Abersoch, Solva, Lundy and Padstow

Recent days have seen Spellbinder negotiate some well known and notorious passages between the Welsh mainland and outlying islands – namely The Swellies, and Bardsey, Ramsey and Jack Sounds. I recounted our passage through the first in the last blog post, and having left Caernarfon and negotiated its bar, Bardsey Sound was the next. Thankfully these passages rarely present a problem in calm conditions (strong wind against tide being the real danger) but even so Bardsey kicked up some broken water and pushed us through rapidly, with 5 or 6 knots of tide helping us.

One of the calmer areas of Bardsey Sound

One of the advantages to writing this blog is that every now and again someone gets in touch and says ‘I’m around where you are – let’s meet’. And so it was I got a message from Ian, who invited me to call by on the way down. Once through Bardsey Sound, we paused at anchor for a cup of tea in Aberdaron Bay, before taking up Ian’s invitation to meet him and his family at Abersoch, known locally as ‘Cheshire on Sea’. We sailed past an island now owned by Bear Grylls, and the harbourmaster allocated us a buoy. Ian picked us up in his RIB and we had a couple of drinks at the welcoming South Carmarthenshire Yacht Club before having a delightful pierrade / raclette at the family house. Thank you Ian and your family for such a welcome and for all your advice.

Looking out over the Abersoch mooring field. Snowdon and the other mountains of Snowdonia are in the background
Early morning start from Abersoch, with the sun rising over Snowdonia

The next morning was an early one, as we needed to get cross Cardigan Bay and get to Ramsey Sound with a fair tide. This summer, apart from the initial delivery trip, Spellbinder hasn’t sailed at night, and we have kept to quite civilised schedules, but this time we had no choice. It was a nice sail across, and once in Ramsey Sound we hit the tide at the right time, recording 12.8 knots Speed over Ground (SOG), as the chart plotter records below.

Ramsey Sound

Our destination was Solva, a delightful inlet and drying harbour not far from St David’s. We anchored outside in the calm northerly breeze, and went ashore by dinghy to explore one of the nicest corners of Wales I have been to.

Solva – looking up the river…
…and to seaward
Spellbinder anchored outside the harbour in the distance
Anthony, the jovial Solva harbourmaster, with whom we had a pleasant chat
Solva looking somewhat different at high water
Dinner on board at Solva

After a slightly rolly night (the wind had got up in the night) we sailed away and through the next tidal gate – Jack Sound, which separates Skomer Island from the mainland. Again, conditions were benign and we were able to pass through without much difficulty.

Jack Sound…not that dissimilar to Bardsey and Ramsey, I grant you – but they are all somewhat iconic names to the cruising yachtsmen, and rites of passage

Destination this time was Lundy, and we had a fair breeze once clear of the Milford Haven peninsula, and a cracking sail across. As the winds were in the east, we used the lesser-known but rather spectacular anchorage at Jenny’s Cove, on the west side. This brought us shelter and relative calm, but shore access is described in the pilot book as ‘difficult’. Undeterred, we rowed ashore, dragged the dinghy up the rock face to above the high water mark, and clambered up the cliffs and heather to attain the level of the plateau, from where we walked south down to the main settlement on Lundy.

Approaching Jenny’s Cove, Lundy
The view after the climb up
Looking northwest
On the Lundy plateau. We also saw goats, and sika deer, some with magnificent antlers

We had a look at the eastern anchorage (which was deserted) and church, and had supper in the pub, the Marisco Tavern.

The normal anchorage used in prevailing winds, and at which all stores are landed

The walk back brought us further fine views as the sun set against a clear blue sky in the west.

One way to visit Lundy and have free accommodation
Not a bad anchorage as they go

We clambered back down the cliffs, found our dinghy and paddled back as it was getting dark. Waking in the morning to more swell, we headed away south east, aiming for Padstow and taking advantage of the morning ebb.

Sailing down the Irish sea towards Padstow. As we found on the way up, this part of the world is full of dolphins

Arriving too early to cross the Doom Bar in the River Camel, we anchored off Polzeath Beach, which was seething with humanity in the fine weather, with RNLI lifeguards issuing regular tellings off and advice over their loud tannoys, reminding me of how I would most not like to spend my holidays.

At High Water minus 2.5 hours we weighed anchor, and headed with the flood tide over the famous bar and into Padstow Harbour, which opened shortly after our arrival. We were allocated a space on the wall, and chatted to the harbourmaster who decried the people thronging around, who ‘would normally be in Benidorm’. It was certainly busy, and I couldn’t help noticing that even Rick Stein’s café was closed for want of staff.

Spellbinder against the wall in Padstow Harbour
Despite the throng, Padstow was looking pretty

We left the next morning, having had a quiet night when the crowds had dispersed. There then followed a long motor around Cornwall, passing Land’s End and Lizard in calm conditions, before arriving in Falmouth to anchor in the town anchorage at dusk, after 14 hours.

Spellbinder is in Falmouth for an Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) meet, and I will leave her here here next week while I wait for the easterly wind to abate. It brings fine weather, but is not conducive to heading back up the English Channel…

3 thoughts on “Abersoch, Solva, Lundy and Padstow

  1. Alan Flavell

    Hi Nick,

    Lovely blog as always with some stunning photos, I hope this all turns into a book one day it would be a great inspiration, read, to all yacht owners with a bit of time on their hands. Plus a few of your outstanding menus and home grown produce. Never been able to find marmalade as good as yours!

    We have just returned from 8 days in N Wales. We stayed in the most beautiful house overlooking a lovely bay with hardly any people on each day, the small town was called Cricceth, view from the house attached.

    We are now the proud owners of a very smart paddle board and used it most days, Jack has become a bit of an expert on it, flare jibes etc. A disappointing climb up Snowdon, got to the summit in cloud only to find a 30 minute queue to go the last 100 meters. Jack and I did the world’s fastest zip wire over an old quarry, about a mile long from 800m high, it took about 30 seconds to get down, he was so excited, I must admit I really enjoyed it as well.

    I also chartered Grebe for a few days, after a very windy night at anchor in Chichester harbour ( no windlass) pulling up the anchor in the morning was interesting! Beaulieu river the next night on a mooring was a far better experience.

    All good medically for me, all blood tests were normal, Doctor a bit baffled as to what caused the problems and if it happens again I should go see him while I’m not well. Long Covid was mentioned.

    Do you still need crew for the AOR no problems if not but, can do if you need me.

    The photo of our dog on the wall just in front of the house with a cow field leading down to the beach. Jack just before we zipped down the mile, you go right over the lake in the distance and hit speeds of 100mph plus.

    Best wishes.


    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Hi Alan – good to hear from you and most of all to know the doctors didn’t find anything serious. Glad you had a good time in Wales – didn’t see the photo as I think this format doesn’t send attachments.

      I definitely need crew for the AOR and would love you to be on board. Will be in touch. Best wishes Nick


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