Monday 21st May The weather forecast looks good for the next three days as although the wind will remain in the NNW we can sail to Lundy and hopefully on to Milford so we decide to go. The plan is to sail in the afternoon to Lundy, anchor or moor off overnight and then visit the island the next day before going up to Milford on Wednesday. We cook up a veggie lasagna to eat in the evening and Paul makes up a lunch box. We also do a few final bits of shopping including pasties from Cranchie’s Bakery (these pasties are the best we have tasted-even better than the Sloping Deck at Dartmouth). The inner harbour gates open at midday, letting us out. We refuel at the outer harbour where the fishing fleet refuels (which is usually the cheapest fuel) and are pleased to see that over 24 hours of using the engine has only consumed 54 litres (12 gallons) of diesel – try driving a car for 24 hours and use only that amount of fuel! We motor out over the Doom Bar, then set full sail for a fetch up to Lundy. (For non-sailors a fetch is with sails pulled in and with the wind about 45 degrees to the direction of travel – this is the classic picture of a sailing boat with the boat heeled over a bit). The tide is initially with us but soon turns against us – the result of having to wait until the tide was high enough in Padstow to let us out of the harbour. However, the wind is a good force 3 or 4 and we make good progress, leaving a mist shrouded north Cornish coast line behind us. We see the by now familiar array of sea birds as we progress. A flock of manx shearwaters alight on a patch of turbulent sea near to us – we think they have spotted a shoal of fish. Suddenly the shearwaters fly up in alarm: the cause is a school of 20 to 30 dolphins who have also spotted the fish and make a dash for the area, scattering the birds. Within five minutes the dolphins have joined our boat and stay with us for over half an hour.
There are all sizes of dolphins from baby ones about two feet long to full-grown adults six feet or so long. The animals give us a magnificent display of riding our bow wave, diving under the boat and leaping through the water. This is the best display we have ever seen, beating the display in Mounts Bay or any other trip. We have taken a video of them but it is not possible to upload it to this blog so if you want a copy click on this link and we will send it to you: We have taken a video but as this cannot be loaded onto this blog contact us if you want a copy (click this link: Dolphin video). Finally the dolphins leave us, although over the next day we see the odd sight of dolphins and porpoises – there must be a lot of them at present in the Bristol Channel and approaches.
Lundy gradually comes into view. The plan is to anchor or pick up a mooring buoy off
the south-east coast (which is the only realistic place to land on Lundy). We round the southern end but find that the swell in the bay with the moorings is much larger than we had expected. There is one other boat moored up there, rocking about. We really have no other option as night is drawing in so we pick up a mooring and sit down to a rather rocky meal. We retire to get a rather fitful nights sleep. In the morning the swell has, if anything, increased making it dangerous to launch the rubber dinghy to motor ashore.
Day’s mileage: 49.0 nm
Engine hours: 1.5 hours
Tuesday 22nd May
The overnight weather forecast has come in on the Navtex: the forecast has deteriorated over night, giving strengthening NNW winds over the next 48 hours. Lundy was one of the highlights of our trip but the swell is too big to use the rubber dinghy to go ashore so we have no option but to abandon all thoughts of landing and to get to a safer anchorage as soon as possible. This means going north to Milford Haven, motoring thorough some fairly rough and confused seas. We plough on, the engine working hard to get us through the seas. After about five hours, the weather changes for the better, the sun shows signs of coming out and the winds drop, allowing us to set out mainsail with two reefs. Things gradually improve, the seas calm down, the wind gets more to our liking and the sun actually shines out of a blue sky as if someone has thrown a weather switch. We set full sails and with the refinery chimneys at Milford Haven coming into sight our spirits lift and we sail towards them.
At around 2 o’clock a large official looking patrol boat comes speeding over the horizon towards us, circles nears us and then calls us on the VHF radio. It appears that the Castle Martin artillery range on the coast is carrying out live firing and we are in the way!!! The range is not on any of our charts (even after John’s chart corrections over the winter) nor the latest navigation package we have on our Samsung tablet. At 1400 hours the commander had presumably finished his (or her) lunch and needs to put the troops to work. Castle Martin control then called us up and directed us on a different course, not the direct route to Milford Haven, and promised to call us up when we could change course back towards Milford. No option there so we sail along the coast, making more gradual progress towards port than originally planned. An hour and a half later, Castle Martin called up to tell us we were far enough away to later course for Milford. Happily, the weather and sailing is now excellent so we sail into Milford Haven in bright sunshine in fine style. Paul decides to catch the last train from Milford Haven to see his
Dad in Llanelli so packs rapidly. Paul has been with us since Dartmouth and has been a tremendous help and good company in getting us this far so we are sorry to see him leave us.
