Rally Dates for 2017
Please make a note in your diaries for the following rallies with more firm details to come a little nearer the time: Sat 29th April to Mon 1st May Something like Conwy Saturday night and Moelfre, Anglesey Sunday night. Thurs 3rd to Monday 7th August Pwllheli and back or possibly Greystones, near Dublin and back.
Early May Bank Holiday Cruise in Company
Given the forecast of strong Easterlies coupled with “monster” spring tides I decided to abort the preferred plan of an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Anglesey as, having been caught in Holyhead in such conditions a few years back, I have no desire to repeat that experience! So, plan B was adopted, being a sail to Conwy with a night or two in the marina depending on how bad Sunday actually turned out. The marina had kindly agreed a 25% discount for our rally which was a good start!
The SE 6/7 forecast for Sunday put some off but we still had a reasonable turnout of 6 boats:
Sadler 29 Aslan with 2 crew
Sadler 34 Simo with 3 crew
Sadler 25 Sassa with 3 crew
Sadler 34 Shogun with 3 crew
Westerly Discus 33 Joint Venture with 2 crew Cobra 1050 Stormbird with 2 crew The Caernarfon based boats left at 1000 and, helped along by the Light Southerly breeze and strong spring flood, had a quick trip up to the bridges, being joined on the way by the 2 boats based at Felinheli. We passed through the Swellies at 1100, about an hour before the HW slack period, so sped through (Aslan was making 4.8kn through the water and 10.3kn over the ground!). The benefit of going through early is that the tide is carried all the way up to Gallows Point, Beaumaris meaning the only foul tide on the trip to Conwy, if using the Penmaen Swatch, is between Beaumaris and B6 buoy half way to Puffin Sound. The last boat of our flotilla joined us from her mooring at Port Penrhyn, Bangor. The wind remained Southerly 10 to 15 knots so most boats completed the trip under genoas, later assisted by engines as the wind fell lighter as we approached Conwy. We were all on our berths by 1430. Most crews walked into town to visit a couple of the local pubs and later most met for a meal at the Mulberry pub at the marina. Unfortunately I was laid up in my bunk with a nasty flu type bug from shortly after we arrived until Sunday evening so missed out on the jollities (so, for once, my liver got a respite!). Shogun sailed at midnight, before the wind arrived, as one of her crew needed to catch a flight on Sunday.
The forecast blow arrived on Sunday with a gusty wind from the SE reaching close to 30 knots at times so all decided to stay on for a second night, still at the discounted rate, as it was very comfortable in the marina and the facilities are first class.
All remaining crews met for a beer in the Mulberry on Sunday evening – even “Lazarus Hilditch” rose from his sick bed to join in!
By Monday the front had gone through and the wind had backed Easterly and dropped to about 10 knots, so almost perfect for our passage back. The cill at the marina entrance dropped bang on the predicted time of 1231 and we are left soon after and again set full genoas for the run up to Penmaen Pool – it was quite lumpy coming out of the channel at Conwy with not quite enough wind to keep up the required speed to get back to Caernarfon while there was still water so it was a case of motor-sailing to keep the speed up. By the time we reached Bangor the wind had all but gone so we continued back from there under motor only – the Swellies were again in full flow as we passed at around 1500, so about 1-1/4 hours after HW slack, this time flowing SW so helping us on our way back to Felinheli or Caernarfon with Aslan again reaching over 10 knots over the ground.
We were back on our mooring in the river by 1600 after a quick passage and a round trip of about 50nm.
So, even though I was distinctly under the weather most of the time, a pleasant and successful rally – thanks to all those who came along and I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.
Simo’s “7 Kingdoms” Northern Irish Sea circuit cruise
After the successful cruise down to the Scillies 2 years ago Geoff Hilditch teamed up with Dave Majski on his Sadler 34 “Simo” again this June in a second attempt to reach the Outer Hebrides and Skye.
I joined Dave in Douglas, Isle of Man (he’d been there 2 weeks for the TT’s) by ferry from Liverpool but our departure was delayed for 2 days by yet more gale force SW winds and, as the forecast for Rockall, Malin and Hebrides was poor for a number of days, we decided to amend our plans to a more leisurely cruise around the Northern Irish Sea.
We moved out of the inner harbour at Douglas on the Monday afternoon with the intention of sailing down to Port St Mary that evening but the harbour master strongly recommended us not to go around Langness, where there are nasty tidal races up to 5 or 6 knots and heavy overfalls even in quite benign conditions, so soon after a strong blow so we opted to tie up to the pontoon in the outer harbour for the night and leave early on Tuesday morning to give things a chance to calm down a little.
