The ‘Erly Tour – Falmouth to Fleetwood

8 June 2021 – Falmouth to Milford Haven

I’d gone back to Exeter with Alison for the weekend and returned to Falmouth on an earlyish train on Monday morning. The first thing I did was take the dinghy over to the fuel berth to pick up 20 litres of diesel. I popped it into the tank and bled the fuel system I was then able to start the engine again.

My new crew, Colin, was due to arrive during the afternoon so I decided just to have a quick tidy up in the boat and clear out the shed (aka the fore cabin) so he’d have somewhere to sleep. I could take Moon Shadow over to the fuel berth in the morning before we set off.

Colin arrived and I went over to meet him and bring him over to the boat and get him settled in. We went ashore in the evening for a meal and a “get to know you” as we’d only communicated via email previously. We seemed to get on very well.

In order to hit the tidal gate at Land’s End, we needed to leave Falmouth around 09:00 so we slipped the mooring around 08:30 before heading over to the fuel berth and filling the tank. And then, just like that, we were off!

We had pretty light winds and the going was quite slow but we managed to average about four knots and rounded Land’s End at around 20:30.

Land’s End

With the wind almost due south and getting lighter, we decided that heading directly for Milford Haven would be a bit awkward with the rolling of the boat giving rise to the constant possibility of an uncontrolled gybe. Because of that, we opted for the slightly longer but easier route of following the Cornish coast North East up to Lundy where we could gybe then head North West to Milford Haven. Even at this angle, I was still concerned about a gybe so rigged a preventer just to be on the safe side.

At around midnight I was called on the VHF by a naval vessel asking if I had my navigation lights on. I confirmed that I had and was told that they were only just visible – from four miles away. As the requirement for a vessel under 12 metres is for the lights to be visible at one mile I thought that was pretty good!

It was a pretty uncomfortable night, very rolly and with the sails “slatting” the whole night neither of us got too much sleep although I did come onto watch in the early hours and found Colin asleep in the companionway which I wasn’t particularly pleased about!

We made our gybe at around 11:30 five miles west of Lundy and set course for Milford Haven. It had been my intention to go to the anchorage at Dale but I was feeling pretty grubby and wanted a shower. Plus I was pretty sure that I was going to ask Colin to leave and that would be easier to do in the marina so we headed for that. As it turned out we only just made the free flow in the sea lock at 19:00. It had been 158 miles and almost exactly 35 hours.

11 June 2021 – Milford Haven to Fishguard

I decided to give Colin the benefit of the doubt and wait until the morning before making any decision. However, a couple of other things happened where he disregarded my requests/instructions – either from forgetfulness (not good) or willfully (worse) – made my mind up and I asked him to leave (as tactfully as possible).

I ended up staying two nights in the marina which allowed me to visit the large Tesco supermarket which is a ten-minute walk away and get some provisions for the next leg. Milford Haven is a fairly industrial area and the town was pretty dead. Whether this was normal or as a consequence of Covid I couldn’t say – maybe a bit of both.

I left the marina around 09:30 to take the morning free flow and made my way out of the sound, dodging a couple of large ships on their way in. The tricky bit of this passage was going to be the overfalls (that’s rough water for you non-nautical types) at the end of the two headlands at the south end of Cardigan bay. I hadn’t really planned it in too much detail but thought I’d take a look into Jack Sound and if it looked too hairy I’d go around the outside, and that is exactly what I did. When I got within about half a mile I could see it was looking pretty rough so I turned around and headed out between Skomer Island and Stokholm Island. Of course, this also involved two sets of overfalls with a small gap between – which I completely missed!

After having been knocked about for almost an hour I finally got through and into good water. I decided that I wouldn’t mess about at St. David’s Head and went well off Bishops and Clerks. That probably added an hour or two onto the trip but they were comfortable hours!

I dropped anchor just off the Old Town of Fishguard around 22:15. 45 miles, 13 hours.

Anchored in Fishguard

This was a really nice anchorage with good holding but I expect if the wind had too much east in it it could be a bit rolly.

The following morning I rowed ashore and had a look around the old harbour which was very pleasant…

Old Harbour

and then walked up the hill to take a look at the “new” town. I didn’t get much further than “The Royal Oak” for some reason 😉

A cracking pub
Interesting…

The food and the beer here were excellent and the service was great (and very attractive!). If you are in Fishguard do check it out.

The town has a very nice looking town hall…

Town Hall

13 June 2021 – Fishguard to New Quay

I weighed anchor at 07:30 to make use of the east going tide. With light winds I was going to need all the help I could get!

