What a beautiful place Pembrokeshire is! I've always known this. I've seen the pictures. I've always promised myself that I'd go one day but I'd never been till this last bank holiday weekend. And what a weekend for sailing!
On Saturday we arrived at Dale, the westernmost shelter within Milford Haven, partly assembled the Magnum 21 and anchored her for the night. We'd already found a local B&B and been to inspect Jack Sound, a narrow passage that I had considered using to progress into St Brides Bay the next day. I'd quickly dismissed any idea of using this route after reading the speed of the current from the chart, especially as we were approaching spring tides. Our inspection confirmed this conclusion.
On Sunday we attached the boom and main and set sail with two reefs. The wind was SW force 5-6. As we left Milford Haven we found ourselves joining a line of keel boats heading out to Sea and quickly overtook the first two. This was not before they had disappeared from view a couple of times behind waves that must have been half of our mast height. I put this down to the funneling effect of the estuary and assured myself that it would not be so bad as we got further out to sea. This turned out to be the case and we enjoyed chasing after the next somewhat larger and faster yacht as we beat towards Gateholm Island and then alongside Skokholm Island.
At The Head our pilot tacked and then turned back. We, on the other hand, tacked and continued through the races past the Head and onto Skomer Island, made famous by Bill Oddie. Still in the races we were having a lively time and the Magnum 21 perfomed spectacularly well handling everything that the Irish Sea could throw at her with aplomb. We tried all manner of tactics to avoid getting too wet but we did had a wave break over us from behind our backs that resulted in some damp underwear for a while. The water was pleasantly warm due to the Gulf Stream, I'm please to report.
I was relieved eventually to be able to bear away once we entered St Brides Bay and this was when we really started to enjoy ourselves. Now with the waves behind us and the wind on the quarter we were able to surf our way to Solva at speeds of up to 14.5 knots. Remember we had two reefs in the main.
The approach to Solva was magnified on our Imray chart, thank goodness because it is quite difficult, if one has never been there before. We were almost upon the Green Scar that obscures the entrance before we could make out that it was not an outcrop from the mainland. We ran along its jagged southerly edge and then reached into the harbour with the main soft to control the speed that our Magnum 21 was so eager to show. What a relief to drop anchor and drop the sails in the calm of this extraordinarily picturesque little village harbour.
We were greeted by name, as we came ashore, by the friendliest harbourmaster in Christendom and spent the first of two delightful nights in Solva.
For the voyage back to Dale on Bank Holiday Monday we collected as much local knowledge as we possibly could about Jack Sound and were up for the passage but decided that in the two hour wait for the advised optimum time we could easily get around Skomer Island and through Broad Sound, especially as the wind, now a good force 4 was coming from a more north westerly direction and we were sailing at 10 knots most of the time with just the one reef in this time. The maximum we hit on the way back was 14.8 knots. Not bad for a little boat in a big sea.
On our return to Dale, at the end of their weekend regatta, we retrieved the boat from the water and towed it back to Solva before last orders for dinner at the Harbour Inn.
By Tuesday morning the wind had disappeared and the sun was shining gloriously.
Where else can you go with a trailer sailer? Watch out for a review of trailer- sailers appearing in Sailing Today later in the year.
The next place that this Magnum 21 will appear is the Southampton International Boat Show, Sept 10th - 19th, where it will be available on the water for you to try yourself. It will be for sale at £14,500.
On the 12 August I managed to get down south for a taste of Cowes week with Roy Pace, a 1948 Olympian and an ardent fan of the event.
We launched at the excellent Calshot slipway and with a stiff southwesterly we quickly decided to take a reef given that there were only the two of us on board. There was likely to be a nasty chop out on the Solent and of course the added complication of the massed multitudes of racing yachts.
Roy knew exactly where we were all the time and what was going on, thankfully, and we beat to Cowes in about one and a half hours cutting across racing lines of boats with confidence and even crossing the finish line ourselves, though not racing, of course. A quick tour of the sights from the congested river, a hastily consumed lunch on somebody elses mooring and a pootle along the line of big yachts moored outside the river and it was time to head back.
The wind had dropped to a 3 but before the reach home we managed to get a couple of pics of another trimaran, that of Ellen McArthur!
The next day there was a Force 7 blowing! David Harding came down for a test sail so he could prepare an article for Practical Boat Owner. My twin sister was on board and she is not a sailor so we took two reefs. The Magnum 21 was the only small boat on the water and according to onlookers it was regularly disappearing below the 5ft waves. But beating in the general direction of Cowes we were holding our own against 40ft yachts! 7.5 knots uphill; not bad with two reefs in. We just managed 10.5 knots downhill but again safety was more in our minds than speed. Ruth just lay on the trampoline and giggled the whole time. She was pleased that the water was warm.
Upon our return to Calshot I took the helm whilst Ruth and David went ashore and an intrepid but delighted HobieCat sailor joined me as the wind stiffened yet more and sky blackened in the background. After one gybe with the mainsheet traveller in fairly tight she heeled over at what for me was an alarming angle but as soon as I let the sheet out she came back upright again. My crew exclaimed, "It feels so safe!"
For photos of this epic adventure (the windiest conditions I have have ever sailed in personally) you will have to keep a look out in PBO.
The next day I took out two sailors from Calshot Cat Club. The wind was less, maybe a 4, but with the gennaker out we still managed 10.5 knots. My passengers were very happy and a constant flow of compliments about the boat's handling and comfort streamed forth.
Next trip with the Magnum 21 is to Pembrokeshire for the Bank Holiday weekend. Then it's all systems go for the Southampton International Boat Show. See you there.
I spent more time than I planned at Beaumaris Town Regatta yesterday mainly because of the impoverished light airs that plagued the early part of the day. They brought everybody to a standstill at some point in the day but at least it gave us an opportunity to try all the sails (all at once)!
The other reasons I stayed so long were the glorious sunshine and spectaular views that must responsible for Beaumaris's name.
Our quiet sail was livened up at the close by a freshening SW wind which enabled us to reach 7 knots whilst beating towards the finish with the gennaker but our average was a meagre 2 point something knots. This was quite a contrast to the lively sail in a force 4-5 off the Great Orme on Monday 2nd August with Georgie from Dinghy Sailing magazine. Watch out for the short review in the next edition. I think we made something like 11 knots that day on a broad reach before the wind reached its maximum. Exhilarating!