Sugar 'n' Spice - Diary August 2006

Tues 1st Aug

8 nm trip downhill to Troon ready for Di to depart at teatime.

She has done 67.4 nm at sea with us this week & I'm not sure how many land miles! (us 1327.6 so far)

I'm afraid at Troon we got into the 'domestic' things like laundry, but we did all get a blowy walk out along Troon's Ballast Bank before we saw Di on to the train to set off home.

Wed 2nd Aug

Another breezy day so shopping & round tuits, & another walk along the Ballast Bank & harbour. Ate in marina resturant - nothing special.

Thurs 3rd Aug

Fuelled & departed for Ballycastle, Northern Ireland with 1 reef in main & some rolls in the genny.

Very odd conditions as we had to put in & take out reefs til mid morning when the wind turned off completely at the south end of Arran & we resorted to the iron topsail. Then the wind came back & within half an hour we were using our third reef & glad of it. A beat after we cleared Mull of Kintyre to the Irish coast & we arrived in Ballycastle mid evening after 67.6 nm. Fish & chips again! but very good.

Fri 4th Aug

Early start to catch bus to the Giant's Causeway. A good move as we were ahead of the crowds arriving & could take our time to look at the odd rock formations & walk on the causeway. We carried on along the coast path in an Irish 'scotch mist' for about 5 miles before catching the bus back to Ballycastle & having a look round the town.

Sat 5th Aug

Decided weather pattern was against a pleasant cruise down the west coast, so we would through the Irish sea. A mix of sail & motor again to Bangor (N Ireland) (48.6nm).

A very busy place compared to most we have been to recently.

Sun 6th Aug

Leave Bangor in poor vis so radar watch. One major windshift made us reef but later Doug was fishing (= light wind, slow). Then very dramatic cliffs along S coast Isle of Man & early evening picked up mooring in Port St Mary, Isle of Man (56.4nm).

Mon 7th Aug

Dinghy ashore & walk to Port Erin. Lots of people enjoying the sandy beach & sunshine (if windy). Back via a pretty rural lane.

Left mooring at tea time for 11nm trip along coast to Douglas. Very helpful tide, ('Sylv's ship' at anchor), just had a short wait in outer harbour for tide to make over flap gate & bridge to lift before we could enter inner harbour. Had to lie on quay wall.

Tues 8th Aug

Early start to walk the 2 mile prom at Douglas for the electric train along to Laxey. There onto the first car (except staff) up the mountain railway to the top of Snaefell (620m). Just about clear as we walked the last 100ft or so to the summit, but vis not very good generally. Walked back down - about 2hrs on a nice path with views of the mountain railway & past disused mine workings - & amazed ourselves with the Laxey waterwheel - a huge wheel, still functional, but unfortunately not running when we were there, that ran the mine pumps via a long system of connecting rods. Then onto the electric tram again to Ramsey the second largest town after Douglas, where we looked at a very drying harbour as rain started. Back to Douglas on the train(tram) & back along the prom, this time on a horse drawn tram, very relaxing.

Wed 9th Aug

Today the steam train to Castletown where we looked round the town with its castle (surprise) harbour & then out along the coast path with some weird rock formations & pools. After lunch we walked through part of Silverdale & caught the train again at a request station (Ronaldsway halt, near the airport) to the surprise of most passengers & the staff ('no one ever stops the train here!'). We got off again at Soderick Glen & walked via the glen & along the coast path (cliffs this time) back to Douglas.

Thur 10th Aug

Bus out of Douglas to Crosby where we picked up an ex railway path (shame, with all railways they still have) & walked to Peel on the west coast. Nice path with a river & glen just before Peel, then a very nice Castle in Peel which we walked round inside & out.

Fri 11th Aug

Stocking up & round tuits am.

Then pm just about to head off for a stroll when chap on boat rafted ahead came down to move her. Offered to take warps & probably lucky we did as he moved off, changed gear, & said 'I'm stuck in neutral!' so we grabbed the warps again & ended up with his boat alongside for some time until he got it sorted. I have to say that that happened much quicker than it would have done down south, but it still sabotaged our walk.

Sat 12th Aug

Early start again with horse tram along prom to catch electric tram(train) to Groudle Glen. Walked down the very pretty Glen (lots of trees & rushing stream) to the coast, then along the Coast path (in places a long way from the coast) with lots of ups & downs to Laxey Harbour (drying) then up Laxey Glen (more water & ex mining industry) to Laxey proper. There we caught a bus to Ramsey & another to Peel & so back to Douglas, so we'd had an overview of most of the island.

