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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.