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Diaries 08 - June Cruise.

Monday 16th - Wed 26th June

Ian had put aside 10 days for a 'first' 08 cruise, and we really had to take pot luck on the weather - which turned out decidedly 'iffy'. In hindsight now, a shame we didn't chose July - that's life !

We had vague plans for Milford Haven and West Wales - but would take it as it comes really. HW on the Monday was about 6 pm - so I had the idea to get down to Blue Anchor on the evening, to save a night on the sloping mud of the Axe Mooring.

Waiting for the water to creep in at the Uphill slip - is a bizarre way to start a 10 day cruise. Looking at a 4 foot wide, one foot deep muddy stream - with only a few hours to go to HW - its hard to believe you are even going to get the dingy to float !

It was a warm summer evening but with a stiffish westerly breeze developing.

With Ian's gear added, the pile of stuff for the dingy was ominously large ! I also had three 5 litres water, two 10 ltr diesel - it sort of filled the dingy and we climbed on top.

We looked like a couple of flood refugees as we negotiated the Pill down to the River Axe.

To Blue Anchor

Deflate and stow the dingy on the side deck and stash away the perishable food in the cool box and we were away, just about on HW.

The evening leg down to Blue Anchor - about 18 miles, to anchor off for the night.

With the spring running into the Westerly, now stiffening into a 4 or more - the edge of Weston Bay was definitely lumpy - but once out into the main channel it settled some. The seas in and adjacent to Weston Bay can be vey confused - with the tidal stream sweeping back onto itself. Motored into it with the wind on our nose.

At Blue Anchor approach it was a 5 or more - and as we cut in to the anchorage we met some seriously steep short seas which saw her diving in some. We both got soaked - as we had not bothered with any foul weather gear ! Even a mile out it was still crashing about - but suddenly relented as we got in closer - and it became a little more convincing as an anchorage.

Dropped the anchor in 5m, about 2 hours before LW - going in as far as we dare to try to find some settled water. I figured we would be awake and about at LW - so was happy to go in that shallow. We would have under three metres at LW.

Rock and Roll !

A not to be repeated night - for a while at least ! We held all right - but did she roll and toss about. We both fought off turning green by just crashing out on out backs fully clothed.

I set the gps on alarm - and leave the screen on, zoomed right in so I can see the track marker. I find it very reassuring to glance at it when lying there in the dark. A rough old night.

Tues Morning - Watchet

Assessed the situation at first light. Still blowing hard from the West. Neither of us fancied the 6 hr beat into this for Swansea, on top of such a rough night - so chose to up anchor and go into Watchet on the morning tide. We didn't need to discuss the suggestion too long !

It would be a new place to me - Ian knew it well as he kept his last boat there for a few years.

As it was - it looks pretty evil on the approach - but you approach with the piers just open, from the just W of N - so it sort of looks like a pretty small gap. It's a bit wider when you get close ! Looked like a single garage to me, for a while !

Once in the outer harbour - the inner sill is automatic - and opens around 2 and a half either side of HW. Essentially, when the tide height reaches 6.9 over datum. There are red/green lights which act as traffic lights. You just wait for about five mins if they are red. Watch out though, as the locals seem to ignore them !

If the lights are green you know the sill is down. They dont have a separate light to say the sill is down - the lights just stay red. Loads of space in the outer harbour and loads of ladders, albeit 'very high' ladders. No one uses it as far as I can see - and really is a sort of 'empty' Minehead.

Marina had nice easy spacious berths ( compared to Uphill ! ) and I eased her in like an old pro !

Blissfully slept it off in calm, still, flat water !

By lunchtme we were tucking into Thorntons chocolate fudge squares - which was hard to believe the way I felt most of the night !

I had sort of seen Watchet from a distance and it looked such a small, grey, 'dot' of a place - it's hard to credit just how big and spacious the marina really is behind that grey wall.


Blowing 6-7 SW. White caps as far out as you could see. Summer is here.

Phoned my old mate Patrick Cook who runs the Bakelite Museum in Williton - he met us at the marina. He knew I had the boat but had never seen her, so it was good to come ' sailing by'. He drove us up to the museum for tea and cakes in the garden.


Still blowing hard. Library had free internet for 20 mins - so download the synoptic charts for the next 4 days.

Looked good for the morning and beyond.

Take the steam train into Minehead - and check out the Harbour moorings on the wall. Look a bit awkward on your own there - wall seems to slope some and there are a good few small boats on very long lines all over the place. There are visitors buoys out in the middle - but it was too muddy to reach them easily to get look at just how they were laid out - they seemed a bit of a mess and suffering from little use.

As with Watchet - these wall are 'high' - so some of the ladders seem a bit evil at LW !

