Friday, 1 December 2017

New Blog Book

This is the time of year when I attempt to pull the blog entries together into a coherent narrative. This year's volume is called "A Strait, some Sounds, and a Sea" and is available from all the usual electronic book retailers:

The book contains maps of our progress that are not in the blog, as I have found it useful to put these in. It is also helpful to have a version of our journeys in a form that reads forward through the year.

I have also published a new edition of the second book in the series, from 2013 "Robinetta; There and Back Again". This should hopefully now read much more smoothly that the first edition, which was a straight rip of the blog. If you bought this previously through Amazon you should be able to update to the new edition without charge should you wish to do so.

I can not guarantee that either book is free of spelling mistakes, but there should be far fewer than in the original blog (although new ones always seem to creep in!).

I welcome any comments and reviews (even negative ones which will help me do a better job next time) and will always endeavour to correct any errors.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Lift Out

I got to Robinetta just gone 9 a.m this morning, having left home at 5. She was floating higher on her marks than usual, having been almost totally emptied out on my last visit. Today I took out the toilet, and the toolboxes, plus the last of the ropes and virtually everything else movable.

With the toilet out of the way it was possible to see where water was collecting beneath it. Once I moped this out it did not obviously refill in the next couple of hours, which is a good sign. There were traces of dampness around the thru-hulls though, so they need to be checked.

The end of the gaff needs some TLC this winter. Julian is hoping to change the construction slightly to make the end more robust.

Moving Robinetta with no one to help with the ropes felt odd, but it was easy to set them up ready to use. It was only about 100m from the pontoon to the lift out dock, and with no tidal movement, and hardly any wind manoeuvring was very simple.
The mast is coming out to get stripped and revarnished. It has not been touched since 2014 and unfortunately we had to dress it before the varnish was properly hardened then. At least this time it will be done undercover!

Lifting out was slightly nerve wracking as it would reveal if there was any below water-line damage to the hull causing the continual water ingress.
The Teamac D antifoul worked well, and the hull was reasonably clean. Pressure washing did remove some of the anti foul though, not surprising since it is an eroding variety!

This may be the source of Robinetta's bow leak. Only raking out and re-caulking will let us know for certain.
Underneath the iron keel shows signs of damage. Probably a result of our grounding on Limestone Rock, in Strangford Lough.
One season has not made much of an impact on the new anode.
Every yard has a different way of propping Robinetta up. These bits of timber look huge!

By 15:30 Robinetta was securely in the Bristol Marina yard, in the care of Rolt's Boatyard who will be working on her.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Preparing for winter

I drove to Bristol with an empty car, and came back home with one full of ropes, cushions, kitchen equipment... Robinetta will be lifted out for essential maintenance soon (hopefully) so all that is left aboard is paint. (The sails came home with us when we left her last week.) We are getting the mast taken out and varnished, so I had to undress the mast as well.

Robinetta always looks sad at this time of year with all her home comforts removed. Luckily the oil which went into the bilges has been moped up very effectively by the diesel wick sheets, so although she is still leaking, (the pump ran twice when I was aboard) the water coming back out into the harbour is not polluting it.

I ran the engine for half an hour, which let me use the electric pump to empty the water tanks, then I filled the diesel tanks up to the brim which should help keep diesel bug at bay.

Next time I go to Robinetta should be the day she is hauled out. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Early thoughts for 2018

I've had a little look at the practicalities of what we might do next year.

I know Alison is dubious about part of this but it really does all depend on the weather.

The idea is that we might make the Douarnenez festival, the OGA 55 party and get home to Tollesbury.
The hard part is getting from Scilly to Ushant. The song Spanish Ladies has the distance as 35 leagues and Wikipedia says a nautical league is 3 nm and 105 nm looks about right. We've done nearly that as a coastal passage but this is across open sea, We would need perfect settled weather.

Douarnenez is the 25th to the 29th July so we have a lot of time to find a weather window, work permitting. The OGA event starts on the 16th August.

So there are 18 days to get from one to the other and its about 300 nm, depending on route. So we only need to average 16 miles a day. The longest legs are Paimpol to St Peter Port and Alderney to Weymouth - about 45 nm and 55 nm respectively so even in Robinetta they are day sails. has statistics. There are nice charts of the average wind speed and direction for a given month.

They don't look too bad for May to July

In particular Ouessant (Ushant) has mostly OK north-westerlies in May and July and gentler northerlies in June. It seems to never get south-easterlies in summer. Well, maybe.

The winds at Scilly are lighter but with more west in them. So we should be able to head south-east from Scilly at some point.

Now we need the repairs to go well, nice weather and lots of time off work!

Map for the year

Here is the completed map for 2017.

We started the year in Holyhead and were in Holyhead again at the beginning of August so our southerly progress was, as usual not spectacular.

We went to bits of the inner Hebrides previously missed and I got to see the Antrim coast I missed last year but we missed most of Galloway, Cumbria and Lancashire.

