The intention for this cruise is a circuit of the north-east Irish Sea, taking in Anglesey, Isle of Man, and Cumbria, and taking in the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend in late July. However departure was seriously delayed, indirectly for professional reasons, so the cruise of Anglesey waters was very much abbreviated – but I hope to get back there in September.
I launched at Liverpool Sailing Club on Saturday 21st July, about ten days later than I had originally hoped, and spent the night at anchor before departing on the morning ebb. The first leg, to Conwy, was longer than I would have chosen had departure not been so delayed; normally I would have diverted via the Dee, and stopped for the night at Hilbre. It was a long slog, almost 12 hours, to get there. Wind was predominantly light, and predominantly on the nose, so apart from one spell of about 45 minutes it was a case of either motoring or motor-sailing all the way. Having weighed anchor at 0940, I was finally moored and secured at Conwy Marina at 2100. The direct passage is not the most interesting of passages at the best of times, and particularly so when the visibility is less than marvellous, as on this occasion, so that is all I shall say about it; I was glad to get in, and settle down to enjoy a rare luxury – 2 G&Ts; the first while phoning my godson, both to report safe arrival and for a convivial chat, and then a second while cooking a belated dinner. But I felt that the additional one was very well earned!
The following day, by contrast, was a shorter leg, to one of my all-time favourite anchorages, and offered a cracking sail to boot. I refuelled in the marina, at marina prices, but on the odd occasion it is worth that for the convenience, and then cleared the marina at 1130 on passage for Porth Eilian, a.k.a. Lynas Cove, at the northeast corner of Anglesey. This is an idyllically scenic and superbly sheltered small cove, which in the inner cove has comfortable swinging room for a single yacht at anchor; but with any more than one at anchor one would want to keep a very careful anchor watch. I have known it for most of my life, indeed for several years during my childhood I spent almost the whole of every school holiday except Christmas there, and at that age our two primary activities there were swimming and boating; that is where I cut my nautical teeth as a very small boy, and as an adult I have made periodic return visits ever since.
We (i.e. the boat and I) left the marina under power, and motored until we were clear of the Conwy River; then at the Fairway Buoy hoisted full plain sail, and were “finished with engines”. After a slightly slow start, with wind initially light and on the nose, the wind both strengthened and freed slightly, giving us a cracking sail. For long periods we were doing consistently better than 5 knots on a close reach, reasonably frequently recording 5.4 to 5.6 knots, and occasionally touching 6 knots, which is not at all bad for the size of boat. This is speed through the water as measured by the Tridata log, which was new last year, and which I calibrated against the GPS; it does tend to under-read at low speeds, but is accurately adjusted at my usual planned passage speed of 5 knots, so I think these recorded speeds are reliable.
One minor frustration, however, was that because we were well pressed on the port tack the sea was regularly slopping up the outboard well and onto the starboard cockpit seat, and thence down into the cockpit well, so very frequent bailing was necessary.
I did have one unfortunate close encounter with a lobster pot, when the dinghy – which I was towing astern – fouled it and brought us to a peremptory halt. We were now moored by the stern, in enough wind to have moments earlier been driving us at getting on for 6 knots; and of course because we were now moored by the stern we had swung downwind. Something had to be done, and quickly, and there were a number of possibilities; in the first instance I chose to get all sail off her. Furling both the headsails was quick and easy, but dropping the mainsail when the boat was effectively moored and on a dead run was more problematic, but I did eventually succeed in getting the sail down. With the sail now off her I was able to free the dinghy from the mooring with the aid of the boat hook.
I had briefly considered transferring to the tender in order to free us, by cutting the fishing gear if necessary – tough on the fisherman, but his own fault because it was not correctly marked, which is a likely reason why I had not seen it. However I rejected that because both transfers, to and from the tender, were likely to be hazardous; and there was also the potential risk of finding myself marooned in the tender while being towed downwind at speed by the unmanned yacht, and unable to do anything effective to get back aboard and get the yacht back under control.
I also briefly considered setting the tender adrift from the yacht , and then drop sails, start the motor, and round up to recover the tender. That would have worked if I could rely on the tender remaining fouled by the mooring; but I had visions of the tender freeing itself once the load was released, and then blowing downwind faster that I could chase it.
