What happened when cruising GP, Jonty Pearce, was struck down by ill health and left unable to sail


As a yachtsman there is nothing more frustrating than not being well enough to sail, especially if you are a doctor. Having had a small battle with a hernia that got stuck some two months ago, I was forbidden to enjoy my usual activities by the Indoor Dragon – this included a ban on sailing.

Reluctantly, I have to admit that she was right – hauling sail, winching, and hefting the anchor would have been beyond the bounds of medical common sense. So Aurial sat loved but unused while I waited for, and then endured, my operation. Fortunately, the inactive component of convalescence coincided with Wimbledon, but I still had cabin fever. Our planned early July cruise morphosed into an exploration of Wales by camper-van, ably chauffeured by Carol.

We started with a visit to Neyland to check all was in order with Aurial, and to wish Helen Haynes, our favourite nonagenarian chandler, a Happy Birthday. We went on to stay at Fishguard, a lovely little port that we have visited several times, before checking out two drying harbours that we have yet to sail into. The first was Newquay (the Welsh one) – a pretty little haven with lines of moorings sheltered by a stone pier and backing onto a picturesque and bustling village spilling down the hill. Carol fell in love with it, but an off-season visit might be quieter. A mere four miles up the coast lies the old port of Aberaeron with its narrow entrance opening up to a sheltered drying haven safely lined by stone harbour walls. As with many West coast harbours, caution needs to be exercised here when entering in any moderate sea or wind – the waves between the piers looked quite exciting. The town itself was idyllic with its houses laid out in a geometric plan and painted in bright colours reminiscent of Tobermory.

Drawn by the drowned forest of Cantref Gwaelod between Borth and Ynyslas, we spent a sunset at low tide pensively examining the 5000 year old stumps, roots, and forest floor exposed by last year’s storms. Impressive enough to hit the news and star in an episode of TV’s ‘Coast’, we stayed longer than planned which threw our supper plans awry. In the morning Carol had a yen to have a late breakfast in Aberdovey, a popular and genteel resort clinging to the north shore of the Dyfi estuary. Ignoring the pleasantly charming tourist attractions, I sought out the Harbourmaster for the low-down on yacht access. With three visitors mooring buoys, a harbour wall, and ample room for anchoring, the main challenge of this drying estuary is its bar. A Bar Buoy usually indicates the start of the buoyed channel, but its one ton concrete securing block was not considered sufficient for the conditions sometimes seen off the entrance, so the buoy currently resides on the hard awaiting a clutch of railway wheels. Again, this is not an entrance for onshore strong winds and swell, but is another place on Aurial’s visit list.

Finally, having checked out the welcoming harbours of Porthmadoc (still on our ‘to do’ list) and Caenarvon’s Victoria Dock, we crossed the Menai Bridge with its commanding view of the swirling Swellies far below before crossing into Anglesey for a few day’s chill overlooking Ligwy beach.

Illness may render you unable to sail, but don’t let it stop you planning and researching future trips. Meantime, bring on October – our next proper cruising week, though I shall keep all my fingers and toes crossed that the weather will co-operate!

Jonty Pearce