Thursday, 18 July 2019

Falmouth back to Conwy

Just to recap on a little bit of the journey , now Kika is safely back on her mooring in the Conwy River.
We had a fleeting visit to Falmouth which was basking in the sunshine. The Pendennis Shipyard looked a bit empty, but the pubs and restaurants were full and there were quite a few young live a boards in the harbour, making a precarious living but fed up with the rat race of city life. It was good to see them crammed like sardines on some old boats. 

We rounded the lizard the next day to arrive in Newlyn , a proper Cornish fishing town where local people can still afford a house and all the pubs have pictures of Trawlers and local people. It's also the home of the famous Penlee lifeboat , whose predecessor the Solomon Brown was lost trying to rescue  the crew from a cargo ship that had run onto the rocks in horrendous seas. The present Coxn is the son of the Coxn who lost his life on that cruel night. 

The fishermen put us straight on the best time to get to the Runnel Stone buoy to get the early tide around Lands end on the inner passage. Conditions were good , but with a tidal race the Bishop Rock light would be a treacherous place in bad weather. I was quite apprehensive about the 120 mile passage up to Milford Haven as the wind was on the nose. We were able to tack out towards Ireland and use a tide sweeping us in a NE direction to get a heading for Waterford in Ireland. At about 10pm the tide turned to sweep us out of the Bristol Channel and by a stroke of luck the wind backed round to the NW allowing us to lay a course for Milford Haven on the other tack. Pete cooked up an excellent Pasta for supper despite the rough sea and we eat watching the sun go down over an azure sea. Just like the tropics! During the night we were joined by a school of porpoises . One could see them quite clearly as they came alongside because of the phosphorescence in the water. Above there was no moon , so all the constellations and the Milky Way stood out very clearly. We had a 3 hours on , 3 hours off watch system which worked well. However when we finally docked into Milford after a 26 hour passage we were all cream crackerd . Fraser and Nigel left us for North Wales swapping cars with Glyn who kindly joined us and loaned them the car for the journey home to North Wales.

After doing the long passage we had an easy time of it going through Jack and Ramsy sound to arrive in Fishguard. We had waited for the tide through Jack Sound by anchoring off Skomer Island ,an RSPB reserve where there is a thriving enormous population of puffins who took great interest in the inedible dog fish Pete was pulling up on a rod and line. We anchored in Fishguard Bay at night, working out the tidal heights, as Pete never fails to remind me of the last time we were there and picked up a mooring which caused our keel to touch the bottom in the night.  When you go on your side the important thing is to remember to close the seacocks!

On past the sleepy Pemrokesire and Carmarthenshire coastline to take the channel into Aberystwyth Marina. Aberystwyth is its own place cut off by the mountains and the sea. On the bridge there is a plaque to commemorate the first protest by Cymdeithas Iaith Cymraeg in support of the Welsh Language. The town itself is an ancient seat of learning , a holiday resort and a home to loads of retired hippies and artists. There are lovely forgotten about corners, pubs serving a wide selection of real ales and a distinctly unfashionable air to the whole place which makes it so attractive.

On to Pwlleli which has a vey narrow channel and then a harder day tacking into the wind to catch the tide for Bardsey sound which we shot through at over 10 knots. The were overfalls in the middle of the sound which creates a sort of washing machine effect. No good if you are cooking!

The Porth Dinllaen lifeboat with its enormous engines came alongside us for half an hour to point out towing points on a sailing vessel to the crew. The tide had turned against us by then and we were tempted to ask them to put theory into practise.

From Porth Dinllaen we crossed Ceararfon Bar in rather poor visibility and a moderate swell to whistle up the beautiful Menai straights. Glyn helmed very competently through the narrows swellies where there is a whole catalogue of vessels that came to grief not following the leading marks. Our last night was spend moored to the pontoon at Menai Bridge dining out on lovely fish at Dillon's restaurant. A 6 am start brought us accross the swatch and into Conwy at high water at 9 am whereIain Mitchell was there to greet us. It was good to be home

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Weymouth to North Wales

As I write this we are sitting waiting for the tide in Pwllheli surrounded by oyster catchers and curlews. It's been a mad week making up time to get the boat back on schedule.
We left Weymouth on a spring tide to get round Portland Bill early in the morning. We passed Portland Prison, a lonely building isolated on the Bill, and took the inside passage to avoid the tidal overfalls. It means being within shouting distance of someone standing on the rocks. A fair tide took us accross Lyme Bay and we were just able to lay Dartmouth on a W/ Nw breeze. Fraser Longbone joined us in Weymouth and helmed the boat like an arrow until he succumbed to mal de met, a common first day hazard.
Dartmouth is a beautiful place and we had a beer in the towns oldest pub, with not a straight line in the building. My son Jack was locked up in the Brittania Royal Naval College doing forced marches and the Royal Navy Fitness Test or so he claimed and was unable to get down for a beer.

