After a couple of weeks at home I was glad to be back on the water with a view to heading off. The heatwave Ireland was experiencing seemed to be fairly extensive across the UK as well and was producing light east or northeast winds. In the days before the off the weather looked settled enough to contemplate a trip south to the Scillies before returning north east to Milford Haven in South Wales to pick up Christine. Anne joined John Joe and Brendan for the spin south and we left on a gentle breeze heading south to Arklow. Sadly, the breeze was just too light to sail so we motored gently south to Arklow and only managed to get breeze as the day warmed up an hour from our destination. When we were tied up in the commercial dock we saw the wind become more sailable, a typical high pressure summer onshore breeze. Sadly for us we couldn't use it and we seemed to have the same conditions for the next day also. We motored south on calm seas but getting close to Rosslare we managed to sail for a bit but had to give up as a ferrry started coming in the channel we were trying to slowly cross. But on rounding Carnsore Point we had a light sailable breeze from astern ans we were off. We ended up with a poled out headsail and the cruising chute on the ootherside goosewinging at 4 knots, pure sailing heaven. Approaching the gap between the Saltee Islands we found a strong tide against us and had to motor a bit to make sure to avoid the rocks. But we finished with a lovely beam reach as Anne took us into Kilmore Quay. It was still hot but the pleasant breeze helped stop us from overheating, as did the cider we had as a reward for a good trip.
The forecast showed the high pressure which had brought such settled weather was declining and moving off so the 24 hour triip to the Scillies would end up with light winds on the nose from midnight Sunday, meaning 12 hours motoring. This did not appeal so we decided to give the Scillies a miss this year and head to Millford Haven instead. After a relaxing morning we bade goodbye to Anne and headed out at 5 pm with the last of the north easterlies forecast. We had bumpy seas in the shoals south of Carnsore point and a bit of wind against tide as we headed out into the Irish Sea. The wind strengthened a bit and soon we were creaming along with a double reefed main doing over 6 knots. As the tide turned the seas eased and the lights of the Smalls off Wales became visible. This area of coast has a number of rocky islands and reefs but they are well lit and so easy to navigate. Getting closer to them the winds eased a bit making it easier for those down below sleeping but eventually the wind, as expected, eased away to nothing before going south. So we motored in the moonlight past Skomer Island and entered the haven, dropping the anchor in Dale at 4am. I was pretty tired, as was Brendan, but John Joe had managed to sleep a lot of the way across. After a good rest we went ashore for a walk and pint and grub in the Griffin Inn. That night we dined on roast lamb and slept the sleep of the just. During the night the wind was 10-15 knots, light, but enough to allow a slight swell to enter the anchorage, something I didn't remember from my previous times anchored in Dale. The skipper can get grumpy in rolly conditions, but luckily this was light and didn't get noticable until dawn so he didn't get too barky......
At this stage, the lads had 4 days left so a plan was discussed and they decided they wanted to explore the haven and not go too far. So as the tide turned we sailed out of Dale past the oil and LNG tankers up the river. After stopping off for shopping in Pembroke Dock, we meandered up the river to Llangwym, anchoring in the strong tidal flow. On a rising tide we headed ashore to explore and look for a pint. We were guided by a local resident on where to leave the dinghy, and she reminded us not to forget that it would be a high spring that evening. Tides here of 7 metres are a big change from the 4 meters we are used to at home and have to be taken into account. We found the pub in the village and returned at high water to find the path we had used earlier was under water so we had to go through the garden of the lady we had met earlier. All was ok with the dinghy but it was a reminder of the constant tide.
After that we went into Neyland Marina to clean ourselves up and sort out the lads return home to Ireland. We met up with Brian from Blue Air who we had encountered single handing into Dale and had a good dinner with him on Suckin' Diesel which he returned when his crew arrived the following day. Neyland had memories for me, having been stuck there with bad weather years ago when I was first bringing Suckin' Diesel home from France. The place has improved a bit and the houses showed a bit more care taken than last time. Or maybe it was just the sunny weather..... Anyway, after the lads late night departure for the ferry back to Ireland, I just filled up with water and headed on light breezes to Dale to do a few jobs before going back up the river for a quiet night anchored off Lawrenny.
The next morning I went down river to Hobbs Point, a free pontoon with two berths close to the supermarket. There I met up with Rob, a Dutch single hander who was hanging around the Haven waiting for northerly winds to go to the Scillies. Joining me there was Christine who was to join me for 10 days. Sadly for her, the weather didn't appear too good for the next while with strong and gusty southerlies dominating the forecasts. But anyway we provisioned for a few days and headed to Dale for a night before going back up river to Lawrenny to anchor off and go explore. On foot we followed the tidal river Cresswell, a tributary of the Cleddau which at high tide winds through the woods up to Cresswell Quay. On the way back we met Rob who had been joined by Ali for a few days to have a taster of life on a small boat. The winds were gusting up at this stage so we decided to head further up to Llangwm again where we anchored in the same spot. We all went for a walk along the network of bridal paths to Hook, enjoying the pastoral scenery along the way. Eventually our time up river came to an end and we went back to Neyland for a couple of days to await the arrival of Anne and others. Since the weather forecast was so bad, Christine decided to get her car so we could explore on four wheels. Anne brought Claire and Humberto on a late night ferry and we spent the weekend visiting Tenby and St David's while the winds remained high.
