August 17, 2011

Sailing in Cardigan Bay

I've now finished writing up my blog with my experiences of sailing the new Astus 20.2S trimaran in Cardigan Bay. Well, mainly in Tremadog Bay actually, the most beautiful part.

Grim start at Pwllheli with Julie not well.
Short sail from Llanbedrog and a birthday spent in Abersoch.
Sail to Porthmadog via Pwllheli. Rafting up.
A day spent ashore in Porthmadog.
Great day sailing down coast to Aberdyfi (Aberdovey) but terrible night on mooring.
Exciting crossing of the bar at Barmouth.
Wonderful day sailing to Criccieth. Best photos taken on this day. Magnificent anchorage.
Wet few miles from Criccieth to Pwllheli and retrieval of the boat from the water.

Click here to watch the video of the Astus 20.2S sailing in Cardigan Bay.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:57 AM

August 12, 2011

2nd hand trimarans

We currently have three trimarans and a catamaran for sale. Register your interest and check them out here. They cover a good range from a lovely little 16ft Astus to a substantial V8, an ex-demo, 8m long catamaran.

P.S. I've nearly completed my blog about sailing the new Astus 20.2S in Cardigan Bay.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 05:28 PM

August 08, 2011

Back in the office

I'm now back from my week's sojourn in Cardigan Bay. Inevitably, I have lots of emails to catch up on so please be patient.

I will be posting blog entries for the relevant dates of the tour in the Astus 20.2S trimaran as and when I can manage it. It was an eventful and enjoyable experience that I'd like to share with you. Lots of photos and even some video to come.

Watch this space.

I intend to take the trimaran down to the West Country in September so if you would like to see the boat or to join us for a sail then please call me on my mobile 07985 043981. I do not know where I will be launching and which direction I will be sailing until I see the weather forecast.

I also hope to visit Poole for a demo of the boat and could fit this into the same trip. Plans are afoot.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 01:29 PM

August 06, 2011

Last day: Criccieth -Pwllheli

Last night we had the best night's sleep so far. Peter Williams had said it was due to blow up some time soon. But the wind did not get up at all. In fact it was dead calm.

Low water did, however, reveal that we were between a rock and a hard place!

View of Criccieth Castle from our anchorage in the morning. Lifeboat station is on extreme right of this picture. Rocks to the west of us.  Our restaurant is to the right of the blue café. The public toilets opposite our anchorage Rocks to the east of us.

I got up about 0700 the utilise the bucket and chuck it. In my haste for relief I got stung by a bee that had been on my pillow. It wasn't bad. Bees rarely sting as they leave their sting in their victim and then are defenceless so they die. In the process they emit a pheromone that attracts other bees to come to their aid so after I'd flicked the bee away onto the trampoline I flicked it into the sea. Shortly afterwards a couple of other bees arrived to help but they seemed not to know who to attack and went away again.

I set about making tea and porridge while Julie got up. There were some black headed terns flying around and diving frequently into the water for their own breakfast.

We made ready for sea before the rain, which we could see coming, arrived and we left Criccieth around 0845. The GPS showed us doing 7.5kn over the ground with our 5HP Tohatsu outboard motor but we managed to get yet another 0.2kn when we lifted the centreboard.

Leaving Criccieth

The sky behind us was leaden. But ahead was clearing and as we approached Pwllheli about 1000 the sun was shining.

Distance covered today: 8 Miles
Max speed: 7.8kn
Moving average: 6.5kn

There is not much activity at any of the ports in Cardigan Bay around low water so this was a great time to arrive in our shallow draft trimaran.

We motored in and I dropped Julie off at the Harbourmaster's briefly and then we motored up to a small landing stage to pull the floats in. An easy job. A small boy was crabbing with fresh bacon that he'd bought with his own pocket money. He said there was nothing to do in Pwllheli and that is why he taken up this pastime.

I felt it was safer getting the boat onto the trailer with the floats in, having tried it already with the boat fully open, because the floats get supported by the trailer about half way through the process. I fetched the car and trailer down to the water's edge and we brought the boat to the bottom of the slipway.

Just as we landed, Kirk, a Bermudan, appeared. I volunteered him to assist us extracting the trimaran from the water. He was only too willing as it turned out he was a multihull maniac. He owns a 54ft trimaran that was moored in that part of the harbour that dries out.