Robinetta and Worm have travelled 864 nautical miles in 231 hours, since launching in April. The engine was on 160 hours. We were on board for about 7 weeks. As Robinetta gets closer to home it has become possible to sail her just for weekends, and we did so twice, so the week count is not as clear as in previous years.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Cardiff to Bristol, last sail of the season

The tail end of Hurricane Ophelia is supposed to reach Britain on Monday, but the forecast for today showed SW force3-5, increasing SE later. With enough time to get safely to Bristol we left the pontoon at 08:00, and had a little motor round Cardiff Bay before locking out at 08:30, two hours before low water Cardiff.

With plenty of time to reach Bristol we decided to sail as much as we could. With the tide against us for the first two hours it was pretty slow going, but we knew that when the tide kicked in we would have at least an extra 2 knots, so did not worry. We broad reached across the estuary, since running is much harder work, and were treated to good views of Western-Super-Mare before we turned back north west.

The morning was overcast, and terrible for photography. We did a lot of sail changing, reefing down, then all sail up, then reefing down again. At one point we were doing 7 knots (with the tide), and dropped the main altogether so we would not be too early at the entrance to the River Avon. Once the tide really kicked in we were using just the stay sail to give us steerage way, while the tide just carried up along. Maybe we should have left Cardiff later....

The clouds thinned and sun appeared as we passed Portishead. We saw our first yacht of the day under sail here. He came close, and commented that he not not seen a boat towing a punt recently. Once again Worm attracted as much attention as Robinetta! The wind also dropped, and we needed the engine to give Robinetta steerage way, but we kept the revs very low.

We would see a big ship moving behind a bank near the river mouth. This being our first trip we were not really sure if it could be in the river (which did seem unlikely), or was inside a dock, so we called up VTS to check we would be clear to enter the river. “No Problem” came back the reply, so we headed until the Avon at 14:10. 
Crockerne Pill
There was plenty of water and a good tide under us, so we pottered up the river with the engine in tick-over. Once we were clear of the industrial entrance the Avon became delightful, with little inlets known as Pills, and wonderful Autumn colours in the woods. 

Three trip boats out of Bristol passed us, including the Matthew replica, on their way down river. We knew they would be locking back in to the floating harbour with us. The only other yacht we saw on the way up river was a large gaff cutter, Jan Roelan.
Under the Clifton Suspension Bridge

We reached the lock at 16:10, just as Jan Roelan finished tying up, and were called in immediately. There were two boat handlers waiting to throw us lines, which would then be used to pull our ropes up. Very civilised! When I commented the man taking my line replied that this was Sunday. Not sure if this means that on Sunday the lock is used by people who need more help, or not!
The lock was supposed to close at 16:25, but the Matthew did not arrive back until 16:30, then the other trip boats and some motor boats appeared. The lock stayed open until 16:45, as 2 other yachts had apparently booked places. They did not appear, and the lock gates closed. 
We rose about 2 metres to enter the floating harbour. Once the lock gates opened we had to wait for the bridge immediately beyond to swing before we could leave the lock, then wait another 10 minutes in the Cumberland Basin for the next bridge to swing. 
Matthew entering Bristol Lock
It was a little like waiting for the Dutch bridges, with a variety of different boats, with different ability to manoeuvre trying to avoid each other. Luckily there were not too many boats.
 Once past the Cumberland bridge we easily found the marina, and with the excellent and detailed instructions on finding the berth the marina staff had e-mailed to be we had no trouble finding our berth and tying up.
Robinetta's 2017 sailing season was over.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

On our way again

Tides dictated as early a start time as the lock would allow, so we were awake at 06:00, and had the engine on to warm up at ten to seven, ready to lock out of the marina and the Tawe Lock at their earliest openings of 07:00. We shared both locks with a 40' ketch called Piel Piper, who gave us a thumbs up on hearing we planned to go through the Nash Channel. There was no time to exchange more than a few words though.

Julian had been ready to hoist the no1 jib, but we sailed into the Tawe Lock on bare poles, so decided to bend on the no 2 instead. We raised the main in the harbour, and put a reef in, but once we were out into Swansea Bay we rolled even more round the boom.

The swell and the wind were both higher than we had hoped, but Robinetta loved the course we were on, and we romped along at over 4 knots. Peil Piper raised sail here, and soon disappeared ahead. By 08:50 the wind had eased and we were back to no 1 jib and full main. The swell was still uncomfortably large.

We sailed inside the Scarweather sands, and saw the swells breaking with a roar on our starboard side. The same happened as we headed inside the Nash sands, and felt very disconcerting, especially as the wind went very light, and the sands funnel boats in towards Nash Point, which has overfalls off it. Luckily we had a fully functioning engine, and we used it to give us proper steerage way through the Nash Passage and across the overfalls, which were not too bad, since we were only a day after neaps.
Nash Point
Once we were clear of the overfalls the swell was much reduced, and we turned the engine off and ate lunch as we sailed towards Aberthaw. The contrast between the flat water now, and the swell by the Nash Sands was incredible.

I phoned Bristol Harbour up, to tell them we would be coming in tomorrow. Apparently I should have done it yesterday, to give them 48, not 24 hours notice. This is not for the lock, but for the bridge swing on the Cumberland Basin exit. Luckily the Matthew caravel replica had already booked a swing, so we were okay.

By 14:40 the wind had gone very light, and since the tide would soon turn against us the engine went on to help us past Lavernock Spit. By the time we reached Ranie Head we were on engine power alone, and with the tide against us were only just making 2 knots.

