This month Jonty Pearce shares his favourite sail of the season
Finally for the first time this season we achieved:
- Getting out of Milford Haven and going further than St Ann’s Head lighthouse
- Raising all the flappy bits and enjoying a proper, un-reefed sail
- Visiting South Haven in Skomer for the first time this season – it felt as if we hadn’t been there for ages, though we had often planned it.
These successes have only taken till mid-September, but I do have excuses – I enjoyed a hernia repair, and my GP partner took a six week summer sabbatical to travel across America which left no opportunity during the school holidays for my teacher wife and I to enjoy our usual fortnight’s cruise. The Indoor Dragon has already informed me that next year’s destination will be the Scilly Isles – Green Bay on Bryher calls to her. Meanwhile, we are reduced to weekend sailing, though we do plan to visit Appledore and Bideford at the end of October for a week, weather permitting.
Gladly, the forecast rewarded our first ‘proper’ sail with a day stolen from an Indian Summer – a gentle southwesterly breeze, minimal swell, a cloudless sky, and warm sun. Reaching along Broad Sound, albeit with 3 knots of tide against us, was a peaceful delight, and I was even able to get some photographs of Jack Sound before turning for South Haven. After dropping the anchor in the company of four other boats we sat back, soaking up the peace and wildlife of this special place. Jackdaws played in the updrafts, Choughs chuffed, seals snorted, and the wavelets lapped. Our cup flowed over when we spotted a seal cub and its mum on the beach – you would swear that they were rocks before their presence was given away by the daddy seal inelegantly flopping its way up to join them. Other seal snorts and barks echoed in the sea caves alongside us, and we lost track of time. Consciousness only returned when the sun started dipping and we realised that we were now alone in the anchorage. Later, I was shocked to look back in the log to find it had been two years since we had last visited, but that afternoon revitalised our love for this favourite of coves.
The day’s pleasures got no less during our reach back in the soft evening light when we spotted gannets diving vertically into a shoal of fish. They were soon joined by a pod of dolphins leaping, splashing, and racing round in circles as they herded and harvested the sea’s provenance. We watched, entranced, for more than 30 minutes as we drifted along on the weak tide, before they dispersed and departed for other feeding grounds. The sun gently sank gently over Skokholm as if it knew it was creating one of those unmissable photogenic moments – my camera and I obliged.
It was time to turn on the navigation lights in the twilight as we returned through the Heads, passing Thorn Island and turning our attention to pot buoys before dropping anchor in Chapel Dent (OK, Bay). Sitting admiring the stars over the refinery lights and only adorned by an anchor light, Carol heard and spotted an unlit lobster potter approach what we assumed was one of their buoys just in front of us. She shone our torch on them, and instantly their navigation lights came on. They abandoned their intentions and motored back past us up Haven again. Rather unnerved by theories of ‘lobster wars’, Carol was happier when we moved on. We hauled in the anchor to motor up past the refineries, sequentially spotting the navigation marks in the dark. We love night passages, and enjoyed our moonlit return to our Neyland berth, though supper ended up being rather late that night.
Such trips make all those windswept, rain-lashed, summer season outings worthwhile, and it is the memory of such halcyon days that draw us back out time after time. A wonderful day like this reinforces the appreciation of our good fortune in being able to enjoy such a glorious cruising area.