Take a look at the sea state Thursday evening - and things seemed to be settling a bit.

Friday - Off to Swansea

After a frustrating start we are at last setting off .

Get away at 7.45 for the 40 miles to Swansea - or maybe on to Oxwich Bay for an anchorage.

Still a heavy chop going with a now lightening SW. Beat into it with the jib and the motor for most of the way. Decide to stick with Swansea. Ian had been in a while ago - before the Tawe lock system, so it would be newish to him - and a first for me.

All this side of the channel was new to me - and I'd sort of dreamed up a wrong impression of it really. Sort of saw it as 'busier' for both commercial and other traffic. Didn't seem that way really.

Once past Nash Point and mid channel we pick up a big but fairly friendly swell - still running from the rough weather of the past few days. Must have been over 2 m - but very spaced out and rolling along - just giving us the odd flash of spray at the bows.

Wind was now dropping dramatically - and once past W Scarweather cardinal ( 5 hrs from watchet - 30 miles ) we had time to kill as Swansea is a bit tight near a spring for an hour either side of LW.

KIlled the engine and sailed with what little wind we now had over toward Oxwich Bay - past the ledge Buoy.

Lovely afternoon now - with little breeze. Sun out - and a large rolling swell.

With the tide now turning - and zilch wind, we gave up on getting any closer in on Oxwich - so found the approach for the Mumbles about 3pm - and headed in for Swansea dock.

Passing the Mumbles S Card to seaward, is an easy line of very elegant old buoys - one green, then a pair of the same vintage, red and green. They have lovely sounding old bells - we could hear them in the town on the next evening. Though if its fog and smooth water, not much use !

Easy dock entrance - just two wide parallell walls, ferry terminal to the right, halfway up. The Tawe lock and sluices are esily visible - in fact thats all you can see over to Port. A ferry terminal - and a lock and sluices. I'd sort of expected a bustling commercial port - how wrong you can be. All these places are practically dead commercially now - at least from what they were.

Vhf Tawe Lock channel 18 for locking - two big holding buoys downstream with rings on top. Plenty of space just to hang around, but very shallow over to the right. We were two hours after LW Mid range and I was backing off of 0.9 m ( lena grounds at 0.9 m ! ) in places - deeper to the left of the holding buoys, but you get in the way of exiting craft from the lock.

They really could do with some marker buoys on the shallower sections. A place to be careful if coming in on a falling tide.

Tawe lock ( Tow-ee ) is an easy entrance, with good pontoons either side and running rope loops all along - as well as bollards. Easy to hang on to. Pity Cardiff don't use the same idea( ropes )

Radio marina - channel 80 and tie up at a ladder before the second lock to sort out the berth. Friendly staff - cheap enough ( 12.50 ) The marina lock is often a free flow through - and they seem to use it mostly as a 'gate' to stop you escaping without paying !

Check out the Swansea Yacht Club - which was excellent. Food all day, virtually on a restaurant basis. Free internet - great views over the outer Tawe river. No siging in or anything.

Sat - Swansea

Blowing up again, another full gale warning and forcast 6-7 for Sunday locally. Take her out into Swansea Bay about 5.30pm. Nice sail - stiff 5, maybe more - but smallish sea going in the Bay.

We had over 5 kts on a close haul and 5.4 reaching. I don't get to sail enough like that, at her max potential. I'm a bit cautious when on my own. Locked back in about 8pm. Made a bit of a mess at getting her in to the berth - being a little too complacent ! It was a bit windy though !

Extra dsc vhf warning midday - new gale/storm warning, Lundy Irish sea - 9/10 imminent.


Check the snoptic chart at the boat club internet access. Forcast for Mon/Tues better - dropping to 3-4, but another deep depression waiting in the wings SW of Ireland.

Decide to head out Mon - back up channel for Barry - then on to take a look at Cardiff. We could then maybe spend a while exploring up channel from Cardiff.

Enjoyed Swansea though - nice easy sort of place. Ideal for a few days stop as its really quite easy to lock out - and the Gower is really close for some day sails or overnight anchoring. ' I shall be back' !

Mon - Swansea to Barry

Head out at 2pm - Nice fine day with the predicted 3 westerly. LW was about 4pm. Motor out to W Scarweather - pretty calm seas but pick up the swell still running. Could have cut inside of W Scar in these conditions, to cut the corner.

Saw a couple of old boys, earlier in the day in Swansea marina - they had all their charts out and were obviously planning on going somewhere. They must had come out earlier on the tide toward Oxwich and were now running back East under sail with the turning tide. We crossed them going out past W Scar - They knew something we didn't, I think, as they stayed very close inshore and were gaining on us.

