trip logs

Trip log: Amlwch to the Holyhead Traditional Boat Festival

We left Amlwych on Saturday morning as soon as the boats were afloat. The four Cape Cutters – Aurora, Fraoch, Halcyon and Salty Dog – were en route to Holyhead for the traditional boat festival in Holyhead. Between our haven at Amlwych and our destination was the tidal gate of Carmel Head, which has quite a reputation. The tide is funelled past this corner of Anglesey at a phenomenal rate, which creates large overfalls when the tide is moving. It’s therefore important to turn this corner at slack water. We had worked out that we had just enough time to get there for slack water. 

However Henry Honda threw a spanner in the works by coming to an abrupt halt a short distance out of the harbour. We had been disappointed not to be able to reach Holyhead the day before and wanted to join in the festivities today so, with three others accompanying Aurora, I decided to press on.

It was a lively fetch along the North coast of Anglesey, though less windy than the day before. Two reefs in the main seemed a little conservative at first, but the wind began to build as forecast. So, with Aimee confidently helming on main and staysail, I whipped off Henry’s cover. The spark plug looked clean, but I had a new one aboard, so I gapped it and fitted it to the engine. Lo and behold, Henry sprung into life!

We arrived at Carmel Head about 20 minutes late and there were some very big waves just before the head. As we approached the head, we  came closer and closer head to wind, so we took the sails in. To my alarm, Henry would cough every now and then, but we plugged on and soon could see into Holyhead Bay. I carried on to the West, rather than turning South, because I was worried that if the engine stopped again, we would be uncomfortably close to a lee shore. This proved to be the right call, because after about another 15 minutes, the engine did indeed stop.

There was a swell of about 2m from the SW wind of the last few days, but Aurora made good progress, even with the double reefed main. The other three Cape Cutters had taken a shorter course close to the shore and, motor sailing, were travelling faster than us, so we were soon on our own. Beating has been described as travelling twice as far for half the fun, and I think Aimee had had enough well before we got into harbour, though her helming was excellent.

We were met by the fleet of gaffers emerging for their race, though only the larger boats (30ft plus) had ventured out into the swell. They made a fine sight and were romping along. No photos I’m afraid, as I had the washboards in and did not want to chance a wave on the camera.

Once we were well inside the harbour, I had another go at starting Henry and finally managed to get him started. With relief, we took a berth in the harbour and got a well-earned shower.

The traditional boat festival is a really enjoyable annual event, with a parade of sail, music and a carnival atmosphere in the marina. The girls had a great time- to their delight they both sailed aboard Vilma, the “pirate ship”. Alice drummed out a beat for the gun crew and Aimee got to fire the cannon. Henry could not be stirred into life at all on Sunday, so we were towed off our berth by Salty Dog for the parade of sail and then towed back in by the lifeboat. I hope I don’t need a lift from one again any time soon. It was on Monday we hauled out for a reluctant return home. A lovely end to the season.

  Salty Dog towing us off our berth



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