Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A long sail to Cardiff

Our wet, windy day ended up being spent doing some boat work. We managed to detect the leak in the water system (a pipe had come off it’s connection) and fixed the bilge pump. While Rob, Paul, Jo and I where in and out of Scarlet’s bilges, the rest of the crew were off to the shops to provision for a couple days at sea. Unfortunately we weren’t done in time for the lifeboat visit, so ended up going ten pin bowling instead. The boys were on much better form than the girls, with Ben cleaning up in the first round, and Paul taking the lead on the second with an impressive double strike.
With a break in the weather we departed Pwllhele just before high tide on Monday morning. We set sail past Abersoch, were there was a bit of keel boat racing going on. Unfortunately for us, the wind was coming from exactly where we wanted to go, so it was a rather horrible decision to put the motor on and motor sail down to St David’s Head. We didn’t quite get as much tide with us as I thought we might, so ended up punching the tide to the corner. It was hilarious, we ended up doing no more than about 2.5kts past Strumble Head Light House (our boat speed was more than double that), but at least it was a good evening with a pretty sunset and great views of the coastline.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the tide turned in our favour and we started screaming down the Bristol Channel. It was fantastic when the engine finally got turned off, and we were sailing at about 8kts, with speeds of 10kts over the ground. We had all settled into our watch system by then, and my early morning watch was particularly beautiful. With good wind, favourable tide and clear skies, it was pretty much perfect sailing (with the odd passing squall). Sadly, as it always will, the tide turned again later in the day bringing our great progress to a halt (thankfully I was catching up on some sleep at this time), but we finally made our way up the muddy Bristol Channel and into Cardiff bay by 6pm. The locks are really impressive, even more so as we arrived shortly after low tide, so the water was really low – about a 10m rise in the locks. Certainly the largest locks I have ever been through. We did have to make our way quite carefully up the channel as although theoretically we had water, as we discovered in Liverpool, things do have a tendency to silt up with shifting mud. But, on a rising tide and slowly creeping in, we had loads of room.
Paul and Vicky did a great job of creating a poem, which is brilliant. Ben was also the sleeping champion of the leg.
Once we were in, everyone got stuck into cleaning Scarlet up and getting her sorted after 33hrs at sea.
We’re now in Penarth Marina and are due into Cardiff Bay Yacht Club this afternoon, where Skandia will be waiting to welcome us in again. Looking forward to a great afternoon, and hopefully this ominous looking cloud gives us a little break.
Off to have some breakfast now, cheerio. Cath

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Abersoch here we come!

What a week already! On Friday night we went off to the Sailing Club for dinner and the auction. Vicky and I stood up to say a few words about the Trust. I was very impressed at how Vicky spoke, she did a brilliant job and really got the message across at how much the trust helps people in recovery from cancer. Craig did a great job as the auctioneer, and last we heard they managed to raise over £2700 for us – fantastic! The weather being the weather, and the tides being as they are, we set off from Holyhead at midnight on Friday, to catch a good tide down to Abersoch before the next low came in. Geoff and Susan from Holyhead Marina came down to give us a hand getting Scarlet out of our berth, which was a little tricky with a fair amount of wind still blowing. Thanks again to everyone from Holyhead for such an incredible time!
With a bit of local advice from Geoff, we managed to get out to the South Stack lighthouse in time to catch a fair tide down the coast. It was a bit of a bumpy start, with winds of up to 24kts on the nose and some rather large overfalls at the corner, so we managed to get everyone completely soaked. But, after an hour and a little more offshore, the seas settled down and we ended up on a beautiful close reach down the coast with clear starlit skies and easing winds. Simon Townsend came sailing with us, which was just such a great treat. Even though he had been driving all day since 4am collecting crew etc, he was back at the wheel in the early hours of the morning, but happy to do so as at least he was sailing again! We settled into watches, but with such a great tide underneath us and good winds, we were down near Bardsey Sound in no time. Scarlet being Scarlet, and things always happen at sea, I came down to check on a few things to find her bilges full of water…. Always a little concerning when out at sea, but thankfully after a quick test, it was a relief to find that at least it was fresh water. With no water coming out of the taps I think we have a leaky tank! Thankfully we keep drinking water in bottles, so nothing to worry about, and it have Robert, Ross and Paul something to do while on watch (manually pumping the bilge pump), and a good excuse to keep warm doing so. Slowly the wind died down more and more, until eventually we had to give in on sailing and motor the rest of the way to Abersoch.
Catherine and Martin from SCYC in Abersoch have been incredible. They were out to welcome us, along with quite a few boats from the Yacht Club. Bear Grylls was out in his RIB and came over to say hello to our crew. Ben is a great fan, so it was great for him to get a chance to meet Bear later on.
We headed over to Pwllheli Marina late morning, then after sorting Scarlet out we went back to Abersoch and spent the afternoon playing on the water in kayaks, dart and fun boats. Simon, Jo, Karen and I all went out on the little funboats, and the guys from the sailing school kindly set up a little coarse for us. What a great giggle!
We were invited to the SCYC dinner and fundraising event in the evening which was just such an incredible evening. The food was fantastic, the fundraising was brilliant, and then we topped it off with everyone on the dance floor with a great band playing some classics. Thank you very much to Catherine, Martin and all at SCYC for such a great welcome and evening out.
We were back on board Scarlet by midnight, and having not had much sleep in the last 24hrs, it was probably record timing for everyone to get to bed and sleep…. What a great sleep that was!
It’s now a windy, wet Sunday morning, and a very lazy one. We’re hiding from the weather on board Scarlet, with Ross and Vicky in the galley cooking up a feast for brunch. It’s hopefully off to the Lifeboat for a tour this afternoon (Karen and I will probably be able to give the tour ourselves by the end of RB) and hopefully find some other fun and exciting things to do on a wet Sunday afternoon. Cheers, Cath