We got all the sails away once we rounded Ranny Spit bouy, and began to head towards the Cardiff Barrage. We called the Barrage up as instructed, and they told us to go in on the 1645 lock in. We were still over half a mile away though, and missed the lock in by 3 minutes.

Twenty minutes hanging around inside the barrage with the engine in idle, waiting for the lock to cycle through, was not stressful. Robinetta just sat there, and it gave Julian time to bring the bowsprit in. We were glad he had done it when another 4 boats appeared through the breakwater just in time to go ahead of us into the lock. We squeezed in on the end, with Worm alongside, then a big rib came in to take the last space in the lock.
Cardiff lock no 1
We headed for the Cardiff Sailing Club (free pontoon berthing and showers!) and tied up at 17:40. Martin, from Piel Piper appeared to take our lines. He was glad to see us, saying he had wanted to tell us to come to the Club when we were in the lock together at Swansea, but had not had time.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Engine repairs completed

The new pipe turned up about 4 pm on Wednesday but we were in Tenby having taken the train to Milford Haven to fetch the car. The train had taken us to Johnstone between Haverford West and Milford Haven. From there we got a bus to the outskirts of Neyland and walked to the car. It was a really short walk.

The part turned out to be copper alloy - not mild steel so that was good. The bolts which hold the pipe in are hollow at the end and have a hole through them at right angles so the oil comes up the bolt and through the hole into the pipe.

So its really important that the tightening leaves the hole in the bolt lined up with the pipe. I marked the bolt heads so I could see the angle of the hole.

I fitted the new short pipe. The bolts seemed to tighten at about the right place. The long pipe seemed a bit less picky but tight enough when the holes were aligned.

We checked the oil level - there seemed to be enough left in so we started the engine.

No drips!

We left it running for a few minutes just above idle while Alison replaced the pads to soak up more oil from the bilges. It all seems fine.

So we are good to go.

I got on to the other job I had planned for this stop - putting the ICOM radio back into service. We had sent it off to ICOM for repair after its shenanigans in Scotland. We have been using the old 1970s radio that came with Robinetta. I don't really think DSC is much use but the ICOM is louder and easier to hear in the cockpit and its dual watch and scanning capabilities are really useful.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Engine Repairs

When we made the decision to sail to Swansea with a major oil leak the idea was to get a professional engineer to look at it.

Neither of us are confidant about engine maintenance.

There are at least four people who service marine diesels in Swansea. We spoke with three of them. All were fully booked for weeks ahead. I guess a lot of boats are coming out of the water and wanting winterising.

We bought a pack of diesel wick pads and Alison got to work mopping the spilled engine oil from the bilges. This meant I couldn't investigate the leak until she had finished so I went onto the internet and found and downloaded the service manual and workshop guides for the engine. I also posted a question on Facebook. Peter Lyons quickly replied - remembering the 1GM10's known problem with the external oil pipes. There are two of them and we had the longer one replaced in 2014. The drips I had seen yesterday could indeed have been coming from the shorter one, and dropping down onto the suction pipe nut.

The only way to know would be to remove the pipe. I got the spanners out and a 19 mm one fitted perfectly but I couldn't get enough leverage to loosen the nuts. So off we went to Screwfix to get a socket set. We combined the trip with a light lunch and a trip to Swansea's excellent indoor market where we bought the ingredients for a seafood stew.

Back on the boat I got the first bolt out but I couldn't get the socket onto second one - it was blocked by the longer pipe. So the long pipe had to come off first. Then it was easy.

At first sight the pipe looked in reasonable condition but then I spotted a tiny dimple. A little poke with a sewing needle exposed a hole maybe 0.5 mm in diameter. I had found our leak!

Back on Facebook Andy Abraham offered to make a new pipe using the old banjo fittings but there was no way to do this quickly - we were at opposite ends of the country! I could feel Andy's horror at the idea of my paying Yanmar the excessive price for a replacement but it was the simplest way to get us sea-worthy.

Yanmar make these pipes of mild steel. I presume this is to minimise the galvanic potential with the engine block. The trouble is that they live in a damp environment and any problems with the raw water cooling system drip boiling salt water onto them. Most engineers, including Andy and Barry Watt who had replaced the long one for us in Tollesbury in 2014 replace the steel with Cunifer - a copper/nickel alloy which is much more resistant to corrosion.

So the official part is more expensive and inferior to the one Andy wanted to make for us but it was available to be delivered in a couple of days.

The other option would have been to make a temporary fix to the existing pipe. Andy suggested slipping a 30 mm length of small bore petrol pipe over the pipe and gently tightening a small jubilee clip over the hole and covering it with 3 layers of insulation tape.

This was very sensible but for once I felt like spending some money for peace of mind.

I went up to the dealer's office and ordered one. It will be here on Thursday.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Caldey Island toward Swansea

Alison woke up with a horrid headache. It got slightly better after tea and a lie-in but she wasn’t properly operational until about 10 am.

My idea was to hop over to Tenby and get there about an hour before high water, maybe have breakfast and a quick look around and then leave on the ebb. The pilot recommends pushing the weak tides across Camarthen Bay to Worm Head and then picking up the east going flood past the Gower.