We reach Milford Haven which is a wonderful natural harbour formed from a flooded valley (a “ria”) after the last ice age and is reputed to be the third largest natural harbour in the UK. The waterway is over 20 miles long. The lower (western) part is where the commercial ports are – these days the oil and gas terminals dominate with a constant flow of tankers discharging on both sides of the waterway. Efforts have obviously been made to hide the storage tanks and processing plants behind hills and trees to preserve the natural beauty of the area. Previously this area was a major navy base with ship yards & fortifications (including Martello like towers known as Palmerston Towers).
It was also the largest seaplane base in the UK. (A seaplane is reportedly lying on the sea floor with plans afoot to raise it for preservation).There is still some fishing and ship repair done here and Irish ferries operate quite large Ro-Ro ferries from Pembroke Docks. From about ten miles in the waterway gradually narrows and all industry gives way to wooded shores and farms with some wonderful properties overlooking the water. Eventually the waterway narrows to become the River Cleddau (pronounced Clethy).
We arrive at the town of Milford Haven (both the town and the waterway have the same name – confusing!). We have to get into the marina via an enormous ship lock – built by the Victorians to serve the large docks at Milford. It is big enough for a frigate but this evening there are just two of us in little boats. Milford Haven marina is built within a former dock area that was part of a regeneration scheme. There is a bit of ship building still left at Milford – we see a corvette being prepared for the Indonesian navy in the dry dock next to the boat lock. We also see a couple of small navy patrol boats and a few fishing boats so some of the old businesses survive.
Mileage today: 53.2 nautical miles
Total mileage to date:290.7 nm
Wednesday 23rd May
The marina has all the facilities we need: water, electricity, showers, a laundrette and a nearby Tesco to replenish stores, all of which we use. The staff is very welcoming and the whole place is very efficient. However, these places are rather characterless and resemble the marine equivalent of a well serviced car park so we only stay one night. The weather forecast is for very strong winds until the weekend so we decide to explore the area a bit. Our friend Bob Belk from Melbourne has a caravan on Dinas Head a few miles away near Fishguard so we arrange to do a walk with him on Friday. We also hope to meet Karen Osland, the CEO of Sudep Action (the charity we are supporting) on Friday as she and her partner have a boat moored here.
We decide to sail up-river and anchor about 7 miles up from Milford Haven opposite Lawrenny. The wind is so strong that we can sail up against the tide with just the foresail. En route Yvonne manages to avoid the Neyland Sailing Club yachts out for their Wednesday evening race by some racing tactics of her own. We pass under the bridge linking Pembroke Docks with the mainland at Neyland. As we sail up the river the surroundings become very rural with attractive woods and houses and then farmland on the steeply sloping banks.
We anchor on one side of the river under the shelter of a high bank with Benton Castle just showing above the trees. The scene is very peaceful but we make sure the anchor is well dug in as strong winds are forecast the next day. Sure enough, it is very windy the next morning but the anchor does its job, which is pleasing as this is the first real test of our new anchor which we bought for this eventuality. Given the strong wind forecast (up to gale force 8) and the need to meet up with Bob on Friday we decide to de-camp to the marina at Neyland but before sailing down the river we have a look further up river and stop at Lawrenny for a bite of lunch. A quick sail down the river under a small foresail takes us past Rudders Boatyard, previously owned by friends of that name in Melbourne.
At Neyland we walk up to the
village, whose main claim to fame seems to be as the birthplace of the engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who engineered the Great Western Railway, the ships the Great Britain (now preserved at Bristol). the Great Western and Great Eastern (which laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic). He also co-invented the tunnelling shield with his father for the first tunnel under the Thames, which is still the system used for tunnelling in London and elsewhere today.
Tomorrow we hope to have a good walk and a sociable day. If the weather plays ball we hope to leave Milford Haven sometime on Saturday to work our way round to Aberwryswyth stopping at Skoma Island and Fishguard, but as ever the weather will dictate what actually happens.
Fair Winds to you All
Yvonne & John