Ian McNee’s Grand Voyage – Week 4

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After my marathon sleep I was feeling refreshed and had a day in the marina to sort stuff out. Top of my list was to do some laundry. I had planned on doing it the old fashioned way, but decided to splash out on the proper laundry facilities, although I still insisted on air drying onboard. A quick trip to Lidl saw me resupplied and then I generally spent the day just reading and doing little jobs here and there. It was still pretty windy and I was glad to be hidden away in the marina. Although as I was entering the previous day, apparently the entrants in the Jester Challenge Race were just heading out, and I imagine they had a long night of upwind tacking in less than ideal conditions.

The laundry pile was getting out of control!

The next big obstacle on my journey was to get round the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula, passing inside Bardsey Island, through Bardsey Sound. The chap next door to me in the marina was well versed in this, as this was his home cruising grounds, and he had some sheets of paper with tide information on it that he kindly gave to me (thanks!). It seems the trick here is to arrive quite a bit before the the tide turns in the main channel and catch a back-eddy which runs very close to the shore, passing between a rock known as Carreg Ddu and the mainland. Reading about this, it sounded quite fierce, and was described as having the same effect on the water as a blunt bowed container ship ploughing full steam ahead, which made sense when I looked at a satellite image of the area.

Crikey! That looks fierce.

But I had pretty good information and made sure to arrive at the bottleneck nice and early. There wasn’t much wind, and it was on the nose, so it was another journey on the engine. I was just drifting idle in Aberdare Bay waiting for the tide, getting a bit bored, so I went through a bit early. I got through the narrow passage just as it hit slack water, but just round the corner the tide in the main sound was still running, although it wasn’t too rough so I just pushed on. I tried to stick as close to the shore as I dared, but the rocks were mighty sharp looking.

Getting up close and personal.

A lot of the features around this area have some pretty savage sounding names, as they often do, like “Hells’ Mouth” and “Devil’s Ridge”, but I made it through without too much drama, although the wind had all but vanished so I motored on to the anchorage at Porth Dinllaen. This was a really nice little spot, well sheltered from the prevailing sou’westerlies and quite picturesque, but I only spent a short night there and was then onwards to the Menai Strait.

Zero knots of wind.

The next big obstacle was crossing the Caernarfon Bar, which needed to be done in favourable conditions, but the forecast was looking suitable for the day after, so I headed for a little anchorage called Pilot’s Cove at Llanddwyn island.

Great day for sailing.
Snowdonia.

It was a fantastic sail there, as I had stunning scenery on the starboard side, and the wind was a nice steady F4 for much of the journey, there was very little swell and the sun was shining, so a good time was had by all! There wasn’t much wildlife around, but the RAF were never too far away, and also various little stunt planes presumably practicing for some aerobatics displays.

Flyboys.

I arrived at Pilot’s Cove around midday and nosed right into the bay to drop the hook. It’s quite a tight spot, and I wanted to go ashore, so I rowed my second anchor out on the dinghy and used it to hold the stern out such that the boat wouldn’t swing around in the bay. With her safely secured, I could spend some time stretching my legs ashore, and what a lovely place it was to be!

My own little haven.

I had been to this place before when I was at uni, but I couldn’t remember it being so nice. I thought about going for a swim, but there was an abundance of jellyfish around, and the stinging type no less.

One of many.

The good weather didn’t last though, by evening time a stronger wind had picked up and there was some swell running. Because I had come right into the bay, it wasn’t affecting me too much but another yacht had appeared at some point and it being much larger had to anchor further offshore. She was pitching up and down quite a bit, and before long she had motored off out of sight, presumably to seek shelter in Holyhead. Feeling pleased with myself for having such a small boat, I settled in for the night and made sure I had all the information for crossing the bar the next day. I was up early to make sure I would get to the entrance through the Caernarfon Bar in time. I had gotten the latest navigation info from the harbour master’s website, and plotted the waypoints into my phone’s chart plotter, and made a note of the bearings and distances between the channel marker buoys. There was a little more wind than I was hoping for, and I could see some wave crests turning white, but I decided to plough on anyway. It turned out to be ok, there was definitely quite a bit of turbulence, but there were no breakers and no serious calls for concern. I did realise that one of the buoys wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and I checked my coordinates, but I never figured out what that was all about.

Navigating the Caernarfon Bar.

Once I was into the Menai Strait, I made for the port of Caernarfon. There are two main options for berthing here: marina or harbour wall. Naturally I opted for the more rustic approach and headed into the harbour. This is in the mouth of the River Afon Seiont and to access it a swing bridge needs to be shifted out of the way. You are supposed to signal your desire to enter by blasting the Morse code for ‘B’ on your horn, but I don’t actually have a horn, so just raced in behind another boat that was entering in front of me. There is a traffic light system, but it seemed to just stay on red, and I wasn’t chastised for running the light so I guess they must play fast and loose with the regulations in these parts. After I tied up to the harbour wall with some lengthy ropes, I guesstimated the fall of the tide and adjusted accordingly, then looked around to take in my surroundings.

Tied up in front of the castle.

This was another very scenic spot to park the boat, right in front of the castle. I met up with a friend and we headed off to find the nearest boozer; we didn’t have to go far. It may have been the length of my ropes, or the beer in my belly, but for one reason or another I was pretty relaxed with leaving the boat unattended on a new harbour wall on a falling tide. After my friend headed off, I went back to the boat and found her lying at an angle, with the ropes fairly taut….

The ropes aren’t as tight as they look…

All was fine though, as the angle was simply the way the seabed sloped and the ropes had no slack but weren’t bar tight; any longer and the boat would be all over the place at high tide and any shorter she’d be abseiling. I treated myself to a KFC and stuffed some cushions under the mattress to level out the bed, and then passed out.

Bilge keelers everywhere.

The following morning, I had planned to depart, but I hadn’t fully worked out the tides for the next passage and due to my advancing years the previous night’s beers had made me less than enthusiastic for an early start. It was cheap to moor here, and it was a nice place, so I opted to stay another night and take my time planning the next step. The onwards journey would take me through the Swellies, which are a pretty notorious stretch of the Menai Strait which needed to be done properly. There are various leading lines that need to be followed to thread your way between the hidden rocks and timing is critical, so I got everything prepared properly. When the time came, it was pretty straightforward, although the rattling from the prop shaft had picked a terrible time to return.

Almost through the Swellies.
You can’t help but look…

Originally I had planned on continuing right through and heading up the east coast of Anglesey to anchor somewhere on the north coast to shorten the journey to the Isle of Man, but the weather wasn’t looking fabulous so at the last minute I headed into Bangor. I wanted to have another look at this damned anode to figure out what was going on before I made another big passage. With Bangor having a drying harbour I hoped I could access the prop shaft at low tide, but the bottom was far too muddy for that, and she sank into the mud right up to the tops of the keels. So once more, it was on with the wetsuit and into the water at high tide. The anode seemed pretty tight on the shaft, I certainly couldn’t wobble it around at all, and the nuts and bolts were tight, but I did manage to clinch them up a little more, so hoped that would be the end of it. And once again, I found myself sleeping at damn near 45 degrees…..

Maybe 45 is an exaggeration, but still…

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