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Sail North sailing log, anecdotes, and lessons learned

Tinkers hole SW Mull in sunshine,

Over the years  our varied trips have brought lots of laughs and lessons.
'Four go mad off Anglesey' ('the flying tender'), 'The human rowlock' ('where did we put that yacht'?), 'bowline, bowline, Bowline', 'Jump in - it's like a millpond'.
Anecdotes below,


and in fog.


Trip (click to link) Detail - boat length-number on board-duration-team Lesson (link to note below)
Majorca to UK 46/5/28/Robin Agree and know the time plan.
Tenerife to Barbados 46/3/23/Capt. Morgan Plan your leisure and your personal comfort.
Tenerife to Madera 46/10/7/Hare&Hounds Care when filling up with fuel.
Hull to Holland's inland seas 32/4/7/Scout RNLI
New York and Long Island Sound 34/2/7/Rick Plum Gut.
Channel Islands and Brittany V/4/7/Scout Take care and time when changing watch.
Circumnavigation of Mull 38/6/4/HEN GPS and fog.
Figure of eight Jura/Isla 38/6/4/HEN Calculation of secondary port tide heights.
Circumnavigation of Anglesey 27/4/3/HEN Dangers of a dingy and a running tide. 'Four go mad off Anglesey
Circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight 36/6/4/HEN Too many lights.
Kyle's of Bute 32/4/7/Scout Don't forget sun protection.
Skye 27/2/7/Pam Don't just jump in the water.
Hebrides 43/10/7/HEN Minki whales, common dolphins and grey seals.
Scotland North Coast 23/3/5/Brent Cape Wrath, check out the derivation.
Three weeks on the South Coast Team be sensible around overfalls they can ruin the trip
Greece Team
Turkey Team don't forget cutoucy flag
Croatia Team use LH clearance bearings, dead reckoning at night inadequate
Greece Team care at Santorini
Greece Team who wants to move at midnight, use the pilot for grade A harbours
New York and Long Island Sound Rik aircraft breeze
Greece if you are on the bow with a job, do it
Crinan Andy if you are not faminliar with the xxxx then follow the buoyage
Ipswitch to Scarbourough Mark timing and tide
care retrieving anchor
New York Rik anchored by the statue
Poerto Rico Team list the islands care with gps, care with hermit crabs, wild life.
Cork Tim step off, don't jump, onto the pontoon
and more to log TBC

Majorca to UK. A delivery trip from Majorca to the UK. We discussed the general schedule as at three weeks. In fact Robin, the skipper, used the delivery as his summer vacation and was quite relaxed about staying over in various places and without particular concern regarding the ETA. Fair do's but as my holiday end date approached anxiety crept in to spoil the pleasure. Lesson with deliveries is to get a clear confirmation about target times and weather conditions that would prevent setting out etc. The trip had some memorable moments; in heavy seas in the Med, a female dolphin rapidly overtaking from our port quarter, we knew female because she had a tiny baby swimming in her slipstream; a crescent moon chasing a resplendent Jupiter across the sky!; an eerie swell  as we night sailed off Trafalgar.

Tenerife to Barbados. You will be aware of the potential rigours of an ocean trip, however include boredom amongst these. Our trip was excellent and with the full range of conditions. My advice is to be prepared with personal activities, nature spotting, personal log, astro navigation, some fishing, books, walkman ipod especially to quiet the off watch banging in heavy seas. I was ready, Soren wasn't, I recall, and in increasingly poor temper as the weeks went by.

Tenerife to Madera. Hardly any wind on the outward journey, becalmed we ran out of fuel around five miles short of Funchall. Although we should have had enough but when we had filled up the foaming of diesel gave the impression we were full when we were not, take care with this. We sent off Chris and another in the tender to get fuel. Shortly after the lightest breeze sprang up and we were able to sail and anchor in the outer harbour at Funchall. As we anchored, the wind died, a crew member noticed the tender racing out of the inner harbour on route to our original position. We shouted and whistled to no avail. Stupidly they had not taken the handheld radio, did we have one? With no wind to sail we radioed a German yacht just entering the harbour. They very kindly raced out after our tender and turned them around, otherwise who knows?. On our return as we neared Tenerife just after dawn we came upon a school of pilot whales. As we approached they held their position but as a group submerged a few feet to let us pass. We moved away and they rose to the surface, As we circled them each time we came too close they repeated the same manoeuvre. To early to get up I suppose.

