Wales and England (Part I) – Sailing from Ireland to the Mediterranean

11th of April of 2019. Myself, one Irish and an English lads slipped the lines on a dream trip sailing from Ireland to the Mediterranean. Thirst for adventure, fairly well stocked with booze, as confident as pirates who have sailed the 7 seas, as experienced as less than a thousand nautical miles altogether, off we went on an expedition across the Irish Sea: the lost boys of Neverland.

The boat was fully equipped (safety-wise) and upgraded (less than self-sufficient-wise) to what I would consider safe and enjoyable at the time. I would find out later that a 200L water tank runs out really fast with 3 people aboard and the cheap Chinese wind turbine was a worthless noisy spinning piece of shit.

First Stop: Caernarfon – Wales

Early start and radio check before heading out to sea.

An almost easy 12h crossing with some headwind forcing us a bit northerly than expected. Good to test the crew’s endurance and our capability of considering diverting to other ports on the fly. That diverting plan being for nothing since the wind died in the end and we just motored to our initially intended destination. It was almost dark already as we got to the entrance of the Menai Strait. The tides were low and we tossed a coin over the chart advise: “moving sand banks, the channel should not be used at any time other than 3 hours either side of high water and during suitable sea state conditions”. Since the sea state was very calm, the worst that could happen would be to run aground in 1.5m water and have to wait an hour or so to motor the remaining half an hour to the anchorage. Well, 1.9m is what we got on the sounder. Plenty of depth to reach the first lighthouse, turn to port, drop the hook and drink to our first successful passage.

Next Stop: Porthdinllaen – Wales

After a short visit to the city and castle in Caernarfon, we headed to Porthdinllaen beach, where we would be stuck initially with hopes that the famous Tŷ Coch Inn pub would throw a party and then due to strong winds on the next days. Plenty of time to play board games, drink and take our first seawater dip shower. A dip shower is one of the main strategies to save water on a boat. You basically jump on the water just to get wet and climb back. Then you scrub yourself and jump back again to wash. Finally you rinse the salt water with fresh water. There you go, a shower with only a liter of fresh water!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwM2ls3I82w

All was great, until it wasn’t…

One of the nights anchored half sheltered from strong winds and the boat swinging all over, one of the guys that I won’t name on this blog, drank too much. It was a Monday as I recall at about 10:00pm. I was in my cabin ready to sleep, the other crew, Jordan (great lad by the way) was outside on the phone and the-one-that-must-not-be-named rises from his cabin trying to move still but bouncing all over. Noticeably drunk, out he goes to the cockpit. Guess for what? To pee overboard. What a genius. On those conditions, if it wasn’t for Jordan and myself rushing from my cabin to grab him, he’d be overboard. At night. Drunk. Gusting 25+ knots. Boat swinging more than 100°. 13°C water. I didn’t sleep that night while my mind digested the situation: First week in and one of my crew is half helpful and half worse than useless, a risk! My other crew, very smart and 150% reliable. Even a better sailor than me I’d find sometimes. Balance is achieved. Still I feel very uncomfortable with the other crew that, believe it or not, has other problems including very bad smell.

We had a talk the next morning and things got back to ‘normal’.

Next Stop: Pwllheli – Wales

Easy 40nm passage and top speed of 11knots on Bardsey sound with ~6 knots current. Couldn’t believe when I saw the GPS speed. Right after the sound there was the Devil’s Ridge on the chart that got us worried but the sea state was alright in the end and we passed through just fine tacking across.

Getting inside Pwllheli marina was an easy ride on the right tide even after forgetting the mainsail fully up. Oops. There was practically no wind at the time and we quickly took it down.

Pwllheli wasn’t much of a nice town to be honest. We did some shopping and on the way back Jordan creeped on a woman with her kid to ask her how to pronounce Pwllheli haha. She looked a bit scared like: “What are these guys up to?” then she said: “pool-heli” while getting hold of her child. There you go, Pwllheli, funny welsh name that means salt-water pool.

Back to the marina, we took our first proper shower since the start of the trip and bought some boat parts on the chandlery early next morning before setting sail to Fishguard.

By a huge coincidence, my sailing instructor from Ireland was making a boat delivery from Pwllheli to Fishguard next day! He found our boat on the slip and came to say hi. If it wasn’t for the chandlery early next morning we could have raced to Fishguard! Like we stood a chance against a professional on a 40 footer.

