With COVID-19 restrictions now easing, Jonty Pearce and his wife Carol cruise locally in south Wales - their first time on the water for eight months!
An inspection of Aurial’s log reminded me that our last actual sail had been in September, and even on that trip we had not left the safe and sheltered confines of the Milford Haven waterway in Wales.
Carol and I therefore found it an absolute treat to be able to drive ‘the pretty way’ across mid Wales to Neyland with an eager strong anticipation of being able to raise the sails again.
We crossed from England into Wales without anxieties of having to face the Taffia Welsh Border Guards; lockdown had at last ended and Carol had, after a gap of 5 months, at last been able to visit her mother in her Aberdare nursing home.
Although the sun was almost warm a northerly wind had a real bite to it as my cold fingers struggled to feed the sprayhood into its groove and fumbled to tie the spray dodgers on again.
Finally all was ready; everything seemed to work, and the only victim of the winter gales was the 18-year-old lazy jack sail covers; the zips, stitching, and material all agreed that a few repairs would no longer cut the mustard.
The nice team at Crusader Sails sent me the measuring templates and a very reasonable quote for the two sail covers – oh, the joys of ketch ownership.
In the morning as the tide fell fair we left our upper basin berth and motored over the cill and out of Neyland, heading down tide past the tanker zone to Dale.
The wind was fitful and the sails sometimes needed a bit of help from the engine, but it was fabulous to be on the water at last.
In fact, we got so deeply into the groove that we ignored Dale and aimed for the open sea and, passing St Ann’s Head lighthouse, set course for Skomer Island.
Unfortunately, the adverse current in Broad Sound meant that to make any progress we had to motorsail, but we reached South Haven in good time for a late lunch to wait for Jack Sound’s Spring tide rush to go slack.
Relaxing in the cockpit, our attention was split between sleeping in the warm sun, eating, and admiring the profuse avian activity while the mournful bark of the seals echoed out of their caves.
When the allotted time was right Jack Sound was quiescent, but the northerly wind was blowing straight from Solva.
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After a couple of chilly hours crossing St Brides Bay under power we slipped past The Mare, left St Elvis’s Rock to port, and entered Solva’s Pool just as the tide had risen enough to pick up a visitor’s mooring.
The Eberspacher went on as Carol cooked supper and I warmed up with a whisky – bliss.
In the morning a gentle but chill wind was still blowing from astern; it is times like this that I bless our cockpit tent.
Once erected, it felt tropical as I sat in ‘the sun room’ with a coffee waiting (as usual) for Carol to surface.
Once the tide had duly left Aurial dry we climbed down and tracked down Anthony the harbour master to pay our 2 nights dues plus a night I still owed him from 2019.
My guilty feelings assuaged, we treated ourselves to a tasty lunch and cider on the café balcony and watched the dog walkers threading their way through the beached boats on their way to the sea.
We wandered round the village before settling back aboard as the tide returned.
Next morning the timing to leave Solva and get straight through Jack Sound was perfect; up went the sails and we goosewinged our way across St Brides Bay before reaching along Broad Sound to St Ann’s Head.
Watwick Bay was sheltered and calm, so the hook went down for lunch.
It was just as well I dug it in deep as in no time friends Hutch and Norry motored up to tie up to our starboard side while The Bos and Janet hitched up to port.
Out came the Pimms and other liquids and we relished talking increasing nonsense in the warm sun till it was time to head back up to Neyland and an excellent communal supper.
We could almost imagine that life had returned to normal in Wales – especially as the wind and rain lashed the May Bank Holiday for our drive home. Happy days!