Pwllheli's inner harbour that dries out. Kirk's 54ft trimaran

Kirk had a mild manner and his calm invitations to Julie for a little more tension in her rope were in stark contrast to my own "orders". I could learn a lot from this man.

The black rubber rollers that I'd replaced on the trailer because they were not turning properly now did turn properly and the boat was out of the water in a jiffy. Thanks Kirk.

The assistant harbourmaster, Steffan, met me as I drove up the slipway and asked how we'd got on at Portmadog and I told him we'd rafted up against "Elizabeth Grace", as he'd suggested, for two nights. Then I asked if we needed to pay and he said yes, £8/night. He was actually able to take payment for all the Gwynnedd harbours we'd stayed in. I suddenly understood why the harbourmaster had not bothered to charge us when we launched a week ago.

We derigged the boat and took everything out of her and put it into the car. All except the spare anchor.

Ready to roll

We'd finished. I gave Julie a hug. The Red Arrows flew past in formation. How did they know?

We drove into Pwllheli for a late lunch at the Blue Moon Tea Rooms. Soup, a sandwich and tea and, as you can see, Julie looked a whole lot better than she did at the beginning of the week.

What could a week's sailing in a trimaran do for you?

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:06 PM

August 05, 2011

Barmouth - Criccieth

During the night the boat moved and Julie woke me in case we should take the ground again in a bad place, such as on top of a rock or mooring chain! I looked at the alignment of the boat and decided to have faith in my preparations. In the morning this proved well founded. The wind had changed from WSW to WNW during the night and so we were indeed in a different place. You can see the anchor chain movement, whilst we were afloat, in the following photo.

Anchor chain has left tracks in the sand of its movement in the night.

We got up about 0800. We had porridge as usual outside the Isis Pizzeria then showered in the Merioneth Yacht Club. 6 minutes for 50p proved to be more than enough time.

Julies lower lip had swollen up with exposure to the sun so she went in search of some more powerful sunblock whilst I took the camera to get some atmospheric shots of the Astus 20.2S trimaran at Barmouth before we set off.

Spot the ubiquitous train

The train was our final fall back plan if we got holed up somewhere. We could always catch the train back to Pwllheli and fetch the car and trailer to wherever we might have had to leave the boat.

But time and tide wait for no man. The Astus trimaran was beginning to float so we had to get ready for the sea. We weighed anchor and motored out of the harbour at about 1100 into the weakening flood tide and against the WNW wind that was somewhat gentler than the wind had been during the night.

Near the fairway buoy we stopped the engine close to a bilge keeler that had anchored (with its sails still up) and was fishing. But I had to start the engine again to motor out of the flooding tide. The flow being in the same direction as the wind and our intended heading being perpendicular to that, we felt virtually no wind relative to the boat. It was like sailing without the centreboard. I unfurled the gennaker for more power and once we were out of the flooding tide we eventually got under way.

We sailed all along Shell Island with the gennaker and just cleared the bank at the north end of it and the breakers! We could not have been closer to the swimmers. Much closer than in the following photo, which was taken early on.

We got much closer to Shell Island than this as we sailed by in the Astus trimaran

I found that it helped to have a little of the jib out to help guide air around the luff of the gennaker. This enabled us to point higher and we made it all the way from here to Criccieth on the one tack.

Julie saw a dolphin!

The skies were amazing and the views of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula.

And for once the sun was shining on Harlech Castle.

I was hungry so Julie took the helm. She thinks she'll feel sick if she looks down inside the cabin for anything. She managed really well at taking her clues from the sails. Aiming generally in the direction of Criccieth, which we could see, bearing away as the gennaker started to flap and luffing up as the speed picked up in order to maintain our desired course. This is what I'd been doing all along Shell Island, pumping the rudder to stay in the groove.

View of Criccieth as we passed Harlech Criccieth through binoculars

It was around this time that I got the video camera out and got some valuable footage which you can now view here. It gives a really good feeling of what it is like, actually to be in the boat, rather than viewing it from outside.

