Bearing in mind that I have become quite accomplished at disappearing up my own arse over the last few months I wasn’t worried about silence falling upon Max and I after everyone left Solva. In any case I didn’t have the chance to gather my thoughts or think about the sins committed on my body over the previous four days because prior to Joycey, Russ and Conners leaving my friend Raj 4 arrived (well, the city has Raj I, II and III and I’m acquainted with all of them so it works). In retrospect I think she turned up just to have a chauffeur for a couple of days whilst touring this part of Wales because she flatly refused from the outset to get in the driving seat of her own car! To be fair that might well have been in both of our best interests so I didn’t mind driving to and fro between Solva and St Davids where Raj was staying. I did tell her that she was welcome to stay on Fiesta but she insisted on lording it up in a nice hotel rather than slum it on a boat….
I also think Raj is trying to fatten me up because I’ve now got enough chocolate onboard to sink a, err no, don’t say that. Well, I’ve got loads! I showed her around Fiesta and then we went into St Davids for a pub dinner.
On Monday we managed a walk along the stunning Newgale Beach and I was surprised at how many work shy individuals were surfing. I thought I had the work shy t-shirt rights….
We went back to the boat and because the tide was out we walked there across the hard and completely flat sand. Well, I say completely flat but Raj managed to find the only hole in a 200m radius. Poor girl, she went from four feet tall to three and a wet foot in an instant but just managed to stay on her feet. It took a lot of control but I didn’t laugh and promised not to mention it again.
It seems like there is pretty much a swimming club in Solva and swimmers are all around the Harbour. It was so lovely and hot and feeling ever so slightly wimpish for wearing a wet suit when I went swimming in the Isles of Scilly I decided to brave it and jumped right in. Jesus, it was freezing but I didn’t let on to Raj who half slid, half fell into the drink judging by the splash although unfortunately I didn’t actually see it happen.
That evening we went for a beer in The Bishop Pub in St Davids. The back garden faces west and there was an awesome sunset. Talk about lucking out with the Welsh weather. It really could not have been better and I found myself showing Raj around as if it was my place when in fact all I was doing was hijacking a Russ tour! After a whistle stop tour of Solva, Newgale and St David’s Raj left for home and at this point it really was just Fiesta, Max and me again. Thank you Raj for coming down and for being a thoroughly modern women and buying dinner in St. Davids on Monday. Lovely.
When I left Solva early on Wednesday morning I decided not to take any photos or videos of my trip out but changed my mind as soon as I looked behind at the stunning sunrise. Unfortunately this was the one and only highlight of the sail that day. I decided to make a bit of progress north and headed for Arklow which is 35 miles south of Dublin. The forecast said it would be a force 3 to 4 from the east which would have been perfect. In the end it turned into the most frustrating sail of my journey so far. The wind didn’t really get going and in fact it went all around the compass three times and didn’t settle in the right direction until I had been motoring for 10 hours. I hate motoring on a sailing trip but there really wasn’t any choice. When the wind did pick up from the right direction switching the engine off was an utter joy albeit very short lived as ten minutes later a sea fog blew in and I couldn’t see a thing! I was less worried about it this time because I knew where I was going and had AIS and Radar to keep an eye on any potential collision hazards. I decided to sail past a navigation mark just to confirm my position. The radar was telling me it was there and also telling me that it was 100 meters away but I slipped past it without seeing it at all. The fog was thick! I sailed on radar and chart plotter and was relieved to see the big concrete piers marking the entrance to Arklow loom out of the fog. Just when I was feeling smug about finding the place a nasty vibration started through the boat making everything rattle and shake. When I put the engine in neutral the vibration stopped but when I put it in reverse, the engine stopped completely. Right, now I was sh*tting myself. Thankfully the engine started again and would go in forward gear but as soon as I tried it in reverse it stopped again. That’s when I realised that I must have a rope around the propeller. I wasn’t about to try and muck about with it there and as I had forward gear I decided to head in between the piers in a slightly uncomfortable cross swell literally praying that it would keep going, which it did. My next challenge appeared in front of me when I realised how small the harbour is. I needed to turn around in order to get on to the pontoon but as I had no reverse I would have to make the turn in one go so I headed across to one side only to be whistled and shouted at by a fisherman telling me that it was too shallow on that side. Sure enough, the depth went down to three and a half feet and I go aground at 2ft 8 inches. However I had no choice but to push my luck and lady luck did indeed come to my assistance. I managed to make the turn with the engine shaking and clonking and just managed to get my bow up to the pontoon, jump off and stop it with the lines.
I’m under no illusion how lucky this was because I have never known a rope to get tangled round a propeller and yet still let it turn one way and if it hadn’t been for that I would have been without power in a strong tide near concrete piers in thick fog and the only option I would have had left would be to throw the anchor out, hope it would hold and call the lifeboat for a tow!
Every now and again I get a reminder that with sailing, as with so many other things in life, there are a million ways to f*ck it up!
Once I was settled I got the dinghy down and managed to cut the short but stubborn bit of rope into pieces and pull it out where it had jammed under the back plate of the propeller. To be fair I have seen a thousand bits of flotsam and jetsam go past the boat on my travels so sooner or later the law of averages says that one had to go under the middle and find the propeller and I’d be naive to think that it couldn’t happen again…
So I’m in Arklow but I’m not going to stay here long. There was rumour of a gale coming through here but if it doesn’t appear I will set off for Dublin asap. Arklow isn’t bad other than two things. Firstly, as soon as I was tied up an Irish gentleman who I suspect comes from caravan stock jumped uninvited on the boat and said (I think) ‘Can I have a look on your boat mate’ and made straight for the door. Fortunately I got there before he did, stood in his way and suggested that if he had approached the situation a little differently he might have got somewhere but now the only option was to feck off (or words to that effect). Thankfully he did so willingly which can only be down to my huge bulk and aggressive demeanour! Maybe he was well meaning but now whenever I walk away from the boat I put my security bar over the door and I lock myself in at night. I now fully appreciate how good Brad Pitt’s accent was in Snatch!
The second thing is that whilst I don’t think its sewage, something unpleasant is being pumped out in this river. There is a film of white stuff and some big white clumps floating around. Judging from the smell I think its congealed cooking fat and grease and there is lots of it. So, not a good advert for this place but despite the smell, my visitor and the drama of the journey here I’m glad I made the effort because now I only have a 35 mile trip to Dublin.
There is lots I want to do in Dublin and whilst there I will also be receiving two visitors. Head Office and my old dear! Once in Dublin I should have a few days grace to prepare for their arrival. I seem to have a lot of ingrained dirt and yellow stains around my waterline which will probably take a full day of scrubbing. Once that’s done I will set about cleaning Fiesta.
Oh Max loved his swim on Newgale Beach!
Dinner with Raj 4
Sunrise leaving Solva
Hang on, it was sunny ten minutes ago!
Sunset and twilight in Arklow
I name this rope ‘Thrush’, you irritating little c***