Next Stop: Fishguard – Wales

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwXvjNjoZm6

The passage to Fishguard was great, Dolphins followed the boat for the first time and we had loads of fun hanging out the boom downwind.

It was practically night when we arrived at the anchorage where we managed to spot my instructor’s boat and dropped the hook nearby to say hi.

After that we noticed that our anchor light wasn’t working which required us to climb the mast next day to fix. We had to climb the mast many times over the next weeks by the way. Luckily I had the equipment! Big thanks to Sergio from SV Glue Trip who taught me the ropes of going up the mast with the Prusik knot technique back in Ireland. Jordan also happened to be a climber himself and helped a lot going up a few times.

Quick stop to talk about problems…

They happen all the time! Read again slowly: ALL THE TIME! First was the anchor light, then the headsail halyard and furling system (will come back to that later) and finally the wind speed sensor that got stuck and wouldn’t spin. That alone was a battle that required us going up the mast multiple times before we decided taking the sensor apart and doing a proper job cleaning the bearing and soaking it on WD-40. I also managed to break it on the process and had to glue it up with epoxy. Works perfectly to this day!

And that was just up the mast. Next stop plumbing leaks.

Dinghy out the locker, pumped it up and rowed to shore. Was a bit of a hassle to find a safe place for the dinghy and also close enough to the water since the tides were still going down at the time. It was even worse to come back at low water. We basically had to drag the dinghy for a couple hundred meters before reaching the water again.

Fishguard was a beautiful little town, specially the lower town.

In the meantime, after friends and family sharing my expedition, I was contacted by a newspaper in Italy called Il Telegrafo Livorno. They asked me a few questions and pictures and a couple days later there was it. They published a huge photo of my face stamped on the front page! I couldn’t believe my eyes when they sent me the picture. I was smiling and pinching myself for a week. The dream was as real as ever.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwZmES0luTN

Next Stop: Skomer Island – Wales

Done with Fishguard we decided to go on our first night passage to Skomer Island, a bird sanctuary where we could spot the famous Puffin bird.

Beautiful night, full moon on the sky and light head winds. We could smell bird shit from miles away coming from the island. At about 01:00am we anchored on the south bay. Felt amazing to wake up with the sound of the birds and that view…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwcE7RMB564

We went to the other side anchorage next day hoping to go on the island but were told over the radio that the fee to get in was only payable by cash and none of us had money except on card – 1st world problems #sadface – so we left.

Worried about timing we ended skipping Milf Heaven Milford Haven to get to Cardiff and Bristol faster and aimed for Caldey Island to anchor for the night. Dropped the hook, reversed to set the anchor and bang! The engine noise before dying. We had reversed on our fishing line. Oops. Fortunately we had a wetsuit, diving mask, a good knife and a highly motivated Jordan excited to dive in and clear the propeller saving the day.

Next Stop: Cardiff – The Bristol Channel

The Bristol Channel was a big surprise. It boasts the second highest tidal range in the world at between 12 and 14 meters! (highest is at the Bay of Fundy in Canada with 16 meters). Can you picture a 14 meters depth pool empty? Now imagine a whole channel cycling between empty and full every 6 hours. You just can’t fight that current and need to plan well your passage. The water also gets super muddy and I gave up the idea of drinking a shot of sea water to celebrate my first thousand nautical miles. Dark rum did the job though.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwetWWOFybd

We got there at high water late afternoon and called the lock controllers over the radio and were assigned a bay to lock in. Once inside we called the marina that was already booked and were assigned a berth to dock.

Cardiff Marina was really nice! They have a bar with a beegarden perfect for a sunset beer. Cardiff city night out on the hand wasn’t very nice at all. Maybe it was the day or the time, I don’t know. Lots of drunk and weird people on the streets. The bars were kind of empty and had a heavy atmosphere. As it is said in Ireland: no craic! We were fast to leave that city to Bristol next day.

BRISTOL! – England

Bristol was just amazing and holds the post of favourite city of the trip. Just to get there is an adventure on its own! From getting down the Avon River on the right tide, passing by the famous Portishead, past under the Avonmouth Bridge before the iconic Victorian Clifton Suspension Bridge and into the first lock, then watching two swinging bridges having traffic stopped so you can pass through and finally into the city right by a beer garden being greeted by people drinking and waving at you as a welcome sign. You can literally park your boat in front of a pub for a drink! How epic is that?

