Jonty Pearce toasts the start of the season and enjoys a blissful Bank Holiday sail in his latest blog
As we we drove into Neyland Marina on Friday night the first thing I noticed was that all the stored boats had been moved from the car park – a sure sign that the sailing season is upon us. OK, looking out over the moorings in the Haven and at the Lawrenny Yacht Station buoys on Saturday there was a conspicuous paucity of boats so maybe it is still too early in the season for anyone bar marina dwellers. We had found Aurial back on her usual berth, now attached to the strongest pontoon in Neyland replete with new piles, renovated walkways, and held together with new bolts. I’m sure that all the other pontoons will soon reach our standard – the old piles were surplus gas pipes from when the oil terminal was built and some 30+ year old welds had failed underwater in the winter gales. The marina plan is to replace all of them in an ongoing renovation and upgrade program. Most of the berths are now occupied again, so there must have been some pressure to complete the repairs – an empty pontoon means a couple of dozen berths unavailable to their usual occupiers.
Saturday dawned clear and warm. Not that we saw the dawn – we had arrived late at night accompanied by Puffball the embryonic boat cat so did not emerge till mid morning. After a quick shop for provisions, I checked all the boat systems only to find we had no power to the instruments and chartplotter. A quick check showed a wire pulled off its connector at the back of the switch panel – soon fixed, and we were ready for off. We slipped our lines after lunch before the marina cill became too shallow to allow our first outing of the season. The breeze was cool, but it was lovely and the bright sun had real heat in it. As we left the marina we spotted friends Norrie and Hutch antifouling Gwennol on Dale Sailing wall – I must say, her bottom looked very tidy… We turned left to go upriver so as not to rock the boat cat, who was singularly unfazed and just snoozed below as if she was a seasoned mariner. With a southwesterly breeze behind us, the genoa was soon unfurled and peace reigned as the motor was cut. The tide was against us so our ground speed was only a few knots, but we were in no hurry as we enjoyed our gentle progress. We gybed the genny a few times as we wriggled upriver past a nautically deserted Lawrenny – lots of cars on the bank but few boats on their many moorings.
The wind went flukey and ended up on the nose as we turned into Beggar’s Reach, so I fired up the Bukh again and motored gently up to our favourite anchorage above Black Tar. With only a neap tidal range we were able to anchor close in, the glutinous mud swallowing our anchor securely. The wind had died and the sun beat strongly, so we relaxed in the cockpit with Sinbad the Sailor (Puffball’s new name). The relaxation increased when Carol cracked open the gin, and we toasted the new sailing season. When the relaxation grew too great for me I emptied out the lazarette and fitted the new eBay Eberspacher. All went well for a change and I was delighted to hear the steady click of the fuel pump and roar of ignition. Carol even complained later that it was too hot. All I have to do now is confirm the diagnosis of a failed ECU on the old one.
The evening was delightful. We had dinner up top as the sun dipped below the horizon. Wildlife surrounded us – the first swift, a pair of badgers, a lazy dog fox sunning itself on the the bankside field, a group of shellduck patrolling the waters edge, and the inevitable white egrets. We sat in the cockpit till gone 9pm, the only sound the hissing of the Tilley light hung from the boom and the cries of the birds as they sought their night-time roosts. We love being able to anchor far from the madding crowd and float solitary surrounded by nature, and this was a real treat to enjoy on our first day out this year.
We woke to typical Bank Holiday weekend weather – the beat of rain lashing the deck and howling wind in the rigging. I turned over in bed and dozed till it was time to fetch the Indoor Dragon her morning tea and feed the insistent Sinbad her breakfast. Another lazy day beckoned, but this one down below, warmed by the new heater. But at least we’d made it out!