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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.

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.



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.


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.



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


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


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


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.

Learning new skills

The weather has not been kind for fitting out and so I am a bit behind. I had planned this weekend to be a big push to move things along. Instead I am snowed in at home. Still I thought I could do something useful. I’ve been a sailor for over 10 years now and I had never spliced multi braid rope. High time I learnt.
The mainsheet traveler control lines on Sea Bear were attached to the traveler by passing through an eye with a stopper knot to secure. Awkward, ugly and lubberly it called out for two eye splices.
So it was out with the fids, read the instructions and watch tube videos. I made my first mistakes on a bit of gash old rope before turning to the control lines proper.
Here it is my first multi braid eye splice.

first eye splice

Travails of Fitting Out

As with any new to you boat there is bound to be some work to be attended to. Some you enter into purchase knowing about, some brought to your attention by the surveyors report and some are just things you would like to do.
With Sea Bear the two major jobs were to replace the stern tube rubber and strip off the many old layers of anti-foul. Having scraped off the anti foul on my last boat by hand, this was not a task I wanted to repeat. So it was a just a case of paying a contractor to do the job for me. Easier on the labour, harder on the pocket.
Replacing the stern gland I did myself. In theory a relative straightforward job, but like any job on a boat its ease or otherwise is dictated by access. To gain access on a Vancouver means either removing the engine or laying over it to reach the stern gland. This I discovered is not much fun.
Once the old stern gland was removed I decide to replace the whole thing. Accordingly I had a new stern gland/stuffing box made up for me. Maybe I am a little old fashioned but I prefer the traditional stuffing box over other shaft seals. This I fitted with a remote greaser.

new stern gland

A new boat for the Skipper

19th Oct 2012

Having sold my last boat (Dansa) in May I was on the lookout for a new one. For a while I had been undecided about buying another boat but the lure of the sea and sailing was too strong.  It had to be the right boat of course, not too big not too small and I had, in the course of a few years sailing, drawn up  a list of desirable features, which resulted in a shortlist of boat types.  For various reasons that list had been whittled down to two and then ultimately to a Vancouver. So the boat search began.

After  viewing a few other Vancouvers,  I spotted Sea Bear for sale and as soon as I viewed it thought “This is the boat for me”. So I  put in an offer, had a survey done and come to an agreement with the owner over the price.

Then it was the big day, I met the owner Michael and he showed me over the boat and showed me where things were and the operation of things. This included lighting the Dickinson Stove. As it was a damp and drear day this was appreciated and the cabin was soon snug and warm.

Paperwork all completed and Sea Bear was mine. Later I walked to “The Jolly Sailor” for beer and a meal, returning later to spend my first night on the boat.