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Thurs 20th Aug – On the way

Set out as expected Monday afternoon. Conditions were still a bit bouncy over the bar and not much better outside. Strong S winds for a week and now it was NW so the sea was a bit confused. Bardsey Island was rounded in the dark and a course set for the Smalls. A rough night and the skipper wasn’t feeling at his best. Gradually the next day conditions improved, Sea Bear could wear her full set of sails but the winds fell lighter. Our first dolphins of this trip came to play around the boat late afternoon. The red lights on the Scillies radio tower were spotted during the second night, they are visible a long way out. Passing to the west of the 7 Stones we were that close to the Scillies that it seemed a shame not to drop in, so I did, picking up a mooring in St Mary’s pool. A good opportunity to catch up on sleep. The Scillies look a fascinating place to cruise so a slight regret no time this time, the south calls.

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About to set out

Sun 17th August

We are alongside in Victoria dock, Caernarfon. I have moved out of the house and moved aboard the boat and about to set off on an adventure. The last few days have been spent fitting the solar panel to the new rear gantry and connecting it all up using a mppt controller and it seems to be working well.

 

solar-panel-&-sea-bear-at-Victoria-dock

Provisions have been purchased and stowed, water tanks topped up and we are ready for the off. It has however been horribly windy, F5-7 occ 8, not the sort on conditions to set out to cross Caernarfon bar. The forecast promises better for tomorrow so we might be setting out at last.

A rear gantry for Sea Bear

Sea Bear now has a rear arch fitted. A process that started way back in April has now come to fruition. I had a local fabricator make me up a stainless steel tubular structure which is now fitted in place.

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Next step is to mount a solar panel on it.

Back in the water.

At last after much work over the winter Sea Bear is back in the water. The stormy weather of the early part of the winter had delayed progress a little, but now just about all jobs were done. As well as the usual maintenance, the old standing rigging had been replaced, a new furlex fitted, and whilst the mast was down I had mast steps fitted and some clutches to make halyard control better, the old jammers on the coach roof which had proved not so good at jamming, were also replaced with clutches.

refurbished cockpit
The refurbished cockpit

The teak laid cockpit seats had been refurbished and looked like new. The CQR anchor had been relegated to backup duties by a new Mason Supreme anchor, we were getting all modern and up to date you see. Below decks, the old engine mounts, one of which was well and truly shot, had been replaced. I had fitted a new AIS transponder and replaced the depth and log instruments with more modern versions and all internal light bulbs replaced with LEDs and finally a water filter fitted for the drinking water.

In the boat yard ready & waiting for launch.
In the boat yard ready & waiting for launch.

It was now just a matter  of getting her put back in the water. I’ll confess I find launch day about the most stressful day in the sailing year. It’s not just the hoist but what the weather will be like, the waiting and have you remembered everything.

Craned into the dock
Craned into the dock

Drying Out

There comes a time in a sailors life when he knows his experience is not complete until he has dryed out his boat alongside. Oh I know bilge keelers and such do it all the time, but it is a bit different if unsupported by either water or a wall your boat will fall over on its side. For a drying out virgin like myself the process is fraught with uncertainties and doubts. However the time had come. Due to some oversight Sea Bear’s new copper coat anti fouling had not been burnished before launch. In consequence her bottom showed a unhealthy growth of weed, it needed a scrub off, I could no longer delay or prevaricate despite my trepidation.

I was cruising the Isle of Man and had never visited Ramsey, a drying harbour, before so here was the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone as it were. Communicating my needs with the harbour master, he directed me to a suitable wall alongside which to tie  up and await the falling of the tide.

I had of course read all about the process of drying out alongside, so went about my preparations carefully. Warps prepared, plenty of fenders, a line from the mast to ashore and anchor chain laid out on the side deck. Watching  the depth sounder never before did it seem that the tide went out so slowly and I paced the deck nervously gradually easing the lines just so, tight but not too tight.

I wasn’t aware of the precise time that Sea Bear settled on the bottom, so gentle was it but soon the water level was low enough. Donning wet suit and wellies and clutching a brush  I slipped over the side and scrubbed and scrubbed. The interesting bit was crawling between hull and wall and when I was done I must have looked and smelt like some wild merman with seaweed in my hair. Weed cleared I could then do what should have been done before launch and abraid the epoxy of the copper coat to expose the copper so it could do its job. Eventually all was done, pleased and relieved I could await the incoming tide with a glass in the cockpit, another part of my sailors education complete.

