trip logs

Trip Log: Port Dinorwic to Amlwch

When we woke on Friday, to our relief, the wind had decreased much from the F6/7 of the previous day. The forecast was for the wind to rise somewhat during the day, but the weather looked good for us to make for Holyhead, an ambitious trip of some 40 miles. 
The Menai Straits, which separate Anglesey from the rest of North Wales, runs roughly from SW to NE. It is notorious for its ferocious and confusing tides. Water floods and ebbs from both ends of the straits and can exceed 7kt. 
In the middle of the straits the narrowest section between the two road bridges is called The Swellies. The channel is at its shallowest here, and the course to follow weaves between large rocks. It has a rather fearsome reputation, but those that know these waters say it is very straightforward at slack water. 
So it was that we passed uneventfully through the Swellies in the morning sun with a small amount of tide and the wind behind us.
I chose to do this under engine and without mainsail, as the banks are steep and wooded, so it would not be easy to sail an accurate course, though the staysail gave us some additional assistance. 
As soon as we cleared the Menai Bridge, I raised the double-reefed main and we ran dead downwind past the towns of Menai Bridge, Beaumaris and Bangor. 
The weather was truly Welsh, as we started in glorious sun with a clear sky, then a squall of heavy rain passed over us, creating a wonderful double rainbow with a complete arch. The weather was then overcast for a time, and finally the cloud broke up to leave big puffy white lumps of cotton wool spread across a blue sky. 
At first the double reef seemed over-cautious, and two of our flotilla of four Cape Cutters shook out a reef, but as we neared the end of the Straits at Puffin Sound, it was very clear that double reefed main and staysail were ample canvas. 
We turned into Redwharf Bay and flew in an exhilarating reach, with the tide under us. This stretch took us about 3nm offshore and we crashed through the swell pitched up by the SSW breeze, which had piped up to F6 by this time. 
We rounded Point Lynas, which marks the corner of Anglsey, and the beginning of the North coast. We were just about able to fetch along this shore but I knew it would inexorably become a beat by the time we reached Carmel Head, the most difficult section of this hostile shore. By this time, the wind had increased further still.
I decided that it would not be safe to continue, as the breeze was continuing to build. There are few refuges on that shore and the best choice is Amlwch (approximately pronounced “Am-lock”), which is sheltered for winds in all directions. 
As we got out of the swell and into the lee of the shore, to my horror the engine died. Henry Honda has never let us down, but I could not spin him back into life, despite much enthusiastic tugging of the starter. 
I quickly dropped the anchor, to make sure we did not drift back out to sea. We were only a few hundred yards from the harbour too! The others rallied round and Salty Dog prepared to throw a line to us, but then I finally managed to bring Henry back to life. We quickly raised anchor and scuttled into Amlwych. As the visitor berths seemed pretty full, we chose to raft up in the drying inner harbour. 
When I checked my track, I noticed that we had drifted considerably in our short time trying to restart the engine. I had forgotten to check the depth before dropping anchor and had not realised the water was very deep, despite us being so close inshore. A lesson learned!



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