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwnC1yGlC3K

The city has loads of nice restaurants and bars, the unmissable St Nicholas Market, a great chandlery: Force 4 and a hardware/building materials store: Wickes where I bought a hose, some ptfe tape and a couple aluminium strips to make a stronger support for the solar panel.

I also got to visit friends and collect a new solar mppt charge controller that they kindly received and stored for me. Thanks Tom and Julia! Jordan’s auntie also came over for some tea time and gave us a bottle of rum as a gift. Thanks Judith! Straight to the wall of good memories!

Then a storm was forecast for the next days and we had to wait for it to pass before heading out. Loads of time to walk around and do nothing! Quick note about the facilities for boaters in Bristol. They seemed very poor. At least the ones we saw.

Next Stop: Lundy Island – England

The plan to get out of the Bristol channel was to split the trip in two from Bristol to Lundy Island so we wouldn’t fight the currents head on. The options were limited and we decided to anchor outside Cardiff, east of Flat Holm. Seems only doable in neaps but still about 2 knots of current at its peak. Not very advisable to be honest but still doable on good weather and calm sea. The other option was to get inside Cardiff marina again and pay another night but we would still lose a lot of time.

The second leg of the passage was rainy and with very light winds. We tried flying the spinnaker for the first time but the wind was just too weak so we were mostly motoring. Then in the middle of the channel we heard a familiar sudden bang as the engine died again. We had ran over a thick yellow rope adrift that went straight to the prop. Took us a few seconds to notice it dragging behind the boat. It was very cold and soon to be dark and the sea state was a bit rolly at the time. There was nowhere to anchor nearby, no wind and the current would eventually turn back on us. It was my turn to wear the wetsuit and save the day. I cut a piece of the rope and stuck to the wall of memories.

After that it was smooth motoring til Lundy Island where we dropped the hook for the night. Lundy is one of my favourite Island of the trip. It is like a big farm and bio researching reserve with a beautiful landscape. Full of birds, soey sheep, goats, poneis, highland cattle and many more animals.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw49kIqA_HQ

We stayed there only for a day and set sail originally to Port Isaac. That was our first attempt to not rely on the engine if the wind died and planned to stay under sails only for the whole night if needed. Was very tedious to sail at 2knots. Then the wind picked up head on and we diverted to Port Quinn Bay where we could safely anchor at night. We couldn’t see anything at all and were basically relying on the GPS. After almost run over a few lobster pods, we made it safely into the bay and dropped the hook at about 5m depth.

Next Stop: Padstow – England

We knew there was some strong winds coming next days and the River Camel was our best shelter. Only a few issues though. The tides dry most of the channel and the only anchorable spaces in front of Padstow were full of mooring buoys, none being available to visitors. The marina was an option but we were on a budget trying to save money and would rather spend on beer. We found a spot and dropped the hook. For our surprise, we were charged to anchor! The harbour master came to us, really nice guy by the way, and after a long explanation about history and bay ownership, we were charged a symbolic fee of 40 pounds for the week. Still way cheaper than the marina that would be easily about 35 pounds a night!

Padstow was the biggest example of the “ups and downs of sailing”. The Ups usually feels like the best days of your life and the Downs feels like you wished those days never happened.

We arrived on 1st of May, by coincidence the best day of the year to be there all thanks to the May Day ‘Obby ‘Oss Festival. A folk festival where everyone was dressed up on this white sailors uniform with either a red or blue scarf and ribbon in reference to the ‘Oss. Red known as Old Oss and Blue known as Peace Oss. Streets packed with people dancing, playing the accordion and drums, singing along and drinking beers. Perfect occasion for a good old pub crawling. What a blast we had! The weather was just perfect, sunny and warm. A rare taste of summer on these latitudes and season.

Motivated by the bad weather coming and my decision to sit there longer, we had a drunk open talk about comfort zone and when we should sail. The guys were keen to get out on strong winds, which is 22+ knots in my dictionary, and I compared them to recently deployed soldiers craving for action at war. They wanted a fight with the sea. In my head that wasn’t sensible at all. How one could enjoy cold wind, salt water spray that feels like cutting your face, bashing waves, hearing all those harsh noises that resonate as “this is not right” (at least in my head), battling a heavier rudder, a boat heeling to the deck and things falling and breaking inside, feeling sea sick and increasing the chance of having to solve problems that you didn’t even know that could happen in the first place but now on harder conditions? NOT ME!

