Sunday 26th May: A Passage to Milford Haven to forget
It’s Mother’ Day in Sweden today so I sent a short message to Mum, promising a longer missive with flowery photos when I have more internet tonight.
The winds have changed overnight, and our plans do so too; winds are now more important than tides. We set off at 10am in a very misty environment towards Milford Haven, having Tenby as a backup if it gets too bad. Winds started SW force 4 and slowly backed to 305 degrees making the approach to Milford Haven ever more of a beat until, 5 miles out we motor-sailed. It was a nasty sea, rained half the passage, and to make it even less pleasant I got seasick. Dominic forced Stugeron down me (I hate taking that stuff), and after hours of feeling really, really unwell I fell asleep. So Dominic had to again sail single-handed. I roused myself to help with the final approach by St Anne’s Head. Going across the dual channels with tankers, ferries and pleasure craft makes you feel like you’re crossing a motorway on foot. Dominic managed it beautifully, and we were soon anchored by Dale behind St Annes’ Head. We both rested for the remainder of the day. 39.4 Miles, average speed: 6.9 knots, maximum speed: 9.9 knots, underway 5 hrs 44m.
Monday 27th May: Dale
Bank Holiday Monday, and the Pembrokeshire village of Dale is full of families crabbing off the pontoon, dinghy sailors and windsurfers in the water, grannies sleeping in the folding chair, children asking for ice cream, a castle on the beach built by pebbles. They’re a hardy lot here. Yes it’s sunny, but the wind is bitingly cold, and we’re the only ones wearing jumpers and heavy wind jackets.
We had a lovely walk along the bank of the inlet, over the headland on to the sea, through fresh-green woodland with spring flowers embellishing the sides of the path in a myriad of colours, over a bridge where the trickle of a river is full of gnats emerging from the waterbed. On a little beach we sit for a while, admiring the seascape. Little birds busy themselves finding tidbits in the mud. I wander around on the sun warmed pebbles; there are bits of tile and glass, edges rounded by the sea. Then I see what at first looks like an old glove, but when looking closer I see it may be the head of a small shark species? The spine is severed, the jaws with teeth are complete, and the head is 13cm across the widest part. Spiny dogfish? Does anyone know?
Tuesday 28th May: Dale
We’ve been away from Mylor for more than a week now, and our energy and water self sufficiency is working beautifully. Obviously we’ve used the diesel engine a bit during passage, and we cook with gas, but solar and windpower get us enough energy for our boat electronics and household needs and for keeping the watermaker going. Very pleasing!
We are here in Milford Haven for a few days, waiting for the south-westerly wind to return, to make our journey up to Anglesey easier. This natural harbour has been a place of rest and rescue for a long time. I knew about the Vikings and Henry II, but wanted to find out more, and if you’re interested here’s a potted history: BBC Wales History Milford Haven Waterway
We took another wonderful walk today, across the headland and along the very steep cliffs of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
We sat for a long time in the sunshine above Marloes Sands with a wonderful view over to Skokholm. This is another seabird haven. It is where Ronald Lockley and his wife moved in 1927 as he wanted to study the Shearwater and Storm Petrel. Later on he studied the lives of rabbits, and has been cited as an inspiration to Richard Adams when writing Watership Down. He ended up writing more than 50 books on wildlife and island living.
Wednesday 29th May: Dale
When at anchor you do have to keep an eye on the holding and your position, especially if conditions change. We knew the wind would move to southerlies early in the morning, and we could hear the anchor chain and the boat moving substantially with the changing wind direction and the tidal flow. We were fine, but our neighbour who had arrived yesterday evening clearly found himself edging too near the cliffs and had to move to a safer anchoring spot. Not really what you want to do at 5.30am!
Today was wet, windy and the boat was rolling. A day spent ‘at home’ doing laundry, cooking for the next few days and Dominic worked. I guess we can’t have fun in the sun all the time ha ha!
Thursday 30th May: Fishguard
Today, we sailed to Fishguard. It’s but a pit stop, which is a shame as I would have liked to visit St David’s Cathedral. One thing this journey has taught me, is that almost wherever you go there’s something to see and enjoy!
After a bit of a bumpy motor-sail out to St Anne’s Head, past Vomit Point (!) we got far out enough to catch the south-westerly winds and we quickly picked up speed. We sailed past Skokholm which we saw on our walk the other day, and Skomer, which is another important island for seabirds. We went across St Bride’s Bay which is much bigger than I had imagined. Apparently the coastal path along it is one of the most beautiful walks in Britain, and I can well believe it. At the end of the bay is St David’s, the most westerly point of Wales. We went through Ramsey sound, and had been warned to stay well clear of The Bitches, and right nasty rocks they turned out to be. So a carefully timed passage through both Jack and Ramsey sounds close inshore saved us time and miles.
As we came out of Ramsey Sound the auto-pilot had stopped working. So Dominic helmed in the old-fashioned way for the rest of the passage. (It turned out that it was just a blown fuse.)
Passage stats: underway 5 hrs 10 mins, distance 36.2 miles, average speed 7 knots, maximum speed 12.4 knots, winds SW F5 (15-25 kts)
I’ve just read that there was a battle here in 1797, The Battle of Fishguard, when Revolutionary France successfully invaded, though it only lasted two days before they surrendered. It is nevertheless often referred to as the “last invasion of mainland Britain”.