We left at 0620 on the Tuesday morning, after obtaining permission to leave from Douglas Port Control, and motored South in hazy conditions with barely a breath of wind. We arrived at the North end of Langness at 0745 (about LW slack, being 1 hour before LW Liverpool) – it was flat calm – and carried on to pick up a visitor mooring in the outer harbour at Port St Mary just after 0900 to await the slack period in Calf Sound. Right on cue the haze and clouds cleared, the sun came out and we were able to hang out our bedding to give it an airing. We left at 1130 and motored down to Spanish Head at the entrance to Calf Sound, close in to the spectacular cliffs with their abundant sea bird colonies. According to the pilot book the slack period, before the tide turns North in the Sound, occurs about 1-3/4 hours before HW Liverpool so we arrived there bang on time at 1230 – once through the Sound we set course for the 31NM passage to Ardglass, on the Northern Ireland coast – almost immediately a 12/14 knot Southerly breeze filled in giving us a glorious beam reach under full sail across to Ardglass where we arrived about 1800, shortly before low water, with the only notable incident being an incredibly load double bang half way across, which shook the boat and made us glad we were wearing our brown trousers, which turned out to be the sonic boom from a jet fighter we saw hurtling South at very high altitude! The marina at Ardglass is small but well equipped and the town itself is small and sleepy but we did find a bar a couple of minutes stroll away that served a cracking pint of Guinness.
We left Ardglass around noon on Wednesday and had a gentle sail up to the entrance to Strangford Lough where we arrived at about half tide and carried the flood up to Portaferry marina where we moored to the inside of the “breakwater” pontoon to await slack tide before moving onto a finger berth (the tide really rushes through the marina at 3 or 4 knots so it’s safer to wait for slack water rather than risk “embarrassing” incidents with close quarter maneuvers). Needless to say more Guinness was sampled in a couple of the bars in Portaferry. The main part of Strangford Lough is like a huge inland sea, covering an area of about 60 square miles, and was designated Northern Ireland’s first Marine Conservation Zone as well as an area of Special Conservation so is a great place to see all sorts of wildlife including seals and, in some of the quieter locations, otters.
We moved on from Portaferry around lunchtime on Thursday and sailed up the Lough under genoa in a freshening SW breeze – luckily the visibility was good so we could easily identify the various “pladdies”(rocks and islets), some of which are marked with perches some not, on the passage up to the Down Cruising Club Lightship and pontoon which nestles in perfect shelter on the mainland shore behind Sketrick and Rainey Islands, where we tied alongside for the night. It’s a lovely, remote spot that we’ve both visited a few times before – it’s miles from any shops but there is a pub/restaurant on Sketrick Island a mere 5 minute stroll away called “Daft Eddies” – nothing to do with tides or currents, but named after an 18th century lad who took on a band of local smugglers – and yes, it does serve good Guinness!
On all of my previous visits to the Down CC it has rained and, true to form, it rained in the night – thankfully after we’d returned on board and the next morning was dry, but overcast as we motored back down the Lough, detouring to have a look into Killyleagh for future reference, before tying up alongside the relatively new pontoon at Strangford village (on the other side of the narrows opposite Portaferry) – there’s space for 6-8 boats, depending on size, with water and electric with fees (£21 for Simo) being paid in the Cuan Hotel in the village. The weather turned hot and humid and we were forced to sample more Guinness to quench our thirsts that afternoon and early evening.
It’s important to get the timings right leaving Strangford Lough as a nasty and potentially dangerous sea can quickly build up at the entrance on the ebb if against a fresh S breeze so we were up bright and early on the Saturday morning and left at 0630 to motor down the 4 miles or so to the entrance against the last of the flood. The forecast had been for a SW4 but there was virtually nothing and the entrance was flat calm. We set course for Isle of Whithorn, just around the corner of Burrow Head on the Dumfries and Galloway coast, about 50NM away. The forecast SW breeze filled in about 0900 and we enjoyed a lovely full sail passage to our destination in increasingly warm and sunny weather, although the visibility was never great and the Isle of Man, a few miles to starboard, never showed itself and remained shrouded in Mannin’s cloak of mist all day. We arrived at Isle of Whithorn just before half tide so had to hang around for half an hour or so until there was enough water to get alongside the part of the (drying) harbour wall that is set aside for visitors (Simo is a twin keeler). There’s not a lot at here, but there is a pub on the quayside, which serves good food and brews its own beers so that alone makes it worthy of a visit! Our visit coincided with the mini “heatwave” in the middle of June so the pub was crowded with locals and holiday makers and we were lucky to get a meal, having been first told they were fully booked and “no chance”.
