April 25, 2011

Sailing through the Swellies

I've just got back from a few days sailing with a couple of friends, Mike & Louise, who are sailing around Britain from Hamble!

Mike & Louise Dellar Ahoy-Boats, business as ususal

I joined them in their Sigma 33 at Pwllheli on the Lleyn Peninsula at the western tip of North Wales last Tuesday evening and we set sail on Wednesday morning at high water. It was a lovely sunny morning but initially there was no wind so we motored until we got to Hells Mouth where we were welcomed by a couple of dolphins and a seal.

Anchoring for tea at Aberdaron

Then we sailed to Aberdaron where we anchored for a tea break in warm sunshine but with a cool fresh north easterly breeze. When the time was right we weighed anchor and ran downwind out of the anchorage towards the entrance of Bardsey Sound where we gybed and then reached up the sound with the sun setting behind Bardsey Island.

Entering Bardsey Sound

Reaching with the sails perpendicular to the keel was a novel experience for me as a mulltihull sailor because I am more used to the apparent wind moving forward quickly as the boat's speed picks up. Multihulls being faster are therefore more frequently close hauled when there is a stiff wind.

Once out of the Sound of course we had to turn upwind and beat up the coast to Porth Dinllaen where we arrived in the dark and anchored as we couldn't see any of the visitors' moorings.

It was a cold night and we were up at 0600 just before the sun rose above the mountains of the Lleyn peninsula. But it was disappointingly misty and the views were not as spectacular as I know they can be. The sky was clear and the water flat like a mirror so we motored all the way towards the Caernarfon bar.

Leaving Porth Dinllaen behind us and heading NE towards Caernarfon

With the haze it was only possible to see each new buoy as we passed the one previous to it. As we passed Fort Belan at Abermenai, the entrance to the Menai Straight, the current squirted us through the narrow gap at 10.2 knots (over the ground) when we were only doing five knots through the water! But there was no risk as the water is 20m deep here.

Admiralty chart of Menai Straits

We continued past Caernarfon Castle and on to Port Dinorwic where we picked up a mooring buoy for a 15 minute coffee break so as not to arrive too early at the Swellies, one of the most treacherous stretches of water around Britain, if not in the world, if approached at the wrong time.

Tea or coffee anyone?

But at slack water the passage between the bridges is easily undertaken with careful planning and attention to the various land and sea marks that guide one through. This did not stop Louise from looking very concerned throughout however. This concern, I'm sure, stems from her vast experience and comprehension of the possible dire consequences of any mistake!

It was a great experience, piloting our way safely between the Stephenson's Britannia Bridge and Telford's Suspension Bridge. I spent three of my happiest years at University at Bangor and rowed on the Menai Straits all the time but we were banned from going anywhere near the Telford Suspension Bridge for fear of being swept into the whirlpools in the Swellies.

Bangor pier is to the upper right of this photo

After an hour or two sunbathing (in April for goodness sake!) on a mooring opposite Bangor pier we eventually tied up to the Menai Bridge landing stage. Usually the Prince Madog (the University's School of Oceanography vessel) is berthed here but the piermaster told us she was away and we could stop there safely for the night.

We took a walk under the suspension bridge and then over it and back again before heading to the supermarket and thence to a café for tea and cake. But on the way we stumbled upon a fantastic photography gallery belonging to Glyn Davies. His landscape photography is absolutely stunning and we spent quite a while there and had a nice chat with him. He is a sailor and was brought up in Falmouth but his roots are in Wales.

Later after dinner we went for a drink at the Liverpool Arms but, like many pubs these days, it was closed down. At least, it wasn't open. So we went to the Auckland instead.

Mike and Louse are very personable and easily and regularly fall into conversation with people. In fact this is one of the things that they particularly wanted to experience on their trip around Britain.

Tied up to Menai Bridge Town pier Engaged in a philosphical conversation with a retired fireman

So we were engaged in several conversations at Menai Bridge with people who came to the jetty for one reason or another. A little boy who was fishing with his father, a man who ran his own business in the oil and gas industry and lived near Chester and a retired fireman who used to work in this area and now lives in Colwyn Bay. Everybody was very friendly and also very envious of this couple circumnavigating Britain.

We had to motor against the tide all the way up the straits past Gallows Point,, Beaumaris and Penmon to Puffin Island, which Louise renamed Puffinless Island. They'd already encountered Puffins aplenty at Skomer Island.

Once round Puffin there was no appreciable current and the wind suddenly got up to 15 knots so we were able to sail but had to take a reef. Mike had planned the passage to arrive at the Conwy bar in time to catch the last of the flood but we had precious little flow to help us towards this objective and he was quite worried about making it to the marina in time to get over the cill. But he was being unduly pessimistic as we did indeed catch the last of the flood (exactly) as we crossed the bar and had no trouble getting into the marina.

This is where I jumped ship and repaired to the Castle Hotel with Julie who joined us in time for a lovely dinner there and the next day we showed Mike and Louise around Llandudno and the Great Orme.

Punch & Judy on the prom at Llandudno

What a great trip and how lucky I am to have customers like this. Yes customers who bought a Yole years ago before they ever had a sailing boat of their own and who have become firm friends and extended me an invitation to join them on their epic voyage.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:24 PM

April 06, 2011

3 Magnum 21 trimarans for sale

There are currently 3 used Magnum 21 trimarans for sale via Ahoy-Boats. Check out the Used Boats for Sale section by clicking the tab above and registering your interest.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 04:07 PM