We sailed round Start Point to the Queen Anne's battery in Plymouth. We heard the large carrier Queen Elizabeth warning nearby ships about its air operations so presumably the sailors can stop throwing darts off the flight deck as the government has bought some planes.

Have just lost the next 5 paragraphs so will have to fill in the gaps another time!Suffice to say after a hard passage overnight from Newlyn to Milford Haven of some 120 miles against a headwind we are now meandering back peacefully through Wales to be home by Friday 12 July hopefully.
Hurst point just off the needles channel

Pete and Glyn on their usual " shopping run " ashore

Pete and Glynn having a lovely time in Aberystwyth 

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Harwich to Weymouth

We stayed at the very comfortable Royal Norfolk and Suffolk yacht club in Harwich with a fabulous Edwardian Clubhouse, and a loo cistern made of copper with a Latin inscription. In the opinion of some club members things had gone to the dogs as only the cistern itself was polished and not the copper pipes coming off it. Dave and Andy went home after surviving a lot of sailing . Nigel Clay and Richard Lewis  arrived raring for action. We crossed the narrow channels of the Thames Estuary, cutting a few corners when the wind was on the nose and watching the depth sounder anxiously. We spotted the North Foreland of Kent and the tide took us round to Ramsgate. It's a seaside town that's had a revival with artists , quirky shops, and naval history all cheek by jowl. The gunpowder stores for the fleet were stored in caves burrowed into the Rock above the harbour. Mr Grayling has recently  had the channel dredged in preparation for a no deal Brexit, and we nearly ran aground on some uncharted spoil just outside the main channel!

A short hop to Dover where we were visited by old Friends Jane and Richard Phillips together with Janes younger sister whom I hadn't seen for over 40 years. ,it was great to catch up. We visited a micro pub where you could have any local Kentish wine or beer , got a kiss from the landlady on arrival and woe betide you if your mobile phone went off. Verboten!

On to Sovereign Harbour Eastbourne in a stiff 25 knot Easterly with the mainsaIl on a preventer and the foresail poled out goose winged, trade wind style. My cousin Stephen ,his wife Annemarita and my Aunty Marjorie came aboard for drinks . Stephen is the doctor on the Easbourne lifeboat , and we had a poke round as she was berthed next to us. The engines are enormous and deafening when the throttle is opened.

Another windy day along the Sussex Coast past Brighton saw us speeding along and going up the small boat channel to Haslar Marina ,Portsmouth where we had a very pleasant fish supper on a retired lightship in the harbour. Amazing to think that there was a crew of 7-8 men just to maintain the light and do a few weather observations. It's all automatic now!

Friday's run with the tide allowed us to shoot out of the needles channel like a cork out of a bottle and anchor peacefully up the South Channel in Poole Harbour on a very hot day. It was lovely having dinner on deck and then a musical session watching the sun slowly set. Went for a swim off the boat . The water was quite warm.

On Saturday We Rounded St Albans Head and rafter up to a number of other yachts in Weymouth harbour which was packed with tourists enjoying the sun. On inspecting the engine we found that the alternator belt was cracked and hanging by a thread. Wouldn't have been good if that had happened at sea! After a bit of huffing and puffing we fitted a replacement and I went up the mast the next day to fix the anchor light on which we finally found a poor connection at the bulb.

Richard leaves us tonight after a tough weeks sailing which he survived very well with no seasickness, and we will be joined by Fraser Longbone ready for a long sail around the notorious Portland Bill with its tide races and accross Lyme Bay to Dartmouth tomorrow.
The Needles Channel on a lovely sunny morning

Richard enjoying a sundowner on the anchorage in Poole Harbour

 The alternator belt - split in 2 places and hanging by a thread

Wells harbour near the sea and a Norfolk Wherry

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Down the East Coast

As soon as the wind moderated on Thurday afternoon we left Blyth. The swell was fairly heavy after the gales, but we passed the busy shipping in the Tyne and arrived on the dirty river Weir and docked at Sunderland Marina. The town looked a bit depressed with plenty of people of working age hanging about "helping" with the boats.