Friday, 21 August 2009

Shorebased and happy ending to Leg !

With the wind still too strong to let us out sailing on Thursday, we spent the day going to some of the local attractions. First was a trip to the RNLI, where we had a tour of both the inshore and offshore lifeboats. After that, it was off to the Maritime Museum, where we started a new fact finding game. The idea was that everyone found an interesting fact from the displays in the museum, then later all read out to the crew, and the prize went to the most interesting fact, which Victoria won.
We spent the afternoon at Ellen’s Tower at South Stack, which is also an RSPB reserve. Unfortunately all the puffins and guillemots had left only a few weeks earlier, but the views out onto the South Stack lighthouse were fantastic. Some of the crew went walking down to the lighthouse (some 400 steps up and down), and quite impressively, Tylor managed to walk up to the coffee shop on his crutches – well done!
Back at the boat, we spent the evening making the video for the leg. I’ve been so impressed with this crew. Even with the bad weather, they just got stuck into everything we did, and just had such a great time. Will and James were hilarious, and having only just met, they were best mates by the end of the week. It just brings to light how the Trust really does go beyond just sailing. Even though on Round Britain, there is a large focus on sailing and completing our leg, it’s also a great opportunity for our young crew to make new friends and have a great time. I have also made some incredible new friends on this adventure, both as part of our crew and people we’ve met along the way.
Talking of people we’ve met, the team at Hollyhead Marina and at Hollyhead Sailing Club have been incredibly welcoming. Craig from Holyhead Sailing Club organised a fundraising auction for our Trust, and also invited us to have dinner at the club before we set off on the next leg.
Friday was our change over day, sadly saying goodbye (or see you later) to one crew, and hello to the next. This week we have Paul, Robert, Ross (HAPPY BIRTHDAY), Ben back again and it’s great to have Vicky on board, who I know from last summer as she worked with the Trust for the summer. Our volunteer for the week is Jo Summers (our operations manager), so it’s really good to have some old friends on board, as well as making new ones!
It looks to be a great leg, with quite a bit of sailing to do, and lots of fun along the way.
Cheers, Cath

