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.

Friday, 11 August 2017


Pwllhelli Marina is a long walk but a short row from the town. Plas Heli - the Welsh Waterspots Academy is nearby with a bar and 'restaurant' but like almost everywhere in Pwllheli it majors in burger and chips.

Our first night we walked to a place called 'The Pontoon' which looked interesting and was - it was heaving and fully booked. We ended up in the yachtsman's refuge - at least that's what Weatherspoons seems to be - they serve food until 23:00 and its always OK and value for money.

Next day we tried to book for the Pontoon but it was already fully booked by the time they opened at noon. So we cooked on board and then went to Weatherspoons for pudding.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Holyhead South, a varied day

Getting anywhere from Holyhead means working with the tides. The tidal gate round South Stack can be very complicated, but between HW Dover +4 and +5 we found a sweet spot, where the tide is with you, and there are no overfalls. At +4 there is even a helpful tide from Holyhead Harbour to South Stack. Today, to make this window, we needed to clear Holyhead harbour at 04:30.

I woke at 03:40, which gave me a relaxed doze until 04:00 when the alarm went . We were both on deck by 04:15, to find the night just about lit by the moon and the beginning of a brightening although overcast sky. and I put the engine on to warm up and launched Worm, which was hauled out on the pontoon, while Julian sorted Robinetta's lines. The wind was still from the north and felt strong, probably a top end 4, and was holding us off the pontoon. I got Julian to pull the bow in as I backed out, so he stepped on board via the foredeck.

The wind immediately pushed the bow out and turned us, but we were clear of the boat next to us, and we backed clear without problems.

Julian got the bowsprit out and bent on the no 2 jib as I motored along inside the breakwater. We had been thinking of the no 1, but the wind felt too strong for that. The nearly full moon gave enough light for me to see where I was going, but I suddenly realised that running lights would be a good idea, and Julian dashed below to turn them on and hook up the stern light. The new fitting meant it switched on without problems, and even looked brighter than before.

We raised the main with a couple of turns of reef left round the boom to balance the no 2 jib, then headed out past the end of the breakwater. We were immediately in large swells, but they were regular and spaced far enough apart not to feel threatening. We had a great motor sail along the outside of the breakwater heading for North Stack, and saw 2 ferries heading in past us. We were well away from their route and we caused each each other no problems.

Robinetta's foredeck had still been mucky from the mooring we picked up on Wednesday morning, but by the time we reached South Stack it had had a good wash. We were charging along at nearly 6 knots, but were not tempted to turn off the engine. The tide would turn against us soon, and we needed all the distance we could make.

We were clear of South Stack by 05:30, but had to pass through a narrow belt of overfalls trailing off it. They were very minor, and we got through without any bumping around. Only a cable south of the overfalls Robinetta felt as though she had entered a different sea. Low and gentle swell replaced the steep waves and on our new course due south the wind was from almost directly behind, so felt much lighter. We put George on the helm, and Julian shook out the reef, then I went forward to rig the preventer and change the jib up to the no 1.

Our next tidal gate lay in Bardsey Sound. Julian's course in the chart plotter that assumed we would not make it in time for slack water. The north wind was forecast to go south west, and if it turned before we reached the Sound we should not go through, even with the tide. Wind over a 7 knot tide is not something to take lightly.

We turned the engine off at 07:00 while we ate breakfast, but by the time we finished eating our porridge the tide was no longer with us, and Robinetta slowed noticeably. The engine went back on to keep us at 4 knots, but we soon settled down at just over 3, even with all sails flying and the engine on.

By 09:00 the tide was well against us and the wind being straight astern and light could not help the engine much. We slowed to a 2 knot crawl south. By noon the main was doing nothing, so we decided to lower it, at which point it caused us much grief. The sail refused to flake well (we were lowering the sail on the run, so this was not really a surprise) and we discovered just now much it had been steadying Robinetta against the swell. We had not noticed this with the sail up at all.