Friday saw us meandering down to Hartlepool on the tide. The town has had a real boost from the arrival of the Tricomalee ( a Trafagar era Frigate ) and the museum of the Royal Navy. The Frigate survived the breakers yard because she was built in Bombay from Burmese Teak which is incredibly resistant to Rot. Her sister ship the Indefegatible was blown up in the channel in 1947 and scuttled with the Fench and British Ensigns flying while thee last post was played. No money then to restore old ships! The was a graphic video showing the miserable life of pressed men in Nelson's Navy. "A floating prison with a good chance of being drowned". Of course Kikas 'crew especially the first mate thought that they had it easy compared with life on a Rival 38.

In the evenings it's fun being a fly on the wall on the strip a row of bars and restaurants along the waterfront. Lasses from the North East defy the climate and parade up and down in scimpy outfits to be approached by fellas in waistcoats with slicked back hair. The beers cheap too!

On Saturday we said goodbye to Glyn and Gerry who have kept  everyone entertained despite 3 days holed up in Blyth, and hello to Andy Grace and David North Coombes both old pals from my year in medical school. Our next stop was Whitby where Andy and I had sailed our 21 foot Corribee almost 40 years ago. The harbour is busier now with more tourists and the stem train now comes all the way from Goatland on the North York Moors line into Whiby itself, a splendid sight. We managed to get some twig debris sucked into the water intake which resulted in a steaming engin when we arrived At our berth. Several hours of huddling around later managed to ram a load of compressed wood out of the intake seacock.
I have just managed to lose the following 4 paragraphs by a feat of spectacular technical incompetence ie not saving! Suffice to say it's time for a beer so to summarise we had a great time travelling through Scarborough, Bridlintonwhere we had an exiting night drying out, Grimbsby where the beer was cheap andWells next to the sea( very picturesque) and now we are safely ensconced in the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club at Lowestoft a venerable old institution with friendly members and have said goodbye to Dave and Andy who have been brilliant company and even claim to have enjoyed themselves.
Andy's steam train which got to Whitby

Dave and Andy look towards Flamborough Head from Scarborough 

Flamborough Head

The old market hall in Scarborough


Thursday, 13 June 2019

Crossing the Border

Iain,Cat and Ian set off in a hired car for North Wales on Saturday morning, to be replaced by Gerry O' Donoghue and Glyn Jones who geared up for an early morning departure to Eyemouth 47 miles away. It was a lovely morning with a crisp blue sky and initially good progress across the Tay Estuary and past Fife Ness where we were greeted by a number of puffins off the Isle of May. These lovely birds fly off when the boat comes close flapping their wings rapidly and trailing their red legs behind them. My uncle Alfred rescued one from a fishing net off this coast many years ago. Perhaps we were watching his descendants. Progress across the Forth was slow because the foul tide kicked in, but at 6 pm we passed St Abbs head where an Air Sea Rescue of a diver was in progress. We could hear the worry in the dive boat skippers voice as he reported the casualty initially unresponsive and in the water followed by relief as he was recovered on board and started to respond. The helicopter arrived promptly and winched him up to take him to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where there is a decompression chamber.

At Eyemouth we ratfted up outside 2 other boats and after dinner on board walked into the town. There is a very large Georgian Building owned by a Mr Nisbet who conducted a huge smuggling operation while posing as a respected local merchant! It was ever thus. We took a walk accross the seafront and watched the sun set at around 10.45.

Monday meant another long run to Blyth of around 45 miles. We took the inner channel between Holy Island and the Farne Islands which were covered in Guano from the large bird colony. Seals ,Gannets, Terns , Guillimots and Puffins circled around us as we passed the monastery on Holy Islad and Grace Darlings lighthouse on the Farne Islands. Her rescue of shipwrecked Mariners was the inspiration for today's life boat institution. The wind kicked in later in the day and we made good progress to Blyth , a large port and the headquarters of the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, whose headquarters is a converted lightship in the Marina. There was a fantastic folk concert going on and we were made to feel very welcome.

Unfortunately we have been storm bound for three days. 30 knot winds and lashing waves meant Kika was pinned onto an exposed visitors pontoon. We managed to scrounge around for more fenders as ours were taking a hammering and eventually during a lull in the weather took Kika round to a less exposed berth on Wednesday evening where we had a much more comfortable night.

