Spring is in the air, and with the boat back in its home berth, Jonty Pearce is feelikng ready for the season

Jonty Pearce: The daffodils are out, the lambs are prancing, and the sun is shining. Spring has sprung! Well, nearly, anyway, but it felt that way when we spent the morning enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast at Neyland’s Brunel Cafe. We sat outside basking in real hot sunshine, though in Spain they’d probably still be wearing fur coats. The whole marina had a sense of bustle and anticipation as trolleys trundled up and down the walkways; all that safely stored kit was returning to its rightful home. As I sipped my third cup of coffee I likened the scene to the vision of garden birds flitting to and fro laden with twigs and moss for their nests. I smiled, for our nest is back home where she belongs in the renovated Upper Basin.

Saturday had not been such a balmy day. Low cloud, mist, and drizzle developed into proper rain through the morning; a day for a slow breakfast before a visit to the wonderful Tim at Dyfed Electronics on Milford’s dockside. I do admit to buying a fair amount of kit on eBay, but my standards don’t drop to checking out chandlery in a shop while picking the proprietor’s brain before hitting the ‘Buy it now’ button back in the car. Local services need our custom, and I was delighted to do a deal with Tim that outshone any eBay bargain. When I drove my car across to leave it at Neyland before getting a lift back with Hutch he echoed my experience – he had just returned from Dale Sailing with a pair of Gill salopettes at less than internet prices. We both lauded local businesses for fighting back against the online menace. After a couple of coffees aboard Hutch’s Gwennol the rain eased enough to make a dash to the car, and by the time Hutch dropped me back at Milford the rain had all but ceased.

Aurial has been spending the winter at Milford Marina while Neyland replaced the piles in the Upper Basin. With the works now complete, the plan was to motor back round. We slipped our lines and entered the lock where, to my embarrassment, I promptly messed up lassoing the stern cleat right under the Pierhead. Carol rescued me by climbing ashore to take the stern line, and I reminded myself that after six months my skills were rusty. Concentrate, boy! Aurial behaved with impeccable manners as we rode the flood tide back to Neyland, and before we knew it she was neatly tied up in her old berth.

Looking around us the basin was filling back up with old friends. It had seemed bare and despondent when emptied; now the old camaraderie was returning, and we contentedly had a cup of tea as the buzzards mewed above the woods lining the pill. Milford was nice, but we were glad to be back. The new piles looked smart, and the pontoons spick and span. It was hard to imagine that each finger and pontoon had been removed, each pole lifted, and the basin dredged. The only real changes evident was the re-siting of the piles; the one that had edged our berth was now on the other side of the walkway. Chalk markings indicated its length – 17m! The pipes started off 25m long, and were cut back to length after being sunk into fresh silt to avoid the old holes. To prevent rusting, they were filled with fresh water before being sealed with welded caps. I wondered how long it would be before the water seeped out of the bottom by capillary action, but I’m sure the contractors know their job. Some of the piles only needed a metre or so cutting back; when the Lower Basin was done a few years ago one of the piles by the holding berth needed extra welding on, ending up more than 30m long! Neyland sees a huge tidal range – with a full moon the range is 6.5m. At the end of the month the equinoctial Spring range will be 7.3m. It is quite impressive to look up at the piles at low water, then reach up to touch the cap at high tide…

We drove home contented. Aurial was back home, I’d bought nice new electronics, changed the defunct bilge pump, and finished a few jobs. The leak repair I’d done on the previous visit was successful, and the aft cabin dry and warm. And I retire in just over a fortnight; bring on the season!


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