Four go mad off Anglesey
On a serious note, when we returned to the dingy at midnight we were in good spirits. Had we four embarked on the dingy in a fast running tide, through the Menai Straight, there would have been real safety issues.

Author’s note (Spocky): Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Unfortunately, the tale you are about to read is pretty much true, so the identities of the guilty are changed so that they are not implicated any more than they are already. Just for note, the main protagonists are:
“Captain”: Bill Clay, erstwhile sailor of the Atlantic (so he says)
“Scotty”: engineer and fisherman and maker of the potted meat sandwich, Roger Webster
“Mr Tsulu”: helmsman extraordinaire, Mark Lee
“Spocky” : he’s so logical AFTER it’s happened, Steve Pagden
“Lt. Uhura” there were four different Lt. Uhura’s,all heroines in their own way, but because they are all girls they were not allowed to come and spoil what was a boy’s game…..
…so let the tale unfold…..
Captains log 18/5/01 9:00
I’ve been planning this trip for months. I’ve got a handpicked crew, known for their lack of knowledge of sailing, and I’ve planned them an itinerary down to minute detail for 3 action packed days. I’m packed and ready…….
Our 3 day mission: To boldly go where no man has gone before.
The detailed plan in minute detail: to go to North Wales near Anglesey, convince someone to give us a boat and sail it somewhere or other and then somehow come back and give it back.
Why Wales? Clever, because it juts out into the sea, it’s got more coastline therefore more chance of finding a boat than, say, Andorra . Why north Wales? Well it’s got even more coast, per square km hence even more chance of finding a boat. In fact, I plan to stop at a marina, because I’ve heard that lots of boats are to be found there. Logical and cunning, Spocky would be proud of me.
Captains log 18/5/01 10:00
We’re off in Spocky’s bus following a route designed to confuse Mr Tsulu’s GPS. Funny, but Mr Tsulu offered to drive, Spocky hesitated, looked at Scotty and said “No”. Mr Tsulu’s reputation at the helm isn’t that bad, is it…..
Captains’s log 18/5/01 14:00
Arrived early at Conway to convince locals at Fleet Command to give us a boat. Claim the crew are all hearty sea dogs. Scotty has sailed off the east coast, only it was the landward side (Hornsea mere). Shouldn’t matter, only detail. Tide out, so retire to the pub.
Captain’s log 18/5/01 16:00
On board at last, the yacht “Spirit”, show crew the ropes, I mean the sheets, and what to do with the dangly bumpery things that hang over the side of the boat when we set off. Have somehow convinced Fleet command of our competence, who show us how to operate the toilet and engine and dinghy. No one listens.
Captain’s log 18/5/01 18:00
Mr Tsulu has taken the helm in the marina. Can’t find the handbrake. Tide’s up and we’re off. I pour over the detailed charts and almanacs. We MUST follow an intricate route between sighting buoys to get out of Conway bay safely, using our trusty echo sounder.
Captain’s log 18/5/01 20:00
Ah the bracing air!! We’re sailing at 20 degrees to the horizontal, but we’re sailing! We’re out of the dangerous waters. The crew appear splendid!
Captain’s log 18/5/01 20:30
“Captain, sir, were travelling at about 2 miles per hour, I spot Puffin island 2 miles off the bow, should I take immediate evasive action to avoid”, asks Spocky. “ No”, I reply.
Captain’s log 18/5/01 21:00
Peer over sea charts a bit too hard and lose one lens from my glasses. We’ve headed for Beaumaris at the north east end of the Menai straight in tricky tidal waters. Mr Tsulu suffers a space time warp and places Beaumaris 1 mile in front of where it is. Spocky, Scotty and myself recalibrate him. Taking care to avoid grounding the boat using our trusty echo sounder, we moor at a buoy 20m from Beaumaris pier.
Captain’s log 18/5/01 21:45
Crew hungry and thirsty. We agree our objectives:
      To get to land in the 2 man dinghy with all 4 of us in it against the tide.
      To find food
      To make contact with the locals, and find the pub with the lock in.
      Not sure what “4” is, coming back to “Spirit”, perhaps?
Captain’s log 18/5/01 22:00