I started getting the boat ready - unfrapping the lines and getting the crutches off and then went below to do the engine checks. There isn’t much to do - just the alternator belt tension and the oil level. It is always fine.

Except it wasn’t. The dip stick showed empty and however many times I checked it still showed empty. Alison checked too. Empty.

I looked down into the bilges. Black. I put my finger in. Oil.

I poured a little oil into the reservoir, and got Alison to start the engine. As soon as the engine turned over I saw oil dripping from the front of the engine. We stopped the engine.

The good news was that the engine would start, and that the oil was dripping, not spurting, so we should be able to run the engine for short stretches of time if we needed to. “Need” was the operative word.

The wind was light, but useable, from the west and forecast to increase, so we should be able to get to Swansea under sail. Without the engine we would be very slow against the tide so we needed to leave. Now.

I got the staysail and the main up and went forward to haul up the anchor. Even with her headache Alison could helm. We had 30m of chain down to cope with the 7m tidal range so it took a little while to haul in but the anchor came up clean with a little kelp. We picked up speed as soon as we were off and the only difficult bit was getting the anchor out of the water with the chain being pushed under the keel by the forward motion.

I don’t think we have ever arrived at an anchorage with the engine off and anchored for the night and then left again the next morning all without the engine. We’ve done one or the other but not both. It felt good.

We got away about 8 am.

Alison laid in a course to take us straight to Worm Head, but I looked at the tidal streams and decided we would be best staying inside Carmarthen bay for as long as possible to stay out of the strong ebb in the main channel, so we aimed much more inshore.

We heard a firing range calling up the coast guard at 08:40, to announce that the range as active but did not catch which range was calling. If it was Penarth range we were in potential trouble. Alison tried phoning them, but got no reply, so we relaxed; two minutes later she saw a rib heading toward us at speed.

Yes, Penarth Range was active, and our original south-easterly course was OK but we mustn’t head across the range.

We gybed.

The rest of the day was a series of long gybes. We had about knot (mostly less) of tide against us until about 15:30. We were really lucky and never lost the wind but our speed over the ground was between 1 1/2 and 2 knots so it took until then to get to Worm Head at the western end of the Gower peninsula. It did go very light for a while and we dropped the jib and stay sail and managed to goose-wing the main with the old spinnaker we use as a down wind sail in light airs. Once the wind picked up again it was much easier to broad reach on the normal fore-sails.
Worm at Worm Head

Then we started to pick up speed. Slack water let us get up to 2.5 to 3.5 knots and then the flood got going and we got up to 4, 5 and sometimes 6 knots.

Alison called Swansea Marina to let them know we wanted to come in and we only had very limited ability to use our engine. They were comfortable with that and said to radio once inside the breakwaters.

We really had no idea what time we would arrive. The last lock in (in Summer) is 21:30 and for most of the afternoon the chart plotter said we would not make it. But we knew the flood would help and once it started our arrival time on the plotter started coming down. Once we were less than 10 miles away it stuck stubbornly at 19:41. That was good - we had both the 20:30 and 21:30 lock times available.

Our last gybe took us onto the track into Swansea. For the first time we were on a beam reach and Robinetta creamed along as the sun set. By the time we were a mile outside Swansea breakwater it was dark. The channel was narrow and well lit. Alison put two fenders on each side, and set bow and stern lines so we wouldn’t be in a hurry later.

I was slightly confused by what looked like two orange lights where the breakwater should be. We found out soon enough! They were the headlights of a large coaster coming out of the harbour. We had drifted over to the port side of the channel so I turned sharply port to give her a bit more room as she stormed past.

I never saw a green or a red light on that ship.

We looked forward and there did seem to be another pair of similar lights ahead. It didn’t look like they were approaching so we carried on.

Then they got bigger and further apart. A second big ship was coming out. This time we had got onto the starboard side of the channel and the ship turned a little to starboard, presumably to give us room.

If we come into Swansea again, we will find out what the shipping movements are. If we had left a listening watch on channel 14 we might have heard their departure announced. We did that in Liverpool - we had been too pre-occupied with our engine to think about it here.

After that it got easier. The wind eased and we passed between the breakwaters doing about 3 knots and I called the Tawe Lock on the VHF. I didn’t get any answer on the main VHF so I got out the hand-held and tried again. Nothing. I brought the hand-held on deck and we carried on. The wind kept dropping.

Then I got a call from the lock. They had been in the Marina Office and were moving down to the lock for us.

Even though we had missed the 19:30 inbound lock and the 20:00 outbound one was due there didn’t seem to be a problem. We discussed our situation and they were happy we continued on under sail up the river but we would have to be under power in the lock.

I went down and put oil in the engine. I waited a bit and checked the dipstick - it read just full - good.

We furled the jib and dropped the main and put a single tie on it. The engine went on and I went onto the foredeck and pulled the staysail down and we motored gently into the lock and tied on.

A big catamaran came in beside us. I put a little more oil in. We locked through and were guided to a marina berth.


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Neyland to Caldey Island

We got to Neyland at 23:30 last night, so were in no mood for an early start. Luckily high water Neyland was at quarter to nine. Since that was the earliest sensible time to leave we were in no rush.