I get it that they wanted to see it for themselves, after all how could they face that infamous “Have you ever been on a storm” question that every non sailor asks? But I was a novice sailor on a cruising dream with a heavy captain’s hat of responsibility and a tourist heart. Don’t judge me, I’ve been on a storm with 4+ meter waves, some even crashing on the boat during my skipper course. Then on strong winds single handed to the Isle of Man and back with a broken autopilot. And after 6 months sailing practically on a daily basis, trust me, I’ve been there, several times! It’s not pleasant or remotely fun. It’s sadism if you say you enjoy it. I heard a joke once that a man liked to use shoes 2 numbers smaller than his feet just to feel the pleasure of taking them off after a long day of work… I like sunshine, a nice breeze, new places, sunsets, fresh fish and cold beer!

Jokes a part, seamanship is an art and there are all types of sailors on every port. Know who you are!

Back to our dinghy dried out in mud and with an audience hoping they had a reason to laugh at us, we managed to drag it back to the water and motor back to the boat.

All was great, until it wasn’t… AGAIN!

A night or two later, 02:00 am and I heard a bang! Something hit us I thought (or we hit something). I woke up, opened my hatch on the bow and looked around. There was this green and red lights and somebody walking on the back. We were still anchored I could tell. I thought it was one of the guys outside at the time. Then I looked back inside and Jordan was just about to open the companionway board. It probably took me a full minute as I climbed out to the deck to realise that there was another sailboat that hit us and got attached side by side and the person walking was the skipper on the deck of his boat. Still a bit half asleep and confused, I asked him: “Did you drag anchor or was it us?”. He just said: “I don’t know”. We assessed the situation which was: He was single handed and has drifted with the wind and current, hit us and his spinnaker pole tied to his deck and sticking the tip out was stuck to my boat’s stanchion preventing him from drifting further.

What really happened that night? I still don’t know to this day. Me and Jordan helped him out and freed the pole stuck to the stanchion and he just went adrift down the river with the current and wind. Didn’t even say sorry. All I know is the name of the boat “Just For Now” because his AIS was broadcasting at the time. Also because of a small yellow paint mark that was left on my boat matching a yellow hulled boat found moored at the marina next day. Guilty!

Back inside there was a Mr You-Sure-Know, throwing up on the heads for earlier having drank 2 bottles of wine on his own and mumbling words.

Imagine my brain boiling in a feeling that I can’t even name. That event could have been a disaster. The other boat could have punched a hole on our hull, could have dragged us onto other boats, or onto land running aground and falling to the side and taking water, specially due the strong winds and current, and there was him, not only unhelpful but in need to be minded again.

Luckily the problem was sorted easily and nothing major really happened but that was the last straw. You-know-who needed to go.

I put my head back to sense and wrote down all the reasons I had for “kicking him out” (there was quite a few) and came with a sensible plan for the next morning: “We are heading to Falmouth over the next 10 days or so where it should be easier for you to find another boat and for me to find another crew.”

If only you knew me personally you’d know how hard it was for me do that. I am as ‘diplomatic’ and sensible as possible and I always try to avoid conflict. But that was my dream trip and it wasn’t working for me.

Imagine the atmosphere on the boat for the next days.

Jordan played a very good part in trying to improve the mood aboard but we only hit rock bottom of that “down” later on that same day. We decided going fishing with the new equipment we bought in Padstow and the plan was interrupted by a bilge full of water. About 150 L or precisely all we had left on the freshwater tank. That was all on me. We had this annoying small leak on the fresh water line that I tried to fix and did a lousy job. The hose got disconnected while we were sailing and an always-on electric water pump did the rest bringing us to that. We had a bilge to dry and only a few spare water bottles left. Back to the anchorage.

That day felt like 2020 alone. PUN

Next Stop: Newquay – England

Newquay is a drying harbour and the entrance was quite challenging, not only because of the strong wind and waves at the time but also because there was a bunch of people on 2 ribs (from the rowing club maybe) paddling viciously into the sea fighting the waves head on, right in front of the harbour entrance. To make things worse, one of them capsized and all of a sudden they were all over the place floating on their vests. I was already hanging there fighting the waves myself, waiting for a chance to get in, and now I was worried that one of them would come under the boat! After a few long minutes keeping distance and driving in circles, they cleared up and we had our window to get in. That was one of those stressful moments that things could have gone really bad really fast. A lot of people looking at us from the harbour, I was standing with firmed feet apart and steady at the helm: “I got this!”. Nice and steady, timing the waves and adjusting the angle I motored through the narrow entrance that offered little margin for error and things were way calmer inside. I asked the guys to set the fenders to port where it seemed more sheltered to dock on the East wall instead of the North wall that we planned initially.