 

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It don’t feel like Summer

I was determined to get to the boat this weekend , the last 2 weekends weather having been so bad.
It started raining when I arrived at the slip on Friday. Launched the dinghy, stared the outboard but no drive – sheer pin had gone. The carefully sorted outboard fix kit was on the boat though. Ok so I row out to the boat, in the rain against wind and tide. Poor vis
and rain rest of day so I stayed on the mooring.
Saturday HW was early so I caught a halftide and went to Moelfre, with lots of tacking across Red Wharf bay against a W wind. Here I anchored for lunch before continuing on to Porth Wen, more commonly known as Brickworks Bay from the old brickworks
there. It is a lovely spot and I had the anchorage to myself.
Sunday morning and the wind had picked up SW 4-5 v W and increasing 6-7 for a time they said. I think they meant all day. It certainly felt strong as I struggled to haul in the anchor. Back to the Straits under yankee alone. Past Point Lynas and then
across Red Wharf Bay was a nasty sea, short steep waves close packed. The wind was picking up a notch or two. Through Puffin Sound was horrendous, I have never seen or experienced it so bad. I don’t know whether it made me feel better or worse watching
another yacht following me in, launching skywards from the crest of the standing waves and crashing down in a welter of spray. I wished I could have left the tiller to grab a camera. Eventually I was back at the mooring but it took several attempts to pick it up. It
had not been a particularly pleasant days sailing. It don’t feel like Summer.

From Solent to the Menai Straits Part 3

May 30th Fowey to Helford River 25 nmiles

The wind was back – still NW but now 5-6. But it meant a fairly fast passage along the coast with a smoothish sea. That is until we arrived at the Fal. Here the wind seemed fresher and the waves short and choppy so it was an unpleasant crossing. I was pleased to arrive in the shelter of the Helford River, where although the wind was still strong the water was flat. Durgan Bay looked very attractive so I anchored near some other yachts here. Drinking tea in the cockpit and watching my transits as I always do for a while after dropping the hook, I thought we are moving and we were. Haul in the anchor hand over hand, I’ve no windlass and I bought up a huge clump of weed. Ah ha, OK try a different spot. Trouble was the end result was the same, boat dragging with a weed clogged anchor. Now this was the first time that I have ever had an anchor drag and I have done a fair bit of anchoring. What I couldn’t figure out was how come the 3 or 4 other boats were all anchored in the same area and holding OK but not me. Anyway rather than try again and perhaps pass a restless night wondering about whether I would drag again, I upped and left and picked up a visitors mooring in the Pool.

31st May Helford river to Newlyn- round the Lizard 43nm

Before departing the Helford river the next morning I ran up to Frenchman’s creek – indeed a delightfully unspoilt place.

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Frenchman’s Creek

The wind was still NW but lighter today perhaps 3-4 with lighter interludes. First objective was to pass outside of the Manacles Buoy and then set a course for the Lizard. There were two sails some way in front, gradually I overhauled one, the other was out to seaward but I rounded the Lizard before it. Later it overhauled me, bound as I was, for Newlyn. Before the Lizard we had been on a beam reach but then we hard to harden up and some we were tacking all the way to Newlyn. Inside the harbour I discovered that they had installed some yacht pontoons but all were full. I rafted up alongside “Salty Bear” – two bears nestled together.

St Michael's Mount
St Michael’s Mount

 1st – 2nd June Newlyn to Dale, Milford Haven – round Lands End and across the Bristol channel 110nm

First light saw me leaving Newlyn harbour. For once we had a beam wind for the run  down to The runnel Stone, but I knew it would turn against me soon. Nearing the Runnel Stone  we started picking up the Atlantic swell.

With Longships in sight I could not lay a course towards it, headed by the wind yet again and the seas was more confused and lumpy.

Runnel Stone & Lands End
Runnel Stone & Lands End

Having past Longships light – at some distance off, the next tack took towards the Brisons. It was apparent that this NW wind was going to persist – it had for days now. Padstow did not look a viable option, limited tidal access, a bar, onshore winds all spoke no no. So I made the decision, that I had been considering, across to Milford Haven. It would be long haul.

Later a wind shift allowed me to set a courses directly for Milford, although I was still hard on the wind so canted over and it was still a little bumpy.