I point to the pier. “It’s that way”. Mr Tsulu is at the oars, we’re drifting off line. Spocky and Scotty grab his hands to regulate his stroke. We regain course. “Get off” yells Tsulu. They do. We drift off course again. Spocky and Scotty grab his hands again, and regulate his stroke. We regain course and make landfall at the pier steps. We cunningly hide the dinghy under the pier in full view of a young local, and make our way for food. Objective 1 completed.
Captain’s log 18/5/01 22:30
“I say local purveyor of fried fishy food, hurry up chappy, where’s the pub with the lock in, make it snappy”, I say loudly clearly and diplomatically to “Old Scroat” at the chippy. “Yer’ve angered ‘im!” says another local. Spocky creeps to “Old Scroat”, We get our food and head to the lock in at Scary Mary’s at the White Lion. Objective 2 completed.
Captain’s log 18/5/01 23:10
Scary Mary strides into the bar and continues to serve! Fine time! Objective 3 completed! “Where are you to?” say some other sea dogs. “To Holyhead by the fair wind” we reply. “Oo, tut, um, Beware ye! Ye must head south for Holyhead by the tide, or be damned!!” they reply. We scoff. Holyhead is north.
Captain’s log 19/5/01 01:30
We’re locked in! How can we escape from Scary Mary’s clutches? She’s not left us alone since she locked the doors! The plan: mass pee, lots of “hurumph!-ing” and mingle with the other salty sea dogs on their way out.
Captain’s log 19/5/01 01:45
Overjoyed at our cunning escape from Scary Mary, we head back to the pier. The dinghy is missing. We search every crack and crevice, no matter how minute, for our 2m dinghy. We note the 4 knot tidal flow. Spocky disappears. “Where’ve you been, Spocky?”  “Captain, the tide is flowing that way (he looks down tide)  so, logically, if the dinghy had come untied it could have drifted THAT WAY as well” said Spocky. Clever chap, that Spocky, however we appear doomed for a night back in Scary Mary’s.
Captain’s log 19/5/01 02:15
Nothing for it but a return to Manky Mary’s when two locals turn up with an army assault boat, apparently “fishing for “Lil’legals” or something. They return us to yacht “Spirit” for free! Objective 4 completed and how!
Captain’s log 19/5/01 02:45
“Hello, Welshy coastguard, this is yacht “Spirit”, we think our dinghy has been taken by pirates and scoundrels, but we are well, if a little worse for wear, over...” I say to the radio. “Thank you, “Spirit”, if we’d found an empty dinghy we’d have alerted the whole north west air sea rescue service, over…..” came the reply.
Gosh, we hadn’t thought of that.
“On the other hand, we might not, over…….”, crackled the radio again. We gaze humbly into our Drambuie glasses.
Captain’s log 19/5/01 07:15
“ Captain, I’ve located the dinghy, sir, its tied onto the roof of the pier pavilion” calls out Spocky. “Hell, Spocky, you’re right! Whatever made you look up there?” I exclaim. “Logical, captain, we’ve brought along Mr Tsulu, and whenever you do that you should expect the unexpected, so, naturally, I looked in the least expected place, on the roofs of the local buildings, and hey presto, there it was on the pavilion. I’m convinced a giant whale or an unexpected high tide or a freak whirlwind placed it there when we were in Scary Mary’s. It’s the only explanation that fits my theory.”  “Shut up, Spocky, don’t you think it was just a prank by the young locals?”
Captain’s log 19/5/01 08:00
We retrieve the dinghy. Mr Tsulu tries to get it by collapsing the pavilion, but his gigantic mass isn’t enough. Logically, Spocky, the lightest, gets the others to help him up onto the roof and unties the dinghy. For a minute, we contemplate leaving Spocky…We set off with Spocky. “Just completed a DNA sample download, captain, and commenced the decontamination procedures” says Scotty. What does he mean and why is he telling me this?
Captain’s log 19/5/01 08:45
I’ve peered extra hard at the almanac and sea charts using both my eyes through my one remaining lens, because these are dangerous waters. I elicit Mr Tsulu’s help to keep him off the helm. The other lens falls out. Scotty steers us safely following instruction and the trusty echo sounder, and we pass through the Beautiful Menai straights and past Caernavon and head out to sea with the tide taking us along.
Captain’s log 19/5/01 14:00