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A long day out to Holyhead

After a well deserve rest in Liverpool, we are now on Leg 13, with Will, Tyler, James, Beth and Victoria, as well as Mike Stoner from Skandia Southampton. Our crew arrived on Monday afternoon and with an early start planned for the next day, we got through all our briefings in the evening. The evening was pretty quiet, with a board game or two keeping us entertained. Will also did a great job making dinner.
With very limited time to get out of the Mersey, we left Liverpool Marina at 8:30am. It was quiet tricky getting out though, as the entrance to the lock had silted up quite a bit, and where we were expecting to have 2m of water beneath us, we ended up with none, so had to back out again and creep around the side wall to get into the lock, clearing the silted area with only about 10cm of water underneath us, but at least we managed to get into the lock and then out into the Mersey River. It’s always impressive taking a boat through a city, and seeing the Liver Birds on top of the Liver Building from the water was quite impressive. Liverpool definitely was a pleasant surprise and yet again the people were fantastic and really friendly.
Our day out sailing was not the best day out I must admit. With tidal restrictions into Conwy, the only option for us was to sail straight to Holyhead. The plan in the morning was to try get to the Skerries (a group of rocks off the NW corner of Anglesley) by 3pm, at the slack tide. With a forecast of moderate westerlies it was looking good for a beautiful reach on a lee shore. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite like that once we were out, so we ended up with 40degree wind shifts, and speeds ranging from 6kts to 20kts, making for a rather frustrating morning out on the water – reef in, reef out, engine on, engine off…. All a little tiring. By the afternoon the wind finally filled in, but quite strong, so we ended up beating into 20 to 25kts. Unfortunately due to our slow progress in the middle of the day, we ended up missing the tide and had to punch wind and tide around the corner, extending our passage time by about 4hrs! Our crew were all quite enjoying themselves for most of the day, but slowly we started loosing one after the other to the dreaded illness of the seas… Victoria was definitely the star of the sailing day though. Even with waves braking over the bow and soaking her time after time (which admittedly everyone enjoyed in the beginning, but after a few hours of it got a bit cold and tired) Victoria was still up and involved with all the sailing going on, all with a big smile on her face! It was quite amusing, the guys disappeared into their various bunks not looking too pleased with life, but after a good sleep at sea (the best kind of sleep) all reappeared as new people, full of fun and laughter, possibly also relief at getting over seasickness. After a rather long, cold and wet day out, we finally got into Holyhead Marina at about 10pm, where we were met by Geoff of Holyhead Marina. He was incredibly helpful, catching our lines with strong winds blowing us off the dock and then helping us sort out some much needed food – Pizza! After showers and food everyone was feeling much better, but it didn’t take long at all for us all to fall into bed.
Today was a rather windy day, and I must admit that yet again, although we’ve arrived in Holyhead a couple days early, I’m really glad we took the window we had yesterday. It’s been blowing gales all day and is very wet, so after a well deserved lie in, we’ve managed to entertain ourselves with board games (Articulate being the favourite again) and Holyhead Sailing Club welcomed us in their Club house, where we spent the afternoon playing pool. Another quiet (ish… laughter and shouting over Articulate on the go again) evening on Scarlet, but the giggles coming from the saloon is very comforting. I might just have to join in on the fun.
Cheerio, Cath

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Skandia welcome su into Liverpool

Peel is beautiful. We spent the evening walking up to a monument on a hill above the town which had impressive views over the island, and across the Irish Sea we could see the Mourne Mountains in Ireland. We stayed up on the hill to watch the sunset, quite an impressive sight seeing the sun setting over Ireland.
On Tuesday we had to wait in the marina until the afternoon for the tide to come in. This gave us a chance to catch up with a couple maintenance issues while the crew went and explored the town. It has been really good to have John with us, who works for SYS. He has really helped us this week, again just taking the pressure off Karen and I with some jobs that needed doing (and not pleasant either) – valuable bonding time for Karen and her husband!
We also got ourselves prepped and ready for our sail over to Liverpool, with more fuel for the boat, and more fuel for the crew. Once we could get out of the marina we set sail for Port St Mary, passing south of Calf on Man and completing our circumnavigation of the Isle. We had a pretty good sail with good winds from the south giving us a beat down the west coast. With an early morning ahead of us it was an early night out on a mooring in Port St Mary.
Impressively, everyone was up with us at 3am to set sail for Liverpool, but with not very much wind from directly behind us, and a rather tight time schedule to stick to, we ended up motoring for most of the early morning. Gerard, Marie-Clare and I took the first early morning watch and got to appreciate the sunrise. I really do love being out on the water in the early hours, and watching the slow brightening of the sky and the pastel colours changing in the clouds is so peaceful (even with the engine on). By 10am the wind had come back to the SW, giving us a beautiful beam reach across the Irish Sea for the rest of the day, and with a bit of sun coming out (and a couple of us braving shorts for the first time in quite a while) it was pretty much perfect sailing conditions.
Skandia were waiting for us in Liverpool with another welcoming reception. This was was really good, with a load of people standing on the wall waving us in as we came up and parked next to them. The food, as always, was really good.
Iain Percy (Skandia Team GBR) was around to meet us as well. The crew were all very impressed with his two gold medals, and he was brilliant at getting them all involved in the sailing dinghy simulator competition going on, which Nial managed to win!
It has been such a fantastic craic having this crew on board. I can almost understand Irish, and the laughter hasn’t stopped all week. A great welcome into Liverpool, and with Jo, Tracy and Frank coming to join us this evening, I am really looking forward to exploring the cultural capital of Europe.
Sadly, we say goodbye to our crackin’ Irish crew – you have been fantastic- such a great craic!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Round Isle of Man, and BASKING SHARKS!!!

