0032 - Pwllheli to Fishguard

So we had a weather window, but as we were leaving I stopped at the fuel station to top-up our fuel - however, the pump had other ideas...

Only having 10 litres of fuel left and nothing in the cans - I made the decision not to leave on this day...I did call the marina office - their suggestion was to walk to the gas station with my cans and fill up there.

Checking the map - the gas station was almost 2 miles away - Carrying 50 litres of diesel that distance just wasn't going to happen - plus it was raining...I pulled back onto the dock and as the time passed - so did our weather window...


The marina pump had put us in a bit of a situation and with the weather being the way it was, it was just too risky to leave as winds in the high 30's were expected the following day, the marina accepted their part in our failure to depart and was quite amicable in finding a solution...

We would be stuck here for a further 3 days - but this time wasn't wasted - I took this time to perform an oil change on the engine and to change the anode in the raw-water cooling system - they were both very overdue...

After removing the old zinc anode from the engine, I was able to break it into pieces with my fingers - it was very degraded and I think I changed it just in time! I also bled the fuel lines as our engine died twice on the way back to the pontoon from the fuel dock, that wasn't a nice situation to drifting around the marina with very expensive boats in every direction...lol

Once I made it back onto the pontoon - I discovered we had some air in the lines, how it got there is a mystery that I am still working on - I think (hope) it's just a gradual ingress of air from the water separator that need draining from time to time - and there are always a few bubbles that I just can't seem to get out that eventually disappear and I think get trapped in the fuel filter - I don't think there's a break in the fuel lines anywhere - but it's just one more thing to keep an eye on. Not needing any supplies means it was just a waiting game, I enjoyed hot showers and got some laundry done, but the weather was just lousy - really lousy - and one morning I woke up to find the marina staff on my boat making sure my headsail wasn't going to unfurl.

We were getting winds of almost 40 knots in the marina - my sail was locked off and there was no chance of that happening, but the staff here were pro's in looking after all the yachts - was quite impressed with their concern!


Chloe couldn't have cared less that we were not going anywhere...

The marina, having looked at the upcoming weather agreed to let us remain for a further 5 days at a very reduced rate, but not wanting to take advantage of anyone's generosity we left after 3 as a little weather window opened up, and we want to get South as quickly as the weather permits, it's important to us right now to make headway as and when we can...

The night before we left - we had a fly in the boat - our CSO was all over it! Intruders are quickly dealt with - Although it's usually Phoebe who finishes the job and enjoys the crunchy treat...

The next day the wind was blowing a nice and steady 18 knots in a favourable direction, but the tides were running late in the day and our window meant that there was a possibility that we could be doing a bit of night sailing. As a rule, I don't like coastal night sailing as you can't spot the pots - and they are out there.

Leaving around midday isn't a great idea but the entrance to this marina is shallow and, well - it is what it is...the tide comes when it comes...and in these situations, you just have to live by the ebb and the flood of the tide...and do your best to make the most of it...

Once we got out of the marina I saw a few boats being used as they should, big boys and girls toys...these folks we're having great fun in their sailing machines, just playing about in the aftermath of the high winds...

I was talking with a boat owner in the marina just before we left as I was filling up our drinking water bottles - he thought that we were crazy for attempting to cross over to Fishguard on a day like 'today'. He felt that I should have waited a day or so longer until the seas 'calmed a bit' - He proudly announced that I would be back on the next tide.


I actually get those kinds of comments quite often from 'gin and tonic' sailors who lounge around on their perfectly manicured boats at the weekend and describe themselves as 'experienced' sailors only to learn that they only take their boat out once or twice a year - on 'nice days' - but they sure can talk the talk...


Just outside the marina, we saw the real sailors playing in their boats, as you can see conditions were not bad at all - it's not like there were massive waves, once we got into deeper water, sure, we had four or five-metre swells, but they were not aggressive or anything...they just roll under the boat - but they would definitely spill a full glass of gin and tonic.

It should be noted - that I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a 'good sailor' - I sail - that's it. I am not a professional sailor, nor do I identify as one or wish to become one - I just live on my boat with my two cats and sail - that's it, nothing more - nothing less - and I don't know the name of every bit of my boat - I just do what I can with what I have, and do whatever needs to be done in between... I don't think the learning will ever be done.


