We departed the marina at Neyland ( Milford Haven ) promptly at 6am . Erlich and Margaret left first…. and we both made sure that we had disconnected our shore power cables!!! It was a cool, bit cloudy day, with the dawn sun just breaking through.
Poli Poli …. now very clean… and the German Halberg Rassy 37… before departure from Neyland.
View of Neyland Marina the evening before departure. So green with all this dryness!
View of Milford Haven looking west down to the sea… from the Neyland Yacht Club restaurant the evening before departure. Look at the skyline.
It took us and hour and a half at 5-6 knots to exit the long waterway known as the “Haven”…. Erlich and Margaret led most of the way, but we passed them by the huge natural gas tankers unloading their cargoes on the south side of the Haven. There was very little wind.
Milford Haven has two well marked channels in and out… the West Channel is for the big, commercial ships…. oil and gas tankers etc. The East Channel was for us … a smaller one for leisure craft. At the entrance… a well marked lay out of buoys allows you to depart easily.
Our route would take us due west away from the entrance… but you have to ensure safe passage to the south with a profusion of small islands to the north… Skomer, Skokholm, etc…. I think, famous for wildlife and a multitude of seabirds. Checking on Wikipedia I note that that around half the world’s population of Manx shearwaters nest on Skomer….plus the largest British colony of the Atlantic puffin. Margaret and Erlich followed us at a safe distance.
To begin with the wind was all over the place at various low speeds… so we motored. Noticing later that the wind had settled to a north easterly… and for us a beam reach… both main and jib sail went up. For at least three quarters of the total journey… the tide pushed us from behind, first to the west and the shipping lanes, then north to the coast of Ireland. This is where “Boatie” is worth its weight in gold. Not only can you plan in advance but you can also check the direction and speed of tide en route. Today the tide was a massive boost to us and we achieved average speeds of over 8 knots.
After passing the islands of Skomer and Scokholm on our starboard side, we came upon an area known as “The Smalls”….. nothing to do with underware… a group of about six rocky little islands… most of them covered with water at high tide. Names like… Hat, Barrells, and Grassholm. Plenty of wrecks laying amongst them too… so we kept well to the south.
Then came the shipping lanes…. first the “up” lane … saw one huge container ship heading for Liverpool and a tanker going to Dublin. After the “up lane” was the TSS … a lane separating the traffic….traffic separation lane as per the English Channel. And finally the “down” lane where there was nothing to see. Certainly not as busy as the English Channel or the Dover Straits… the latter is on average 300 up and down shipping movements every 24 hours… and then on top of that… at right angles 80 cross channel ferry movements every 24 hours. We saw 2 ships in the middle of the Irish Sea!!
From time to time we could monitor the German yacht following us… they were on AIS ( we receive AIS signals but do not transmit our position as explained in a past post). They were roughly 2 miles behind and on a slightly parallel track.
A photo of the chart table hard paper copy… of the sail from Milford Haven to Ireland. Showing the islands and rock, plus the shipping lanes and the Saltee’s. I don’t actually write directly on the chart… I use a transparent clear plastic cover and use coloured china wax crayons to write. Then I have to rub it all off. Our position is recorded on the paper chart every hour or so…. just in case all the electronic instruments suddenly fail.
Finally we turned off our westwards ( 270 deg ) course….turning north westwards to our final destination… Kilmore Quay in Ireland ( between Waterford and Wexford ). This was a long leg of nearly 30 n.miles over open water. Two sets of dolphins came to see us on this section…. coming close, doing a bit of a display by leaping out of the water… but not coming to the bow to perform at close quarters for our entertainment…. never mind… they were both magnificent interludes in our sail.
And we did sail… the north easterly wind… began to become a more constant and reliable feature…. coming onto the boat between the beam and a close reach position… sorry non nautical folk… basically forward of the middle part of the boat towards the bow…the pointy end! Not the best point of sailing… but good for Poli Poli as we were now averaging over 6 knots under sail. Happy …. the sound of just the bow wave and the rushing water, the wind moving 15 tons at speed in a direction we commanded. Lovely!
A real pleasure…. until reality struck…. on checking the chart calculations I realised we would be getting there too early… low tide at 2,30pm at Kilmore Quay and we might not have enough water to get into the actual harbour. We were now going too fast under full sail… up to 7 knots on a close reach with a strengthening north east wind of up to 20 knots. So we eased in both sails and studied our options.
There had been no phone signal for about 8 hours after leaving the entrance at Milford Haven. Had to wait to get closer to the Irish mainland ( now just a hazy landscape on the horizon ) so that we could phone the Harbour Master at Kilmore Quay and check what the depth would be by about 4pm.
The wind was getting stronger. I saw 25 knots register on the wind speed dial. This is now Force 5 Beaufort Scale, white horses appearing everywhere ( as well as poorly marked lobster pots )…. and the sea state becoming uncomfortable with spray coming over the bow. A faceful of salty water can be like a cold slap in the face! As well as getting wet.
We were approaching the Irish mainland with two small islands on our port side… Great Saltee and Little Saltee. On the VHF radio, emergency channel we had listened to the conversation between a sailing yacht and the Rosslare Coastguard. The yacht had rope wrapped around its propeller and we think the outcome was a rescue by the Saltee bird watching tourist ferry towing him into Kilmore Quay. So that ended well … in increasing winds and a rough sea.
Two long flattish islands off Kilmore Quay, Little Saltee and Great Saltee… a lot calmer seascape the next morning.
We finally contacted the Kilmore Harbour Master by phone…. he assured us that if we located the entrance channel and lifted our keel near the harbour, we would get in ok. So in bouncy conditions but with safety lines strapping us to the Jack Stays we put out our six mooring lines and 16 fenders ready for docking.
The view over Kilmore Quay on the next day… much calmer.
As we came round the northern end of Little Saltee we found the tidal gate of a green and red buoy… located the Safe Water Mark buoy, turned in on a bearing of 007 deg N… ( shown on the chart as a leading line into the harbour )… we were one of about half a dozen yachts and motor boats who had decided it was time to get behind the safety of the big stone harbour walls of Kilmore Quay.
The narrow entrance to Kilmore Quay on Monday morning… would not want to meet a fishing boat coming out. Big sea going trawlers based here.
We tied up on a small hammerhead pontoon at 4.15pm… 75.8 n.miles from Neyland in West Wales… some 10 hours sailing. At 6pm the village priest did the “blessing of the boats” service…. sadly we were in the local pub. Two pints of lager please!
We missed it!
However, the Germans had not arrived. Our last position fix was that they were six n.miles astern of us. Just as we were about to step off the boat to go and locate the only pub…. they appeared. Nicky the Harbour Master had said they were now full… so we waved to Margaret and Erlich to come alonside Poli Poli and raft up against us. They were very tired and were more than happy to do so.
In amongst all the masts… is Poli Poli with the German boat Altrhrein rafted up against us.
A lovely evening meal was had at the Kehoe pub up by the little village church… a special sea food chowder soup followed by Irish steak! Both presented beautifully and with marvellous flavours… bit different to salty sea water! Memorable supper.
A nice small town, large village Kilmore Quay… lots of holiday makers here.
The pub, the church, harbour, beaches and what would have been Margaret’s favourite shop!