Wow – what a great couple days we’ve had on the Isle of Man! Sailing for the Disabled came out to meet us on Saturday, as we sailed from Port St Mary to Douglas, it was great to see them out there and to have the company on the way in. We go to finally meet all the crew in person at Douglas Marina. They had very kindly vacated their normal berth so that we could get Scarlet into the marina. Thank you to Marian, Alan and Roy for a wonderful welcome, and some yummy lemon cake.
Sunday was time to explore the island, and this we did! We took an electric tram up to the highest point of the Isle of Man- Snaefell. Unfortunately we climbed into the clouds so couldn’t see the spectacular views from the top, but we had a good giggle walking around in the fog. Just as we started our decent, the fog lifted for a brief 10mins to open up the views of the valleys and hills around us – Beautiful.
Being keen on trams for the day, we got onto a horse tram in Douglas that took us along the promenade. It’s great to see these traditional trams still in action, and the working horses look really well looked after and fit. We had a giant by the name of Charlie pulling our tram, with hooves as big as buckets, impressive.
After a great day out, we slipped our lines, waved goodbye to the Sailing for the Disabled boat which had just come back in from a day out on the water, and headed off to sea again. With a couple days in hand, and with a habit of going round things, we decided to go cruising round the island so headed north for the first time in a while, towards Ramsey, where we spent the evening out on a mooring in the bay.
Today was incredible – we set off at a reasonable hour this morning and headed for the Point of Ayre, the northern most point of the Island. With a good westerly breeze we had a cracking sail up, but sadly as we got to the point the wind went south, and the tide against us strengthened, making for a rather slow passage. After slowly making our way round the point we finally started heading south again, and then with mass excitement on board we started our wildlife spotting for the day. First was a breaching whale, then further along the coast we came across basking sharks – this was just incredible. These sharks can grow up to 11m long, feeding only on zooplankton through modified filters in their gills. We were lucky enough for one of the sharks to come up within 20m of our stern, giving us a better idea of their size, and a glimpse at a massive open jaw. This is the first time I have ever seen a basking shark- YAY!!!!
I must admit, I have been quite impressed with the performance we’re getting from our DuoGen’s wind generator. After a little hiccup with a part which finally arrived back with us last week, we have been happily charging our batteries using wind. Today’s sail was impressive, with the energy from the duo-gen catering for all our electronic needs, and a little extra.
We’re now tucked up in a great little marina in Peel, with the ruins of Peel Castle right on the entrance to the Harbour. Barbara and Marie-Claire are doing wonders in the galley again while the rest.. well, resting after a great day out on the water.
More to look forward to tomorrow as we go round the Calf of Man and back to Port St Mary, completing our Isle of Man circumnavigation and then prepping ourselves for another hop across the Irish Sea – bound for England again.
Until next time,
Cheers, Cath