When the wind dropped, about 2 miles from Criccieth, I took the opportunity to furl the gennaker away neatly and then about 1 mile away I took the main down and we motored in. We went right up to the beach and asked holidaymakers about sand and rocks because the beach seemed very stony. Then we investigated the little bay right underneath the castle but there was too much swell there.

Then we sought advice from a family in a motor boat who told us to aim for the blue flag on the shore. We had plenty of time so we then motored along the shoreline to Black Rock.

Black Rock with the sands (and breakers) to the east of it.

Again, too many breakers on the beach. We returned to Criccieth and dropped anchor in 4m of water and I set about calculating the tides.

Eventually it became clear that there was smooth flat sand appearing on the beach, ideal for taking the ground. The rocks were to the west and east of this part of the beach so we motored in and took the ground.

Astus 20.2S by Criccieth Castle Harlech and Snowdonia is the backdrop

Distance today: 23.2 Miles
Max speed: 10.4kn
Moving average: 4.3kn

Peter Williams appeared from the lifeboat station as I was taking photos of the Astus trimaran in these idyllic surroundings. He recommended that I run the anchor down the beach at low water and motor out to it when the boat floated so we could get away earlier in the morning.

Peter Williams from the Criccieth lifeboat station Astus 20.2S in Criccieth bay with Snowdonia and Harlech in the background

He also recommended a fine restaurant, The Moelwyn, where we would have a view of the bay and could see the boat. We took his advice. Just look at these views!

View from the restaurant veranda where we had pre-dinner drinks View from our table!

We had a lovely meal. I had soup then pork then meringue while Julie had salmon. We met and chatted with some nice people from Abergele. They were envious of us, spending our final night at anchor in this beautiful place.

I had a coffee in the lounge after dinner and Julie read the Telegraph. Our waitress said she was going to wave at us as she walked home.

We walked out to the boat as the waves were lapping around her and Julie got into bed while I watched as our trimaran floated and the anchor eventually turned the bow seaward. Criccieth castle was floodlit. At about 2300 I was able to pull us off the sand and out to the anchor, haul it in, start the engine and motor out into deeper water. Then I watched to see her settle to the wind, which turned out now to be from the NE. If it stayed like this then when the tide departed in the morning we might find ourselves on the adjacent rocks so I started the engine again and moved to a safer position, about opposite the public toilets (if you ever need to know). And so to bed.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:37 PM

August 04, 2011

Aberdovey - Barmouth

0200 on the visitor mooring at Aberdyfi in the Astus 20.2S trimaran. Wind and heavy rain! We got the umbrella out again and I held it over the cabin opening for 3 hours. Yes I did get back to sleep despite the noise and vibration that started again as the tide went out. I guess that the buoy and whatever anchors it to the river bed present a lot of resistance to the flow of water around them and this causes the vibration. It certainly wasn't the trimaran hulls because they are a really slippery shape and the boat sits at anchor fine.

Then at about 0500 of course I moved and the umbrella turned inside out. I struggled to sort it out but in vain so resorted to putting the hatch in place, something we would have preferred not to do because of the claustrophobic feeling it created and because of condensation on the inside of cabin skin from our breathing. But needs must so we did it. It was OK. More to the point, we were dry. Long term I would have a canopy of some sort made. That would not be too difficult to arrange.

You would think that on a mooring the boat would turn head to wind and rain would not have been a problem with the hatch open. But on most rivers the flow of water is totally dominant and this was no exception.

It rained a lot during the night but was just finishing drizzling when we had to get up at 0730 as I'd arranged to meet a customer on the beach at 0800 to show him this new boat.

Gone for breakfast. Back soon.

The shore is quite steep so running the anchor up it gave us plenty of time to go and find a handy café for breakfast. I love this dinghy like property of lightweight trimarans. And there is seldom any need to get your feet wet. You just have to remember to lift up the centreboard and rudder. We'd already done this when we'd arrived at the visitor mooring to be certain that they wouldn't get tangled up with any ropes.

The cloud was breaking up. The Sunflower Café made us a nice breakfast. The sun popped out and back in again. Julie had 2 fried eggs! She must be better.

As we boated there were lots of kids with canoes and dinghies around us and an instructor helped us with our beach launch. We motored out of the estuary into the wind with the mainsail up at 1100.