They went inside of Nash sands - and on through Nash Passage. By which time they were out of sight. Little wind - they either picked up a faster tide through there or they were motoring ! We saw them later in Barry Harbour.

We sayed under sail - finding it easier to stick with just the main, right flat out against the lowers and with the preventer on. Lovely day - with a big gentle swell, good visibility too - along a coast I had not seen close by.

Resorted to the engine just as we put the nav lights on - short of Jacksons Bay and the Barry Harbour lights. Just on HW at Barry.

Barry Harbour

What a difference to Watchet entrance - its massive.

The Lifeboat and Pilot boats moor to the pier, sort of central inside the harbour - which stays fooded at LW springs. Most of the moorings are out to the left, west side.

Apparently there are loads of vacant moorings there at present. They tolerate rafting up so long as you don't leave the boat unattended - but prefer you to pick up a spare fore and aft. They are trots on long heavy ground chains radiating out from the harbour wall. Looks a bit chaotic though.

The first we chose had RNLI on - so moved off to another, just in case. Probably just old markings.

Dries to very soft mud - we floated about 7.30am on an 11am HW 10.5 tide. You can always get in to Barry at any state of the tide - and so long as you keep clear of the pilot/lifeboat. The pilot boats are in and out at all hours of the night and in all weathers.

Tues - off to Cardiff

Winds again forecast as strengthening to 5-7 SW Tues night - with a new gale warning for the Irish sea/Lundy/Fastnet.

Decide on popping into Cardiff to check out the CYC visitors moorings - go ashore for some breakfast - then exit the barrage at 2 hours before LW - then drop back SW for the day until we pick up the flood into Weston. Get home while the weather is in our favour.

Leave Barry at about 8am - pretty lively off Lavernack even with a gentle easterly aginst the tide - there are some fierce rips there. Coming south out of Cardiff you can't really avoid the area as you are stuck between the Wolves and Lavernack Spit.

I had a completely wrong immpression of Cardiff entrance fairway - the chart I'd studied it on was a huge scale and I'd just sort of imagined it all a lot more spaced out. Really. as soon as you come alongside Penarth Head with its disinctive cliffs - the barrage lock is staring you in the face.

It is well buoyed from Barry to Cardiff - being one of the busier commercial shipping 'side routes' - away from the main channel up to Portbury, between the Holms and down past Breaksea Light platform. You still only really see one or two large vessels during a days sail though - hardly busy.


Once you see the Wrach Cardinal - the rest of the entrance buoys are packed together really close by the lock entrance piers. The channel turns in to Port immediately before the Red/Green prefered channel buoy. All very much simpler than I had imagined.

Vhf the lock - and they will give you a lock no - there are three locks - and a time ( in, 0015 - 0045 generally) - 24 hours access, but tight I think for water 2 hrs either side of LW spring.

There are a couple of large rubber clad holding bosses once inside the outer harbour - or there is plenty of space to hang about untethered. There are lights outside the outer harbour - but I think they only light when access is restricted. They were all out - so we just went in. I find that confusing - if you have lights they should be on. A bit like having traffic light that are not lit on a junction !

Pontoons either side of the lock raise with the water level. No ropes like Swansea but plenty of bollards and a good walkway you can hop off on to. Pretty easy really.


The Cardff Yacht Club moorings are over to the right bank, before the big road bridge. There are two long floating pontoons running out from the clubhouse ( distinctive sloping roof ) between extra lines of trot moorings either side. It looks a big mess - but if you go to the 'roadbridge' side of the moorings - you will see the isles between.

The middle two are rubber, floating pontoons ( would make a good Dr Who 'life form' ! )

The visitors berths are right up the middle of these two floating rubber monsters - on the cross arm connecting them, near to the club house walkway.

If full, you raft up. Club boats should not be on there. Very friendly club members. Had a good chat with an old boy who had his boat there on the mud of Tiger Bay, way before the Barrage - who came aboard for a look at Lena.

Walk in to Cardiff dock development to have breakfast on the Old Lightship, nr the Swedish Church on the recommendation of one of the locals from CYC. Cardiff Dock Developments are really impressive - and coming from me, that's saying something.

'Winsor Esplanade' - the still extent frontage to the old Tiger Bay. The last time I was there was at a really heavy party many, many years ago. Some memories there !

Leaving Cardiff backwards !

Mess up going out the lock - have it to ourselves and I nudge in nice and gentle, bow line on - all ok then suddenly she swings at the stern and we could not stop her. I think they closed the gates behind us and caused a bit of flow - thats my excuse ! I should have grabbed her alongside with the boat hook as soon as we were stationary. Live and learn.

She ended up sideways - and eventually we had to tie up backwards !