Julian cooked breakfast while I got the cockpit cover off and folded, then after breakfast I walked along to pay while Julian carried on getting Robinetta and Worm ready to leave. By the time I got back from the marina office he had the engine on to warm up, the bowsprit out, the chart plotter hooked up... There was very little left to do, and we motored gently out of the berth at 09:20. The whole process was made easier by the fact that Robinetta was bow out on the berth. 
It was a beautiful morning for October, bright sunny and warm, with the only drawback a lack of wind. We got the staysail up as soon as we were clear of the marina channel, and realised there might be a breath of wind, so Julian got the main sail up (the wind was so light we did not bother trying to go head to wind to do this). With 2 knots of tide beneath us we turned the engine revs down, and then off as Julian found there was just enough wind to give us steerage way.
Thorn Island Hotel, Milford Haven
 We sailed gently down the Haven, turning the engine on again when the wind died away to nothing, but keeping the revs low. We were in no hurry to leave the Haven since once we were outside the haven the tide would be against us until 12:25. We motor sailed through Thorn Island Sound, and once we were clear turned off the engine and headed for Sheep Island. Unfortunately we had to put the engine back on to clear the headland, and it stayed on. 
Sheep Island in the sunshine
Once we had the tide under us again we made good time, with a gentle following wind and swell. Every now and then we put the engine in neutral, but there was never enough wind to give us steerage way in the swell. We took the Crow passage past Linney Head, inside Crow rock and the Toes, and stayed well inshore past St.Govan's Head. Even with the very gentle wind going with the tide the seas got much shorter just off St.Govan's Head. It was easy to see how overfalls could develop here. 
Julian did not fancy cooking lunch in the swell, and our breakfast kept us going until we reached Broadhaven Bay, just south of St Govan's Head. We dropped anchor there for an hour and had a lovely late lunch of scallops. The wind came up a little, and we raised sail at anchor. We managed to sail up to the anchor and raise it, but did not have steerage way, so had to put the engine back on to clear Church Rock in the centre of the bay.
Church Rock in Broadhaven Bay
Motor sailing, with an occasional quarter of an hour of pure sailing brought us to Lydstep by 16:40. We then headed for Priory Bay, Caldey Island, and managed to sail into the bay. This was our planned overnight stop if the swell was slight enough, and since it was we headed in under sail. 
Anchoring under sail felt really easy. We dropped the anchor in 5m of water beneath the keel at half tide, and put out 30m of chain, expecting another 3.5m of tide by 21:00. The pilot book says this anchorage is safe, but rarely free of swell. It was flat calm when we dropped anchor at 17:30, and only occasional swells rolled us in the evening.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Map so far

I made a new map for our 2017 cruising. We still hope to get to Cardiff or Bristol for the winter but this is what we've done so far.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Pwllgwaelod to Neyland

Dawn at Pwllgwaelod
I rarely sleep very well at anchor, and this was no exception. The anchorage suffered from occasional sets of rollers coming in. Nothing big, but enough to set Robinetta in motion from side to side. The pump also went at least three times. I had tied Worm alongside as soon as we came back from the pub, so she did not bump Robinetta, but as the waves rolled us Worm would snatch at her forward line so it creaked.

Julian suggested putting the kettle on at 06:20, and since we wanted to be away from the bay by 07:30 it felt like a sensible idea.

By 07:05 we were ready to go, so I switched the engine on to warm up while Julian hauled up the anchor chain. We had put out about 40m, expecting to be anchored in 10m at the top of the tide, and it certainly held us securely. The anchor came up easily, and was clean. Julian did sluice the foredeck down but that was to get rid of rust from the chain rather than muck off the anchor. He left the anchor on the foredeck rather than lashed to the bulwalks, as the forecast for today was “smooth to slight”; nothing to roll the anchor round on the foredeck.

We motored across Fishguard Bay in flat calm, with almost total overcast. The clouds were high, but in marked contrast to the clear sky when we went to bed. It did feel as though there was a little wind, and we got the main sail up before I went below to cook porridge. The sail just about filled, but that was all.
Strumble Head from the north
 Strumble head light operates 24 hours a day, and we could see it flashing as we approached. We also saw porpoises in hunting mode, and a couple of seals in the water. We went close in to avoid any overfalls off it: not that there were any! There were some swirls where overfalls could develop in a higher sea state than we had though.

Just past the headland there is a narrow passage that leads to an anchorage in the shelter of the lighthouse. Julian wanted to have a look, and had laid our course between Strumble Head and the island beyond. The channel was supposed to be 10m deep on the contours, but we quickly got down to five beneath Robinetta's keel, so I turned away and we carried on outside the island towards St David's head. That was when the adverse tide hit us, hard.

