Our Holiday on Barbary

Our Holiday on ‘Spirit’ (August 2004)

We had six days of sunshine in six days of motor sailing. Hardly any wind at all sad to say but just maybe that was what we needed – no excitement just some peaceful sailing to allow us to bond with her. Which I can declare we both did.

The plan was to go to Ireland, Dublin in fact as we were part of a flotilla which decidied the night before we left the safety of the Harbour where to go the following day. We set off from Conwy to Caernarvon the first day (with excellent facilities and welcome from the Caernarvon Cruising Club – we were warned not to visit the Caernarvon Yacht Club as they had only allowed women members into the club house recently!!!!

The second day we set out early (covered in black ‘wet’ paint, that’s another story) to a place called ‘Pilot’s Cove’ or Llanwyn Island. It is such a beautiful place that the film ‘Half Light’ was shot there starring Demi More (There is a photo attached of Pilots Cove).

We sailed back to Caernarvon Marina that same night.

Caernarvon Bar was interesting as we had a minor engine problem on the way across it – possibly caused by a polythene bag obstructing the water inlet. We put down the anchor and waited a while and re-started it, eventually making it over the bar 5 hours after high water. The weather was calm and as it helped that it was a neap tide and we only draw 4′ 6″’ ((3 hours plus or minus HW is the norm.)

We went to Holyhead and arrived just as the wind was getting up. We moored up at the visitor’s pontoon and had an evening meal on board and drinks in the friendly club house. Carole mentioned that the Marina showers were so good so I gave them a miss. When facilities are completed it could be a very good Marina. We were woken up up 4am by the Ketch bouncing around quite violently. Why is it always our ropes that seem to clatter about despite our best efforts, making such a noise? We went outside4 on the pontoon to find half or more of the flotilla people there too. Every boat that was smaller than ours and the on rafted to us were bobbing around like corks! Wee were bobbing once to there every three or four. One benefit of a heavy boat, I guess. The squall continued for a good few hours, Carole decided to go back to sleep, as did I eventually when I helped other people secure their sheets a little more. In the morning it was calm and sunny….like nothing untoward had happened at all.

We left Holyhead for Caernavon, the decision being that although the weather would have been OK for Ireland, it would havebeen hugely tiring as a three day trip, four or even five days would have been acceptable. We stopped off again at Pilots Cove on the way back and heard that one of our flotilla had got his beloved vintage yacht wedged on top of the only (well marked as it is dangerous) wreck near Caernarvon Harbour. He was literally see-sawing and had to be dragged off by a fishing boat and went home the following day to dry out and view possible damage. He was the broker who sold ‘Spirit’ to us, we also believe his pride was as nearly dented as his poor yacht. We empathise with him.

The day became special when we, along with the rest of our flotilla had a lovely BBQ on the turret of Caernarvon Castle which happened (this bit anyway)to be owned by the Caernarvon Cruising Club. Beautiful evening, beautiful views, beautiful company.

We decided to stay in the Marina the following day and took a trip on the Welsh Highland Railway. Three hours of stunning scenery. We were visited on board that evening by a friend who lived just along the coast at Port Dinorwic who actually lived on the Marina there and then spent one last night in the Cruising Club’s bar.

Showers and facilities at Caernarvon Marina are spotless and good. We were beginning to realise that the mark of a good Marina or Harbour is not its refuelling berth or its protection from winds or its ability to have 24 hour access ….it is the quality of the ablutions!!!!! Quite right…

Oh yes the writer nearly forgot we did have an incident on the way out when we stopped for lunch at Menai Bridge. We were the first to arrive of the nine boats in our flotilla so we moored up at the pier and went to the local pub for lunch.. When we returned, there was a full regatta of about 100 small dinghies from all over the North West of Britain. We had three rescue boats rafted up to us. Our fellow sailors wisely had rafted up to a single visitors buoy out in the straits. Now, the pier at Menai Bridge is home to the largest ship that sails these waters. It is called the ‘Prince Madoc’ and is a research vessel for universities and private company’s. We had seen it go out when we arrived and that was why we had taken its mooring. It was now returning and very soon after we had caught sight of it in the distance; we heard it on the VHF asking everyone (politely) to vacate its mooring.

Could we start the engine – NO chance? The previous night we had taken the opportunity of putting ‘Spirit’ into the Marina which enabled us to load her easily and prepare for the voyage ahead without the stress of trying to get everything into a small dinghy and making half dozen trips back and forth back and forth. I had decide that with all the salt water that filled the engine room on two occasions, that I would take the opportunity, as the hose and water were so accessible, to hose down the engine room with fresh water.

Brilliant idea in theory but you should have seen the oil slick in the Marina I had of course pumped the water out again! Hang your head in shame Ellicott!!! Unfortunately for us, this had caused the solenoid to get damp and it now wouldn’t work.

Going back to our Menai Bridge story, we had to get towed off the pier by a rescue boat and were duly deposited with our friends on the outside of the raft of six boats on one buoy while waiting for the single ten minute slot each day to go through the Swellies. Arguably one of the most treacherous pieces of water in GB, and Europe. Unless the reader knows differently. We just had to start the engine within 30 minutes otherwise we’d still be moored up to that buoy, wouldn’t we? We eventually achieved it amongst the stress by chance by shorting the starter motor against the engine block whilst tightening a supply cable.

At the end of our six days we sailed back through the swellies from Caernarvon direction with no problems this time and arrived in Conwy around 2pm having spent a really enjoyable six days on board.

We did learn a lot during that time on board ‘Spirit’ we got quite used to sleeping on the fairly narrow bunks and soon got into a routine with daily cleaning and clearing decks etc. before we set off.

We know at this stage we need more experience of sailing and maybe make more enjoyable trips (work allowing) We also now know a lot more about our local area and are now experienced enough with the anchor to throw it over and not worry for the next twenty minutes as to whether she’s drifting too much or not.

We are both enrolling for our ‘Day Skipper’ RYS certification this October will hopefully will improve our confidence even more.

Apologies if I’ve rambled on a bit, but Carole is always reminding me to keep a log and this text will serve to remind me when I get to fill one in.

Oh yes, one final thing. I thought I had been in every nook and cranny on the Ketch but I just thought one day whilst in the aft cabin and removed one of the drawers. In the void underneath was a spanner to fit the stern tube gland, 8 brand new glow plugs (now the wrong sort having gone parallel) four brand new injectors plus all sorts of other things to make engine’s work!! Used the spanner to give stern nut half a turn and now doesn’t do more than slightly drip after using the engine for a couple of hours. Just thought I would share that with you…..

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