As we tied the lines, we were greeted by the friendliest fisherman ever that were very jealous of us when we said we were heading the to Scilly Isles. “Ohhhh take us with you!”. The people was so friendly and the day was so nice that we decided to dry dock Neverland on the wall and stay for the night.

Dry docking on a wall can be tricky, specially if the sea is not 100% flat. There was still a little bit of swell coming inside the harbour and I had to spend the night waking up every hour looking after the lines so the boat wouldn’t hit the wall and also chafe the port shroud. To dry dock, you basically tie a halyard somewhere on land and keep the boat leaning just the right amount into the wall so you don’t chafe the shrouds nor lean over the wrong side which would be a total disaster. I also like to add filled water containers on the bow when the bottom is not flat (like on a slip) to make sure the boat sits nicely on its keel and doesn’t fall backwards. And make sure your keel can stand the boat!

That is what dry docking looks like. Picture was taken when I was cleaning and painting the bottom between tides.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Buli4nmgYDz

Next Stop: Sciliy Isles – The English Caribbean

Our passage to the Scillies was definitely one of the nicest with a beautiful weather. Except that our headsail collapsed all of a sudden like a dead tree. Timber! Quickly killed the engine and pulled the sail back aboard. The halyard had failed due to a problem with the top furler swivel that was chafing it. We simply connected the other front halyard for the moment hoisted it back and kept going. See how life is easier on good weather?

Finished our way into St Mary’s bay, tied to a mooring, dinghy on the water and off to land!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxIbfT6Fbxl

We arrived there on Cinco de Mayo (you have to drink a tequila if you know what it means), the last day of a rowing championship and everyone was having a blast singing sailing shanties! And so were us pub crawling. As we say in Ireland: GREAT CRAIC!

Even on our way back while trying to get the outboard to start we ended up meeting these lads, drunker than us, searching for their boat. One of the guys, a self proclaimed marine engineer that couldn’t spot a fuel hose disconnected from the tank, tried to help with no success. After a few tries I got it working myself. Anyway, I had to invite them for more drinking aboard Neverland! Back to the boat, as we all hopped aboard, Jordan got a grip on the swimming ladder that wasn’t properly secured and back he felt into the water with the ladder. Our first man overboard! We were laughing for hours till late night.

With that classic hangover we got up next day to some bacon and eggs and a Guinness, because why not? One of the guys had crashed on the saloon for the night and got back to land with us, never to be seen again haha. He was a resident at the island as I recall. Can’t remember his name.

We went cliff diving after that and then the weather just went to shite. Storm after storm. We couldn’t even explore the other islands. Even moored sheltered the swell wouldn’t let me sleep for a few days and I was settled to sleep on a marina on our next stop: Penzance.

Next Stop: Penzance and Falmouth – End of part I

The Irishman Jordan also had plans of buying his own boat with his best friend back in Belfast – one of the reasons he almost didn’t come on this trip back then. So he was flying to Greece from Penzance. When we left the Scillies we were all on a good bye mood.

We arrived at the marina, tied the lines, Jordan got his bag packed, hopped off, big hug, good luck and good bye “We shall meet again at some port around the world”.

Went for a walk and a beer in town, got back and finally got a proper night of sleep in days.

I left to Falmouth next day where the-other-crew also disembarked shortly after, never to be heard or seen again. No hug. Adios!

Well that’s it. The end of a long and intense chapter. An experience of a lifetime in only 30 days. So much I learned. So much I still had to go through… The lost boys crew was disbanded. I was alone. So I did what any other sailor would do. Got the chart back on the table. I had the English Channel ahead.

NEXT POST: France and Spain…

You can follow Jordan’s own adventures here!

More pictures…

We crossed the Irish Sea to Wales!

4th of August 2018. Only two months after Neverland was bought we started what was going to be the greatest adventure of our lives: Crossing the Irish sea to Wales!

