Sailing North Again
Day 6 - Sunday 21st May 2017
Up at 0630 and made tea. Skip was up soon after. We donned our sailing gear and he used the ship's hose to fill the water tank as I re-arranged the mooring warps and fenders ready to go. The fairway was narrow and as we reversed out a gust of wind caught the high bow. The thruster quickly brought us back on track. The lock gate was still closed so we called 'Pierhead' on VHF channel 14. "Give me ten minutes" he said "and I'll prepare the lock". I'd forgotten that the protocol there was to call the lock keeper an hour before departure and then again on de-berthing.
After a short delay we were on our way out of the lock and down the channel. We called Milford Haven Port Operations, they informed us that there were no ship movements and we were clear to cross the channel towards Angle Bay.
As soon as the hook was down the kettle went on again. Kathryn let out twenty metres of chain and we watched for a steady transit across the beam to check the anchor was holding. Then we tied a heavy rope to the chain with a rolling hitch. Letting more chain out 'til the knot was well over the bow, we tied off the rope to a cleat and the chain was duly snubbed. This is a great technique for taking the load off the windlass. The rope snubber was touching the cheek of the stem head fitting, which could cause chafe, so we tied another rope to it and made it off to the port cleat.
Everyone was keen to get going, so after breakfast the hook was weighed and we were off, 9.15 on the dot. Sailing west out of the Haven, we timed our passage to be at Jack Sound by 1045. The scenery was delightful and several other boats were there too. Some were fishing and others perhaps came to see the change in sea state as the tide turned.
We were through this narrow 'pinch point' in just a few minutes and on our way to Ramsey Sound, just seven miles distant. We set just enough of the genoa to give us 5 knots, ensuring we would reach the next pinch point at the right time for the turn of the tide. It was low water when we got to Ramsey Sound and 'The Bitches', a nasty rock ledge jutting half way across the channel, was clearly visible. Our sketch map and pilotage plan was essential.
After altering course to avoid a rock with a wreck on it, we unfurled some mainsail and tied off the boom with a gybe preventer. We unfurled the remainder of the genoa and headed towards our next waypoint at the start of the long leg across Cardigan Bay.
Once at the waypoint, we steered a course toward Bardsey Island and watched south west Wales recede behind us. The noon day sunshine sparkled on the water. I turned in and soon fell asleep in my forepeak cabin to the sound of the sea gurgling past the bow and the motion of a gently rocking boat.
Two hours passed in a flash. I woke and after saying hello to the skipper and Erni, who were both on watch, I put the kettle on for tea. Kathryn had turned in and was still asleep. I checked the log and plotted a position fix on the chart, then scanned around for vessels on the radar, zooming out to 12 mile range and then in to 3 NM to see if anything was close by.
After another hour or so, the highest hills of the Lleyn Peninsula hove into view and the skipper closed his eyes for a 'power nap'. Sitting by the wheel, Erni and I kept a good lookout by sight, radar and AIS, even though we hadn't seen another vessel since leaving Ramsey Sound. The strange thing was, when zooming out the plotter to include St George's Channel, there were no boats showing on AIS at all. When the skip woke from his nap, he checked the control panel and found the AIS was switched off. Apparently, our friends at home who had been monitoring Wind Song's progress on ShipAIS.co.uk had also noticed we'd disappeared from view!
Our next waypoint, off Bardsey Island, was carefully positioned to avoid the overfalls that can occur due to the uneven sea bed, tidal streams and wind. Without the local pilot book, we didn't have enough detailed information about when the overfalls may be dangerous or benign. So we took the safe option to avoid them. This didn't really take us far from the direct track but we could clearly see the ruffled water with white crests as we passed by. The scenery was gorgeous in the bright evening sunlight. We soon passed the beautiful beach of Porthor with it's 'whistling sands' on our way to Porthdinllaen, just a few miles away.
It was the last hour of daylight when we reached our anchorage, turning the corner round an Isolated Danger beacon and passing the RNLI lifeboat station on our starboard side. We anchored off the beach in 5 metres, having worked out the tidal heights and times for this secondary port in advance. Just off the sandy beach, the chart said 'M', indicating that the seabed was mud which gives good holding. As we paid out the chain, the boat drifted astern, pushed along the shore by the ebbing tide and slightly offshore by the breeze. The overnight forecast wind strength was 4 to 5 occasionally 6, so we let out the full 40 metres of chain, which would be enough scope for the depth at the next high water, plus extra for the strong winds expected. We tied a rope snubber to the chain and watched transits across the beam as the skipper used the engine to dig in the anchor in the late evening twilight. The anchor light was switched on and dinner served to the background sound of a jet skier whizzing away between us and the beach. Another step nearer our destination and the glass of wine was well deserved.
After a while the jet ski noise disappeared and we thankfully ate dinner in peace, chatting about the delightful Scottish anchorages Erni and I had both visited. As we dined, a swell came into the anchorage, rocking the boat and threatening to disturb a comfortable night. I went topsides and stared into the darkness to see what was happening. There were waves, possibly from a passing ship, working their way around the point and into the anchorage.
After dinner, Erni and I were still recounting tales of past adventures when we heard the rumble of powerful engines, then navigation lights of a boat close by. It was the Tamar class lifeboat from Porthdinllaen RNLI station, towing the broken down jet ski back to the beach! It was the lifeboat that had caused the waves on it's way to rescue the helpless chap. I'm sure he was a very grateful man that evening.