It should also be noted that there are things that I have just accepted as normal, such as just not being able to have a full cup of coffee - a full cup will just spill and make a mess - it doesn't get knocked over - but if unsecured will slide, and if secured the contents just lap over the side of the cup - I find a three-fifths cup of coffee will not make a mess - the unbelievable sacrifices I make in order to live on a boat (lol) - and on more than one occasion I have thought long and hard about making a gimballed cup holder so that a full cup could be enjoyed while sailing...provided one could actually be made without making a mess...


Getting away from the marina was nice...nice in the fact that the engine didn't cut out at a crucial moment, and seemed to function just fine with new oil and freshly flushed fuel lines - perhaps the issue is fixed - perhaps not, will soon find out if it's not. I was also nice to be reminded of how pretty the surrounding area is...we soon got the sail up and we were off...

As we were heading to the South-West the view over the stern was of all the mountains in the distance - they seemed to just go on forever - the more I looked at them, the more I could see. Leonardo Da Vinci, in his journals, talked about showing distance in paintings by showing intensifying gradations of blue-grey colours masking the more distant scenery...

Whenever I see those kinds of colours in the distance - I always think of him...lol...perhaps it's just the fact that you are seeing the same phenomena that he saw, and for all that's changed - some things will always remain the same...

About 4hrs into this leg the wind couldn't decide what direction it was coming from and I had to set up a preventer to stop the boom swinging wildly from one side to the other, which is just a line from the boom tied forward somewhere to keep it where it is, or at least stop it from swinging around and knocking me out.

As we are sailing in a 50 nm gap between two weather systems there was a moment where I thought it was going to turn back around on us...knowing that there 40 knot winds just 20 nm in front of us - there would be no escaping if they came back...

We were about halfway across the bay when the light started to fade, we were definitely going to be night sailing. damn. About two minutes after this realization I saw a damn fishing buoy, then another - saw about ten of them - all poorly marked with 10ft long pickup lines and with the current coming from the west it was dragging these lines perpendicular to our vessel - like a prop shaft booby-trap - these lines would go right under and make a mess of our prop - this just won't do.

In an hours time the current would be against us and would push these lines parallel to the boat and most likely just float by and not be sucked into the prop if we got close to one - to maximize this, I decided to go East while it was still light and then once it got dark turn into the oncoming current and just hope we didn't hook one in the dark...

We saw no other boats out here, but we did see something...the charts describe it as a floating target. looked more like a floating weather station...or something like that. I just saw what I thought, from a distance, was a large buoy...

It was a very suspicious-looking thing, had a sort of mini shipping container on, and if you think I didn't consider going over to it - you're nuts - If the water had been calmer - I would have totally got much closer - it had cleats for coming alongside - maybe I even might have had a look to see what was inside - had I gone alongside in these conditions, I think I would have ended up damaging our boat - it just wasn't safe.

Shortly after passing the 'float', it started getting dark and I could no longer keep a viable watch for pots - and changed direction - and right then we passed one - just 5ft off of our starboard side...as we had changed direction, and the current had changed so it just floated on by - but it was just a tiny reminder that these things were out here...


Then it went from this:

To this:

It's a strange feeling to be out here in the dark, it becomes a very different world out here. The land you couldn't see before becomes lots of little dots of light on the horizon, and the water that you could see before just becomes noise and the sky fills with stars...

I, whenever we happen to do a tad of night sailing, like to lay on the bow and just stare up at the mast. The mast and boat seem still and it feels like the world is rocking and rolling as the stars race around the sky - and with no light pollution out here, the stars are as bright as you can imagine you can help but feel tiny in the face of such vastness...its a very interesting experience.


As the winds had died considerably we were motor sailing along at a respectable speed and I was sitting on the stern in the soft glow of the instruments went I heard a knock on the hull and an all too familiar splash in the water - dolphins!

At first, I didn't think it was dolphins, maybe just a fish or something - shouldn't they be sleeping or something? I went to the bow to have a look - I could see the odd dorsal fin breaking the surface as it left a white trail of surf behind it - but I couldn't see them - It was just too dark.


I went below to get a flashlight and the GoPro. When I got back to the bow and turned on the flashlight - It was awesome - there must have been at least ten of them just under the surface of the water - I could hear more splashing and jumping all around the boat in the darkness - as I shone the light on them I could see their bright underbellies as they took turns playing and rolling around in the pressure wave in front of the bow...I did take some footage, but my flashlight just wasn't bright enough for the GoPro to see them...


But they stayed with us for about ten minutes before disappearing into the blackness, their visit was a welcome distraction from the fact that there are fishing pots out here...