I decided that a good dinner would be in order, so I lit the Taylors stove and popped some potatoes in the oven to bake. To go with them I prepared some fresh handmade coleslaw salad with real mayonnaise and grated cheese and Branston pickle. Sod it to convenience food, lets do it in style.

Having fed the inner man I made my preparations for night. I took a precautionary reef in the main and had considered a roll or two of the yankee but the reef in the main sufficed. Then on with the night attire.  Fleecy thermal trousers, fleecy tracksuit bottoms, merino wool socks, thermal long sleeved vest, thermal shirt, woollen jumper, fleece jacket, Guernsey sweater , topped of with sailing suit, woolly hat and leather sailing boots. I didn’t intend to get cold.

As night fell I was out of sight of the coast apart from the light of Hartland Point away  to the East. Throughout the night I took a few naps of 15 minutes after scanning carefully all around. I saw no ships all night but later the lights on the tall chimneys of the Milford refineries told me I was on course. Long after the sun had risen, the dying wind backed more Northerly, I could no longer hold a course for Milford Haven and since the tide would in a little while turn eastwards, I motored the remaining distance to enter the Haven and anchored at Dale. Time to sleep away the rest of the morning.

 3rd June Dale to Fishguard 35nmiles

A fine sunny day but not much wind as we motored away from Dale, around St Anne’s Head and towards Jack Sound.

St Anne's Head
St Anne’s Head

This was negotiated without incident, a little early as the tide was still running against us, but not too much. Still no wind all the way across St Davids Bay, nor through Ramsey Sound nor indeed all the way to Fishguard. Once anchored here I made use of the still conditions to jumar up the mast and re-align the wind indicator which had been poorly fitted by the riggers and had worked loose and was flopping about, neither use nor ornament.

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4th June Fishguard to Abersoch 59 nmiles

I weighed anchor just after first light to catch the north bound tide. At first, motorsailing but a little later the wind filled in a little and I could sail. Full main, yankee and staysail. Ah but guess what direction was the wind?  North Easterly. Whatever has happened to our prevailing SWesterlies ? For some time I could hold my desired course but later was headed so motorsailed again. Having given some more thought to the situation I decided to revise my plan and not aim to pass through Bardsey Sound this eve. The wind had gone around to NNW and I could lay a  course for Abersoch and could sail once more.

Later having picked up a vacant mooring at Abersoch the wind returned to the NE so we had a rolly night of it.

5th June Abersoch to Menai Bridge 47 nmiles

If I was to get to my mooring today I had 3 tidal gates to catch. The first and nearest Bardsey Sound was fairly easy to time. The next, entrance over Caernarfon Bar was about  30 nmiles further on, but  with a fairly generous window shouldn’t present too much of a problem. The third, passage through the Swellies was the crunch one with a small time window.

I decided to be early for Bardsey Sound and make use of the eddies to sneak though. It had been fairly windy all night but within 20 minutes of leaving Abersoch it was a flat calm. I dawdled on the way to Bardsey and had a little time to  kill at Aberdaron so drifted pleasantly a while in the bay before sneaking into the Sound hard by the rocks.

Carreg Ddu - Bardsey Sound
Carreg Ddu – Bardsey Sound

I had to venture out near the main stream to pass the rocky islet of Carreg Ddu, but then could cut back close to the mainland shore. By the headland of Braich y Pwll the main stream was still running hard against me and quite turbulent, but there was a narrow strip of quieter water close to the cliff which I used. Close in the water is still very deep and you can pass scarily close in. I was soon through and on my way down the North coast of the Llyn.

I arrived at Caernarfon Bar in perfect timing, 3 hours before HW, all the channel buoys were on station and helped by the flood was soon speeding up the Straits. At the Swellies , timing was about perfect again and I was soon picking up my old mooring. Just left a quick tidy up of boat, a run through of leaving the boat procedure, seacocks closed, batteries off, rubbish out, all secure etc and I set off in the tender. Don was at the slipway to greet me and the pub handily placed for a pint to salute a successful cruise /delivery trip.

From Solent to the Menai Straits Part 2

May 26th  Portland to Brixham – round Portland Bill 60 nmiles

Portland Bill has  a reputation. I did not feel brave enough to venture the inshore passage, so my passage plan was to pass the East Shambles buoy to starboard, pass about 5 miles south of the Bill and then haul straight across Lyme Bay  towards Brixham.