Two further options did not occur to me until afterwards, and one of them would have been easy. I am a firm believer in having a “lazy painter”, or safety line, when towing; and it was that lazy painter, and only that one, which had become fouled. Had I realised this, I could therefore have released the lazy painter which would have freed us from the mooring, and I could then have recovered the lazy painter once we were free. But that didn’t occur to me in the heat of the moment; and slapped wrists are appropriate, because it should have done!
Another option, much more strenuous, but possible, would have been to have transferred the tow to the weather bow. The yacht would then have “weather cocked”, which would have enabled me to drop the main very much more easily.
In fairness to the fisherman, the pot was marked by a sizeable and vivid blue barrel, and I had simply not seen it; it had been under the sail, which is always a difficult direction for keeping a lookout. The best I can do is a series of periodic glances under the sail, and if that doesn’t reveal a hazard then that is too bad. But if the float had been carrying a flag, which is most certainly best practice and which I understand is actually a legal requirement, that will normally stand above the horizon, and there is a very much greater chance that I would then have seen it.
Over the remainder of my successive passages to Peel I encountered numerous other pot markers, but just one
solitary exception was marked with the requisite flag; and because it stands above the horizon it is so vastly more conspicuous than mere buoys. All the others, far too many to record individually, were inadequately marked; in good daylight visibility they are clear enough, provided they are not under the sail, but they are nothing like clear enough in poor visibility, or at night, or when under the sail.
I reported the hazard to the Coastguard, giving the satnav position, and I see from the log that I then resumed
the passage at 1415. Perhaps an hour and a half later I passed another yacht, much larger than mine, sailing in
the opposite direction. Both of us were reaching, but whereas I was on a fine reach he had the wind much freer, and yet he was wearing reefed main and no headsail. This could have indicated simply that he was ambling along, with all the time in the world; but, me being me, I wondered what he knew about the forecast (or indeed the actual weather) that I didn’t know. I was soon to find out!
As I approached closer to Point Lynas I closed the land in good time, because I wanted to get inside the tide race and the overfalls, taking the very narrow passage between those nasties to starboard and the other nasties – i.e. the rocks – to port. The race and the overfalls are manageable if needs must, but they are better avoided, and certainly it is more comfortable to avoid them.
The wind came a bit freer as I approached the Point, and it freshened. At 1630, two miles from the Point, I pulled down the first reef, and reefed the jib. Fifteen minutes later I became concerned that if it freshened any more I might wish to reduce further, and I did not want to do that off the Point in the very restricted inshore waters that I intended to use between the rocks and the tide race and overfalls; that space is very narrow indeed, and I certainly did not want to be messing around with reefing at that juncture. So at 1645 I pulled her down to “snug rig”, double reefed main, staysail, and jib fully furled. Then the wind fell light, and I ended up motoring round the point, and into Porth Eilian.
Porth Elian is delightful in many ways, but it offers nil facilities beyond a public convenience a short way up the hillside, at which it is possible to replenish water, albeit with difficulty, and mobile phone signals are nonexistent. So a phone call to report safe arrival requires a minimum of a half mile walk, at which point one may find a signal, with luck. The nearest place where one can reliably find a signal is found after a walk of about two miles, uphill. Contact duly established I then returned onboard for a leisurely dinner.
On the Tuesday I was feeling tired, and I no longer had any need to bust a gut to reach my immediate destination (Peel, Isle of Man), so I decided to have a lay day and enjoy Porth Eilian. Given its isolation one might well ask what is there to do, other than sit and enjoy the scenery, unless one is young enough to still enjoy swimming. Well njoying the stunning scenery is most certainly one option. But there are also spectacular walks in each direction along the Anglesey Coast Path, giving activities for two days, and a third activity is to take the tender out to explore the caves in the Lynas peninsula. I settled for a lazy morning, and then in the afternoon I replenished the water and then walked the Coast Path to Amlwch, where I enjoyed afternoon tea at the Museum café, took the opportunity of a decent mobile signal to phone Tim & Biddy, then replenished the larder at the local supermarket, and finally enjoyed a pint of ale before walking back to Porth Eilian.
