When I read back through the notes, it has overtones of a Gangster hit list, “Make Pendeen no later than 03:30” “Aim to hit Cape Cornwall 04:00”, “Out the Brisons”, “In Longships, watch out for drift on Sharks Fin and Kettles Bottom”, “Take out Runnel Stone if getting hairy”, “Once you have dealt with the Bucks, take out The Stannock, then lookout for Mousehole, Newlyn can be a rough Place to enter SE.” It all made sense at the time, following our crayon line we rounded Land’s End just after daybreak in drizzle and a bit cold, but who cares, we made it!
It was a mere 35 miles from Newlyn to Falmouth and we decided we would base ourselves at Mylor Yacht Haven 3 or 4 miles further up the estuary, which would be nice and protected! Plus the fact it was half price, which was nice (but still more expensive than Padstow).
On this leg, we encountered our first sea mist which was really weird. One second we were sailing along in lovely sunshine looking at the coastline around the Lizard, then, it disappeared! We could still see the ships around us in glorious sunshine, but the coastline was gone. Time to use all our electronic gizmos again. The radar is a fantastic tool and AIS takes it to the next level. We can pick out the targets on the radar and then click on them on the AIS and find out their heading, speed, bearing from us and destination. Fortunately, the mist disappeared as quickly as it arrived and we tied up in Mylor after a really pleasant sail.
Mylor was a great location, more yachts than I have ever seen in one place. Every shape and size, home-made, production boats, Racing Yachts, hand built masterpieces. If it ever floated, you would probably find an example of it here.
There was every kind of boating service available. The washers were great, nice snack bar and a sailing apparel store. The only thing they forgot was a food shop! Worse still, no buses into Falmouth to get to the Supermarket .
So, I had to improvise.
OK on a nice day, not sure I would want to do it on a rainy or windy day!
We didn’t feel in any hurry whatsoever to leave Mylor, but we did keep a lazy eye on the weather. Sure enough, just as we started to get used to staying anywhere, Amanda noticed bad weather approaching, preceded by about 36 hours of decent weather (decent for April in the GB). So about 15:30 on the 29th of April we said goodbye to Falmouth, GB and headed out across the Channel to Brittany.
We had worked out a passage plan, taking in to account the uneven tidal drift, seven hours one way, five hours the other. All seemed to be going well, the Auto Helm was doing its thing and the kettle was on. Then I noticed HMS Somethingorother doing a dramatic U turn in front of us! By the time we had sailed around the Tsunami of a wake it had left for us, we were heading back towards Fleetwood! The Auto pilot wanted us to go back to the start and try again and I couldn’t remember how to tell it to just resume from where we had left off. In the end, it was easier to just stick in a new waypoint ‘Roscoff’ and tell it to go there. So much for tidal drift, leeway etc. etc.
It seemed to go dark quickly and we settled in to our ship spotting routine, wondering why the big ships were not using the Traffic Separation Scheme. It would have made life so much easier for us. By the time we actually reached the TSS, we had zig zagged around more ships than I can ever remember seeing on the move at any one time. (if I had studied the charts more carefully, I would have noticed the Traffic Separation Scheme is further East and further West than the bit we crossed!)
Having tried to race the Brittany Ferry ‘Amorique’ to Port and losing, we eventually arrived in Roscoff at 07:00 UK time which apparently is “noonerealy caresabouttime” French time. It was shut!
We tied up on the first dock we found and went to sleep for a couple of hours.