Just outside the estuary we saw a stationery jetski. Most unusual! I looked through the bins and saw that there was a man with a boy on it and they appeared to have the engine cover open so I altered course to see if they needed any help. Offering assistance to those in peril on the sea is one of the first rules of the sea. They turned out to be a father and son fishing and were fine. We resumed our course.

We reached with the main and jib at speeds up to 10kn. Suddenly there was a lot of rustling from the gennaker. I'd not furled it neatly enough after we'd last used it and the wind had got into it. My fault. I knew it wasn't furled properly and should have re-furled it when we were on the mooring. I released the halyard, took the sail down and lashed it to the trampoline for the time being.

We bore away a little after the treacherous Sarn-y-Bwch and bore away further after the clearing line to that would set us clear of the rocks at Lwyngwril. Then I hoisted the gennaker and unfurled it and we went up to 10.9kn downwind. Obviously we'd have been able to go faster if we'd been carrying less stuff. The sail had got a bit wet when I had taken it down but in this wind and sunshine it was quickly dry again.

Running north east towards Barmouth.

Thinking well ahead I furled the gennaker 2 miles before the fairway buoy. Then I called the harbourmaster, told him what sort of a boat I was in, and his initial reaction to my request to anchor on the beach in the harbour was negative. But he said to call again on Ch12 and we'd sort it out. I got the jib out to get us to the fairway buoy and put it away again when we got there so that we could see where were going as we gybed around the buoy. There were two motor boats ahead of us showing us the way. We had to turn sharply to starboard and then, when we got to the green and red buoys marking the entrance to the channel, we had to turn sharply to port. I expected another gybe here but we didn't get one till later.

The waves were fairly terrifying. Half tide flow at near spring tides must be about 4 knots! And you know what you get with wind against tide. Big waves!

Should I take the main down and start the engine? We might get a bit of cavitation and lose propulsion in waves like this and probably only make about 3 knots over the ground at best. Also taking the main down in these waves would mean handing the helm to Julie whom I could not really ask to take this responsibility. Besides we'd end up with a cockpit full of sail and the danger of a reefing line going over the stern and fouling the propeller. The risks were too high. As it was we were managing to make between 2.5 and 6.5 knots against the ebb tide with the main sail up. That was really good. It was too late. We were committed now. This would be a test of my seamanship. I had a plan. I just had to execute it.

The waves were so big that some water came in at the stern at one point. But it went straight back out again. We also had the bows of all three hulls plunging simultaneously into the wave ahead. This happened a few times. Would we be pitch-poled with the force of the wind on the big main sail toppling us over? It might have been safer to sail in with just the jib. Too late now! The harbourmaster was calling us on the VHF. My hands were full so I had to ignore him until things were a bit calmer. The boat slewed violently in the strong current a couple of times but the long balanced rudder never lost its grip on the water and I was able to bring her back on course quickly. In fact there was nothing to worry about. The Astus trimaran behaved impeccably and took everything in her stride. The deceleration caused by the wave piecing hulls was insignificant and soon we were over the worst of the bar.

I answered the harbourmaster and he told me to turn left as soon as we were past the mole and head for the Bath House. "Where is the Bath House?", I asked. He explained it was a café on the beach.

If I had followed his instructions literally I would have been swept onto the mole by the strong ebb tide so I continued for about 40 metres and then crossed the flow. I told the harbourmaster that I could see him waving to us on the beach.

We meandered through the moored boats, turned head to wind as we got to the beach and came to an abrupt halt. Phew! That was exciting. Then we started drifting back towards the harbour wall! Oh no. We'd been doing so well. I put the engine down and prayed it would start first pull. Fortunately, whilst I was starting the engine, a canoeist came to our aid and saved Julie from getting her feet wet.

I ran the anchor up the beach. We'd arrived safe and sound in a good place.

I'd chosen to anchor here, after looking at the harbour on Google Earth, because of the gently sloping, sandy beach. I really didn't fancy the harbour wall. Just look at the size of the fenders you need! And all that horrible ironwork! And neither did I fancy another night on a visitor mooring in a fast flowing estuary like that at Aberdyfi! I called the harbourmaster on VHF to thank him and he was perfectly happy with where we were situated.