Once everything was lashed into place we had lunch. Speed over the ground was averaging over 3 knots again, and Bardsey Sound opened ahead of us. The tide began to set us towards it and it was time to decide if we should take the short cut. The wind had died to nothing and the tidal stream atlas in our “Cruising Anglesey and Adjoining Waters” pilot showed nothing nasty in the way of overfalls and whirlpools for the time, despite stating that the Sound should only by traversed at slack water. At 13:50 I took George off the helm and steered for the Sound.
Lleyn side of Bardsey Sound

The sea was a little confused, but far from being overfalls. For the first ten minutes Robinetta needed to ferry glide to stop her being carried towards Bardsey, but once I was certain we were past Maen Bugail, an outlying rock at the north end of the Island, I straightened up and pointed Robinetta straight through the centre of the Sound. Max speed was 7.2 knots and the seas here were smooth, with the occasional oily swirl of tidal rosts. It felt a little like being back in Orkney.

We saw a trip boat heading back from Bardsey. It came close to us, and when we waved the passengers waved back. The sun came out and we peeled off layers of clothes. Julian even went down to shorts and put on suncream. Three hours before we had been in full oilskins with fleeces beneath and now we were both in shirtsleeves. Ah, August in Wales!

George went back to work on the helm as soon as we were clear of Bardsey and we motored past Aberdaron and Porth Neigwl in the sunshine. The glittering sea shone grey, not blue, and clouds covered more of the sky than not, but all in all a lovely afternoon. Our short cut had saved us 2 hours, and we would be in Pwllheli in good time for dinner.
St Tudwal's Island

Then the day got even better. A light breeze came up, and we could see yachts with their sails up. One was about to sail into St Tudwal's Sound, and we decided to do the same. We sent George below, then up went the main sail, out went the jib, and we turned off the engine to sail slowly between the mainland and St Tudwal's Islands in the sunshine. We were running, but with a totally flat sea there was no real risk of an accidental gybe.
Abersoch Bay
As we cleared the sound we could see Abersoch ahead, and hardened up slightly to head in. We tried contacting the sailing club there to see if there was a mooring we could use, but could not reach anyone who could give us the okay. I turned Robinetta away towards Pwllheli, and the sailing was so lovely and gentle that I was glad to keep going. Any necessary gybes were done by just pulling the sail over rather than hauling in first, but we were still making 3 knots. The sea and sky were both blue, we were ringed by mountains on all sides (almost), the scenery was amazing... This was North Wales at its best.
Running toward Pwllheli
I gave Julian the helm as we got close to Pwllheli so he could share the helming joy, then called the marina on the VHF and asked for a berth. We sailed to the start of the entrance channel, then got the sails down and headed in. We were moored up at 19:10 after a wonderful end to a long day on the water.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

More Maintenance

Spent the day trying to sort out the engine problem, tidy up the boat, and catch up with sleep!

We moved Robinetta and Worm into the marina at 6 in the morning, with the engine warning noise on all the time, and went back to bed as soon as we were tied up. A cooked breakfast from the marina café filled the food gap at half ten.

Julian started the engine and the problem seemed to have cleared, although I could still hear a faint whine. He had a good look at the engine anyway and spotted that the battery connection was lose. It wouldn't tighten and on closer inspection the stud it fixed to on the solenoid was damaged and had almost no thread. It seems as though the engine problem was with the solenoid connection. Julian took the solenoid out to see if the stud was easy to replace and worked out that if he left the washers out there would be enough thread left for the nut to bite. Then he did not manage put it back properly, which let to a host of other problems. Luckily John from Bridget was on hand to show him how it should go, and all the problems went away.
Yesterday's other problems were the failed plug on the stern light and the continual voltage drops which turned off the chart plotter and dimmed the running lights.

Julian replaced the plug and socket for the stern light which should now be fine.

He couldn't track down the problems with the chartplotter so he made a few improvements to see if they will help. He tightened the switches in the switch box and checked all the solder joints and replaced the chock block connecting the engine earth to the domestic supply with crimped rings on the bolt. As there were three wires sharing the two sides of the chock block this should be more reliable and lower resistance.
He still wants to replace the primary domestic earth to the engine, but that is probably winter work.