Well, the wind started off light, toyed with me for a bit to get me all excited

Look Ma we’re actually sailing!

then tailed off so I resorted to the engine again.

A bit of a bonus on the approach to the anchorage…

Dolphins

They played around for a bit then disappeared. The “dolphin watching” boat that came out ten minutes later missed them completely!

Dropped anchor just after 14:00. 28 miles, 6.5 hours.

In the afternoon I had a couple of birds over…

coo

Not quite what I had in mind!

And later, a rather less attractive visitor…

Barrle Jellyfish

Of course, these creatures are fascinating and, in their own way, quite beautiful!

I was treated to a glorious sunset that evening.

Doesn’t get much better

14 June 2021 – New Quay to Aberystwyth

The harbour and marina at Aberystwyth have a tide-dependant entrance and Moon Shadow, with a draft of just under two metres, can only get in and out about two to three hours either side of high tide so I had to be away from New Quay by about 08:00.

Once again it was a day of motor-sailing with glass-like water and light winds.

The entrance to the harbour is very difficult to spot from offshore – even with good binoculars. The pilot book mentions lining up a post on the shore with the end of the wall but I found the post almost impossible to spot. Thank goodness for GPS!

Entered the marina at 12:00. 16 miles, 4 hours.

It was a very pleasant marina with good facilities although the Aberystwyth Dominos has to be the worst I have come across. I ordered a pizza and asked them to let me know when the driver was on his way so that I could go up to the road and meet him. Unfortunately, he called me when he arrived so by the time I got up to the road and back to the boat the pizza was cold. I complained and they sent another and this time I walked straight up and waited for him but still, it was cold! I only managed to salvage about three slices 😦 it’s a shame because IMHO Dominos is the best pizza place in the country!

15 June 2021 – Aberystwyth to Pwhelli

Not only does Aberystwyth have a tide dependant entrance but so too, does Pwhelli. Unfortunately, the distance involved meant that it would be nigh on impossible to get out of one and into the other on the same tide. Leaving as early as I could I would have to wait until the evening tide at Pwhelli in order to get in. To make things easier I decided to make for the anchorage at Abersoch, wait there overnight and go on to Pwhelli in the morning.

Best laid plans of mice and men and all that…

So I left Aberystwyth at around 10:30 and, once again motor-sailed most of the day. It was a glorious day, very warm, cloudless sky and sea like glass.

Snowdonia

Despite having a maximum (brief) wind speed of around 12 knots all day, on my approach to Abersoch, it suddenly increased to the high teens which caught me out rather as there was no indication that it would happen and I had full sail up! that got pretty interesting for a bit and made picking up a mooring buoy pretty tricky.

On the mooring at 18:30. 30 miles, 8 hours.

That has to be my worst night on the boat so far. The strong wind didn’t let up until the early hours and the pitching and rolling was simply awful! I don’t think I slept at all. My only consolation was that I was on a good mooring so didn’t have to worry about the anchor dragging.

The following morning I went up to Pwhelli which is only about six miles and I motored the whole way in thick drizzle. Even though I was less than a mile from the coastline I couldn’t see it and I was relying on my GPS to guide the way. The entrance to the marina is also pretty tricky to spot, especially in the poor visibility but, having called ahead, the marina had sent out a pilot launch to guide me in. they even hopped off and took my lines for me. It was such a relief to be in calm water and tied up in a marina.

Pwhelli Marina

I had intended to stay for just a couple of nights but a band of bad weather came through and I decided to stay put for a few days. Pwhelli is quite a pleasant little town and only about a fifteen minute stroll from the marina. There is pretty much everything you need there, including a pretty good Weatherspoon’s – perfect – cheap beer and cheap grub!

The marina has a pretty well-stocked chandlery and I decided that I needed a better arrangement for my gybe preventer. So I bought two 20 metre lengths of line and a couple of small blocks. The blocks I shackled to the toe rail a couple of feet aft of the bow and fed the line through it. One end of the line I brought aft along the side deck and the other was brought aft outside of the rigging and guard wires. I did this on both the port and starboard sides. Now all I need to do if I have to rig a preventer is to tie the “outside” line to the end of the boom and pass the “inside” line to the secondary cockpit winch. No more fiddling about on deck!

20 June 2021 – Pwhelli to Holyhead

This passage has a number of overfalls to contend with and, remembering the pounding I took around Marloes Head a couple of weeks ago I was determined to get this one right! The first, and probably the trickiest is Bardsey sound. I had to leave the marina at the right state of tide to be able to get out but this left me too much time to get to the sound at the right time so I would either have to sail very slowly or find somewhere to wait for a bit.