The harbour wall is no place for a little trimaran

Distance sailed today 17.5 miles.
Maximum Speed 10.9 kn
Moving average 6.3kn.

We walked to the conveniently situated Bath House Café for tea and a scone.

Then we walked along the sea front. The traditional British seaside holiday was alive and well here too. Donkey rides on the beach. You could even get a photo taken of your child on a donkey and have it made into a fridge magnet. How enterprising is that?

Further along we called into the lifeboat station to see if we could get a weather forecast. "You wouldn't have just arrived in a trimaran, would you?" asked Llew, who turned out to own a trimaran himself. A yellow one. A long conversation ensued and he gave us lots of helpful advice on the weather and we decided to head for Criccieth tomorrow.

We all live in a Yellow Trimaran, a Yellow Trimaran, a Yellow Trimaran!

We walked to the end of the sea front and then back to the harbour via the high street. Not a well off place. We checked out the restaurants and, when we got back to the Astus, Llew came along to inspect. He was impressed and so another long sailing conversation ensued! Then we went to the Last Inn on his recommendation for dinner. Jules had moules. Steve had steak.

We dropped into the Merioneth Yacht Club to inspect the facilities. 50p for a six minute shower.

On our walk to the end of the mole we came across this excellent copy of a sculpture from Easter Island in the sand dunes! The sun set and we turned in, still aground.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:23 PM

August 03, 2011

Porthmadog - Aberdyfi (Aberdovey)

Slept well and got up at 0700. We went to Jenny's (milk bar) for breakfast following advice from a local council worker. There we had a nice breakfast of wholesome porridge and tea and cancelled the toast we'd ordered because we were already too full!

Showered at the Yacht Club and rowed back to the boat where we made ready for sea and let go at 0930. We motored down the river leaving the estuary about 1030 and turning south in the direction of Harlech Castle.

Leaving the entrance to Porthmadog behind Harlech Castle

We had to tack upwind. Speed was about 6 knots in light wind force 2-3. Initially I put up the gennaker but later took it down again so that we could point higher. We passed quite close to the Mochras lagoon entrance and as the tide was high we could have gone in but we had to press on to reach Aberdyfi in time to cross its bar. There were a couple of Dart catamarans out with an instructor in a launch. I wondered what they made of the Astus trimaran.

Away to our right we could see the Lleyn peninsula extending like a finger pointing at Bardsey Island off its western tip.

Bardsey Island still clearly visible on the extreme left of this picture

We sailed past Shell Island with its holiday makers, kite fliers, sand-yachtsmen and nudist beach. We even caught sight of a dolphin in the near distance.

But when we reached Llanbedr at the south end of Shell Island the wind died away and we had to start the engine, leave the shore (and Barmouth) and head directly for the next point, Sarn-y-Bwch!

Barmouth in the background

Sarn-y-Bwch is a dangerous reef that extends underwater from a WW2 anti-aircraft range brought to our attention on TV recently, Tonfanau. It is where many of the Ugandan Asian refugees were housed temporarily following their eviction by Idi Amin in 1972.

As we approached I paid particular attention to the GPS to make sure we went over a deep part between the rocks. The sea had turned glassy with the lack of wind and yet here it looked as though the wind was blowing because of the strong currents. Had it been very windy I would have given Sarn-y-Bwch a wider berth because it would surely have been rough and dangerous. There is a cardinal buoy to the west of it that I would have gone around but with a few metres of tide under us and blue water on the chart plotter I felt quite safe.

Looking back at Tonfanau & Sarn-y-Bwch

Now the Lleyn peninsula to the north looked like a chain of islands, the lower lying parts having disappeared below the horizon. Twyn to the east of us was bathed in sunshine as was the mountain of Cader Idris in the background.

The Lleyn peninsula from near Twyn Twyn with the mountain, Cader Idris, in the background

As we approached the Aberdyfi fairway buoy we could see Borth away to the south and the Radio mast on the mountains behind Abersytwyth. In fact we could see all around Cardigan Bay as far as Pembrokeshire and yet we could still see the Lleyn peninsula in the north. What a fantastic day!