We had to fight our way south west at 1 knot for about 45 minutes (it felt longer), then we were back at about 2.5 knots. The tide runs against us for 9 out or 12 hours along this stretch, and there was nothing we could do but endure it. There were a few compensations. The porpoises were very actively fishing south of Strumble Head, and although they ignored us (porpoises are not interested in humans, unlike dolphins) we saw quite a lot of them. There were also flocks of gulls sitting on the silky water, obviously digesting their breakfast.
Common Dolphin off Porthgain

Three hours after rounding Strumble Head we were still only abreast of Porthgain, with two hours to go before we reached St David's Head. A small pod of common dolphins came and played round us for five minutes, which lightened the monotony a bit. George was on the helm, and although the main sail was up it was hardly drawing, with the wind virtually on the nose. Julian unfurled the jib whenever a breath of wind appeared, then had to roll it away almost as soon as the breeze died.
Entrance to Porthgain, marked by pillers
Our slow progress along the south end of Cardigan Bay finally finished at 13:40, when we rounded St David's Head and pointed towards Ramsey Island. The wind shifted with us, making it clear that we had been generating our own head wind, but there were ripples on the water, promising a breeze, and finally we could see blue sky on the bow, not grey. It looked as though we were sailing into summer.
Approaching Ramsey Sound from the north

We enjoyed Robinetta's passage through Ramsey sound. We had read up on the route carefully, and Julian had entered it into the chart plotter, and we had chosen our timing with care. The tide was virtually slack as we entered; Robinetta started to accelerate, then slowed back to engine speed as she outpaced the tidal push. Once we changed course to clear The Bitches the wind actually came just forward of the beam, and we were able to put the engine in neutral and sail at 4 knots. That was lovely while it lasted, but the wind soon went light again.
LIfeboat station in Ramsey Sound
Leaving Ramsey sound we found that overfalls were beginning to form. They are marked on the chart, but we were surprised to see them, given the tide had only just begun to turn in our favour. They made us reconsider our decision to head through Jack Sound, which is noted for much worse overfalls! Instead we headed for the west end of Skomer, to use Broad Sound.
Ships at anchor in St Bride's Bay
St Bride's bay felt much bigger than it looked on the charts, due to its deep indentation, and Jack Sound looked huge. The scale was distorted by three large ships at anchor on the north side of Skomer, which were closer to us than we realised as we cleared Ramsey Sound.

With the wind very light, and back on the nose, we lowered the main sail again to save it from the sun which was now shining out of a clear blue sky. A family group of common dolphins came by, with a mother keen to show her baby off, and another adolescent tagging along too. Almost impossible to photograph but great to see. As I went below to phone Neyland marina to book a berth the gentle swell began to build, and by the time we reached the western end of Skomer, this became overfalls.

It took us about ten minutes to reach calm water again, but once we were in Broad Sound the sea was flat, with the slightest of ripples. As soon as Julian noticed the possibility of wind he unrolled the jib, which filled, so up went the main again. Robinetta was only making 2.5 to 3 knots over the ground ( a lot of it from the tide) but we could not get over the cill into Nelyand's upper basin (cheaper than the all tide one) until about 20:00, so speed was not an issue. We had steerage way, so the engine went off. Glorious silence! Wonderful scenery and weather. The dull and slow morning was forgotten as we enjoyed the afternoon.

We saw a couple of of yachts coming through Jack Sound. There was no sign of excess motion of their masts, so it looked as though we had avoided the passage unnecessarily, but did not regret our routing. We were getting good views of both Skomer and Skokholm as we sailed between them.

A series of speed boats went past, their wake disrupting the smooth sea, but everything else was peaceful, and we decided on an early dinner. Julian went below to cook, while I stayed on watch, with George doing the helming. The occasional whine of George's extending arm became more frequent, and as we cleared the end of Skokholm I realised we had lost steerage way. Once the engine went back on the idyllic hour was over. The wind died totally, so I rolled the jib away, and the blazing sun made me ask Julian if he agreed that the sail should come down.
Heading for Skomer

Without Skokholm's shelter and the steadying effect of the sail we discovered Robinetta was rolling in swell, and every motor boat that came past caused wild gyrations. Julian put the stove up on its gimbals, which only helped a little, and he brought the dinner up in a grumpy frame of mind. The sun was too hot now the wind had gone, and he could feel it burning the back of his neck. The dinner (new potatoes, buttered cabbage, and tinned stew) was excellent.

We rounded St Ann's Head at 18:00, and were in Milford Haven and flat water. We motored gently up towards Neyland, looking at the port facilities and scenery as we passed, and reached the entrance to the marina at 20:10. I phoned the office and checked the water depth over the cill. There was 6', which would give us 18” under the keel, so we headed towards the upper basin.

We could not tell which berth was P5 initially, and went into P6. This was not a problem as there was plenty of space, and we quickly decided it would be fun to back into the correct berth instead of going in forward. I pulled Worm up onto the pontoon, then stayed ashore while Julian manoeuvred Robinetta round and reversed in perfectly.

We were securely tied up, with the engine off at 20:30, just as the light was going.

For a perfect sailing weekend we would have liked more wind, but we added 80 nautical miles to our progress round Britain, and saw some beautiful coast line.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Aberystwyth to Fishguard Bay

It was a bright sunny morning when we woke on the boat after an uneventful train journey the previous evening.

We had fish &Worm off the foredeck and into the water and got Robinetta mostly ready to leave.
chips for lunch yesterday so dinner had been a little supermarket sushi and fruit on the train. I was now starving. It’s nice to get something done before breakfast so we got

Then we went into town for breakfast and had a pleasant one in a cafe. We paid our berthing fees and left as planned about 9:30. There was never less than 1m of water under the keel leaving the harbour. Alison helmed and I got the bowsprit out as we went through the narrow gap between the Oceanlord on the town quay and the marina’s fuel dock.