I decided on the latter course of action and thought I’d go along to Abersoch again and pick up a mooring. Well, the wind was still pretty strong in there and the swell was probably close to a metre which made it impossible to pick up the mooring single-handed. After a few attempts, I gave up and carried on. Just around the headland is a small bay called Porth Ceiriad which was completely sheltered and I slipped in there and dropped the anchor for a couple of hours.

When I judged the time was right I set off again and was chuffed to bits to go through the sound in completely flat water. Result!

Bardsey Island and Sound

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I actually had wind to sail with and made good time up towards Anglesey across Caernarfon Bay although as I got further north the wind veered (that’s the wind direction went clockwise if viewed from above) so had to put in a few tacks which slowed proceedings somewhat. This had the knock-on effect that I couldn’t risk the “inside” course around Holy Island and had to go around the outside of the large overfalls there around south and north stacks and the Holyhead race.

In the end, I got into Holyhead “marina” after sunset but, luckily, because of the number of lights, it wasn’t completely dark.

Entered marina 22:30. 59 miles, 15 hours.

Holyhead Marina was destroyed in September 2018 by Storm Ellen and has yet to be rebuilt. All that is left is the main concrete pontoon that is connected to the shore. This in itself is in a poor state of repair. The “security” gate doesn’t operate and is permanently open. Most of the showers were out of commission when I visited. And yet they were still charging more than both Aberystwyth and Pwhelli and only 50p less than Milford Haven – all fully functioning marinas with excellent facilities.

To cap it all each time a ferry went in or out a massive surge swept through the harbour making the boats tied up thrash about quite alarmingly.

I won’t be going back!

The town of Holyhead itself is pretty quiet but I did find an excellent coffee shop called The Hive – well worth a visit

and right across the street a great Turkish barber where the proprietor engages in philosophical conversation rather than “have you been on your holidays yet?” type banter. A great haircut too.

The Thai Massage place next door was closed. Darn it!

I had hoped to meet up with the Taylor family – Andy, Melissa and Jack – of the YouTube channel “Sailing Melody” who are restoring an old steel boat in the yard. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get the timing right.

23 June 2021. Holyhead to Fleetwood

Fleetwood is another tide dependant entrance and to make the evening tide I had to leave Holyhead at 06:00. Yawn!

The wind was quite light to begin with but once clear of The Skerries (or, as I referred to them – The Scaries) the wind increased to around twelve knots and, for once, I wasn’t beating into it!

Of course, I couldn’t have wind and good weather and it was overcast with light rain for most of the day. I got fed up with that after a few hours so fired up my laptop and started Open CPN so that I could display all the AIS targets, put it on the salon table, came inside and shut the hatch! Every fifteen minutes I popped my head out and had a good scan around to make sure there wasn’t some vessel without AIS and to look for fishing buoys.

On one occasion I spotted a vessel on the AIS where our closest point of approach (CPA) was only a few hundred metres. I went out into the cockpit to check it out and spotted it. It had “guard” written in big letters along the side. I called them on the VHF and it turned out that they were guarding a decommissioned oil rig around which there was a five hundred-metre exclusion. Of course, this wasn’t marked on the chart. It was probably in some “Notice to Mariners” somewhere but I hadn’t seen it. Whilst I was actually nowhere near getting close to it on my course, I was inside the exclusion zone so said I would alter course so I put in a short tack to get away far enough then tacked back onto my original course.

I was heading for Fleetwod Marina and when I had checked their website for rates and booking info I had seen that you couldn’t pre-book but that you should call them on approach and you’d be allocated a berth.

Once I calculated that I was in VHF range I started calling them but got no response. I continued to call periodically but had no response at all. Once I had a mobile phone signal I tried telephoning but just kept getting the answering machine! I was beginning to get a bit concerned but eventually, I got them on the phone and asked for a berth only to be told that they weren’t accepting visitors!

I explained that I’d just sailed from Holyhead, I’d been going a long time and was knackered. Eventually, they allowed me in and I got tied up to a berth. the reason there was a problem was that there are two marina basins in Fleetwood and the outer basin was being dredged so all the pontoons had been removed leaving only the inner basin which, I assume, is for contract berths. Anyway, I got in and the staff were very helpful and friendly. The lady in the office told me that there was a notice on the website about the closure and sure enough when I looked and clicked through about three links I found it. You would have thought that something like that would be emblazoned on the home page!

Berthed at 22:00. 76 miles, 16 hours.

That was a long day!

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