We have had a day out in Newcastle where we toured the castle a solid Norman Keep designed to be a stronghold for dealing with rebellious northerners and marauding Scots. In fact to be safe in Northumberland during those turbulent times it was advisable to live in one of the numerous castles or fortified towers if you were a farmer. Such a peaceful county now with very friendly people. The Victoians built their famous railway and road bridge across the Tyne straight through the lower part of the castle Bailey splitting it in two, and the local newly formed antiquarian society just saved the keep! We also visited the cathedral where Admiral Collingwood a local man who completed Nelson's historic victory at Trafalgar is commemorated. Poor chap, he was never allowed a retirement and died at sea at the age of 62. There is also a rich merchants home, where his daughter Bessie jumped out of a first storey window and eloped with the son of a coal merchant. She obviously saw something in him her disapproving parents hadn't as he went on to become a lawyer and Lord Chancellor of England. today Thursday the weather is still bad and we are hoping for an improvement this evening to take us down to Sunderland.

Gerry in charge with the helm on autopilot

The Eyemouth home of the respectable smuggler Mr Nisbet

Signets taking a ride on Mum's back

Gerry Pete and Glyn with Holy Island in the background

Arriving in Blyth next
 door to a cable laying ship

Bessie Surtees who picked a good 'un

Friday, 7 June 2019

Nairn to Arbroath

The sun came out as we left Nairn to travel along the South shore of the Moray Firth. The wind was a gentle Southerly giving us a flat sea, and a beam reach at 6 -7 knots. We passed the village of Cullen where the famous Scottish Broth Cullen Skink was invented. Another journey up the mast in the morning has finally sorted out the foresail roller which is now working perfectly as is the ship's toilet which required a little work on the siphon grommet. Our original destination was Buckie a fishing town known as " The dump " by the locals we met. However we were doing so well we carried on to the little port of Whitehills where we were greeted by the harbourmaster Mr Bertie Milne who had taken some pictures of us coming in and presented us with the camera SD card to download the images. We had landed on our feet. Whitehills is a bonny little village originally surviving on the fishing trade, but as boats got bigger with more horse power to catch more fish, small harbours like Whitehills were only suitable for the crab and lobster men , and the yachties filled the gap. Bertie an ex fisherman himself made us very welcome and generously donated the harbour fee to St Kentigerns. We stayed in Whitehiils for two nights as we were storm bound with 30 knot winds at the masthead on Tuesday. We walked over to the neighbouring village of Banff, which had some substantial merchants houses built on the trade with Northern Europe , the herrings and not forgetting smuggling which was rife in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Seafield Arms in  Whitehills was crammed with photos of trawlers and provided a very good fish supper. All the locals were jolly and enjoyed living where they did despite the winters.

Tuesday saw us rounding the notorious Rattray Head in calm conditions to arrive in the busy port of Peterhead. The North Sea supply vessels with their helicopter landing pads were enormous, they arrived on one tide had supplies craned on and left for the oil rigs on the next. Overhead Sikorski Helicopters buzzed taking crew on and off rigs . There is now a marina just under the old prison which was always a tough place . The prisoners specialised in rooftop protests and would often
feature on National TV . It must have been cold on that roof! I'd have been begging to come down.

We pressed on with the tide to the pretty port of Stonehaven, where we found a reasonably sheltered berth along the harbour wall. There was quite a lot of swell particularly at low water . Our snatch block on the shrouds , took a bit of a hammering , but a nearby  yacht was snatching to and from and broke some lines in the night.

Thursday's run from Stonehaven to Arbroath, went well apart from starting off with the main halliard wrapped around the radar dome. We returned briefly to harbour to sort it out as the swell had the mast rotating through 15 feet and Iain sensibly vetoed me going up the mast at sea. It was so much easier to sort it once the boat was not moving. We had our first sea Haar or fog bank off Montrose and picked up anchored tankers and a rock quite well on the radar. The cloud cleared and for the last couple of hours beat into a SW breeze at 7 knots with the tide to pick up the leading lights into
Arbroath Harbour amidst a sea of lobster pots. Impossible at night.

Arbroath is the home of the famous smokies. The harbour is quite busy with fishing vessels. It's quite a poor town now with some fairly rough pubs , however you can see from the buildings that there was plenty of money when the trade in "silver darlings" (herrings) was in a full flood. As it's a diversion to go up the Tay to Dundee we are staying till Monday in Arbroath and went into Dundee on the train today to visit the new V&A museum at the waterfront and see the Scottish Design Exhibition. The museum is free and a big boost to the city of Dundee which is gradually recovering from the collapse of the Jute trade. The town centre is now pedestrianised and a big improvement on what I remembered , the old buildings positively gleamed in the sun.
Kika arrives at Whitehills courtesy of Bertie Milne