We had to leave early on the Sunday morning to get away before the water disappeared and had an anxious few minutes after starting the engine and noting that no cooling water was passing – it turned out that some floating weed had blocked the inlet when the tide returned in the early hours and Dave needed to take the pipe off the sea cock and blow through using the dingy foot pump to clear it out. This took 15 minutes or so and we crept out with only a few inches beneath us and anchored outside the harbour for breakfast before having a leisurely sail across Fleet Bay before dropping anchor at the mouth of Ross Bay, near Little Ross Island at the entrance to Kirkcudbright Bay. We waited until just after half tide before weighing anchor and motoring up the twisting, but very well buoyed, channel to Kirkudbright where we tied up alongside the long pontoon close to the centre of the town. Kirkudbright is a lovely, gentile Georgian town with good shops, restaurants and pubs and well worth a visit.
We stopped 2 nights before leaving early on the Tuesday morning for a passage across the Solway Firth and down the Cumbrian coast to Barrow in Furness – we sailed most of the way, apart from a spell in the early afternoon when the breeze fell light and were passing Piel Island at 1815 (We had intended to stop there for the night but, by the miracle of the internet, discovered that the Ship Inn on Piel Is closes at 1800 Mon to Thursday so decided to press on up the deep water channel to the centre of Barrow). Barrow is not what you’d call a “holiday destination” but with its huge dockyard and BAE nuclear submarine factory is certainly an interesting spot and the moorings past the factory close to the Vickerstown Bridge are in a really well sheltered spot. We picked up a substantial mooring and a chap going ashore by dingy told us we would be fine there as the owner still had his boat (a Moody 346 so similar size to Simo) on his drying winter mooring nearby. It was “stinking hot” so we forced ourselves to pump up the dingy and go ashore in search of some cold lager and provisions from the Tesco superstore nearby! We went ashore again on Wednesday morning and had a look around the small, but interesting, maritime and local history museum before sailing down at lunchtime and picking up a mooring off the slipway at Piel Island, having been directed to it by the ferry man who said that it was suitable for us and wouldn’t dry (There’s a small launch that operates as a ferry during the season from 1000 to 1700 bringing tourists over from Roa Island, which is attached to the “mainland” by a causeway).
Piel Island is a unique sort of place – there’s a large ruined castle, dating back to the 1300’s, which was at that time the largest castle in North West England, a row of pilot houses and, last but not least, a pub the landlord of which is crowned “King of Piel”. It’s a lovely spot, in a quiet backwater of England – there’s quite a lot of shipping these days with the fast cats passing frequently on their way to service the vast wind farms that have been built off the coast of Cumbria (apparently over 300 turbines, with another 250+ planned) – at least they do now slow down as they pass the moorings! Where else can you sit outside a pub enjoying a pint, after all the other visitors have left, in the company of a King and Queen!
The forecast for the rest of the week was deteriorating, with a front passing in the early hours of Thursday morning and the wind veering to WNW 4/5 and then increasing on Friday to F7 from the SW (the exact course from Piel Is back to the Menai Straits) accompanied by heavy rain so we decided to leave on Thursday morning and head back to the Menai Straits. It was blowing a solid 20 knots or more from the WNW when we dropped the mooring at 0750 so we pulled down 2 reefs and motored out towards the open sea against the last 2 hours of the flood, which was still running at 1.5 – 2knots. Once approaching the Lightening Knoll at 0900 buoy we set a well rolled genoa, stopped the engine and sailed on 220M on a close reach. The seas were surprisingly lumpy but we were still averaging 7 knots through the water, even reaching 8 knots on odd occasions. The wind gradually moderated during the morning and, once the ebb started running, we were carried to the North of our course line which was fine by us as the wind was forecast to gradually back as the day progressed, so this would save us ending up with a slog dead to wind for the last few hours of the trip. We were also lucky that the course of 220M, by pure good luck, took us to the South of all the wind farms and to the North of the various gas rigs and platforms in Liverpool Bay. By early afternoon the wind had moderated and backed slightly and by mid afternoon we had shaken out the reefs and were sailing under full sail. We arrived at Puffin Sound shortly before 1800 having covered the 58NM over the ground in exactly 10 hours with an average speed of 6.3knots through the water which we were happy with. Once in the Menai Straits we dropped sail and motored the 7 NM up to Menai Bridge as the wind had continued to back and was now SW and, being LW, we didn’t fancy (or maybe couldn’t be bothered!) tacking up the channel between the sandbanks. We tied alondside the pontoon on Menai Bridge Pier at 1915 and walked into town for a well deserved couple of pints and an Indian meal.