With light westerly winds the first part went to plan but then south of the Bill I was of course  headed by the wind again. Later with winds more from the SW, I thought I was on a favourable tack for Brixham but  made a classic mistake and closing the coast near Teignmouth I ended up  both down-tide and downwind. Some tedious tacking saw  us gain Brixham at 1.30. No time for niceties just pick up the first suitable free mooring for the night.

May 27th Brixham 

The days forecast spoke of S or SW F5-7 with rain, it persuaded me to  stay in Brixham.

 

May 28th Brixham  to Plymouth 47 nmiles

The wind had veered in the night, forecast was NW F5-7, but in the lee of the land the sea state should not be too bad.

By late morning having rounded Berry Head, I had the Mewstone abeam but the wind was no more than F2-3. Then the heavens opened with torrential rain and we were in a flat calm. Progress was stop start, motoring awhile then the wind would return but from a different direction, then more rain and calms. Off Salcombe the wind had settled down to a more or less steady westerly so I put a reef in the main and took a roll or two of the yankee and briefly considered putting in here. With that wonderful thing hindsight perhaps I should have, instead I pressed on for Plymouth.

Nearly dusk and Great Mewstone looked fairly close at hand. I would have motored but the engine cooling water shrieked in alarm. Seeing nothing obvious obliged me to proceed under sail. So it much later through the dark night and  rain that I ran into Cawsand Bay under yankee and anchored off the beach.

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May 29th Plymouth to Fowey 18 nmiles 

In the morning light the problem with the engine cooling was soon revealed to be a loose water pump belt. I cursed myself a little for missing seeing that yesterday. Still no harm done and a good test of character to anchor singlehanded under sail in the dark at a place I had visited once 10 years or so ago.

The day was calmer, overcast at first with a gentle NW breeze, so a relaxing sail along the coast. Later as the sun emerged the wind died so we motored into Fowey and picked up a visitors mooring. Plenty of time to relax, soak up the sun, eat and generally recharge the batteries.

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From Solent to the Menai Straits Part 1 May 23rd – 25th

Swanwick to Newtown 12 nmiles

My experience at Swanwick marina had not been a happy one so I was really glad when we could slip the mooring lines, motor away from the pontoon and head off down the Hamble river. We had of course, due to all the delays missed the best part of the tide but I was determined to get away and make what progress could be had. Down the channel it was wall to wall boats, I find it hard to see how people can find much pleasure sailing in conditions as crowded as this. Out into Southampton water and we were sailing Sea Bear for the first time.
Later the tide had turned against us and as the wind died too we motored the remaining distance to Newtown and picked up a visitors mooring. It is indeed a lovely spot

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Newtown to Lymington 6.3 nmiles

The wind had picked up a bit in the night and the forecast was not good. A review of options had us heading for shelter in Lymington just a short hop across the Solent, where we rafted up alongside the Town Quay. I can always tell when it is really windy, here was the first loss of a hat. I buy the cheapest baseball caps so their loss is not too great.
Fridays forecast was for NW F7 or gale 8 plus rain as a nasty depression crossed the country from the NE reeking havoc in many inland areas, so any easy decision to stay put for the day

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Lymington to Portland 44 nmiles

I chose to exit the Solent by the North channel to the north of the Shingles bank.
The weekend and fine weather had bought out everyone and his brother it seemed – many of them seemed to be heading for Studland bay whereas my course was to round St. Albans Head with a good offing. The winds were light at first and then Westerly so no such luck as being able to lay a decent course for Portland, hard on the wind and tacking was the order of the day once round St. Albans Head.

One of my shoreward tacks took me towards Worbarrow Bay and for a while I entertained thoughts of anchoring here for the night. Although I stood right into the bay there was still enough swell being deflected round Mupe Rocks and into the bay so I dismissed the idea

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I eventually arrived in Portland harbour just as the sun was setting, so anchored in the designated area and dug out the new Hurricane lamp to set as an anchor light.

We are afloat

We are afloat At long last Sea Bear has been launched and we are afloat moored to a pontoon in Swanwick marina. It has been a long haul and with many frustrations with dealing with the boat yard and contractors to get all the work done. Even now there has been a last minute hitch as the riggers haven’t fitted the new vhf aerial. It’s enough to try the patience of a saint. But we are all provisioned up and passage plans made so tomorrow should see us set up for our sail from the Solent up to North Wales.