Sun 13th Aug

Harbourmaster dropped by early morning to say if we wanted water before we left (yes please) he would bring a standpipe to fill us up. (Being on harbour wall our keel was in the mud so couldn't easily move to tap location). Brilliant service from a harbourmaster again. Later with job done we in company with several other boats were waiting first bridge lift. Nothing, then the Harbour radio informed us that the flap gate was stuck & the engineers were working on it! Finally about 1 hours late the flap gate went down, the bridge lifted & out we all went including more boats that were planning for the later openings. A fairly brisk sail almost downhill at times with a poled out genny. One single large (very wet) wave dumped in the cockpit near the Skerries off Holyhead Bay as we closed on the North Wales coast - predictably neither of us were wearing oillies! A fairly late arrival in Holyhead thanks to our delayed departure so tied to visitors pontoon in the dark. (50.1nm).

Mon 14th Aug

I tweaked my back in the morning so we just had a leisurely day in Holyhead with a walk into town, saw St Cybi's church inside old roman walls, & back along the prom, plus some jobs & round tuits.

Tues 15th Aug

Prompt departure for Caernarvon - a very tidal entrance at the South end of the Menai Straits more reminiscent of our East Anglian rivers with shallow estuary & bar than the waters we have been in recently. Some dolpins were leaping in the shallows inshore as we came along the coast. (30.5nm). Inside Victoria dock the boat rafted alongside - Selkie Dancer - we recognised from Ardrossan & it turned out they had been in a number of places we had & at much the same time.

Walked round the old city & Castle walls, then in the evening visited the Royal Welsh Yacht Club. This turned out to be fascinating as their building is in the old walls with a tower overlooking the city & their secretary treated several visitors to a tour of this & pointed out the historical bits of the city.

Wed 16th Aug

Caught the Sherpa bus along to Beddgelert to sample Snowdonia.

Dodged most showers & walked some minor hill & forest tracks with super views over the Snowdon range to a small mountain top lake.

Thur 17th Aug

Some stocking up & a stroll in the morning ready for a mid afternoon departure when the dock gate opened.

We cleared the estuary & its bar & almost immediately the heavens opened, complete with thunder, from a lurking black cloud. Not much wind fortunately but bad vis so a radar watch for a couple of hours until it improved. Then through Bardsey sound helped by 3kn of tide, & anchored for the night in Aberdaron Bay just off the village. (33.8nm). The sky had cleared & the stars were amazingly clear & brilliant. I think I could actually see the Milky Way properly!

Fri 18th Aug

Prompt departure from Aberdaron anchorage with more thunderstorms forecast. Wind up & down & round the clock in direction, so lots of changes & motoring plus some more rain. Doug kept a radio watch as the firing range inshore was active. He heard them talking to 'Fandango' - is this our neighbour in Levington?

Mid afternoon we had a short visit from 3, maybe more, dolphins who played in the bow wave. Shortly after that we were able to get the asymetric kite up to help plug the tide. We took it down after a couple of hour when the wind dropped, then had another visit from at least 4 dolphins who played at the bow again.

As we neared S Bishop Rock we were seeing 'rafts' of mostly shearwaters, but some guillemots. Some watched us pass, some moved, the guillies dive, the shearwater fly. We also had 3 or 4 passes by small groups (2 or 3) of dolpins who were obviously more intent on fish than play.

As we passed Skomer towards Milford Haven the 'rafts' of gillies & shearwaters were huge - the ones we'd seen earliar & thought large were nothing by comparison.

Dropped anchor in the dark at Dale, Milford Haven about 10pm after a long day, but at least the same day! We are missing the long days from mid summer up north. (84.5nm)

Sat 19th Aug

Lazy day. Moved lunchtime to Neyland marina obtaining diesel on the way. (8.2nm). Then a stroll round town & some round tuits.

Sun 20th Aug

A walk along the river valley cycleway (no. 4 - hindsight we should have used bikes!) to Johnston. Then back via a different route to Rosemarket where we thought we'd walked to when in Neyland 10 yrs ago, & footpath on other side of river, through woodland with buzzards overhead. This finally petered out, probably with lack of use, so we had to retrace our steps & find another route. Nice walk, but that was annoying & probably we ended up doing about 12 miles – not the plan!

Mon 21st Aug

Leisurely departure from Neyland bound for Scillies. Nice fast sail with one reef in the main.

Dolphin day! Two visits early afternoon (about 1hr apart) from groups of six plus who stayed & played in the bow wave for a while (they are far to quick to count accurately & I am surprised that they leap around & across the bow without ever seeming to come to harm - we just sit on the bow & marvel). Then a passing check by another couple (no time to play) & finally mid evening an amazing sight. I had been watching gannets diving in a small area so realised there must be fish there. The numbers of gannets increased rapidly, lots diving, & then suddenly it seemed like there were also dolphins coming from every direction. Too many to count, we say 10, but I think it was more like 20 or 30. Some of them were not too busy fishing to play & kept us company for quite a while.