Peel to Holyhead

We went to the harbour office and paid our dues, which were much reduced for rafting on the wall for the Weekend.
The first bridge swing would be as soon as the flap gate went down at about 10:30. We were ready to go and were just about to back out of the pontoon when we heard the harbnour master announce on the radio that the flap gate was lowering. Perfect timing!
Felinheli and Phyllis, plus 2 motor cruisers and 2 bermudan sloops came out with us. We got Robinetta's main up as we motored out and were on course with full main, no 1 jib, and staysail by 11:00. Felinheli and Phyllis soon pulled ahead, even though we kept the engine on due to lack of wind.
After about half an hour Julian got the reaching sail out and we put George on the helm while the seas were relatively flat. We flew the reaching sail all the way to Chicken Rock, which we gave a 3nm offing to avoid overfalls.
With the engine on we had made good progress and were about an hour ahead of our “worse case” planning.
Before we changed course to head for Holyhead we put the reaching sail away and pulled in the main in case we gybed. In the end the mainsail stayed out on the port side so we set the preventer again. An hour after the turn I realised we were doing 5½ knots, so lowered the engine revs, then turned it off completely. We were still doing 4½ to 5 knots once we flew the jib.
The trip from Man to Holyhead is complicated by the tides. We should head 173 °T according to the chart plotter, but having done the planning I put George on a compass course of 183°. This, plus the tide, carried us steadily west of our course on the chart plotter, which confused the “you will reach your destination” calculation time on the plotter.
For the first time in a long time I entered hourly fixes onto our paper chart to check our progress. The last thing I wanted was to be held to a standstill by the tides for 3 hours as had happened at Robinetta's last trip from Man to Holyhead.
I expected Robinetta to go 10nm west of the line, then be carried gently back to it as the tide turned. The swell had got up, and George could not cope, so Julian and I began hand steering in relays. By the time I realised the tide was not taking us in we were 13 nm west of the line and we gybed round to head in. This happened when Julian was in the middle of cooking dinner and I wished I had asked for the gybe before he started. We should have gybed an hour earlier, as soon as we got to the calculated 10nm off course. My fault as navigator for not trusting my own calculations.
We ate dinner in relays, unable to leave the helm, but Julian produced a good meal given the rolling conditions! 

As I took the helm again I glanced to the side, and saw dolphins swimming along side us in the swell. I called Julian back and he got a glimpse of them too, visible inside the wave that rose astern of Robinetta. I am pretty sure they were common dolphins, which are less common in the Irish sea! 
It was beginning to get dark, and I asked for the running lights to go on. The stern light refused to work, despite Julian working on it for half an hour, and the sea state was getting more and more challenging as the wind rose. By half nine we were reefed down to the first hoop, with the jib away, and Julian undid the hoop ready for the next reef. This went in at 22:40, and we were rolling horribly up and across the waves. By 23:30 I was getting overpowered again, and we dropped the main altogether, and went onto engine and staysail.
The chartplotter began to cut out. It would go straight back on, then die again next time we had a wave created lurch. Sometimes it would cut out as we were in the middle getting it back on! I really regretted those 3 miles too far west as we fought our way across the waves.
I put my head out of the cabin at about 0045, to get ready for my turn on the helm, and heard a warning whine from the engine. I told Julian, who had not noticed it for the engine and wind noise, and he throttled back. The whine continued, and we turned the engine off. With stay sail alone we did not have steerage way amongst the nasty waves, but we unfurled the jib and were able to make progress at 2½ knots.
We crept closer to Holyhead, having to turn the chart plotter on again what seemed like every other minute. Eventually we gaining the shelter of the breakwater at 01:55. The change to smooth water came as a blessed relief. We relaxed, but were exhausted. Holyhead marina is not well lit, and although we decided to head in when we reached it I bottled out. We had furled the jib at the last minute and turned the engine on. It was still whining, and I did not trust it. Entering the marina on staysail and dodgy engine, with a force 6 northerly to work with, felt wrong. I turned away rather than heading for a berth (we had no fenders or ropes ready, and the bowsprit was still out). Luckily there was an empty mooring buoy just off the entrance. Julian picked it up while I helmed, then we did the minimum of tidying up and tumbled into bed just after 02:30.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Monday Maintenance