At a certain point, you just have to let go of certain fears, I had done as much as I could to reduce the probability of a pot strike, even using a ferry approach line to further minimize the risk - but I can't get the risk factor to zero. and you just have to kinda let 'Jesus take the wheel' - as whatever is going to happen, is just going to happen - there was nothing else that I could do - then - we hit something.


Nothing big, but something hard - it wasn't a buoy, it wasn't a pot - but something metal, I think - based only on the noise it made - whatever it was, a barrel or whatever - it had jarred the toilet through-hull fitting and water was leaking in - not a lot, but about half a litre to a litre an hour - at the time I couldn't locate the source - I thought we might have holed the hull on something - all kinds of thoughts were going through my head, but it didn't get any worse, running the bilge pump every half hour cleared the water and it didn't seem like an immediate threat.

Now, although it didn't seem like a threat - I did make sure the liferaft was accessible, and I did assemble the cat's carriers - just in case - better to be prepared and not need them - than to need them and not be prepared - this, as it was to turn out in the end - was all not necessary.

The moon had risen in the sky, and I tried to take a few pictures but the swells were huge and it made taking a photo quite difficult, but I did take these two lousy snaps...

The rest of the trip was nothing more than watching the lights of the land disappear and reappear behind the crest of waves, with the occasional trip below to run the bilge to clear the water we were taking on.


Sitting alone in the dark, on a small yacht does give a pause for reflection, staring out into the darkness you find yourself thinking about all kinds of things - I had started to wonder about all the people I have met over the duration of my life, and wondering where some of them are now - and what they're doing with their lives and quietly admiring the way people slowly drift apart as the years roll away - life pulls us all in different directions and some stay and others go - even how just a few years ago I couldn't have imagined where I'd be right now, alone in the dark and on a yacht - I sure it's the same for the others that go and they find themselves in odd places in uncommon hours, maybe even wondering the same thing.

I think its an odd feeling to know they're, mostly, all alive and living out their lives, somewhere, and I have no idea where they are now - but they are out there - for now - it seems every year or so there is less and less of them - I found myself double-checking to make sure I was making the most of my time and....well - then I got distracted by the stars, there were just so many of them...


Eventually, I could see the green flashing light that marks the end of the breakwater at Fishguard, at first I thought we were much closer than we were...I figured if I can see it we must be close - but that light is visible for up to 13 nm - we were still about two hours away.


We eventually crept into Fishguard in complete darkness - I had been told of a lifeboat mooring ball in the southern end of the main harbour that I could possibly use - I made a bee-line for it - but would you believe it - the lifeboat mooring ball had a damn lifeboat tied to it...haha!


But as luck would have it, there was a spare mooring ball not 50 feet away and with a boat hook in hand, I made my way to the bow and grabbed the pick-line and within seconds we were moored for the night. This is a big mooring ball - designed for large vessels - kinda like the one in Ore Bay in the Orkney Islands - very secure.

Not sure if we were supposed to use it or not - but no one has complained so far. I did try and call the Harbourmaster like 30 times the day before, as well as calling them on the radio - many times - to try and make sure we were okay to be here - but absolutely no response - I even left voice messages on his answerphone - no one returned my calls. Not sure what the deal is, but I'm sure someone will let us know if we have to move.


After picking up the mooring ball I went below to find the source of water, as I mentioned before it was the toilet through-hull fitting that was the point of entry for the water. The surrounding fibreglass looked fine - I grabbed my tool bag and simply tightened the through-hull fitting - the water immediately stopped - completely. Soaking up the water and pumping the bilges seemed to be the last of it - and by the morning not one additional drip had come in - a quick fix - but this will need to be inspected externally, soon.

I will have to dive under the boat soon to change the zinc on the prop shaft, as it too, is probably about done - if it's even still on there, so while I am doing that I will have a look at the through-hull externally to see what damage there actually is as I'm sure there must be at least a little...


With this little leg of our trip over, all we have to do is wait for the weather to be favourable for going South. I had planned to go to Swansea, Cardiff, and just explore the Bristol Channel a bit - But South Wales is still on Lockdown due to Covid-19 and there are not too many options for the Southside of the Channel, there is almost nowhere to hide further down the coast - so I think we are going to wait for just the right weather window and just Leave here and do a super jump all the way down and around Lands End and on to the South Coast...

This will be our biggest jump on this trip and will take about two days of solid sailing, we will be way offshore for most of the time and can expect long periods of nothing but sea and at least one full night of sailing with little or no risk of pots! Joy! We haven't decided exactly where on the South Coast to aim for, but - we'll just see how far we get and decide then - you just can't plan everything from the starting line...

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