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Voyage around the land of my fathers

Our passengers arrived together, bang on time having met on the bus from Bangor, the nearest station. Only two this time after another two late cancellations. Briefed and fed they retired early ready to be for a 07.00 start to the first days adventure. We had been dreading getting Snark out of Caernarfon, there was barely enough space to turn between the moored yachts and the wind had been pretty strong. Fortunately, as dawn broke the wind died and we could reverse out through the swing bridge and after a hand break turn, head off into the Menai Straits and out towards the Caernarfon Bar. Five miles of ever changing sand banks, marked by buoys who’s location had little relation to our electronic chart. Still the HM had assured me they were best placed and we did get out into a very choppy sea on the bow and a motor down the north side of the Lleyn peninsular towards Bardsey Sound.


As often happens our caution over timing meant we arrived earlier than planned and shot through the treacherous waters at 9knots with the tide swirling around us. Once through the wind and waves changed completely and we had a gentle run into Abersoch Bay to anchor off the old lifeboat station for the night. We were treated to special sunset and the promise of a better days sailing the next day.

The tides meant we did not have to be in Aberystwyth until 17.00 so we had a leisurely 30 mile sail down Cardigan Bay on a gentle westerly to arrive a little early once again to squeeze into the tiny harbour, missing the piers and rocks with little to spare. Aberystwyth is a marina harbour and the only berth available was the fuel pontoon, where we drained the last 26 ltrs from their tanks! The berth suited us well but once again we had a hairy exit turning in just over our boat length and then out into a rolly sea over the bar. This time the wind was on the nose again and the passage to Fishguard was an eight hour slog to windward through an increasingly choppier sea until we could tuck in past the breakwater and head deep into the harbour for some relief from the send, (the residual swell that enters a harbour or estuary).

The next morning we headed down to the SW tip of Pembrokeshire and St David’s Head and the treacherous Ramsey Sound. We arrived at the entrance to the Sound earlier than expected and were squirted through at a nerve-wracking 10 knots past the Bitches, the rocks that guard the south end of the sound. Then on past Skomer and Skokholm to Milford Haven and a quiet anchorage upstream from the oil terminals. Just round the corner was Jenkins Point, my name, and a little further up river, Picton Point and castle the home of my disgraced colonial ancestor, General Picton. Definitely the land of my fathers.

The wind had turned against us once again to a steady force 5 easterly so we slogged on under motor to anchor off Rhossili beach at the end of the Gower. This beautiful refuge gave Bill a chance for a swim and later we were entertained by a small pod of dolphins hunting around the boat. We had intended to stop off at Swansea but they couldn’t fit us in so we searched for an alternative and eventually settled on anchoring off Southerndown beach a much loved outing while on my childhood holidays at grandparents in Cardiff.


A final push up the Severn Estuary gave Hannah a chance to helm and brought us through the rough seas off Penarth to the locks through the Cardiff Bay barrage and to our final stop in Mount Stuart Graving Dock, just minutes from the Sennett and Mount Stuart Square where my grandfather working at Cory’s, a coal shipping company. I doubt he would have approved of the changes to the docklands. He was a strong advocate of the Welsh shipping industry and anything that messed up that trade such a barrages was very much against his beliefs. The barrage has changed the bay for the better in many ways, but it has failed to bring the regeneration of the poorer areas only a couple of streets back that lie between it and the centre of the city. Even within the Bay area the harbour offers little to a vessel like ours. The marinas are too tight or remote for our use, the available berth had no water or power and fuel had to be ferried in four trips 1 ½ miles each way across the Bay from Penarth Marina. No wonder they have so few large sailing vessels visiting. The guests disembarked and taxied to the station we did our normal chores before replenishing the stores for the next group of passengers, a full complement this time.


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