Aberdovey fairway buoy Borth

I phoned the Aberdovey harbourmaster and was advised that there should be no problem crossing the bar at this time and if I contacted him on Ch12 when I crossed the bar he'd guide me to one of the visitor moorings.

Crossing the Dyfi bar Breakers on the Dyfi bar with holidaymakers on Borth sands in the background Leaving the bar behind us and looking further south you can see the radio mast and Aberystwyth in the distance

As we crossed the bar we could see Aberdyfi ahead, Borth to starboard, Aberystwyth on the starboard quarter and looking back on the port quarter we could see Twyn with Snowdonia in the distance.

Twyn with Snowdonia behind

I've been to Aberdovey many times before and sailed by twice but never arrived by sea. This was really beautiful and exciting.

The beach was packed with holidaymakers. The traditional British seaside holiday is alive and kicking and we were just part of the scenery!

Aberdovey - high summer

It was quite a problem picking up the visitor mooring because I had to man the engine and tiller to manoeuvre us into position so Julie had to attempt to pick it up but she'd never done it before. To be frank I've hardly ever done it myself. I had described what to expect but it did not look right and the harbour launch came over to assist us. It was something of a tangled mess of ropes. Hardly surprising given the phenomenal current that flows up and down this estuary. Eventually we were connected to it and I spent the next 3/4 hour securing us with a rope to each ama to reduce the amount of swinging around, something that multihulls tend to do because they are so light. The boat presented so little resistance to the water that I had to put the engine astern to stretch the ropes out to make sure they were all of the right length. Later I attached another central rope to the cleat at the bow, just to be sure. I've heard some terrible stories about boats on mooring buoys on this river!

Meanwhile Julie revealed her knees and sunbathed on the trampoline.

We rowed ashore in the little dinghy with a petrol can and went up to the Aberdyfi Yacht Club only to be told that there is no longer a petrol station in Aberdyfi! And no longer a hole in the wall either! Not that we needed any cash but this must present a problem for businesses that do not take credit cards. Yes these do exist in Aberdyfi. Like going back a century.

However, the young men in the Yacht Club were very helpful, first offering to give me a lift to Twyn, the nearest town with fuel, but then eventually persuading one of the club elders to provide me with 5 litres from their own fuel stores. I rowed back to the boat with the fuel while Julie booked us into a nice restaurant for 7pm, the Cellar Bistro. Here I had guinea fowl and Julie a Bolognese.

By the time we got back to the the dinghy the river was flooding fast and half way out to the boat I realised that even rowing parallel to the stream I could only just maintain my position so I had to turn back! We walked about 100 metres with the dinghy and launched again. This time I did not have to row out so far and was able, precariously, to guide our little craft onto the trimaran. We scrambled aboard and turned in.

But the shaking and shuddering and vibration coming through the ropes from the mooring buoy was quite terrifying and hair raising! I tried to reassure Julie (and myself), as we tried to get to sleep, that as long as it was making this dreadful noise we could be sure we were attached to the buoy. And if it suddenly went quiet then that was the time to worry because that would mean we'd broken free of it and might be about to hit another boat!

Terrible flow past the mooring buoy

It quietened down around midnight at high tide and we managed to get to sleep. Quite a full day!

Maximum speed achieved today was 8.9 knots.
Distance covered 31 miles.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:50 PM

August 02, 2011

Day ashore at Portmadog

At 0245 I got up and discovered that it was drizzling so the deck was wet and drips were entering the cabin because the hatch was facing the estuary where the wind was coming from. Julie had the bright idea of opening her small umbrella which we successfully positioned it over the hatch. Worked perfectly.

I thought I heard a bird of prey at dawn. A croaky call something like "slit - slit". My first thought was it might be an Osprey but they only eat fish and all the birds kicked off when they heard this call so maybe it was something else.

Rose about 0800 and rowed ashore in the dinghy. The yacht club was shut and we didn't have the entry code so we went looking for toilets and breakfast to the Station café that opened at 0845. Here we both had porridge in a paper cup and a mug of tea.

Julie ordered toast and bacon but forgot to ask for there to be no butter on it so she left it. However, I did have toast with marmalade.