The boats heading north left at the first bridge opening, since the wind was from the South West. We wanted a northerly to head south, and since one was forecast for Tuesday we stayed put, having work to do on Robinetta.
The first job was moving the toilet out of the way to look for the forepeak leak. Julian handed it up to me in the cockpit, and I was sat there cleaning it up when Mary came back from paying her mooring fees. She commented with amusement, saying that her bucket was better than worrying about thru hulls for a flush.
Worm had been moored alongside Molly Cobbler for the weekend, and Mary gave her back, before casting off and heading out of the harbour as soon as the flap gate allowed.
Julian and I wanted mains electricity for the day, so we had decided to move to a pontoon berth as soon as Mary left. This lead to us motoring through the harbour with the toilet on display in the cockpit, which caused several ribald comments.
Once we were moored up I finished cleaning the toilet and Julian moved it onto the foredeck, where it was a lot less obvious.
Water was coming in from a couple of places. Julian tightened up the toilet flushing water ingress sea cock, which had started leaking again. ( a recurrent problem.)
The other leak seemed to originate at the foremost floor strap's central bolt, just aft of the chain locker.
A good thing about being at a Traditional Boat Weekend is that there are experienced wooden boat builders/repairers around. Scot Metcalf, skipper of Vilma and owner of the Penryn wooden boat workshop came to have a look, together with John, off Bridget. Scot tightened up the nut on the threaded rod through the strap and the flow ceased. He thinks there may be a scarf joint on the stem poast that is being held in place by the nut. Tightening the nut against the floor seemed to do the trick and Robinetta stopped pumping as often. Vilma and Bridget both headed out on the last bridge swing before the flap gate came up, they were going to moor at St Mary's overnight and leave early from there for Holyhead.
The toilet bowl went back in place, now nice and clean.
I passage planned for our trip to Holyhead tomorrow while Julian worked, then we went out for an icecream and internet, before eating dinner on board.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Not such a good day

Should have gone out for another parade of sail, but the 06:00 forecast discouraged us. 3-4 sw would be fine, but “increasing 5-6” rang warning bells, as did the “rain later”. We began to get the bunting down prior to leaving anyway, but then we felt the gusts begin, and decided against it.
Only 3 boats went out in the end, and they did not stay out long. By 12:00 it was raining hard and horizontal, and we settled down in the cabin for a quiet afternoon. Luckily it dried later on letting us   watch the Peel Carnival parade without getting wet.
Absurdist Pipe Band entertaining spectators before the parade

We went out with Mary to the Creek Inn for dinner, and had a great time. We got into conversation with the owner and builder of a large catamaran which had come into Peel with a damaged rudder. Since he had built the boat himself (near Ravenglass)  he knew exactly how to repair it. We spent the evening sharing experiences of sailing round Ireland. His catamaran cruises at 20 knots, but like us he took 9 weeks to go round. The Irish were so welcoming he kept staying in places for longer than expected!   

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Peel Parade of Sail

We woke to sunshine on Saturday morning, and opened the hatch into the cockpit to find a bag with sausages, bacon, milk and bread, courtesy of the Peel Traditional Boat festival organisers. Since they had already given us butter, eggs, and condiments when we registered we were all set for a splendid cooked breakfast.
I moved Worm against the harbour wall so we would not have to take her with us. She had spent the night moored alongside Molly Cobbler, who had rafted up out side us yesterday.
The flap gate dropped at about nine, and by 09:30 we were ready to head out when the swing bridge opened. Julian had been in the middle of raising the sail to shake out the reef when we heard it was time to go, so we headed out with the main part raised, just the gaff scandalised. I got the ropes and fenders away, then we were heading out with the rest of the fleet to sail up and down the coast on quite long tacks.
Mog, with Peel Castle behind

Vilma, and various other boats in company

Most parades of sail are held in close quarters, with boats milling about near the shore, but this one seemed much more relaxed, and we happily followed the other boats out to the north west before turning to head back towards Peel. I took a lot of pictures. The steady force 3-4 breeze made sailing a joy, and the swell just made it more fun. We stayed out for nearly two hours, then headed back in for the 11:30 gate swing.
We rafted back on Phyllis, with Molly Cobbler outside us, and got the bunting back up. A lazy afternoon sorting photos was followed by dinner at the Masonic hall. It was a lovely day to own and sail an old boat.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Peel Festival Starts

Registered at the Festival Office, and were given our dinner tickets and a goody bag. Got the bunting up, went for a walk round town. Mary Gibs moved Molly Cobbler from her berth on the pontoon to raft up outside Robinetta. She then borrowed Worm to practice her sculling and set off up the harbour.
Robinetta hidden between Molly Cobbler and Phyllis
Julian and I read for a bit, then headed for a walk up Peel Hill. We walked down towards the top of the harbour where we had a kipper roll. Albaquila, a classic motor boat, was moored at that end of the harbour, and we were invited aboard for a cup of tea and a look. Very smart!

