Blue Opal was delivered to Pwllheli yesterday afternoon, after a pleasant 16 hour trip from Dun Laoghaire. I brought her alongside the club around 1700 on Friday, and left the engine running under load to chill the fridge. Put supplies away, tidied up – all the stuff you do right before making a passage. We departed just after 8 pm, based on the passage plan’s estimated trip time of 16 hours. Dublin Bay Buoy was saying wind out of 140 degrees, which would work for a while (because of the ebb) if it held in that direction, though we really wanted to be sailing 120 to 130 degrees. Filed the TR, and away we went.

Berths were sorted quickly – I had the port saloon berth due to my CPAP power needs, Stuart took the other saloon berth, and John ended up in the bow (and told me later that it was very comfortable, he had no issues sleeping), chili was put on the stove, and watches were agreed. Stuart wanted the 4 AM onwards watch, so I took watch to midnight, John took midnight to 0400, and Stuart got the 0400 onwards. As it turned out, Stuart was up and down all night, catching kips when he could. We dodged a few unmarked fish/lobster pots on the way out – the long dusk helped here – observed a seal or two, and at midnight it was still light enough to see the difference between sea and sky. The East Codling slipped by quickly, and we held 120 degrees at 6 knots, the Yanmar steadily thudding away (and the rumble and rattle of the cutless bearing echoing up through the hull).

I slept fitfully for my allocated slumber period; I think I heard when we dodged a pair of fishing trawlers. What got me right out of my berth was Stuart dropping the revs to near idle around 0500 – fog. Fired up the radar, flipped through the various ranges, and nothing showed up. Put on full wet gear, made a cuppa for both Stuart and I, and took over so Stuart could try for a kip. Peeked at the radar every now and then, but nothing showed up. Popped on some music, and just let the autohelm drive us through the fog – it was down to 2 boat lengths at times. A low, mournful hoot came floating through the fog just before 6 am, somewhere to port. Nipped down below, flipped the radar through the various ranges, and couldn’t find what was hooting; not comforting. Back on deck to listen carefully, and determined that whatever it was, it was passing on port and going away.

The fog persisted all the way to Bardsey Sound; we briefly saw Bardsey Island through the fog, but were keeping close to the mainland. At departure, our predicted time at the sound was 0740, but we actually passed through closer to 0830. However, we were still on the tail of the ebb, and we hit 9.2 knots over ground (and 4 – 5 through the water) with the tail end of the ebb; I wonder what speed we’d have hit at full ebb? It was still a bit gloomy as we came out of Bardsey Sound, but cleared up in to a brilliant cloudless day with strong sun as we motored up past Saint Tudwal’s islands. A pod of either porpoises or dolphins was cavorting in the area – couldn’t see them clearly enough to tell if which they were.

Abersoch passed to port, and I started to look for the safe water mark that iNavX, Navionics, and my paper charts indicated. Couldn’t find it anywhere ahead of us, but kept finding yellow can marks that weren’t where the charts said they should be. It was only as we passed on close enough to read that I twigged these were probably racing marks – they had discs on top with letters. Still couldn’t find the safe water mark, and it was only when we drew close that it became apparent – we had seen the white stripe on it, and were approaching at such an angle that we couldn’t see the red stripes either side of the white. All of the dinghies coming out for the Pwllheli Regatta made it pretty clear where it was though.

K was watching us arrive into Pwllheli courtesy of the local club webcam; we got there just around 1200, and after an interesting, slow crawl up the entrance (two hours before high water, and the depth was 0.3m below Blue Opal’s keep at one point!), our berth was visible, with Dad waiting there to take our lines. A nice easy berth, on the outside of the marina, and port side to, which suits Blue Opal’s prop walk when going astern. Made her fast, had lunch and a chat, and then off to Holyhead for the fast ferry back to Dun Laoghaire. All told, with my head touching the pillow by 2030 on Saturday, it was a touch over 24 hours.

Now I wait for the evaluation from the engineer in Wales on what it’s going to take to replace the stern gear.

Sailing to Pwllheli
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