Friday morning was miserable, wet and windy so we motored back to Caernarfon passing through the Swellies at HW slack at 0900 arriving back on Simo’s mooring in the river at Caernarfon at 1020 having covered 288NM since leaving Douglas 11 days earlier having seen, and visited most, of the 7 Kingdoms visible from the island from Manx folklore (Isle of Man, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, the Sea and Heaven).
Joint RWYC/SSOA cruise in company 7/8th May
5 boats joined in the cruise postponed from the previous weekend as follows:
Sadler 25 Sassa
Sadler 29 Aslan
Sadler 29 Kiwi
Sadler 34 Dawn Waters
Westerly Discus – Joint Venture
Nobody had told the weather that it was meant to be a “heatwave” and there was 100% cloud cover and showers of light rain on Saturday morning – the wind still stubbornly stayed NE, despite being forecast to veer E and then SE by lunchtime so the decision was made at 1000 to change destination from Porth Dinllaen (where it is “grim” in NE’lies) to Rhosneigr so the 4 boats from the river at Caernarfon left at 1045 and met up with Sassa in the Straits. We enjoyed a good sail to Rhosneigr in a fairly steady 10 knot NE breeze with the odd spot of rain. From offshore Rhosneigr can look a bit of a daunting prospect, as there are lots of ugly reefs visible and plenty more lurking under the water, but there’s actually a reasonable amount of space in Crigyll Bay, even at LW Springs (which was at chart datum on Saturday afternoon) with shelter from N round to SE and good holding on a fairly flat sandy bottom – the other boats had not visited before so followed “Aslan” in.
Crews met ashore for a pint at the “Y Morfa” pub before returning on board to eat and some met up later on “Joint Venture” for drinks and a chat.
The wind finally veered round to the SE around dawn on Sunday and brought with it murky conditions and periods of rain. The 5 boats left at around 0745 and, with the wind bang on the nose, motored or motor sailed back to the Straits arriving back in Caernarfon around 1030 – Sassa continued back up to her moorings at Felinheli.
So, all in all, an interesting little cruise to a new destination for most – thanks to all those who came along.
After a number of false starts this season due to strong winds the weather was kinder for the joint RWYC and Sadler Owners rally held from Friday to Sunday 18-20th September – the sun mainly shone and there were fair winds for at least part of the time.
Sadler 25 Sassa
Sadler 29 Aslan
Sadler 32 Anarchy
Sadler 34 Simo
Cobra 1050 – Stormbird
Collins 38 – Danny Jo
5 of the boats left soon after lunch on Friday and crossed the Caernarfon Bar around high water with the intended destination Rhoscolyn at the South end of Holyhead Island however, once over the Bar and into Caernarfon Bay, there was quite an unpleasant chop and the wind was bang on the nose and quite fresh so the decision was made to change plan and spend the night anchored at Llanddwyn Island where it was calm and really very pleasant anchored off Gun Cliff between Pilots and Mermaid Cove. It was a beautiful clear night with a near perfect view of the stars – definitely one to remember.
With the next destination being Porth Dinllaen, half way down the Lleyn Peninsular and a planned departure time of around noon it was a relaxing Saturday morning with plenty of time for a stroll ashore, fishing and even for one brave skipper to go for a swim (well done Mark from Danny Jo, you put the rest of us to shame!)
A light SW breeze developing in the early afternoon giving most of the boats a pleasant sail down to Porth Dinllaen where there were enough vacant moorings this late in the season to allow all the boats to lie to these rather than anchor. Anarchy arrived around 1700 after their sail down from Victoria Dock, Caernarfon. Most crews met ashore at the Ty Coch Inn around 1700 for a couple of beers before returning aboard to eat at about 1900. It was another calm and peaceful starlit night.
Sunday morning was overcast with a Southerly breeze – the forecast was predicting SW 5/6 and rain later but, as we needed to be back over the Bar by early afternoon, this was not going to bother us. All boats enjoyed a good sail back into the Straits – the rain was never far away but, luckily, the clouds stuck to the hills of the Lleyn Peninsular so we stayed dry for our passages back.
Thanks to all those who came on the rally – we really are very lucky to have such delightful spots “on our doorstep” – it’s little wonder that both Llanddwtn Island and Porth Dinllaen regularly feature high up the “Top 10” anchorages in the Yachting Press!
North Wales Branch Chairman