The Swellies, wind farms, Mersey meander and the Blackpool glitter ball

Sunday 2nd June 2013 – the Swellies

It’s all change day today. Chris is leaving us and Jon Salmon is joining us. We also have all the “port operations” to do namely shopping, water up, de-rubbish and the do the laundry. The local Morrison’s is nearby so we accompany Chris to the bus stop and spend our pennies at the supermarket. Jon and Alison are passing so we hitch a lift back to the boat laden with shopping.

Caernarfon has a lovely pedestrianised centre with many old buildings  - including the Black Boy pub where we enjoyed a pint with our friends Jon & Alison Salmon, sitting in the sun

Caernarfon has a lovely pedestrianised centre with many old buildings – including the Black Boy pub where we enjoyed a pint with our friends Jon & Alison Salmon, sitting in the sun

Alison is renowned for her cakes and she doesn’t disappoint us with a sticky chocolate cake and a rich fruit cake – we shan’t starve over the next few days! The local laundrette takes in our washing so we are free to wander round

Caernarfvon has a pedestrianised centre within the old walled town and many fine buildings including the well preserved castle, built in the 14th century by Edward ! to contain Owain Glendwr, prince of Wales.

Caernarfvon has a pedestrianised centre within the old walled town and many fine buildings including the well preserved castle, built in the 14th century by Edward 1 to contain Owain Glendwr, Prince of Wales.

Caernarfon,sampling the local brew and enjoying a sunny Sunday within the walled town and around the castle. Caernarfon is well worth a visit and rightly counts as one of the biggest attractions in North Wales. Jon finds a classic car rally by the river including examples of the first car he drove. (Does that make him a veteran??)

All too soon the lock gate opens to the harbour and it is time to collect the clean washing and to leave for the next stage of our journey through the Menai Strait and the challenge of the Swellies. This is the area between the two Menai Strait bridges. The bridges are built where the Strait is at its narrowest and also where there are rocky outcrops sticking up in the waterway, requiring careful navigation. The recommended time to pass through this area is a slack water at high tide so we join the procession of boats heading through the Strait. Initially we sail but the wind does strange things in the Strait so we revert to the motor.

The combined railway and road bridge over the Menai Straits. Originally built by Robert Stephenson for just the railway it was re-built as a combined bridge after fire damage. The right hand side is the clear water through the Swellies

The combined railway and road bridge over the Menai Straits. Originally built by Robert Stephenson for just the railway it was re-built as a combined bridge after fire damage. The right hand side is the clear water through the Swellies

We pilot through the strait using the Samsung tablet and the detailed chart and pilot age notes with no problems other than boats coming the opposite direction helmed by kamikaze old sailors who cut across our bow at random intervals.

The bridges

were both major achievements in their time using novel solutions to spanning the Strait and leaving enough space under them for tall-masted ships to pass.

Traversing the Swellies with the Menai suspension bridge as a backdrop. This was buiklt by the great Engineer Thomas Telford when the only land transport was the horse & cart (well before the railways). It is a testament to his genius that the best part of 200 years later it is being used by a considerable volume of vehicles each day.

Traversing the Swellies with the Menai suspension bridge as a backdrop. This was built by the great Engineer Thomas Telford when the only land transport was the horse & cart (well before the railways). It is a testament to his genius that the best part of 200 years later it is being used by a considerable volume of vehicles each day.

The rail bridge was engineered by Robert Stephenson (son of George the “father of the railways”); unfortunately it was vandalised some years ago so has been rebuilt as a double-decker rail and road bridge. The road suspension bridge was built by the great engineer Thomas Telford in the days when the only road transport was the horse and cart. It is testimony to his genius that the bridge continues in use to this day, carrying a considerable volume of motor traffic.

Our peaceful anchorage at Penmon by the lighthouse at the eastern end of the Menai Straits with the Snowdon range as a backdrop

Our peaceful anchorage at Penmon by the lighthouse at the eastern end of the Menai Straits with the Snowdon range as a backdrop

As the weather is calm and fine, we decide to anchor at a little bay at Penmon by the lighthouse at the eastern end of the Strait opposite Puffin Island that has been recommended by the Caernarfon Dockmaster. All is peaceful there. We have a fine view into Snowdonia as well as along the north Wales coast. We can see a number of large ships anchored in the distance off Anglesey. It is becoming quite a common site for us to see ships anchored up, “waiting for orders”-maybe it is a sign of the times.

