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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We had a look at the eastern anchorage (which was deserted) and church, and had supper in the pub, the Marisco Tavern.
The walk back brought us further fine views as the sun set against a clear blue sky in the west.
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.
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.
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…