24th-25thAugust. After several days waiting for strong south-westerly winds to abate we set out from Holyhead’s storm-damaged marina at 7.30am in a gentle south-easterly and sunshine. A quick radio call to the harbour cleared us to round the impressive breakwater and head south.
The sea had quietened after the white-capped tidal overfalls we had seen from the land, so it was calm enough to take the inshore passage close to the dramatic cliffs of North and South Stack, with the fragile-looking high pedestrian bridge across to South Stack lighthouse. We had expected to motor as the forecast was for very little wind – in fact, the winds smiled on us and we had a gentle upwind sail, assisted by favourable tide, directly to Porth Dinllaen, the only accessible anchorage on the north-west side of the Llyn peninsula.
Arriving at the anchorage we found British seaside holidaying at its noisy best: the sandy beach was full of sunbathers, speedboats and jet-skis were buzzing about, with screaming children dragged behind in rubber rings. Yachts bobbed about gently on moorings and at anchor and we ate our lunch on deck, enjoying the warm sunshine. The Ty Coch (Red House) pub seemed to be doing a roaring Saturday trade – it was our source of dinner, we hoped.
We spend hours planning passages and today was no exception: there was a detailed plan ready for leaving very early the next morning expecting to motor across Cardigan Bay in very light winds, arriving Milford at dusk. However, there are times to tear up the plans and this was one of them. There was a beautiful sailing wind, slightly stronger than forecast, and a night passage would give us a guaranteed daytime arrival in Milford. Besides, the jet skis were getting tiresome. And the pub closes in the evening.
This turned out to be a good decision. We set out at 4.30pm and sailed along the Llyn peninsula in the late afternoon sunshine, close to remote sandy beaches and green slopes, past Bardsey island with its ancient monastic ruins and red and white striped lighthouse. The wind held up until about 11pm.
Night passages involve long stretches of not much happening yet require vigilance, looking out for approaching vessels, so it is important to make sure everyone gets enough rest and keeps alert. We split the night into 3-hour watches in pairs, with Jonathan and Rob taking the first watch from 6pm, Anne and Alan taking over at 9pm and so on. Every hour we plot our position on the paper chart, so have a record of our track which is separate from our electronic devices. It was a calm and warm night and the forecast wind shift (backing to the south west) happened very suddenly, prompting us to tack towards the Welsh coast (a good move as it continued backing).
It is always hard work to get up after less than three hours sleep, put on sailing clothes and go out on deck in the dark, but there are rewards. As we started our watch at 3am the clouds cleared and the sky was full of stars, with a crescent moon casting a river of light on the sea. Alongside the boat, our wash lit up with phosphorescence, and as the day dawned near Ramsay Island a pod of dolphins emerged, leaping and diving around us.
Our carefully planned timings worked well (transferred to 12 hours earlier). We arrived at the ‘Bishop and his clerks’ rocks west of Ramsay just as the tide turned to swoosh us south, then through Broad Sound between Skomer and Skokholm islands into the Milford estuary. For Anne and Alan, this is a stretch of water which brings back many memories of family holidays dinghy sailing and walking the Pembrokeshire coastline. The marina was busy and once a lock crammed full of yachts had been disgorged we were locked in and moored up by 11am, ready for showers, lunch, a stroll round Milford and resting up after our long passage.
- Distance: 124nm. Motored 13h, sailed 9h30m, anchored 4 hours.
- Wind: E/SE 2-4 veering SW 2-4
ABOUT THIS BLOG
On our passage ‘Around These Islands’ Anne is writing about each trip, and Jonathan is writing some more ‘technical’ blogs, from our perspective as ordinary cruising sailors. We are sharing what we’ve learned, and welcome your thoughts too. Please remember that this blog – and your comments – are public.
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