Menai and the Lleyn Peninsula

  This was one of the few occasions when we were able to leave Liverpool Marina when we planned. The preparations were made. New charts had been purchased paper and electronic. A few ideas had evolved since our last trip and a few additions made to the equipment list. It is continual process of up grading and adapting the boat for fresh challenges. We were quite new with a boat this size and relatively inexperienced as a team. The boat had been designed for a crew of five so we were short handed. The boat had been refurbished with shorthanded sailing in mind. Sailing was not really the problem. Stopping and starting was the problem because there was always so much to do and one of us would have to drive. This left most of the work for one person. Now it was always my intention to teach Sue to drive the boat but at this stage there had not been the opportunity. It was normal for me to crew on other peoples boats. But before I could crew my own boat I would need to show Sue the ropes so I could get the experience of handling the boat so I could teach Sue how to do it. But first I had to show her how to crew. Simple isn’t it? Patience is a virtue or so they say.

  This would be the most sailing we had attempted. I was already referring to it as a baptism of fire. It was in at the deep end. Six weeks meant it would not always be plain sailing or calm and pleasant. We needed to overcome our difficulties and so enable us to move forward.

  The plan was to sail up to The Menai Straits with a friend of mine Ken Walsh who was a professional yacht skipper. He carried cargo in the same direction as we intended to travel so we agreed to keep company. No discussion about route had taken place so I took my usual route. I turned left into the rock channel and Ken travelled straight on to Queen’s channel. The sailing in company had lasted a full ten minutes and we were going our separate ways. I had taken the inshore route and Ken the offshore. Well it wasn’t a race; it never is until somebody gets in front of you. We stayed ahead until we got close to Great Ormes Head. Then in the distance a band of white water stood in our way. The wind was rushing round the Orme to meet us head on. We had no option to tack repeatedly for an hour and a half to get through it. When we eventually passed the Orme it became calm and we had to start the engine to motor up to Ken who was now waiting in front of us by Puffin Island. He later told me later he preferred the off shore route because there is not so much tide and wind against you. There is no substitute for experience. Local knowledge is also a valuable commodity. Ken proceeded to show us a short cut at the back of Puffin Island that leads into the channel that runs through the Menai Straits. We were too late for the Swellies and so we picked up a couple of buoys by the Gazelle for the night. The Swellies in the Menai Straits has a fearsome reputation. But as with most obstacles in sailing timing is everything. We got ready for the early tide and followed Ken through the Swellies and up to Victoria Warf were we all ate good breakfast.

  Victoria Warf is an old slate dock on the estuary coast of Caernarfon and is now used as a marina. The harbourmaster when we arrived was Richi a perfect gentleman very helpful indeed. He even ran me to the garage in his car for propane on one occasion. I can’t praise him enough. The sailing club in the dock welcomes visitors and like many sailing clubs it contained few people that sailed.


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  by Alan Gillam

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