Land Ho! Official crew picture after crossing the Irish Sea. – Wall of good memories

7am we met at the entrance of Dun Laoghaire Marina. Julius and Benjamin (two German guys who I met at a VHF Radio course) with two heavy bags of provisions that they self tasked themselves to bring. We had all the sailing plan discussed already and set sail shortly after we got to the boat.

The Germans were in charge of all the cooking and they even had a menu for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner! Impressive.

The Plan

The plan was pretty simple:

Day 1 – Sail to Wales (Porthdinllaen) and anchor there for the night. – Have Pub will Party!
Day 2 – Sail to Caernarfon (Victoria Dock) and explore the city by foot. – Play Settlers of Catan after.
Day 3 – Get back to Dublin. Alive. – That was the basic condition for the trip.

The Roles

Captain – Moi! Arthur: I make decisions aboard, keep the boat afloat, everybody safe, make sure we have what we need (or could need), plot the course, navigate, fly the drone, day drink and steer the boat of course.

Crew 1 and 2 – Benjamin and Julius and vice versa: operate the lines, sheets, winches, steer the boat, lookout for wild ocean life, fish (they fished a seagull), talk in German on my back (die arschloch), keep the kettle on and cook.

And after a week preparing the boat, fuel, fresh water tank, wine supply and board games we were good to go.

Day 1 – Dublin to Porthdinllaen

7:20 we started the engine, slipped the lines and made our way out of the harbour on a course of 112 degrees on the compass. We had the sails up but the wind was so light that we decided to take them down and motor. To be honest, we basically motored all the way to Porthdinllaen which, by the way, I still don’t know how to pronounce =/.

Half an hour on course and we started our breakfast on the cockpit, autopilot on and a sea so calm that was looking like a mirror.

Breakfast: Cereal, peaches, bananas and milk while at sea. Perks of an autopilot.

And that would continue for 12 hours of us taking turns on the wheel, sleeping, munching on snacks, sipping on coffee and appreciating the wild life that would eventually show their faces (or fins and tails). It was clear to me that sailing was a lazy experience that makes you want to lay down, relax and appreciate the small things that happens around you, like the sun shinning or a dolphin swimming by.

A sea so flat that its almost boring to steer…

5 hours into the sea and there was no more land on sight on any direction. It was the first time to experience that on a boat and it was alright you know? No fear, no tension or surprise, after all the plotter was showing land behind and ahead of us and we knew we were on the right course. It was a bit boring actually so we were always trying to do something to pass the time.

"-Dude, do you want a kitkat? I can get one there for you..."

We tried casting a couple lures with the fishing rod and after 2 hours without fish, we saw a shinning line passing the boat on starboard and we were like “WTF? is the boat turning into the fishing line or something?” then we saw a seagull flying by trying to get rid of something and realized that she had decided to invest on our lure and got entangled on it, so we slowed the boat and turned into the poor bird to help it. Luckily she got rid of it on its on leaving only a feather on the hook.

During the next few hours we saw a baby whale, some seals, a ton of jelly fish (some were the size of a car wheel!), loads of lobster pods that felt like a mine field and some trash floating around unfortunately.

And then… Land Ho!

Such a nice feeling to see land again…

Benjamin was the first to spot land in between the clouds on the horizon (we thought it was just clouds to be honest haha). After an hour or so it was clear that we have spotted Wales. It actually looks very close when you see it, but takes about 4 hours to get actually there.

20:00 we arrived at the anchorage area, found a spot in between other boats, set the anchor, had a shot of some heavy vodka the Germans brought and said a few words to celebrate, took a picture, had some quality dinner, poorly inflated the dinghy, attached the heavy outboard motor, learned to start it on the fly and went on shore to party! Phew… Did we need a pint of beer!

Getting to shore, four super dodgy junkie looking like lads out of the trainspotting film cast, beer on the hands, came by to say hi and ask where we were from. We pointed to the water and said kind of laughing: “From Ireland mates. We just crossed the sea on our boat”. They were like “Wow. Can we go to the boat?” Feck no!

So we dragged the dinghy up the beach safe from the tide and made our way to the pub. I kept an eye on the dinghy at all times.

It was almost night already when we hit Tŷ Coch Inn, a small pub in front of the beach (rated as one of the top 10 beach bars in the world according to some random blogger). They had a few welsh ale beers on tap that were pretty nice. Outside there was a DJ playing on a tent and while making our way through the people doing the floss dance, a local welsh stopped and looked at us: “-Excuse me! I am flossing like a motherf***er!” – his words I swear – and went back to flossing. We found an empty spot and stopped there to drink.