This is the life! We’re progressing well under sail, glad we didn’t take the advice of the salty sea dogs in Scary Mary’s last night. The only problem is that Spocky had some trouble, then Mr Tsulu had a lot of trouble with the toilet. “It’s your DNA sample download” jests Scotty. “No, Scotty, we both just had pees” says Mr Tsulu. Now I know what Scotty was telling me about earlier. Scotty disappears, reappearing only to mutter about pistons and seals and plungers and funny slimy bits and pebbles. We decide to check him. He’s got his head down the toilet, he’s up to his knees in water, and he’s got his tools out. Thank God, he wasn’t hallucinating after all; engineer Scotty is simply trying to mend the toilet. Good egg, that Scotty.
Captain’s log 19/5/01 15:00
Spocky has successfully manoeuvred us round a bay and between the coast and some rocks under sail. Mr Tsulu gets bored, and whams on the engine to get us out of some rough water. We fair whizz along, Scotty tries some fishing, and hooks a 150mm codling. Mr Tsulu gives it a high speed swimming lesson. Scotty lets it go muttering about being stationary is the best way to fish. The local fishing boats take care to avoid us.
Captain’s log 19/5/01 16:00
Mr Tsulu takes us inshore to watch some climbers scale an impossible cliff. An adventure which makes ours look somewhat tame. We reach Holyhead breakwater. Time for some sailing practice with Spocky and Mr Tsulu. There’s tacking, and jibing, and heave to, finally, “man overboard” drill. We practice this initially with Mr Tsulu’s socks. “Man at the helm, direct your crew” I instruct “Sock overboard, point!” yells the helm, we come about on an opposite tack, and just miss the first retrieval. We come about again, but sock 1 is lost. We try with sock 2, “Sock 2 overboard, point!!” “ They sink, we need something that floats” says Tsulu. We rig up a dangly bumpery thing, and try again another 3 times, successful each time. Scotty comes on deck. “Scotty, have we helped you dislodge the blockage with the yawing action of the boat?” Scotty looks green. “…tards!!” he mutters. Bas.. what was that?
Captain’s log 19/5/01 19:00-00:00
“Hello local folk of Holyhead water taxi, we’re all dolled up ready for a night on the town, come and get us, over” I say down the radio. The water taxi takes us and returns us later, fed, and with a fair few pints down us. Scotty has a long conversation in the bar about marine toilets with some strange folk who seem interested and know about these things. He tells us at great length what he’s found out. We have to humour Scotty, we might need him. We make contact with the local salty sea dogs. “Where are you to?” say the local salty sea dogs. “To Conway by the fair wind via the Skerries” we reply. “Oo, tut, um, Beware ye! Ye must head with care through the Skerries, or be damned!!” they reply. We scoff. Salty sea dogs all appear to talk crap.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 01:30
The radio comes to life “Hello..mumble…this is “Primrose”, mumble mumble, over…” I pick up the radio “ Hello, Petunia, this is Codwanger (snigger), do you read..,over…” The reply comes “Hello Codwanger, this is the Welshy coastguard, are you in trouble, over….”. We decide to maintain radio silence.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 09:00
We hail the water taxi. We all need to get rid of some Klingons which we do with much relief. We ask the locals in their local dialect for water and fuel. The gesticulate randomly, we head for the fish dock, plenty of fuel, but no-one to fill. We abandon, and head into the mirror glass calm waters of the northwest approach to Holyhead. No chance to sail, we motor at a fair lick, our heading, the strange waters of the Skerries.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 11:00
We reach the strange waters of the Skerries, via GPS. There is much turbulence and  even some whirlpools in this fast tidal flows. Maybe the salty sea dogs in Holyhead have a point. Anyway, our trusty echo sounder tells us we’ve plenty of water. We spot gannets diving for fish just off the north end of the flow, and decide to use Scotties prowess to catch us some lunch. Line overboard, but Scotty keeps mumbling about being stationary to fish. We tell him that relative to land we ARE stationary, even though Mr Tsulu has us going flat’s the strong tide. We see a porpoise.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 14:00
There is an alarm from the engine. Scotty and I  investigate. “The engine canna stand it, Captain”, says Scotty, inevitably. The engine has overheated. We raise sail, but end up going backwards towards the Skerries. We allow the engine to cool, Scotty sorts it out. Good egg, that Scotty.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 14:30
