Sailing again at last! Jony Pearce relishes his first proper cruise of the season visiting some nearby anchorages in Wales

We are just back from our outing of the season – it was indescribably lovely to be sailing again.

After the longest period ever left unchecked, Aurial was in remarkably good order, an impression unexpectedly shared by Carol.

Her standards of housekeeping are rather higher than mine.

The inevitable old boat minor niggles were present.

A couple of drips from leaking windows, a tint of green on the cream sprayhood and cockpit tent.

But, despite not knowing that I would not be back for nearly four months, I had fortunately left the dehumidifier on, the saloon blackout curtains clipped on, and bowls under possible drip sites.

On letting the light in, she was bright, clean, and smelt fresh as a daisy.

Carol and I stowed the mass of kit and food we’d brought with us, and settled in.

With the forecast anticipating one nice day before a windy wet one, we elected to stay on our berth whilst spring cleaning and refitting spray dodgers and general deck kit.

Carol even cleaned the fenders – well, most of them, anyway.

Friends Hutch and Norry arrived to launch Octara after her protracted windscreen replacement; on Dale Sailing’s close inspection it emerged that the most likely cause of the broken screen was the result of an unseen (and unreported) marina collision rather than the previously presumed flying debris – bent guard rails are damning evidence. It was nice to see them, catch up on news, and later see Octara finally afloat.

Sailing again at last

When the weather had settled, we departed on the evening tide to dry out in Sandy Haven for the night.

The peace and solitude swept over us like a warm comfort blanket as we sipped Pimms in the cockpit.

But the highlight of the day was a clear midnight view of Comet Neowise as it headed northwards followed by its trail of sparks, easily visible by the naked eye. Not a treat you see every day.

When the receding tide had left Aurial high and dry on her sandbank next morning I scraped the few winter barnacles off her Coppercoated bottom, changed the anode, and cleaned the propeller.

We walked the beach and popped in to see Pat and George whose enviable house guards the entrance to the creek.

It was so idyllic we stayed another night before leaving on the early morning tide to have breakfast at Watwick Bay beach.

We tried to sail to Skomer but had to end up hoisting the iron topsail when the wind died.

Skomer’s South Haven was the usual avian paradise where we admired speeding puffins flying round the cove before popping into their burrows.

Kittiwakes and guillemots joined the puffin throng while chuffs prowled the upper cliffs.

Intermittent ‘white rain’ from overhead puffins finally drove us under away to motor right up the Cleddau River to Llangwm – another favourite anchorage.

The Pimms and comet were repeated, though the morning dawned cool and grey.

Continues below…

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We tinkered aboard until an early evening return to our Neyland Yacht Haven berth.

While our days aboard sailing again sound relaxing, they were not free of issues.

On arrival the main heads Blake seacock had stiffened up through under use – I stripped and greased it in Sandy Haven.

We had electronic glitches with the autopilot and heading displays (turn it off and turn it on again).

An old manifold on a yacht

The core plug recess on Aurial‘s engine manifold had corroded. Credit: Jonty Pearce

The on-board stereo set had a hiccup but recovered spontaneously, and I failed to raise both friends and Milford Haven Coastguard with my recently installed VHF radio.

I suspect that the latter issue was due to pilot error as I don’t think I slid the cover hiding the numerical keys all the way back; my failure to do so neatly obscured the microphone.

I’ve removed the cover now, but not after running a new heavy-duty power cable to the unit… all seems ok now.

More seriously, a routine check revealed both the locking and securing nuts of the propshaft stuffing box lying in the bilge.

I obviously failed to tighten them adequately after renewing the graphited cord at the end of last season.

a new engine manifold

The new engine manifold. Credit: Jonty Pearce

A new pair of bespoke bent spanners promptly overcame the problem of the bad access previously preventing proper nipping up of the nuts.

And finally, just coming under the Cleddau Bridge into Neyland a core plug popped out of the engine’s raw water-cooling exhaust manifold.

Bless it, the 41-year old Bukh 36 plodded on home without hesitation or overheating, and the automatic bilge pump easily coped.

Fortunately, enough water still passed into the exhaust to prevent the pipe melting.

Within 20 hours John Page from Marine Enterprises had found me a mint secondhand manifold – the core plug recess on the old one had corroded to near non-existence with signs of old leakage and sealant.

Guess what I’ll be doing next weekend… looks like going sailing again will have to wait a bit longer