Amlwch walk; site of the Holy Well (St. Eilian)
Back on board, animated conversation.
By pure chance I happen to have a second kettle aboard,
and also by pure chance they happened to be both on the stove
and spout to spout …
On Wednesday 25th July I was ready for the passage to Port St. Mary, Isle of Man. There were no forecasts
available until after departure, because there was no mobile phone signal and no marine VHF signal, but the last forecast seen was fair, and so was the apparent actual weather. We weighed anchor at 0950 and set off on passage, motor-sailing on a fine reach on starboard tack at 4.5 knot.
Mobile data became available at loosely around 1000, and at 1010 a forecast was obtained, offering mainly S or SW 3 or 4, with Isle of Man winds backing SE 3 or 4 later. Ideal – had it happened! In the event winds were consistently very light, and at times zero, so we ended up motoring all the way, with just occasional brief spells of motor-sailing. We eventually anchored at 1910 at Port St. Mary, after a passage of 9 hours 20 minutes, and were glad to get in.
En route we passed another moderately large cluster of fishing floats, at about the midway point of the passage,
which was most certainly not in inshore or coastal waters. And, yes, you’ve guessed, not one of them carrying a flag. I did log the positions of the first few, for subsequent report to RYA, but there were so many that in the end I decided there were too many to log them all.
Departure from Port St, Mary on the Thursday morning was timed to catch the optimal tide situation in Calf Sound; just after slack water, on the very first of the favourable stream. In the event we made it, just, but no thanks to my outboard, which took the best part of 20 minutes to start! Last year, for the second time in two years, my faithful Honda required a significant repair on top of its annual servicing, and since I had always felt that it was over-propped for this boat – despite having the finer pitch of the two available pitches – I bit the bullet and traded it in for a new Mercury 5 h.p. Saildrive. The new motor drives the boat well enough, but it can be a right pig to start; it has been back to the dealer several times, and I have seen with my own eyes that it is never any problem in his workshop. But put it aboard my boat and it is a different story, and I am rather regretting my expensive purchase.
However in the event we did make it, indeed earlier on the tide than on the equivalent passage five years earlier; we went through, motor-sailing, at a modest 6.5 knots SOG, corresponding to only about one knot of tide, and with no turbulence. We were passed in the Sound by a Prima 38, a much larger and seriously fast boat, so no surprise that she left us standing. Once clear of the Sound both boats had a good sailing breeze, so my engine (at least) was turned off, and I had the Prima 38 in sight ahead all the way until she rounded Contrary Head, just short of Peel; I reckon that by then she would have been about an hour ahead of me.
We had a largely uneventful run almost dead downwind as far as Peel, along a pleasant and moderately spectacular coastline, and in the course of that leg I learned something new about my boat; I discovered how to goosewing effectively without using a pole and without going forward on deck. I am reluctant to go forward on deck at sea when single-handing, so for a long time I have preferred to tack downwind rather than sail on a dead run. The big yankee jib still will not set stably when goosewinged unless a pole is used, but I learned on this leg that the staysail will goosewing and remain stable if it is sheeted to the top of the pushpit instead of through its normal fairlead. And then if I am very lucky, the wind spilling off the filled staysail will sometimes nicely fill the jib.
I had fully expected to arrive in Peel too late to enter the inner harbour, but on arrival I radioed harbour control
just to check. To my surprise the reply was “Come straight in; we are about to close, but will hold it for you.”
– 9 –
Cliffs near Spanish Head, south of Port St. Mary
(Sorry about the finger tip in the way … !)
Broad reaching up the west coast towards Peel
(Contrary Head, immediately south of Peel, the most distant part of coast visible)
– 10 –
Finally, for the last three or so seasons we have had slight leakage problems, which I have repeatedly worked
on over successive periods ashore. I am delighted to be able to report that at long last this seems to have now
been sorted; after more than a week afloat, including four sea passages, the bilge pump has still found nothing
to pump but air.
So that concludes Part 1, with my arrival in Peel, moored and secured at 1350.