The staff were naturally speaking their mother tongue, Welsh, to each other. This reminded me of my time at university of Bangor and also of my visits to France, where naturally people speak French. It's great effectively to be able to visit a foreign country so close to my home. But I do think that Welsh miss a trick that almost all foreign countries don't miss and that is bilingual menus in restaurants. Menus in Wales should be in Welsh. Then we'd really feel we've gone abroad for our hols. And it would be useful to have English translations alongside. This is a good way to create interest by foreigners in the Welsh language.

We went to a Factory Shop and bought a towel, because mine was still wet and a wooden spoon, so that we wouldn't scratch the surface of our non-stick pan when stirring the porridge and a bobble for securing Julie's new pony tail, which she finds practical and I find attractive.

On our way back to the boat we discovered the yacht club door was now open so we showered and then got back on board and set about drying clothes that had become wet within a defective dry bag overnight. Julie had pegs!

I used ropes to turn the boat around so it faced into the wind (& rain).

A couple took a photo of us when we went ashore again in our dinghy. They had a badly damaged boat so I asked them about it. Apparently there was a violent storm in July 2010 and yacht had broken loose from its mooring and trashed every other boat in the harbour. The Criccieth lifeboat had been called out to catch this wayward vessel!

It was sunny now and a fighter jet flew overhead. One of many we were to see and hear roaring by.

We walked down the back of the boat yards that line the river to the village of Borth-y-Gest and had baked potato with coronation chicken in a small café overlooking the harbour and a couple of boats filled with flowers. Nice also to have a glass of Pinot Grigio as I wasn't driving.

We continued to walk out alongside the estuary to discover beautiful, sandy beaches and rocky outcrops with lots of wild flowers and insects. There were many families enjoying their holidays here with their dogs and some with small boats.

I was interested to see the old channel that Ray and I had taken when we'd sailed into here before in the Magnum 21. It sweeps right around the bay pictured below and really close to the rocks at our feet.

We took the higher road on the way back to Porthmadog. I was looking across towards Portmeirion, in anticipation of going there, possibly tomorrow, when a lady crossed the road and spoke to us. I explained my interest and she declared that it was not possible to take a boat up to Portmeirion. I declared that it was and that I've done it. She looked startled. But this is the mindset of people who think only of monohulls with keels and typical drafts of 1.8m. With a shallow draft boat such as a canoe or a trimaran (typical draft of only 0.2m) it is perfectly possible and that is one of the great advantages of a trimaran such as the Astus 20.2S or the VirusBoats Magnum 21. The channel is clearly visible in the photo below.

Channel to Portmeirion Porthmadog Harbour from above with our Astus 20.2S trimaran bottom right alongside Elizabeth Grace

We walked down some steps and found ourselves back at the same Pathau Melys tea room by the harbour (run by a couple who have a craft business too) and we had Bara Brith. Another train crossed the road bridge on its way to Caernarfon.

Julie returned to the dinghy, whilst I paid a visit to the Madoc Yacht Club. When I rejoined her I found that she had discovered three men swilling out our dinghy, which they'd used to rescue one of their number who'd fallen into the water while they were working on their yacht that was heavily fouled and had been a knot slower than they'd expected on their trip here from Pwllheli.

Back on board we put the dry towels and clothing away. Some swans paid us a visit and a crew from Porthmadog Rowing Club pulled by in a Celtic Boat and I got in the dinghy to clean it with my (spare) towel and to inspect the hulls for any fouling. Then we sat in the cabin reading our books. Julie fell asleep.

We rowed ashore for dinner at a local pub, "The Ship". Julie had steak & Guiness pie with broccoli and carrots (very nice) & chips & 1/2 of shandy. I had 2 glasses of red wine with my Moussaka. Excellent.

We finished at 2200 and rowed back to the Astus trimaran, our home for the week.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:27 PM

August 01, 2011

Abersoch - Porthmadog

The tide went out with the usual lapping noises as we took the ground about 0400. Dark still.

Woke at around 0600. Tide still out. I got up a bit later and cooked porridge & made tea. The little camping stove was excellent. I'd chosen this design so that it was not likely to fall over. It is powered by aerosol sized cans of gas that fit inside. No matches required to light it either. And it all packs away safely into its own carrying case. Ideal for a day boat. Brilliant! Who needs a galley with an expensive gimballed stove?