The plan for the weekend was to get to Milford Haven - the next place along the coast with a Marina where we could leave Robinetta. The half-way point is Fishguard. The old harbour at Lower Town dries and the recommendation is to anchor near the ferry pier but the pilot says the ferry wash can be uncomfortable and also mentions a nice anchorage at the east end of Fishguard bay called Pwllgwaelod. You can row ashore to the pub. This sounded better!

Robinetta was last in Fishguard Bay in May 1946. She had sailed from Caernarfon Bay in one go and then got weather-bound in Lower Town for four days. Tomorrow we would join her south-bound track at Strumble head.

As expected there was no wind. We bent on the No. 1 jib just in case and had the staysail up as usual but helming was delegated to George and we watched the pretty coast go by in the sunshine.

The day was truly a beautiful one. It didn’t look quite so nice over Snowdonia but for us it was lovely. The 3G signal was strong too so I could look up the places we passed. It felt a bit like a trip on the Waverley steamer.

There were a few other yachts passage making and a good few fishing boats lifting pots. One of them was a Northumbrian coble. The coast here is quite similar to the north east and we had seen a few moored in Aberystwyth. They are such practical and pretty boats.

In the morning, in turn we passed Llan-non which looks like it should be the mouth of the Istwyth, Llanrhystud, Aberaeron, and New Quay.

Clouds over Llanrhystud
Llanrhystud is a tiny village invisible from the sea. Where it’s river reaches the coast are two caravan parks, one on either side. Both have launching slips and there were ribs and kayaks having fun or fishing around.
Aberaeron is a nice little town where an aunt of mine once lived. It has a proper harbour and a yacht passed us and went in there. The wonders of 3G let me know that today was the town “Mackerel Fiesta”. Tempting but we did want to get to Milford Haven by Sunday night. VisitmyHarbour says the harbour offers surprisingly little protection and as we passed one could see why. The walls run parallel to the quays and the whole thing is completely open to the west. They need some kind of breakwater running north/south outside.

The chart shows an inner harbour on the north side of the river. It’s very small and I don’t know if it operates.
Nesting on the north side of the headland beyond is New Quay. It is mentioned
In the CA cruising almanac but I knew nothing about it. Wikipedia tells us that it was created in the 1840s by act of Parliament to provide a ‘new quay’ for Cardigan. It soon became a major ship building town building smacks, schooners and transatlantic traders. The ship building only lasted about 50 years but ‘New Quay Men’ became renowned as ships captains. Today it has a population of only around 1,000 but it looks nice from the sea and quite ‘yachty’.

yachts racing at Newquay
Lunch was bread and cheese - the last of the Teifi cheese we had bought in Aberystwyth two weeks ago. Lovely stuff.

The next headland took us into the bay where the Teifi comes out - very appropriate! A narrow sound separates the headland from Cardigan Island, or Ynys Aberteifi. We went through the sound sort-of sailing and hopefully looked nice to the holidaymakers standing at the viewpoint over the sound. The sound, the island and the bay looked gorgeous.
Cardigan Sound from North

I want to call this bay Aberteifi bay but the language is really confusing. Aberteifi, Cardigan and Ceredigion seem to be completely interchangeable terms and since the whole outer bay between the Lleyn peninsula and St Davids head is called Cardigan Bay it’s hard to know what to call the little bay the Teifi flows in to.
Cardigan Sound, mainland side

The next river along is called the Nyfer and the bay it flows into is called Newport Bay. Newport is quite in-land and there is no harbour to be seen. The southern end of Newport bay is marked by Ynys Dinas. The ‘sound’ between Ynys Dinas and the mainland is a valley you can walk along. Sea level rise might turn it back into a proper island at some point. Both ends of the valley have sandy coves which make good anchorages. I had picked the southern one at the east end of Fishguard bay for us to spend the night.

We got there with good light and dropped the hook with about 5m under the keel. 40 m of chain went out to allow for the 4 m rise of tide expected. We took and checked bearings and then rowed ashore to the pub.

The Old Sailor is a noted and popular sea food restaurant. We expected it to be fully booked and we were right. It looked like we would have had a great meal there. CAMRA says it had a well kept real ale when they checked but the closest thing was a Brains ‘American style IPA’ and the house ‘Cream Flow’ ale. Nothing on a hand pump.

I had a half.

Alison was luckier with the cider. They had two Thatchers ciders on draught - Big Apple which she had enjoyed earlier this year and Haze. They also had Welsh craft cider in bottles. She chose the latter and enjoyed it. We sat in the beer garden looking out over the bay with Robinetta rocking in the swell in front of us.

Robinetta at anchor, Pwllgwaelod
The sun was going down as we rowed back and cooked and I had an Islay beer - the last beer on the boat!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Relaxing in a friendly place

Sunday's weather seemed glorious, especially after the Friday and Saturday, with bright warm sunshine and cloudless skies. Unfortunately there was also no wind, so our vague plans of a day sail towards Aberdovey came to nothing.

