Isle of Man and Anglesey

Having enjoyed the Clyde, I headed home for a while before returning to take Spellbinder to the Isle of Man, single-handing. I am a sociable sailor by nature, but I do enjoy the odd spot of single-handing from time to time, as I get time to think and organise things. It is also a good challenge which requires one to think ahead and get everything ready, particularly for the first and last 200 metres of any passage, which are often the hardest. It also requires one to be scrupulous about personal safety – I always wear a life jacket which carries a Personal Locator Beacon.

It has also been a tough week for those of us who have served in the Armed Forces. The news coming out of Afghanistan is truly dreadful for those who have been involved in the country, and particularly for those traumatised by their experience there. I was pondering all this while listening to England folding against India on the last day of the fine test match at Lords; it was not a good day.

I was glad to be aboard though, and had a good sail from Ardrossan to Loch Ryan, where I arrived at dusk and passed a quiet night at anchor. I thought I was going to be the only yacht there, but two arrived just after. It’s a classic passage anchorage, albeit one which suffers wash from the ferries heading to the island of Ireland. I left just after dawn, catching the early southerly back eddy which runs down the Mull of Galloway, which spat me out nicely in the direction of the Isle of Man as a good sailing wind built. I arrived in Douglas without incident, being placed on the quarantine pontoon while my credentials were checked. I had had to email proof of double vaccination beforehand, and gain various reference numbers and permissions.

Arriving in Douglas. I had a fine sail down the east side of the island
On the cruise pontoon, watching the ferries arrive as my proof of Covid vaccination was checked
Once passed, I motored round to the lifting bridge which opens to provide access to the inner marina

Thankfully the berth was an easy one to access, and I tucked in without difficulty. It had been a long day; single-handing, at least in coastal waters, is far more tiring, as you never really get a break.

I had a couple of days to explore the Isle of Man, of which I knew little other than its constitutional status, tax efficient arrangements and TT race. On the first day I took a steam train from Douglas to Port Erin over on the west side of the island, which was an enjoyable trip washed down with a pint and a pie in a local pub.

The steam railway is owned by the State, and still uses the original locomotives, which are in immaculate condition
Port Erin. Like much of the Isle of Man, it had a feel of faded Victorian grandeur, such as you might find on the southeast coast of England
Puffing back to Douglas

The next day I hired a car from the airport, and drove around the island in a clockwise direction, some of it on the TT circuit (but at somewhat more modest speeds). Below are a selection of places I visited.

Port St Mary. Given the tidal ranges, all the harbours dry out, and only Douglas and Peel have locks which retain a suitable depth for yachts like Spellbinder
Calf Sound, at the southwest tip of the island
Peel Castle, originally built by the Vikings in the 11th century
Peel marina, with its lock at the end which retains the water levels
Point of Ayre, on the north east tip
Ramsey – the odd interesting bit of architecture, but overall I felt it had a rather down-at-heel feel
Laxey harbour…
…its beach…
…and the famous waterwheel, the largest in the world, which sits atop the town. It was built to pump water away

I enjoyed my tour of the island, but had a sense – as one gets in the Channel Islands at times – of stepping back in time a little. I would not describe the island as very obviously flourishing, and I did wonder quite how much of its apparent wealth trickles down to the general public good.

My departure was timed for a fine northwesterly breeze which set me on course for Whitehaven, where I was to meet Sue and pick up Jonty, with is crewing for me as we return Spellbinder down south.

On the Douglas outer pontoon, waiting to depart for Cumbria

I had a good fast sail, broad reaching in a force 4/5 over six hours, and Sue helped me lock in and get a berth. Joined by Jonty a couple of days later, we locked out and headed for Anglesey, and had a long 13 hour motorsail, through wind farms and past gas drilling rigs.

In the UK you are generally allowed to sail through wind farms which are operational, as long as you stay 50 metres or more from the turbines themselves. This is one of the Walney wind farms, and in common with others the blades at their lowest point are at least 22 metres from sea level, which is above the height of Spellbinder’s mast

We made it into the Menai Strait past Puffin Island, just as dusk was falling, and we picked up a buoy at Beaumaris. A rainy but otherwise quiet night followed, before we tackled the notorious Swellies.

Heading through the Swellies at HW Liverpool -2, at high water slack, when they are at their most amenable. There is not much room between the submerged rocks though, and you have to be attentive to the line you take. This photo looks back to the Menai Suspension Bridge
Heading out of the Swellies, under Britannia Bridge

With The Swellies behind us, we continued down the Strait to Caernarfon, where we went into the Victoria Dock marina and explored the town with its Edward I castle.

Caernarfon Castle and (below) its river

Spellbinder’s journey south continues, and I hope in the next week to visit various points on the Welsh coast and also Lundy and Padstow, before getting to Falmouth at the end of the month.

2 thoughts on “Isle of Man and Anglesey

  1. arthurrope

    You only have to bring “tax-efficient arrangements” next to “I did wonder quite how much of its apparent wealth trickles down to the general public good” to get cause and effect. ‘Nuff said?


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