Our plan had been an overnight passage so that we got to the Scillies in dayight. However the boat had obviously decided that our planned speed was rubbish & she would scupper that. So as night fell & the wind died we carried on sailing to SLOW down.

Tues 22nd Aug

Finally the wind died completely so it was slow motoring until at daybreak we could see enough to pick up a mooring in New Grimsby Sound, between Tresco & Bryher, & then get our heads down. (119.1nm)

Motto:- Consult boat when passage planning.

Rubber dinghy to Tresco, rediscover bearings & stroll. (We had already seen the Tresco 'gardens' on a previous visit so did feel we needed to this time.)

Afternoon dinghy tour of sound finishing on nice sandy beach for a swim.

Wed 23rd Aug

Dinghy to Bryher & walk round it. Arrived at Hell Bay Hotel just as heavens were about to open. Seemed appropiate (& expedient) to have lunch & chat to some other visitors (also seeking shelter). As the rain finished we completed our circuit of the island, but then very nearly got it wrong by going back to the boat via Tresco. Just back on board as the next shower started in earnest!

Thur 24th Aug

Moved 8.3nm to a mooring in St Mary's harbour & went ashore.

Then a rather whimsical walk - not particularly long, but varied & fun - through Hugh Town, to lifeboat station, along hidden path, beach, to Harry's Walls (remains of old fort on hill with one of the leading line markers on it), nature reserve, to Old Town & back to Hugh Town for stores & dinghy to boat.

Finally we dinghied back to Hugh Townfor another short stroll up to Star Castle & then a pub supper.

Fri 25th Aug

Moved the 4nm to the Cove anchorage in St Agnes. Doug dived to check the anchor was properly set as we had needed several goes before it seemed right. Then dinghy ashore to explore - a walk round the island. One small bay was full of miniature cairns - I'm not sure why they all stayed put, but contributed one stone on top of another large base stone. On our return to the boat I had a quick swim & then we were entertained by the antics on the beach as the causeway joining Gugh to St Agnes covered & people continued to cross, or attempted to stem the tide with sand or stones. Finally it rained again as one Sir Galahad rescued a lady sailor - he must have got very wet for his pains.

Sat 26th Aug

Early start to take tide towards mainland. Full sail, reefed for rain squall, then reefs out but strong tide against us at the Lizard. Mid afternoon anchored on North side of Helford river. (63.7nm). A busy saturday afternoon with lots of water based activity & lots of boats at anchor.

Sun 27th Aug

Left Helford River anchorage in no wind but tide with us. As Eddystone lighthouse came abeam we were able to set the main & pole out the genny. Arrived Dartmouth at tea time – it was heaving with people & boats including the Navy (late summer Bank Holiday) so we headed up river. We anchored at the Anchor Stone, just short of Dittisham, where we were the only boat that evening, under the supervision of 5 heron & a white egret. (72.7nm)

Mon 28th Aug

Took the rubber dinghy up to Dittisham & fought our way ashore through the (junior) crabbers & (adult) ferry goers on the pontoon & the general scrum (chips, ice cream, beer) ashore. Once clear of the quay Dittisham proved to be exceedingly picturesque with cottage gardens full of flowers. We climbed a fairly steep hill only to descend again to the next river bend, all still very pretty, before returning to a high level pub for sustenance. A good move as the scrum on the quay had not diminished by the time we returned. Two other boats had joined us in the anchorage & the heron & egret were still supervising.

Tues 29th Aug

Early departure from anchorage, take on water at fishermans pontoon then head for France with full main & poled out genny. (passed the logged 2000nm mark for this trip during the morning). As we closed the Cherbourg peninsula we had a spell of motoring, then the wind picked up again, & as the tide turned foul we put in first one reef, then the second. We arrived at St Vaast around midnight ( but 1am French time), the harbour gate was open so we were able to go straight in to the marina. (111.6nm)

Wed 30th Aug

Late rising then a stroll to town for some shopping & Doug acquired some oysters for lunch.

pm we assembled the bikes & went to see Quettehou, the next town to St Vaast. It was smaller than we expected & the road was straight & fairly busy.

Thur 31st Aug

Some more shopping (M. Gosselin) then we took to the bikes again & went North along the coast road & paths (dunes &sandy beaches) to Barfleur, a pretty fishing village with a drying harbour. From there you can see to the lighthouse at Gatteville on Pointe Barfleur, the northeasterly corner of the Contentin peninsular. After a lunch of mussels in one of the waterside cafes we returned via some pretty villages & the Saire valley & then a steep hill to La Pernelle, with a church & superb view over the whole coast. Then finally down the hill to Quettehou & the straight road back.