Friday, 7 August 2009

Goodbye Ireland, and fantastic sail across the Irish Sea

Leg 12, here we go. This week we are joined by Gerard, Neill, Marie-Claire, Jodie and Barbara, with Chris from Skandia. We also have John Pullen on board (Karen’s husband), which is fantastic! We started off in Bangor, with a dinner with Peter and Gillian from Northern Ireland Cancer Fund For Children. They have been incredible with our entire Belfast visit, helping us out whenever needed and welcoming us. The young people we have on board this week are all through NICFFC and are really an incredible group of people. Thank you to NICFFC for all the help and making our Belfast visit so special.
We set sail on Thursday afternoon, headed down to coast to Ardglass. This was our final Irish stopover (can’t believe it), and was a really pretty little port. The marina was quite tight, but they welcomed us in and very kindly let us berth for free for the night – thank you Ardglass! Our sail was unfortunately not much on the sailing front (what wind there was was right on the nose), so we motored most of the way, getting in at around 8:30pm. After a peaceful night in Ardglass with lots of card games going on, we set sail again in the morning, headed for our next country, the Isle of Man. It was such a beautiful day, with hardly any clouds in the sky, giving great visibility of both the Island and the mountains on the Irish shore. With a light southerly breeze we managed to reach across the Irish Sea and had an absolutely fantastic day out sailing, with Gerard hard out on lookout for sharks (still haven’t seen any yet), but we did see quite a few porpoises and had the usual birdlife to appreciate. We headed round the south side of the Island, and passed through Calf Sound, between the Isle of Man and the Calf of Man, a little island to the south. The sound is quite narrow and has quite a strong tide running through it, but with light winds and calm seas we were able to cut through the sound without any problems. Even then it was quite something to see, and I can imagine that it gets incredibly rough when the wind and swell picks up.
Port St Mary’s is our harbour for the night, and we are moored up next to a fishing vessel and along the harbour wall. Chris, being a local IOM man, has been our on board info guide, pointing out places of interest and even filling us in on a little island history. After a long day on the water I was quite impressed with Barbara, who wasted no time at all in getting dinner on the go.
We’re on the island for a few days now and plan to cruise around the island, exploring all her ports. This is also the most popular spot for seeing basking sharks – so we will be out on the water looking for sharks in the morning, really hoping to see one. We’re off to Douglas tomorrow which will be a nice little hop up the coast.
From a beautiful island, goodnight!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

A window to Ireland

This week has been a little bit of an odd week, as we managed to get all the sailing for the leg over and done with on the first day. This was for good reason, however. Simon Rowell has been very good at giving us his thoughts on what the weather is doing and I have been quite impressed with his accuracy. He mentioned that we might get a window on Wednesday- Thursday to go across, and this is exactly what we got. It was a little weird for our Irish crew though, they came all the way to Scotland only to sail straight back again.
Wednesday turned out to be a perfect day for sailing. After getting a few jobs done in the morning we were briefed, fuelled and ready to set sail by noon, with the evening’s Irish stew already on the go. With SW winds of no more than 10kts we set off on a beat for Ireland. Beautiful flat seas and the light but constant breeze made for some fantastic sailing, and slowly the wind clocked round to the West, the WNW, bringing our course up to heading for Ireland, so we somehow managed yet again to sail most of the way on one tack – still starboard!
The crew were absolutely loving it, with each of them taking a turn to helm and mostly spending their time up on the rail or up at the bow, enjoying Scarlet’s dance through the water. Slowly the evening came on, and slowly we lost crew to the warmth of below decks, but at about midnight we had the whole crew back on deck to enjoy the night sail. We even had patches of clear sky letting us see the stars, and with a beautiful moon setting over Belfast and dying breeze, we slowly crept into Belfast Lough. We got into Carrickfergus at about 2am with a cheery but rather chilly and tired crew – it didn’t take long for everyone to disappear into their bunks.
Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children have been fantastic. Angela has been with us for the week, and what with the horrible weather settling in for a couple days we were off in the NICFC minibus for some shoreside adventuring.
After eventually creeping out of their bunks and a bit of brunch (well, more like lunch by the time we actually ate) we went off for a nice walk along to Black Head light house, which was the light that had guided us into the Lough the night before.
The evening was beautiful so we had to take advantage of the good weather while we could and went for a little cruise across the lough to Bangor – homecoming for Karen.
She has been so excitable about sailing home, I can’t imagine how chuffed she must be right now. Hillary and Bob (her parents) were down to welcome us in, and of course a long overdue hug with their daughter. It has been really good to meet them, and Hillary has also been spoiling us each day with treats and apple crumble (YUM!!).
We spent yesterday exploring the North Coast by minibus, but even then it was difficult to appreciate the beauty as the rain and wind were just pelting down. Today was off to a waterpark to have some fun on slides, then off to the NICFC log cabin for a rather late lunch and relaxation time. When we got back to the boat it was down to work, and Aiden, Aimee and Clodagh got down to giving Scarlet a good scrub while Molly and Rob prepared a yummy dinner. We’re all set for our arrival in Belfast tomorrow, and I think we might even get a break in the weather to have at least a final good morning of sailing for the leg. It’s been great fun having all the Irish chit chat going on, not that I can understand all the time, but my ‘Irish’ is getting a wee bit better..