However Aberystwyth is a lovely place to be on a summer Sunday. We wandered along to the pier and visited the "Sea to Shore" food festival on the northern promenade. Disappointing for Julian, who expected to see lots of fish given the name of the festival, but with a good set of craft food and drink stalls.

Back at the marina we were given some lovely mackerel by the motor boat next to us, who had gone out for the four available hours on the tidal gate. Apparently it was a very good day for mackerel. It felt like every boat on the pontoon had owners aboard, and they were all friendly and interested in Robinetta. Many of yachts were Westerlys, but there was also a Holman 26 that we exchanged wood care and long keeler manoeuvring tips with.

I went up the mast to tape the electrics back to the shrouds, then we had a walk along to the harbour mouth. Basically we had a lazy day sorting out the boat ready to leave her.

Worm seems to have developed a leak. Julian fixed on some extra skids over the winter, using cascamite and nails. These have both come off, leaving nail holes to let in water. Julian filled them with linseed putty, which hopefully will harden up and stop the leaks by the time we get back.

This morning we caught the 09:30 train to head home. We bought returns (only £1 over the cost of the single, making the tickets seem much cheaper) ready to come back the first weekend with good weather to move Robinetta south.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

That wasn't the weather we were promised

That wasn’t in the forecast.

After yesterday’s strong winds it went very still in the evening as we walked to Weatherspoons for pudding.

When I opened the companionway hatch this morning it looked fine but by the time we went for our showers it was raining. That wasn’t in the forecast last night.

We checked XC and it still said it would be a sunny day with a nice constant 14 knot wind with almost no gusts.

I mended the staysail track ends so the car wouldn’t get stuck – it had failed yesterday.

Then we tried to fill the water tanks but couldn’t reach the tap so we went to the fuel dock and got fuel and water there.

We got the sails up in the harbour on the way out. We were followed by another gaffer called Saskia – probably a Tamarisk 29. She headed off towards Abersoch or Bardsey.

Instead of bright sunshine and a steady light F4 we had a black slate sky with more wind.

I wanted to sail close to the Snowdonia coast so we set a course for the entrance to the eastern channel inside St Patrick’s Bridge. We went over another St Patricks Bridge outside Kilmore Quay in Ireland – I must check if there is a legend that connects them.

Holding the course was uncomfortably close to a run so we gybed onto a course east along the Lleyn coast towards Criccieth.

We saw rain building on the coast and decided it was time for another gybe back onto the course. Alison spotted that the VHF antenna cable was flapping at the top of the mast. It runs up the port forward shroud and then is taped to the mast. The tape must have broken. I hoped it wouldn’t pull out before we could get up the mast to fix it.

Then she noticed the starboard lazy jack had unclipped itself from the end of the boom. We tied it off. I have no idea how a snap shackle can un-snap itself. Things weren’t going well.

The wind built and built. We had full main and no 1 jib – the right configuration for broad reaching in 14 knots but it was getting hard work. I kept hoping we would get out from under the cloud and it would calm down but …

Eventually I faced reality and we reefed down and furled the jib and I went forward to change to the number 2. The seas were bouncy so I was really careful to make sure everything stayed tied on, including me! I got the No 1 bagged and the No 2 hoisted and went back to the cockpit. The No 2 had come out a bit and we tried to fully furl it and spotted that I’d got the furling line caught under the drum.

I went forward again. The only way to fix it was to undo the foot from the drum. It got away from me and went flying. Alison went head to wind to bring it back on-board and then she realised we were getting lee-shored on St Patricks Bridge. She banged the engine on and motored back north to safety while I sorted the jib. Finally I got it right.

We debated going back to Pwllheli. Alison called Aberystwyth several times, and finally got through. They were certain it would be safe to get into the harbour this evening and we were welcome to leave Robinetta there. We decided to go for it but the seas were getting scary to go through the eastern channel so we reset the course to go outside St Patrick’s Bridge. An extra nine miles! The strong winds were pushing us quickly, even reefed down, so the short cut would have got us to Aberystwyth hours before we could get into harbour. The weather wasn’t good enough to get good views of the mountains so we were content with the extra distance.

We had cheese & tomato rolls for lunch.

It was a bouncy nine miles to windward and the leak in the bow was getting worse under the strain. We were pumping too frequently for comfort but not frighteningly.

Once round the western end of St Patrick’s Bridge we were back on a run again. We took long gybes to stay on a broad reach, allowing the cross track error to get to between 0.5 and 1.5 nm.

As the afternoon drew on the weather improved as promised. The wind gradually eased and we got some blue sky and some reasonable views of the southern Snowdonia Mountains. The waves were still 2m high at times so it wasn’t comfortable at all. 

By 18:00 we were getting hungry again and I got the stove onto its gimbals and cooked some potatoes and tomatoes and heated a tin of jerk chicken.

After that it really did settle down. It was pretty flat by the time the sun went down. 4 miles off Aberystwyth Alison noticed dolphin fins. They were larger than common dolphins and probably bottlenose, although we only saw their backs. They seemed to be guiding us to the Main Channel towards the harbour

Adfer that we got into the harbour without incident and found the fuel dock and tied up.

The next day we got the sun to see the mountains.

 But there was no wind so we stayed in Aberystwyth.