Wasn’t that busy at this time YET!

Few pints later and loads of chatting with the locals it was time to get back to the boat. There was only one problem, it was pitch dark and we couldn’t see more than 5 meters away. We had an idea of where the boat was. Sort of. So (luckily?) we found the boat, tied up the dinghy and called it a day. And what a day!

But not before noticing the sky. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life! The sky was absolutely clear and I opened my hatch and kept staring at it… Drunk of course..

Day 2 – Porthdinllaen to Caernarfon

"Good moooorning vietnam!"
One of the best feelings in the world: waking up on a new anchorage on a day like this.

Morning swim in cold water, breakfast, outboard engine and dinghy back in the locker, pull up the anchor and we were ready to go.

We tried calling and radioing Victoria Dock with no response, so we tried our luck and set sail hoping there would be a berth there for us. A gate schedule was in place due to the tides so we left on time before mid day.

3 hours later we were at the entrance of the channel. The charts (Navionics) were reporting extremely shallow spots when in fact the whole channel between the red and green buoys were absolutely fine all the way to Victoria Dock. 1 hour up the channel and we were there: Caernarfon (kær nar vin – this I know how to pronounce).

We entered Victoria Dock at about 3PM and surprisingly found an easy spot to park the boat. Tied the lines and went to the office to check in with the harbour master. “Can we get some fuel as well?” “Sure. You are already on the fuel pontoon anyway. You’ll have to move after.” It was too easy to be true right? But then a boat right in front of us left and we just dragged the boat out of the fuel pontoon. Easy after all.

"Hurry up. Let's go see the Castle before it closes!"

The day was stunning and the streets were busy as we went to Caernarfon Castle, a construction that started on the 12th century and was full of history including some references to King Arthur. The castle was beautiful and had walls around protecting the small town inside. The adult ticket for the castle was £9.50 at the time. Totally worthy.

After the castle, we walked around the town within the walls and then went to Ben Twthill. 10 minutes walking from town, the hill had an amazing view of the whole city and we also had some time to fly the drone from there.

Popped back down to the city to have a beer at the Black Boy Inn, a hotel/restaurant/pub dated back to the 15th century! We didn’t have any food, just a couple of beers at the pub. The staff there was super nice and friendly. The short ceiling was covered in notes of cash from different countries so Julius left a random Nepalese note. The bartender thought for a second that he was trying to pay for the beers with that money, but she quickly understood it was a contribution for the pub walls.

Back to Victoria Dock we went for a shower which was insanely hot by the way, I was boiling red when I looked in the mirror. I recon it is a big issue in Ireland as well. They have an individual tap for each and its usually too hot or too cold.

So… the touristic part of the trip was over at this point so when we got back to the boat we were already in a goodbye mood. So we sat down in the saloon one last time and played Settlers of Catan over some wine. Quick tip: do NOT play this game with Germans. I lost of course.

After the game we called it a day and left most of the things ready to set sail early next day.

Day 3 – Caernarfon to Dublin

Spoiler alert: We made it! Alive!

6:30 in the morning was the time set by the harbour master to open the gate. We topped up the fresh water tank and left Victoria Dock along with 2 other boats. One of them was heading to Ireland as well (Howth) so we used him as reference until he was gone in the horizon. #beaten

The current inside the channel was a bit strong plus the wind against it and some annoying waves were formed. 1 hour up the channel and we were back at the open sea. Sails up and 7 to 8 knots of speed to begin the crossing! (this is like over top speed for my boat that has a cruising speed of 5.5 knots) In fairness the wind was very favourable to us on our beam and we managed to sail back all the way to Dublin with 5+ knots with no hassle.

A few hours into the sea and we saw a British jet doing loops above us an even low passes on the horizon. Then dolphins followed us for a while (sadly we didn’t get them on camera) and we also spotted some other random stuff floating like lobster pods and sadly some trash.

12 hours of crossing and we were back inside Dun Laoghaire harbour, sails down, park the boat, tie the lines, have another shot of vodka, few words, a proud feeling in the chest and that was the end of a great adventure that we’ll surely remember and tell stories for the rest of our lives.

Thanks lads for such an amazing trip!

Wales Trip Gallery

Check Ben’s Instagram his pictures are awesome!

Next adventure: Solo sailing to the Isle of Man.