Friday, July 5, 2024

2024 June 29th Days 92 and 93, A mad dash to Milford Haven. Part 2.


There are few pics due to the weather and night time. This post needs to be read after the last part of the post before last "It's like déjà vu all over again".

Approaching the West Codling buoy the wind rapidly increased from the SSW as I was headed SSE sails were not much use to me, the F4 wind against tide and light rain made it uncomfortable but reasonably quick and at one point there were over falls not noted on the (raster) charts. 

A large lorry ferry coming through the banks.
Some quite large ships pass through the banks, the one above was coming a bit too close so a 30 degree course change was required to avoid, then I was dodging a lot of pot buoys in the channel, each with a very long pick up waiting to catch the prop. 

Approximate track in the absence of
the real one, straight lines instead
of curves
A 40ft + catamaran with 4 or 5 men busy working pots also had to get out of the way of the above, but not out of my way, she drifted as they worked one string then moved at 8 knots to the next one making it difficult to  gauge where we might meet and I ended up passing within 50 yards of her whilst she drifted.

The tide turned as I got to seaward of the main banks and even making 5 knots under engine and a day off a neap tide, I was moving more to the east than to the south (more so than in the indicative route shown here), at least that helped me clear an off lying shallow area known for over falls. 

Fortunately I was still in cell phone range at 11:30 when I got the news that my wife had broken her hip and would be operated on later that day or on Sunday.

As expected not a great deal of southern progress was made for 3 hours and not much more for the final 3 of the tide and I was more than 5 miles east of the rhumb line when the tide turned again to the south but that helped me get to my waypoint off "Bishop" without any significant change of course.

Meanwhile the wind was not cooperating and had been blowing F5 since late morning vs F3-4 in the forecast, by 16:15 the change to the northerly had not happened; then it veered 180 degrees in 10 or 15 minutes without dropping, a rare event. All through the trip Met Éireann and the UK Met office were playing catch up and largely understating wind strength, at one point they were forecasting an increase to F5 coming when I was in F5-6 and had been in F5 for half a day.

I set the headsail with one reef to reduce rolling vs the full sail, recalculated the route and timing and had a think. Under sail with a still dirty hull I would make about four knots through the water without pushing too hard, motor sailing I could make 5 - 5.5 knots, still well short of I would make with a clean hull but better than before the cleaning I did at Ardglass

At 5.5 - 6 knots there was a chance of getting past the "Bishop and Clerks" off of St David's Head just after slack water, coming north on a following spring tide I had made 10 knots over the ground along there, I did not want to be heading into 3 - 4 knots of tide but if I could get well across St Brides Bay before the stronger tide started I would then have to battle the tide into Milford Haven but that was more "doable" than getting past Bishop against a full tide and would get me to Dale for some sleep before getting to a marina.

Given the time pressure I opted for motor sailing and accepted the noise and vibration that results, so there would be no chance to take 20 minute naps and relying on regular visual checks plus AIS and radar alarms to avoid collision.

One of two serious alarms on AIS on the long leg, this one went
less than half a mile past my stern after I had made a significant
course change in poor visibility. 
I was now rushing south at 7 knots over the ground or better and it was looking good until about 20:00 when the wind dropped from F5-6 to F3 - 4, my speed dropped and I didn't make it. Typically the wind came back as I reached Bishop and I was very glad it was dark so I couldn't see how bad the sea was,  a F5 wind against a strong tide created what looked in the moonlight to be a scaled down version of the seas in a southern ocean storm, I had to slow the boat down and reduce rolling or there was a serious risk of a broach and a potential knock down. 

Under engine alone I was still surfing down waves at 6 - 7+ knots but making only 2 occasionally 3 over the ground. The autopilot did a great job driving me straight down the waves with only the occasional roll when an awkward wave hit on the quarter. I would have been very hard pressed to do that for four hours and would probably have streamed warps and waited for the tide to change.

Approximate and simplified track from Bishop to Milford in the
absence of the real one.
It was too dangerous to alter course and I was reconciled to continuing south well out of my way and getting close to Grassholm before the tide turned calming the sea, but fortunately the wind backed a little and the wave changed direction a little and I was able to almost follow my planned track reaching Skokholm as the tide turned. 

I then had an easy motor into Milford Haven except that I hit a big pot buoy off of St Anne's Head, the marker was being towed under by the tide and was completely invisible with sun behind it and barely visible down sun, when a cloud briefly put a shadow over the water waves I could see more pots ahead so I jinked a few hundred yards into the channel and made my way to the west of Stack Rock (S of Sandy Haven Bay) where I let the boat drift as I made phone calls to find a berth.

My luck was in and I got a berth at Milford Marina just half an hour away and the best place to be as it is sheltered and 10 minutes walk from the station. I went onto the outside waiting pontoon and opted to stay there until free flow through the lock, that was easier than locking through and saved the marina operating it. I spent the time checking out the marina and starting to tidy the boat.  Free flow started a few minutes late at 11:50 and I was on a berth shortly after.

I had got an update when I came within cell phone range, my wife was #1 on the list for Sunday having been bumped on Saturday, but whilst she was expected on the ward she had not arrived and I could not get through to the evaluation unit, so I had a brief snooze and when I woke up tried again, and she had just arrived on the ward at 15:30 after a successful four hour operation.

137 miles in 29 hours from the Skerries to the Haven Marina waiting pontoon, 183 miles in 49 hours from Ardglass with 3.5 hours sleep.

The aftermath.

On Monday it was 6 hours on the train, then taxi home and car to the hospital after fixing dinner to take in. 

To add insult to injury, when on the following Thursday I took her home I got a puncture in a tyre only replaced last September after the previous one was trashed going to the same hospital after rushing back from Hope Cove.

I have asked for the boat to stay in the water at Milford for a month (the same price as c 18 days on the daily rate) then be lifted out for 2 - 3 weeks by which time I should be able to go down for a few days at a time to do the anti-foul and touch up paintwork damaged by weed and a mooring buoy - hopefully I'll not need to do a complete repaint this year. 

Having looked at the rate card for Milford Marina, a year in the sheltered marina is £40 cheaper than my exposed trot mooring on the Hamble plus my yacht club membership required for dinghy storage and other facilities. Also time ashore and services such as lift outs are a lot cheaper - for example 4 weeks ashore during the winter would be half the price of doing it on the Hamble, a significant saving and the saving increases with more time. Even a simple lift, power wash and relaunch would save £260 vs the same at Deacon's and be only £90 more than drying out on the YC piles to DIY which in practical terms takes 3 days as I usually go into the dock before dawn and stay the night after.

It is a 4 hour drive vs 1.5 hours, I’d have to pay for accommodation when the boat was ashore and when the time comes it could probably be harder to sell the boat there (although there are a lot of Achilles owners in the area where they were built and many A24 owners move on to the A9m or A840). But I’m seriously thinking about moving the boat there in October and am waiting for details, T's & C's etc.. 


  1. Enjoyed reading your blog! Sorry to hear about your wife’s injury. As I’m originally from Pembroke, I was glad to hear that Milford Haven Marina suited you and wasn’t too expensive! When I’m in Pembrokeshire next, I’ll look out for Sancerre! I’ve always fancied an A9m!

    1. 👍 IIRC she is on F pontoon, a couple out. But it will be a year or three before she is for sale , depending on my health and hers.