No harm done except dented pride !

I confirmed a little sheepishly on the vhf I would reverse out. The waiting boats were hopefully impressed with my neat bit of reversing. Thankfully, Lena steers backwards rather well ! I'm sure we were not the first !

A balmy calm

Weird stuff this weather and tides ! As we turn out to open water we see a glassy millpond - with a comment from a boat entering of, " You won't get too wet out there" - seeing us all decked up in our harnesses and weather gear.

After the soaking we got going into Blue Anchor we'd vowed to wear our gear until it made sence to take it off, not the reverse.

So off with it all and on with the sun block !

Drifted down with the tide and engine for a while until past the Wolves and clear of a car transporter dropping off its pilot - then hoisted sail and made what we couold of the breath of light airs over to One Fathom Bank.

Still like a millpond right over to E Culver - and killed time dropping over to DZ1 and Hinkley Power Station. Really should have taken the opportunity to give the seagull a good run - but was feeling lazy somehow !

Western skies were darkening though - with a little drizzle threatening by late afternoon - but little wind.

Swansea Coastgaurd called for any vessel near to Steart Island. Ian had just pointed out Steart Point - but for a while Steart Island lost me. Its just off of the Burham/Parret estuary.

I called back with our position. Someone had seen a boat stuck in the mud ! - probably dried out waiting for the tide. Nothing came of it.

Good to actually use the vhf though - what with calling the locks at Swansea and Cardiff I've had some well needed actual air time practice on the thing this week.

I really ought to get in the habit of calling Swansea CG when out for the day singlehanded. It lets them know where you are - checks your functionality/reception etc.

Coming out of Cardiff I tried having the main set on along with the handheld. You can call on the handheld and listen on the main set. Also - having the set set to the cockpit speaker, I dive in the cabin to call on the main set, then can't hear the reply as I'm inside with the engine running. So, my switch on the speaker system is useful after all - so long as you remember to switch it !

I'm getting a little more organised with the vhf - and generally run it on a memory scan now, with just the useful channels selected.

By the time we were past Steep Holm - the breeze was trying to pick up and the seas were rippling up with the flood tide - with a Southerly wind. Tried to sail her in to Weston Bay, but with the breath of wind in the S and a tide doing 3.5 kts NE it was never on really.

I could see we were making a track of 45 deg T coming in - which would have taken us up to Sand Bay.

We tried to punch back once past Birnbeck ( on our way to Sand Bay ! ) with the wind now stiffening a bit, maybe a 3 - but we had her very close hauled getting 3.2 kts, with 0.5 over the ground !

We were hoping to get in far enough to pick up the tide running around from Birnbeck. Maybe should have turned much earlier and closer to the end of Brean Down - with little sea going.

If I had been on my own I would have just stuck the motor on earlier - but it was an eye opener as to just how hard it would have been to get in under sail.

The light was going - HW was 11.15pm, but we could get up the Axe from about 8.45pm.

Gave up and stuck on the faithful Yanmar at about 9.00 and hammered across Weston Bay, with the main still close hauled, at about 5.3 kts.

Made the first red buoy at about 9.40pm and up through the Axe moorings in the last of the daylight.


High winds and rain overnight as predicted. Made the right decision to get back in early. We'd had a good day, what with the early jaunt to Cardiff - and leisurely smooth seas all day.

Nice to have some time to get the boat up together at your leisure - concocted a last meal from all the leftovers which didn't seem to kill us - at least I'm still ok !

She sat on the mud not too heeled over - and despite high winds, we had a sunny trip up the Pill to the car at Uphill on the tide about 11.15 in the mornng.

Suzuki decided not to start - but she was flooded. I'm storing it in the cockpit locker now I have the Seagull on the rail - and also running it on 30:1 while it runs in from fitting new rings.

Must be its warmer in there, and does not need so much choke on that mix. Went to change the plug - then found my spanner wouldn't fit - at least I couldn't open the cover enough for it to work properly. Couldn't believe it - the no of times I've used it on the engine not mounted on the transom. Just managed to just get it loose to swap it. Started first time then.

( I checked when I got home and - the cover hits the clamps - ok when swung sideways. Needs a longer plug socket arrangement.)

Generally - despite some awful weather spells, we at least gave ourselves some good experience for entering Watchet, Swansea, Barry, Cardiff - which were all new to me.

With the constant Westerlies we used the engine a fair bit getting down channel against the chop, but sailed it all back up.

154 miles in all.

As I'm typing this up, I have the hand held vhf on, running down the battery. Yet another gale warning imminent, Lundy/Fastnet.

The great British summer !


Why, oh why didn't we chose July ! - glorious - hopefully off next week on my own for a week.