Friday evening saw the Traditional Boat sailors invited to the Peel Sailing Club for a tasty barbecue supper. Peel certainly knows how to encourage owners of old boats to bring them to its festival.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Ardglass to Peel

The morning forecast was not promising, since it contained a gale warning for the Irish Sea, but careful consultation of the inshore waters, XC Weather, and myweather2, showed that the wind between Ardglass and Peel would be at most a 5 South Westerly, with a slight to moderate sea state. Pretty perfect for our planned trip.

After warming up the engine and charging the batteries for 45 minutes we left Ardglass at 11:00. The sea was rolling into the harbour entrance, and two boats came in seeking shelter as we were leaving. The swell rolled Robinetta uncomfortably when we were on our intended heading, but it did not feel too bad when we headed into the waves to get the sails up. Once we were back on course, with the preventer rigging to keep the boom steady, the wind coming from almost dead astern felt very light. We kept the engine on for a while, but once we were clear the land's wind shadow the wind increased until we could sail at nearly 4 knots. Robinetta is always steadier under sail than motor and she felt much happier once the engine went off.

I helmed for a couple of hours, and toward the end of that time I began to want a reef. That meant the preventer had to come off, but we had not needed it. Julian put two rolls of sail round the boom, then took over the steering. We could just about see the Isle of Man ahead, so we had something to aim for which is much easier than following a pure compass course. An hour and a half later the reef came out, and the preventer went on again.

Sea birds were plentiful, with gannets, fulmers, guillemots and razorbills all on view. I also saw something that might have been a sooty tern, at least it looked like a tern but with black back and wings. No sign of any sea mammals.

We saw two ships coming up the coast of Man as we passed the half way point. The first, a ferry, crossed well ahead without us needing to do anything. The second, a gas or oil carrier, gave us a lot more to think about. It was moving only slightly faster than we were, and closing at an angle of about 130º. Eventually I headed a few degrees to starboard, and we passed behind it with room to spare.  By the end of my turn I was once again feeling in need of a reef, and this time we took three rolls round the boom. I handed over to Julian wondering how soon he would want the reefs out again!
A happy Helmsman in the Irish Sea
About an hour later he asked me to go forward and untie the first hoop so we could reef more if we needed to. By the time I had finished the wind had got up under a cloud and he wanted the reef in immediately. In the end I also furled the jib, and with Robinetta reefed fully down we were still making 5 knots.
Landfall at Peel
We sailed in past the breakwater at Peel at 18:40, an hour before the flap gate to the harbour opened. Our faster than expected passage meant we needed to pick up a mooring buoy to wait, and since we were not tired of sailing yet Julian decided to pick up the buoy under sail. We were out of practice, and there was a lot less wind close in to the shore, so it took a while, but Robinetta was tied on the buoy just after 19:00, and all tidied away to enter harbour by 19:30. The harbour control at Douglas operate the bridge out of office hours, and they called us up at 19:50 to say they were about to swing the bridge, so we dropped the mooring and headed in.

Phyllis, a Royal Mersey Restricted Class, built in Rock Ferry in 1913, at the yard next door to where Robinetta was built, was lying against another boat on the wall, just inside the harbour, and we rafted up on her. Two Mersey boats together!

Today's trip needed a lot of concentration to steer in the swell, but we had a great sail, using the engine for only 45 minutes of a 7 ½ hour sail (plus another ½ hour manoeuvring under sail). The weather treated us kindly too; we could always see blue sky somewhere, and the rain showers missed us totally.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Rejoining Robinetta

Got back to Robinetta today for the first time in weeks. Everything in the cabin seems fine, although the washing up bowl and mugs were a bit mouldy. Boiling water soon sorted the problem out though!

The cleat we make the main sheet off on, on the port side of the cockpit, felt a bit wobbly, and when I went to tighten up the nuts holding it in place I realised the plywood the bolts go into had gone rotten. This is annoying, since it is part of the cockpit top that was replaced in 2014. The problem seems to be that I did not seal the bolt holes against water ingress, as the rest of the plywood away from the holes is fine. Julian added a piece of solid wood beneath the ply to spread the load and found some washers to stop the wing nuts digging in. The wood came out of a skip because the only piece we had on board was too thick. The cleat is now solid again and safe to use, but I must remember to do a proper repair of the rotten plywood over the winter.