This is our last night in Wales

Sunset  over Anglesey

Sunset over Anglesey

and we are finishing the first of the four countries we have set out to visit in the United Kingdom. We have enjoyed our stay in Wales. We have invariably found a warm welcome, considerable help and good advice.

Ship’s log

Day’s run: 13.7

Total distance to date: 474.5

Monday 3rd June – wind farms

We up-anchor and motor sail past the Great Orme with its cable car to the summit. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wind gradually fills in so by mid-morning we can switch off the “iron sail” and proceed in peace. Opposite Rhyl we skirt south of the first of numerous off-shore wind farms in the Irish Sea before coming across considerable construction activity including cable laying operations for the new and huge Gwnt-y-Mor wind farm nearby.

Cable laying ship linking the new Gwnt-y-Mor wind farm to the coast near Rhyl.

Cable laying ship linking the new Gwnt-y-Mor wind farm to the coast near Rhyl.

We give the cable laying operations a wide berth and then set our course between the various wind farms for the mouth of the Mersey.

Very large wind farms are being established around much of our coast. The ones off north Wales are typical, being located in relatively shallow water out of the main shipping lanes. However, for smaller craft such as us who wish to pass along the coasts they present a considerable navigational challenge as not only do they cover a very large area but they also compromise the routes that can be sailed, especially when taking into consideration the shallows and the varying direction of the wind. It is a sobering thought that even after all the investment, these wind farms will only generate about 5% of our energy requirements (on a good day).  We wonder how reliable they are as we have yet to see a wind farm with all the rotors turning – about 5% to 10% inactive seems to be the norm.

The entry to the Mersey is about 15 miles north of Liverpool as the river runs almost north south by the city.

The Liverpool water front - Liver Building on the right, Isle of Man ferry in front and the Anglican Cathedral behind

The Liverpool water front – Liver Building on the left, Cunard Building in the centre, Isle of Man ferry in front and the Anglican Cathedral behind

The Camell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead. We still build ships in the UK!

The Camell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead. We still build ships in the UK!

We are able to sail all the way down the river, past the modern docks at Bootle and then the famous skyline of Liverpool on the east bank and Birkenhead and the Camel Laird shipyards on the opposite bank. (Contrary to what many people think we do still build ships in the UK, including at Camell Laird – hooray!). We are booked into the Liverpool Marina in Brunswick Dock (one of the original docks in the heart of the city that along with the Albert Dock has been converted for small craft and with housing along its walls). We have a problem in that we don’t have the right channel on our VHF radio to call the lock keeper but at 7 o’clock, as arranged, the lock gates open and as if from nowhere all kinds of work boats and fishing boats pile into the lock around us. We re-tune our ears from Welsh to scouse and enjoy the chat & banter that is a staple part of being a Liverpudlian.

In the Brunswick dock at Liverpool with Katharine. The sun has clearly passed over the yard arm!

In the Brunswick dock at Liverpool with Katharine. The sun has clearly passed over the yard arm!

Once moored in the marina we meet up with Katharine (John’s eldest daughter) who comes bearing food and drink and the all important replacement 12 volt charger for the laptop. We also gather our access card from the bar but find that this will not open the marina gates so we are denied the facilities or a visit to the city. (The Marina later reimburses us their fees).

 

Ship’s log

Day’s run: 51.6 nm

Total distance to date: 532.1 nm

Total hours sailed to date: 118.5 hours

Tuesday 4th June-spinny across the Mersey and the Blackpool glitter ball

Our sail today is from Liverpool to Fleetwood along the Fylde coast, past Katharine’s home at Lytham and the pleasure beach of Blackpool.

It is a glorious day and as there is a bit of wind from the south we hoist the spinnaker

Spinney across the Mersey.....