Then I had a slice of bread with the marmalade we'd bought yesterday, more to justify having bought it than because I was hungry.

Sent a text to a customer to say I was going to Pwwllheli on my way to Porthmadog but received no reply before we left.

Today Julie is looking and feeling much better, thank goodness. Her temperature rose as soon as she ate porrridge, which is her normal breakfast fodder.

Weighed anchor with the full main up and sailed towards the South Caernarfon Yacht Club. The first gybe nearly took Julie's arm off so I fixed the traveller in the middle. She didn't like looking down in case she felt sick so I was on fender duty.

Then we did an excellent gybe right in front of the yacht club - but nobody was watching.

We tacked downwind with just the main and jib until we were off Pwllheli when we motored in past an armada of youngsters in Opis. You can just see the line of their sails along the horizon in this next picture.

We were going into Pwllheli because I'd locked the outboard motor onto the Astus to deter theft but I'd left the key for the lock in my car. Then I realised that if anything went wrong with the engine I might need to take it off the boat so I needed the key.

Once we'd cleared the Opis on our way out I hoisted the main and headed for Porthmadog. Julie helmed while I got the gennaker out of its bag and rigged it. As is often the case there was one more turn of the sheet on one side of the sail than on the other so I untied it and retied it without that extra turn. If you don't check this you can end up with a sail in a figure of eight! Been there.

Heading towards Portmadog with the gennaker out.

We did get another knot out of the boat with the gennaker but the wind was fading fast as we passed Criccieth and so shortly after I'd called the Porthmadog Harbourmaster on Ch12 we started the engine again.

View of Criccieth from inside the Astus 20.2 cabin

As we passed the fairway buoy we could see the buoyed channel easily enough.

Through binoculars I could see that there were cormorants on the beach.

We had an exciting passage up the channel against a strong current. Touched the bar with the centreboard and the rudder, which both kicked up as they are designed to do. We were passed in a very considerate manner by two motor boats as the channel took us fairly directly toward Borth-y-Gest, a picturesque little village with its own little harbour that dries out as you can see.

The channel did not seem as dramatic as it had been previously when I had sailed to Portmeirion in a Magnum 21 and it turned out later that the channel has indeed moved.

In Porthmadog harbour we rafted up against an old steel yacht "Elizabeth Grace" and set about blowing up our little dinghy.

We were hailed from ashore by my customer who had caught up with us so we rowed ashore and lent him and his wife the dinghy whilst we went and took a shower in the Madoc Yacht Club. Nice and hot.

Madoc Yacht Club

Inevitably there was a lot of crab catching going on. We encountered this pastime wherever we went. Had tea and a scone by the harbour and walked the length of Porthmadog's high street.

Then we watched the Festiniog railway steam engine haul a train out of the station and then remarkably a diesel locomotive hauled it in the opposite direction over the road bridge and off towards Caernarfon, the final link having been made to Bethgelert on this Welsh, narrow-gauge, mountain railway. All the traffic over the bridge had to stop and wait whilst bells rang and lights flashed. Great! The traffic was backed up on the cob for miles.

Because of the traffic congestion thus caused they are limited, I gather, to six trains a day. We watched it come back again later. Very exciting!

We chatted to an Irishman and his wife on a big steel motor boat that was tied up against the harbour wall, not something that I would have contemplated with the lightweight Astus trimaran. Just look at the size of the fenders you'd need to carry!

He had been cleaning the propeller whilst the tide was out. He said that to do this job it would have cost him 300 euro to get his boat lifted out in Arklow where the tides are not this big. But tieing up alongside a harbour wall like this has its own hazards. There was a ledge that they got stuck on as the tide went out and the boat tilted over so that they had to sleep East West in their bed instead of North South! Such is life on board.

Next we saw the Portmadog rowing club teaching beginners with the Celtic rowing boat on its trailer. Novel but safe. However, not something we do at home with our fragile up-river racing boats.

Finally we had a meal in the Thai restaurant adjacent to the yacht club, Julie having got her appetitie back and looking a whole lot better. Then we rowed back to the trimaran and turned in about 2100.

You can just make out Julie reading her book in bed.

Distance covered today 24.6 miles.
Max Speed 8.4kn
Moving average 4.3kn.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:17 PM