After arriving in Portishead Marina, near Bristol, I had 2 weeks ashore ahead of me. The highlight of it was a visit to WOMAD, the 3 day world music festival in Reading with Kate and Jane. I had been getting very into world music over the last few years and this was a great chance to see lots of new talent. Before this there was some boat jobs like fitting more solar panels and generally checking the boat over. I even got the chance to bring Derrick's sister Margaret n hubby Terry out for a spin with Lorraine and Andrew. We were very lucky with the weather and had a chance to see the impressive new Severn Bridge from close up.
WOMAD itself was very good. I am not great with crowds and pictured drunken teenagers littering the campsite. But the reality was very chilled with lots of hippy types enjoying the vibe and the great music. I really enjoyed it and would try to make it again. From there it was off to London to see Derrick's mum who I hadn't seen in a while. I had a whistlestop tour and got back to the boat with 2 days to get ready for the trip back to Ireland. We were joined by Christine for the next two days so Kate would have an ally if the skipper got too bossy!!
Saturday was windless for the 3 hour trip to Cardiff, a place my Dad always described as
having little real soul. But in recent years they have dammed the estuary and created
a 500 acre lake which you now have to lock into. The old docks are undergoing remodelling
and have become the trendy part of town to be seen in on saturday night. We looked fairly
underdressed when we went for a stroll but wearing my cleanest dirty t-shirt, I didn't
feel too bad!! Sadly it was a quick stop as we headed off at 7am for Swansea. But we had
force 4 on the nose and a lumpy sea. So it was an uncomfortable trip until the last 2 hours
when we were able to sail on a calming sea. Swansea docks are also being done up and we
decided to have a break to visit a bit. You get the impression that there isn't as much
money in the town as Cardiff, evidenced by the number of new shop units unlet or closed down.
The museum was good, explaining about the history of Welsh industry and society. But a day
was enough to see all there was to see and we headed off on calmer seas under motor
for Milford Haven.
This was a much more pleasant trip in the sun, though without much wind.
We anchored in Dale, a bay just inside the entrance to the large natural harbour of Milford Haven.
It was an ideal stepping off point for the next stage in the trip. But we were going to
stay here two nights, to have time for Christine to give us a guided tour of the Coastguard
base where she worked.
..... Well that was the plan ......
We were woken during the night by strong winds gusting through the anchorage and a forecast for more to come for the next few days. So we decided to head to Neyland marina, where I had been stuck for a week 5 years ago on bringing the boat back from France. I just hoped that I wouldn't be stuck for a week again. As it turned out, we spent 8 nights in Neyland, which is still a bit of a ghost town. We were lucky that Christine lived and worked nearby, as she did the tour guide thing with aplomb, bringing us to see all the sights in Pembrokeshire. But finally a weather window opened and Randal arrived on the ferry for the crossing to Kilmore Quay in Wexford. At this stage all hopes of visiting west Wales were lost as time had started to run out. So after a farewell dinner with Christine, Randal, Kate and I headed out at 7.30am to cross over. Sadly, the seas were rough around the islands near the entrance so we diverted towards Fishguard to the north. 4 hours later, after passing through the tide race of Ramsey sound, we anchored in a nearby bay to rest and take stock. I was fairly tired after the exertions of trying to set twin headsails on a bouncing deck. Kate wasn't feeling too hot either but after an hour or so, the seas seemed better and the winds more favorable so we headed off. Initially we aimed for Roslare, where Randal had left his car but the winds were not right for us to moor there as it is completely open the northerly winds. So we aimed for Kilmore Quay.
We had a good crossing on slight seas, only having to worry about keeping track of the rain showers we could see at times which brought more wind. But on nearing the Irish coast we found ourselves creaming along doing a steady 7+ knots and all were enjoying ourselves. We arrived just before dark and rewarded ourselved with pints and dinner in Kehoes, crashing into bed tired but glad to be "back in the ol' sod". After a day of rest we headed to Arklow with a light wind on the nose creating a rippled sea. We got in in time for Kate to make a train to get to Dublin, where her family awaited. Looking back, this wasn't an ideal trip for her, but I hope she learnt enough to make her want to come back for more next year. As for me, I had just one passage left, up to Malahide and home. The forecast was for a west or northwest 4 to 5 with rain. At first, the wind was really light but with the first showers the wind arrived from the northwest. Soon we were doing a solid 6 knots which rose to over 7 as the wind strengthened to touch on force 6 as I crossed Dublin Bay. I had double reefs and a rolled yankee with the staysail keeping us balanced. It was a great bouncy ride with gusts up to 28 knots over the deck. What a way to end the season's sailing but with a reminder of what it was all about!!! As dusk arrived I entered the channel into Malahide and tied up feeling like I hadn't really left.......Until next year ......