Iain Cat and Ian ready with the lines

Our storm hole at Whitehills

Our mate the gannet who told us we were an hour wrong on the tide

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Loch Ness to Nairn

Loch Ness is a mysterious place. It's so deep that it has more water in it than all the lakes in England and Wales put together.  The echo sounder often loses the bottom and bounces off a fish 2 metres down at which the crew cry Nessie!
The winds funnel off the steep hillsides coming from different direction in a katabatic fashion, with water cascading off large waterfalls to keep the glacial valley topped up.
We Anchored off Urquhart Castle besieged and occupied by Robert the Bruce in the 14 th century, he looked in vain for cobwebs to get further advice from his mate the spider, but it's too windy a spot.
Managed to blow the main fuse on the boat by hitting the up button on the anchor controls with the anchor attached. For some reason the breaker s┼Áitch failed to work.
We spent a very pleasant night and reminiced after a chicken curry , followed by port and cheese. It was like being back in our Medical School , now sadly disappeared under a block of new flats.

Out of Loch Ness and into the salubrious gardens of Inverness, Europe's fastest growing city , a very well heeled town where they pride themselves on their diction and articulation. I don't think the queen speaking sounds quite the same!

We spent the morning in the seaport basin ,fueling up , water on board and scrubbing ourselves down until we donned oilies on a foul afternoon to go out through the sea lock , under the Inverness Bridge and raced accross Inverness Firth to just beat the tide at Fort George an impressive structure guarding The seaport of Inverness from French or Jacobite Invasion. The weather was dricht as the say in Scotland with rain and the wind on the nose .We passed the Black Isle named because snow never lies on it in winter making it look black in contrast to the surrounding countryside. We tacked up the Sothern Coast of the Cromarty Firth watching large colonies of seals on the beaches followed by dolphins leaping into the air to try and drive the fish towards the boat which they were using as part of their hunting circle. We arrived at Nairn harbour in the gloom to wait for enough water to take us through the very narrow channel. There was supposed to be a waiting buoy according to the Almanac. All we could find on the spot was a flag and buoy named channel marker which we attached ourselves to with some difficulty losing a boat hook and broom in the process. The harbourmaster came out to look at his lobster pots and told us the buoy had been removed some years ago and that we were in danger of dragging the buoy. On his advice we waited a further half hour till 1 hour before high water( not 3 hours as it saiid in the pilot) and followed him gingerly up the very narrow channel. The depth sounder was reading 0 metres under the keel! It was good to get the heater on , go below and dry out with a gin and tonic followed by chille con carne into which John had put a level tablespoon of chile powder. We became very warm inside too!

Nairn is near the site of the battle of Culloden where the Duke of Cumberland dispatched Bonny Prince Charlie's highlanders with ruthless efficiency The highlanders were exhausted after a night spent walking to Nairn where they planned to night ambush the Dukes men. Unfortunately by the time they reached the camp it was dawn which meant withdrawal in the pouring rain a further 12 miles to Colloden Moor on starvation rations. The Dukes men well fed and watered, killed most of them with accurate cannon work and grapeshot before they had a chance to charge with their dirks , Targes and Claymore's . Cumberlands men had worked out how to bayonet them from the side. The highlanders are buried in huge pits on the battle site with no gravestones apart from an attempt by the Victorians to name the clans. The Duke was known as Butcher Cumberland not because of the battle, but as a result of the savage repression that followed with rape pillage and murder from troops left to their own devices . The clearances followed and the clan system was mercilessly crushed. Colloden is a sobering place to visit.

On Friday evening we were visited by Johns's daughter Lucy and her husband and her husband Stewart together with their two children Freddy (5 ) Hattie (2). Freddy celebrated his 5th Birthday on Board with candles and a caterpillar cake and a good time was had by all.since leaving the Isle of Mann we have been in a blog blackout , mainly due to my inability to source enough bandwidth to download photos.since leaving the Isle of Mann we have been in a blog blackout , mainly due to my inability to source enough bandwidth to download photos.

Joined later that evening by new crew Ian and Cat Fearn together with Ian Mitchell. John and Ceri had departed to hot showers and creature comforts at Lucy's hose before flying home on Sunday. Pete Quilliam arrives tonight

Up the mast again in the morning. I think I have got the Genoa wrap sorted. It's not much fun when you can't furl a sail in bad conditions . Joined Iain inmy favourite place on the boat to sort out a siphon valve that was allowing the toilet to flood. Life on a small yacht is full of snags that will bite you badly if you don't sort them out.

We plan to leave for the fishing port of Buckie tomorrow shortly before high water which will Hopefully allow us to avoid running aground.

John and Ceri on the anchorage at Urquart Castle

The locking down team in operation