A weather window was starting to open so we headed to Dale for a relaxing last night in the Haven. We walked the path around St Anne's Head where the new crew had the opportunity to see the waters they would sail the following day. Obviously we had to have a pint or two in the Griffin Inn before a big meal on board. We were joined by Rob who had come down from upriver with a view to preparing to head off south. He had stayed in Llangwm when we went to the marina. I think he was glad to catch up and talk sailing, gadgets and travelling with the crew. The following morning, on light breezes we sailed out of the Haven and turned north to Jack Sound, a narrow gap between Skomer Island and the mainland where the tide races through. We got there just before slack water and had some overfalls and over 2 knots of tide against us for a short while. After that we motored through Ramsey sound and arrived to Fishguard at 7pm. The seas had turned glassy at this stage as the winds gently shifted from southerly to northerly that Rob needed to go south. We had a brief visit ashore for a pint and in the morning, after leaving Christine off to bus back to work, we headed off for Ireland. Initially, the winds were too light but after a couple of hours we set sail and were off. The seas were a little lumpy due to wind against tide but the solid wind kept us creaming along at a good lick. Getting closer to Ireland, the faded a bit as forecast and we motored the last 10 miles against a foul tide around Carnsore Point into Kilmore Quay after a 12 hour passage. We were all too tired to go to the pub but dinner onboard and a couple of glasses of wine was a good way to celebrate another successful crossing.
The next day a front was expected to pass and it was due to come in during the afternoon so we headed out at noon close hauled to catch the tide to round Hook Head. Humberto did a great job of steering close to the wind so we didn't have to tack on the lumpy seas being driven by the approaching front. We rounded with Claire on the helm and then were downwind to enter the Suir river just after low water to go up to Waterford. The wind was gusting 20-25 knots at this stage but up in the city the only issue was the 3 knots of tide which made berthing alongside interesting. Luckily, we had Anne on the helm and she did such a good job that we made her go around and do it all again with an audience.......
The next day was one for being tourists on land. Waterford is a city I don't know well but it was a good place to wander on foot with plenty of history to see. Lots of effort has been put in to appeal to tourists and the crew enjoyed ourselves for our time there. We did our shopping and laundry before heading back down river just as night fell, arriving in Dunmore East in the dark. For Anne, that was a good test as we had to pick our way between the bouys in the river before identifying the entrance to the harbour among all the lights around it. But Anne did a great job and soon had us moored safely alongside a large racing yacht. The next morning we were awoken at 6.30 as the yacht was heading off so we went off ourselves back around Hook Head. We were aiming to get to Rosslare so that Anne could get her car as she was heading home the following day. But the forecast gave wind coming from the northwest that night which is a dangerous direction for that harbour, so we ended up in Kilmore Quay again. As we had the whole day ahead of us, we decided to cycle to Anne's car instead on the folding bikes and drive the car back to Kilmore. It took Anne and I over an hour to get there, cycling along the quiet lanes off the beaten track. A lovely spin ! Claire and Humberto meanwhile had rented a couple of bikes themselves and did a spin of their own. We all ended up back onboard in plenty of time for a good feed to celebrate Anne's last night.
The following morning Anne was deposited ashore at 7.30 as we headed off ith a favorable forecast of westerly winds up to Arklow where we hoped to meet up with Gordon and Anne from Wild Irish Rose who I had first met in Bilbao all those years ago. They were heading back south after a couple of weeks in Ireland and I was looking forward to hooking up with them again and have a natter about travelling and living on board. They have been over 25 years onboard and have a lot to teach beginners like me. Anyway, we had downwind conditions for the first 8 miles to Carnsore Point. After that we were on cruising chute for a while before the wind rose. Then it was a succession of reefs in, reefs out, cruising chute up, then down...... Great conditions for learning about sail combinations. We arrived into Arklow in the sun just after the tide had turned and in perfect time to have a chat before dinner in a local pub for a change. The next day we headed to Wicklow close hauled in gusty conditions. There we met up again with Claire's friend Tony, an avid sea kayaker like her and had a bit of craic with dinner before heading the the Bridge Tavern for a couple of pints. Soon enough we were heading back towards Malahide again on light winds which we managed to sail for a bit before they died. And there it was another good trip done. We had hoped, Humberto and I, to sail on a bit more as he had a few days left, but with a poor forecast we went on the bike to Belfast, Derry and Donegal instead.
Once again a good summer on Suckin' Diesel. Who knows what the next one will bring ??????