No fish, just potted meat sandwiches for lunch. Mr Tsulu calls out  “Look! A Whole line of porpoises, there, about 400m behind that boat!!” . We look at the strange leaping shapes on the surface of the calm waters. “I think you’ll find it’s just the wake from the boat” says Spocky, superciliously..
Captain’s log 20/5/01 16:00
The last leg! We round the northern tip of Anglesey. Using compass and squint, I set Scotty our heading. “Go that way, Scotty”. Mr Tsulu and Spocky wave their GPS’s at Scotty. “No, Scotty, go that way” pointing 45 degrees further north. Scotty obliges, and Conway bay begins to loom in the distance.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 17:00
Almost back, in plenty of time. We have to wait for the tide to get into port. Mr Tsulu takes us towards some more diving gannets on the north end of Conway bay. No luck, the fish they represent move lazily away from us. Is it our 1.6m keel combined with our extreme manoeuvres, I wonder…We head into the wide expanse of Conway bay.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 17:30
We stow the sails, begin the tidy up and Scotty checks the dinghy on the foredeck. “Pump overboard!!” he calls. All the crews intensive training from the previous day is used as we rescue the pump from the still waters of Conway bay. We head off again towards the harbour, with half an eye on our trusty echo sounder, 3-4m of water beneath our keel, plenty. Scotty thinks we’ve already hit the bottom. Whittles a bit, that Scotty.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 17:45
We spot an exposed sand bar 800m ahead, blocking our direct path to the harbour. CRUNCH. We hit the bottom. Our trusty echo sounder registers 2.5m of water below our keel. This is not possible. “It’s more likely calibrated form the level of my arse” says Scotty in engineering terms. We go forwards, then back, then we’re free. We adjust our course. Crunch. We hit again. Spocky grabs the helm from Mr Tsulu (Why? Where’s the logic in that?). Mr Tsulu and I pore over the charts whilst Spocky shuffles us out of the sand. “Go that way” we tell him. A glance over to the southern end of the bay, and we see a whole line of boats returning to Conway. All following the prescribed route we had taken out of the harbour. Exactly the route we had not taken on our return.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 18:00
We rejoin the procession. The water is deep, now. We blast past some other boats, Mr Tsulu at the helm. There is much relief. “How much fuel, captain, we don’t want to run out” asks Spocky. “Plenty, about half an inch, anyway, I’d rather run out before using the emergency supply..don't’worry...".Within 2 minutes the engines starts coughing. We panic. We panic a lot and find the emergency fuel which we pour into the tank. The engine takes 10 minutes to properly come back to life. Plan B is to raise the sails, but it isn’t really a good plan.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 18:30
I take us back into Conway. We refuel. We wash down the decks, unload  and refuel, and the crew place the dangly bumpery things down the side. We’re given our berth. Easy, this bit. We are tired and relieved at surviving our drama on the high seas.
Captain’s log 20/5/01 19:00
I leave my ship shipshape. I nimbly leap past Spocky at the end of the pontoon and “Whoops! I’ve dropped the navigation bag into the water, Oh no! Containing the GPS, navigation equipment and emergency radio!!” Panic. We retrieve all, except the radio. Mr Tsulu loses his watch. Two items needlessly sent to the bottom of Davy Jones’s Locker!!
Captain’s log 20/5/01 19:30
We watch John, in Fleet Command, as his jaw drops as we recount our sorry tale. “ You’ll pay for this!!!” his expression says, but his voice remains calm. I wonder about asking for a discount on a second charter. I don’t. We go home instead.
Author’s note
The tale doesn’t quite end here. One of the dangly bumpery things, otherwise known as fenders, was in fact a radar reflector. It was destroyed against the side of the boat.
“Scotty”, alias Roger was down at Allied Steel in Cardiff the other week, and guess what he found amongst the safety boots at the bottom of Dave Jones locker………
I’ve peered extra hard at the alm.