Another Fraser’s-eye view of our adventures.
Well, the forecast did not change, and we stayed in Neyland Marina for a week. Did you see Pembrokeshire and Cornwall on the news with the big storms and waves that would have swallowed our wee boat? We had plenty of time on our hands but have to admit we did miss having a car a tiny bit, as the Pembrokeshire coast is meant to be stunning. We soon realised that buses don’t go to the sort of ‘out of the way’ places that we like to visit — now why would that be? Anyway, we are very proud to tell you that we have mastered buses and can now get from A to B and even back again. You may argue that this was more luck than management and to be honest you may be right!
So off we went on our first rainy day to Pembroke Dock, about 20 minutes by public transport, bound for the Maritime Museum. Can you picture us on the bus with both our faces glued to our phones’ google maps, checking carefully that we were travelling in vaguely the right direction? We had surprisingly few bus mishaps, including standing somewhere that was not a bus stop, standing on the wrong side of the road for our bus, getting on the wrong bus then off again. Although involving some short sprints, this turned out to be rather fun, with none of the same anxiety associated with coming into a strange harbour by sea!
It turned out that the Maritime Museum did not attract tourists as such, and the curator was somewhat surprised to see our bedraggled, wet bodies appear. He soon cheered up when we said we were boat enthusiasts, even pouring his tea away and offering the ‘full tour’. To his dismay we turned this down, requesting the indoor bits only, which turned out to be scattered around in ramshackle sheds anyway, so rain could not be avoided! There were lots of boats, from a few soggy bits of timber to near complete boats. Our tour guide gave us lots of fascinating facts, such as the date each boat was launched and other such fascinating and precise details, but looked rather dumbfounded when Fraser asked a seemingly innocent question about what types of wood were used to build them. We also took a very wet walk to the neighbouring Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre, our clothes starting to feel heavy and sticky by now. This was the other big tourist attraction in the area (the competition was hot!). On the plus side we discovered Welsh cakes (a sort of very sweet, flattened scone), but somehow this museum did not have the same quirkiness as the Maritime Museum. It seemed to be a ‘bits of Sunderland Flying Boats we found lying around’ museum, but strangely also had a Star Wars Millennium Falcon display. It turns out that a full scale Millennium Falcon model was built here in 1979 and used as a prop for the movie. Unfortunately, it was then scrapped and thrown in a skip.
A couple of days later, while still enduring our stormbound-enforced Welsh vacation, we visited Pembroke Castle (by bus, of course). Really impressive castle! It’s been there more than 1,000 years and is still mostly intact, despite Cromwell’s very best efforts. Remember the Tudors? This is where they started with Henry VII, who was born there. We lost count of the number of spiral staircases. This was a big castle, and it was even a sunny day!
After much weather watching, tidal planning, asking proper sailors’ advice, etc, we decided that the night of Friday 14th April was our best chance to attempt the crossing to Padstow. Wind should be behind us, but maybe the swell was a little bigger than we would normally like — predicted to be about 2.5m. So Fraser filled himself up with sea sick pills and donned his fancy seasick TENS electrocution wrist band. Of course, the tides were playing their usual game, so we set our alarms for 10pm — yes, we know most of you are not even in bed by then, but that’s sailing. So after a couple of hours of trying to sleep, we got up in total darkness and set off. We had the usual experience of dodging ferries and tankers through Milford Haven to deal with and at one point were even told by Harbour Control to stop and let the ferry past — Ahh, did they not know we were on a schedule? If we get to Padstow too late then we arrive at the Doom Bar as the waves start to break and the harbour is dry sand. If that is the case, then we’ll be done for as there is nowhere else on the north coast of Cornwall that has a protected harbour suitable for sailing boats — literally DOOMed.
The crossing was memorable (although something some of us would rather forget!). Just a mere 14 hours, and 12 of those in open sea across the notoriously rough Bristol Channel. Rolly was the word and it wasn’t long before the carefully-stowed contents of the chart table ended up on the floor. Shortly after that, the contents of Fraser’s stomach landed in the ship’s bucket. His reviews on the seasick remedies may not be great, but to be honest it was rough, perhaps 5m swells at its worst, in a confused sea with no side wind to help keep the boat stable. Moving was difficult, and venturing to the toilet perhaps less appealing than wetting one’s self — although we both somehow managed. Fraser spent most of his time lying down and groaning, which seemed his most effective way of passing the time, whereas Kerry manned the helm, seemingly immune to seasickness, in what is best described as a ‘washing machine’ experience. It turned out that she was too scared to move from there, for fear of falling off the boat.
The cliffs surrounding Padstow could not have appeared too soon, although, as we got closer, the white water breaking halfway up them looked less appealing. We both strained our eyes watching for the notorious crab pot buoys and then, as per the guidelines, looked for waves breaking on the Doom Bar, as this was a serious sign of danger. Has no one realised that it is near-impossible to see waves breaking from the outside? Anyway, it turned out that whether the waves were breaking or not was irrelevant as Kerry was gripping the wheel with determination, and going for it whatever! “I’ll surf it I have to,” she cried. I was thinking she hasn’t surfed much since her teens, and on a somewhat smaller vessel, but I was feeling greeny and wanted land, any land, therefore was happy to suffer the consequences of Doom Bar. So I went along with her mad plan, rating her chances at about 50:50. Anyway it turned out the odds were in our favour, and we are not yet another wreck on Doom Bar, but rather an intact yacht happily moored in Padstow Harbour. Fish and Chips and a nights sleep so we’re feeling good again — until the next time!