Are we there yet?

That was a frequent complaint from the back of the family car on long journeys. Or on a long climb up a hill which the parents had decided was a good thing to do. For the latter the response was “it’s just around the next bend!” …… I have a few more ‘bends’ to go around!

Having satisfied the IoM Border Force online that I had had my 2 vaccination injections I then had to get clearance to land, which could also be done online but had to be done within 48 hrs of arrival. That done on 2nd July and waking early on 3rd July to no fog I slipped lines at 05:30. The inshore waters forecast for the day after gave better wind but thundery rain and occasional poor visibility so today it had to be!

The day started well sailing with the autohelm on wind vane mode 45 degrees off the apparent wind and managing 4.7knts over the ground in 12knts of wind along the rhumb line. However after a couple of hours the wind had veered and the cross track error was increasing. It was a 50NM passage so the motor went on to motor-sail at just 30 degrees off the apparent wind and at over 5knts, shaping a good course to the South of the IoM. Later I managed another hour of sailing.

The Calf of Man

I passed between the Calf of Man and Chicken Rock before heading north towards Douglas. I arrived at my estimated time of 15:00. I was instructed to raft up and wait for a visit from the Manx Border Force. All it needed was a check of my passport ID which took 2 mins! I then had to wait 2 hours for a bridge lifting!

There were no finger berths in the marina because of dredging work (hard to understand why they didn’t do this before they opened up to visiting yachts the previous week!) so I moored Thalmia alongside the wall in the inner harbour. It was actually my first time mooring singlehanded alongside a harbour wall but it went smoothly. Climbing the vertical ladder with shopping, and later a pizza, was tricky!

Due to their effective control of the pandemic (so far!) I experienced a world without COVID restrictions – no masks, even in restaurants or buses, no social distancing, just normality – it felt strange!

For two days I became a tourist!

The Monday was a public holiday on the island celebrating Tynwald day. It’s not normally my thing but it was a way to witness the pride of the islanders in their history and their self governance. It is claimed to be the longest continuous parliament. The celebrations took place at Tynwald Hill and includes an open air sitting of the parliament and declaration of new laws, preceded by marching bands, parades of traditional costumes, charity stalls, a fly past, processions by dignitaries the presentation of petitions, and on this occasion a late announced visit from Princess Anne!

My crossing from the IoM to Holyhead brought mixed fortunes. Some 6 hours of brilliant sailing starting with a beam reach and moving to close hauled on slight seas with clear skies. Under sail I crossed the Traffic Separation Scheme north of Anglesey which is unusual as it has a 45 degree turn. Several tankers and cargo vessels passed well ahead of me each way but then another approached from the south turning the corner making for Liverpool – judging our collision course was tricky for the AIS and me! A slight easing of the main sheet down the traveller slowed me enough to let it pass!

Then my passage into Holyhead became painfully slow as I faced strong foul tides and a head wind. It was tedious and tiring with speeds down to 2knts SOG at times. Eventually I shaped a course firstly outside a big group of rocks called the Skerries but then inshore of some shoals and on the inside curve of the bay to avoid the worst of the foul tide. In my memories I’m trying to hold on to the earlier part of the passage! I took some video footage which will help!

Holyhead marina was virtually destroyed by storm Emma in 2018 and currently has only a short pontoon remaining. The Holyhead sailing club however have some visitors moorings and after an email to them the previous day I had a call from them en route saying they had a spare one I could use. The first pick up strop I attempted was impossible to lift! The club launch arriving to take my dues for the night apologised for the mooring, whose riser was known to be too tight, and directed me to another! By this stage of the day I was exhausted! So fish pie in the oven, a beer and a chat with Ruth and I recovered! I slept very well that night!

I would have liked to have visited Caernarfon but on considering the tidal constraints entering the Menai Straight and the additional restrictions of the marina which is only accessible 3 hours each side of high water I decided to head for Pwllheli. That meant two tidal squeezes outside Holy Island, and the North and South Stacks on Anglesey, and Bardsey Sound at the tip of the Llyen Peninsula . The passage around the Stacks was fun! With generally slight seas the overfalls were still very big. Seeing white water on what I had hoped might be a calmer inshore passage I headed out just 1.5 NM and avoided the worst of it. Over 3knts of fair tide though!

I found a very convenient anchorage halfway between Holy Island and Pwllheli at what I call Nefyn but is on the charts as Porth Dynllaen. Ruth and I camped at nearby Morfa Nefyn many years ago, before children (!) so it has memories!

The passage to Pwllheli was straight forward but ended with motoring again in calm seas. The backdrop of the Snowdonia mountain range on the approach to the harbour was impressive.

Over 1500 nautical miles covered. Possibly less than 400 to go! In a marathon non elite competitors sometimes hit a “wall” which is both physical and mental. Physically I’m still in good form but I have to confess that this last stretch feels like it’s still a long way for this solo sailor! Too much of the daily detailed passage planning and weather watching and too long without friends and family! I’m really looking forward to that finishing line! Here’s hoping for the distraction of some good sailing as I progress towards the Southwest!

Published by Derek

Having started sailing later in life I have migrated from a 14ft dinghy via a Sadler 26 to a 32ft Westerly Fulmar. I sail mostly single handed in the South West from the Solent to the Scillies or across to the Channel Islands and ajacent French coast. In 2020 I planned to sail mostly single handed around Britain. Due to Covid-19 this was unfortunately not possible. I finally completed that challenge starting in April 2021: finishing in early July. You can check out my journey and experiences, good and not so good in the blog posts below or my YouTube channel - search for “voyages of Thalmia” -

6 thoughts on “Are we there yet?

  1. Loving ‘our’ trip around the old country, especially to places I’ve never seen not likely to. Go well.


  2. I agree with Kevin. Another fascinating blog Derek. The finishing line (for me) equates to Ruth so I’m sure that will keep you going.


  3. An amazing feet. I am not surprised you are feeling the strain, but think of the memories you will have created.
    We are looking forward to hearing your tales & exploits in person, but until then “Keeeeeeep Sailing”


  4. Thanks for the really interesting write up Derek. Love the nautical terminology but sadly don’t understand a word of it. See you soon. Safe passage.


  5. What an amazing journey, Derek, & some fabulous scenery! But I’m sure, at this point, even nature in all its glory can’t quite distract you enough from all the things you are really starting to miss. Sometimes the home stretch is the hardest – you just want to get there now. Day at a time. Day at a time! It’ll will also probably feel a bit strange being on dry land all the time, no rigging to sort, no routes to plan, overnight berths to arrange etc. But, home comforts – can’t beat ‘em! Hang on in there! Xx


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