Spinney across the Mersey…..

and sail slowly past Liverpool. However, the wind dies and changes direction so away goes the big sail and we motor on out of the Mersey. This morning there are numerous ferries and ships travelling along the Mersey so we creep along the edge of the channel – might has right! We can clearly see the Anthony Gormley statues in the sea at Crosby – which explains why we thought he beach there looked busy yesterday.

Out at sea the wind picks up from the north east so we sail up the coast in glorious sunshine, passing Formby, Southport, St Anne’s and then Blackpool.

The oil and gas platforms in the Irish Sea and especially Morecamb Bay are less well known than their bretherin in the North Sea. This is the Lennox Field just off Southport

The oil and gas platforms in the Irish Sea and especially Morecambe Bay are less well known than their brethren in the North Sea. This is the Lennox Field just off Southport

We pass a combined oil and gas rig off Southport, one of many in the Morecambe Bay area.

We

The biggest dipper in the world......

The biggest dipper in the world……

are mystified by an irregular flashing light at the south of Blackpool and poring over the charts and the electronics produces no answer as to what this navigational aid might be.

Jon Salmon & the Blackpool skyline

Jon Salmon & the Blackpool skyline

Eventually, as we get closer we see that is a huge reflective ball on the seafront!

We cannot sail direct to the harbour at Fleetwood, partly due to the mud banks and partly due top a long sewage outfall pipe from Fleetwood that sticks out above the sea bed. We thought that sewage discharges into the sea had finished but maybe not.

We enter the lock into the old fish dock at Fleetwood when the gates open at 7 o’clock. The marina has a unique way of giving visiting boats the key to the gates – in a can on a string from a fishing rod which the lock keeper dangles over our deck as we pass! G & T’s once we are moored then a pasta supper rounds off a good day.

Ship’s log

Day’s run: 54.4 nm

Total distance to date: 586.5 nm

Total hours sailed to date: 130.5 hours

Wednesday 5th June.

We decide to take a lay day prior to going to the Isle of Man tomorrow so we take a tram to Blackpool. (Blackpool never lost their trams and has recently replaced their fleet with state of the art new ones which are very comfortable and efficient). We travel the full length of the line before catching a bus to Lytham and Katharine’s home. Jon has found that he cannot get a ferry place back from the IOM due to the TT races and as he needs to be in Derby on Saturday he decides that he cannot come with us so packs his bags and takes the tram with us but gets off at the North Pier to check out Blackpool life. He says he only went to the Tower Ballroom (the venue for Strictly Come Dancing) and brings photographic evidence to support this claim!

We shop at the local supermarket in Lytham then get collected by Katharine and our grandson Rohan. We spend a lazy afternoon at Katharine and Senthil’s, playing sand castles and kicking a football with Rohan.

Start them young! Grandson Rohan steps aboard

Start them young! Grandson Rohan steps aboard

Jon arrives after alighting at selected points on the bus route to Lytham and is collected by Alison who has been flexing the credit card at the Colne Retail Park. Senthil arrives home and drives us all to Fleetwood where Rohan comes aboard “NanaPopsBoat” and requests a trip on it but that will have to be another time.

With Grandson Rohan in the cockpit at Fleetwood

With Grandson Rohan in the cockpit at Fleetwood

Grandson Rohan enjoys the vittles

Grandson Rohan enjoys the vittles

Senthil

Senthil

Fair winds to you all

Yvonne & John

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2 thoughts on “The Swellies, wind farms, Mersey meander and the Blackpool glitter ball

  1. Hello you two. Closely following your progress and wishing you well on your journey north. Looking forward to catching up with you in the Deben. Lots of love and safe passage, Julie, Paul & Jess xxx

  2. Loved the last report!! Some great pictures of you and rohan and kath 🙂 xx

    The Crusoes Sailing around the UK wrote:

    The Crusoes posted: “Sunday 2nd June 2013 the Swellies Its all change day today. Chris is leaving us and Jon Salmon is joining us. We also have all the port operations to do namely shopping, water up, de-rubbish and the do the laundry. The local Morrisons is nearby s”

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