2016 – Gibraltar RYA Competent Crew course

So having found the sailing school, and been introduced to my instructor I collect my bag and make my way to the yacht that would be my home for five days. ‘Pretty Woman of Plymouth’ a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey Legende… So I chose my cabin and waited to see what would happen next…

After introductions of everyone on board, There were four of us, the instructor, a male and female doing the RYA yachtmaster track and me. None of us knew each other so it would be interesting to see how well we all got on. Of course, me having the least experience and never having stepped foot on a such a big yacht before I felt a little out of my depth. (Understatement of the century!)
The guys doing the yachtmaster track, as part of their course, had to go through some of the health and safety with me, so after this, an introduction to the plan for the week and I’m sure other things that have slipped my mind… we had our first meal on board. Lamb shanks, and veggie chilli. There were lots of jokes being shared – which are obviously great at getting people to laugh together and break down barriers…

I remember the week being really interesting, I was quizzed on parts of the boat – which of course I didn’t know – especially the bits that were expensive that I hadn’t seen anywhere before hydrostatic thingymagigs etc…

So I had to learn a couple of knots (for some strange reason I love things like crochet and even splicing, but could I remember the bowline! Could I ever! I still have a mental block with it now! Flipping rabbits!!).

Anyway – the five days went really well, it was very muggy and warm…

I really enjoyed the sailing, I enjoyed the company of everyone on board. I did get a little tired on the second night sail and couldn’t stop giggling with my fellow female – which I know wasn’t helpful! Especially as I was on helm and couldn’t see for crying with laughter! I did try to stop the banter – honest!

Anyway – we sailed to a couple of places, La Linea, just across the border in Spain… I just remember there being a lovely moon in the evening and a conversation about blue moons… (the fact that they’re not blue, it’s just the name given to the second full moon that happens within a calendar month) oh and introducing the guys in my boat to ‘Arthur Moon’ and his little brother – ok I really am mad!

We stayed in La Linea a couple of nights in the week, where we practiced manoeuvring around the marina (I could do with more of that right now haha!) and ‘Man over boards’ in the bay – not much use when you’re solo sailing I might add!

We sailed over to Ceuta, which I loved (I love North Africa, so it made my week to be there), went to a lovely lido and had a very welcome mojito, a swim and a catch up with some of the people on the other ASA boats… then on to a lovely place for food…

Well, after being told to stop messing about by the Ceuta Marina Police, and picking up some rather suspicious packages on the way back and handing them in to the Gib police, we made it back to Gibraltar.

Well, I passed my competent crew and got a bit of a bug for sailing in Gibraltar and the warmer climate…

2016 – Gibraltar Part One – before the actual sailing bit….

Warning to anyone reading this – it is a long one! It is also pretty silly at times… But then that is me! It is what makes my life interesting!

Well the summer flew… Before I knew it, it was Friday, 12 August 2016, and I was sat on a plane going to Gibraltar. Exciting! Or scary! Well both really!!!
Ok- before I go any further, I need to precursor this first bit with a – if anything can go slightly wrong, I guarantee you it will for me, never life threatening – but generally totally embarrassing and stupidly!!!

So, while on the plane, I am just about to open and start munching my healthy(ish) pack of chillied almonds, when there is an announcement from the crew. “Please can everyone avoid eating nuts during this flight as there is a passenger with a severe nut allergy on board” – really!!? With a young lad across the aisle laughing at me, the nuts go away for another day… Apart from sitting next to a chatty chap who just wanted to talk about how wonderful his life in Cadiz was, the flight was uneventful.

I leave the airport and having been told, you just cross the runway and then go right into the marina (B&B directions) I can’t for the life of me get my bearings. Yep I know a runway is hard to miss, but clever me missed it! So halfway across the border to Spain (I am really panicking now!) I am allowed to turn around and go back. My phone map refuses to work! Flippin tech! And so out comes my trusty printed off map for the sailing school and I realise where I have gone wrong and walk towards my boat B&B.

It is summer in Gibraltar, and although not as hot as their usual summers maybe, I am dressed in light jersey cotton trousers with a drawstring waist, and carrying a 10kg rucksack that was fitted for a very fat person (I hadn’t used it in years). So I am having to keep hitching up the rucksack AND my trousers as the rucksack is pushing them down. Well, somehow I forgot to keep hitching up my trousers because at one point (just as I’d eventually found the marina) I realised that my trousers were no long covering my backside and the mesh material of my undergarments were not doing much to help either! Oh help! What am I like!

So feeling like a bit of a numpty, I find my boat. I get shown around the boat by a young girl who ‘forgets’ to show me where the light switch for the loo is and how to flush it! So for the next couple of days I just walk to the marina shower block…

Being me and too embarrassed to go and eat out on my own, I go for a walk about, chat with a Dutch girl for a bit and just go to bed…

The next day – I’m a tourist. So I decide, desperate to be out on the water, to go out on a dolphin boat… which was fun, and yes I saw lots of dolphins and met a couple of ladies from a cruise ship who took me under their wing! (I’m not a good solo traveller! Maybe one day!) so we went for lunch, then shopping (if you can call it that) and then went for a drink and parted ways as their ship was due to leave. After more wanderings I plucked up courage to ‘dine’ by myself and then, again, bed early.

Next day, Sunday, I have to vacate my room (pokey little cabin but it was cheap and clean!) early so I took my bag to the place where I was going to ‘learn to sail’. I dump my bag, fill in some forms, meet a couple of the folks who would be on my boat, one of whom gives me (no doubt excellent if I had followed it) advice on how to go up the Rock. And off I go to see the monkeys! So, being impatient and wanting to start on the ascent, (this being someone who would not so long ago not want to walk very far on the flat!) I turn left somewhere in the main town and start walking up the Rock, I eventually make it by climbing up what felt like a million and two steps.

Greeted at the top by some rather wet and misbehaving apes who I talk to just like my mum would (it’s scary how these things happen as you get older!). Anyway, ape video and photo opportunities galore with daft tourists winding them up. Off I go to find the loo, it is Sunday, it is shut. Oh! So back down the rock I go, this time having befriended an American family who were scared of the apes and would I go first? Hmmm. Do I look brave? Apparently so!

So back in the town, I grab a bite to eat and make my way – as slowly as possible to the Allabroad Sailing Academy for my course. https://www.facebook.com/Allabroad/ for my RYA Competent Crew course…

That was close!!

So summer starts in 2016, after various invitations from my great sailing club friends which had been turned down – although, I believed, for the right reasons – I said yes to a sail. It was going to be on Eira on 17 July and at the Conwy River Festival. Lovely! It was arranged that I would be at Conwy Marina for 0900… I was really quite anxious, I was worried that I would be hopeless! (Anyone who knows me would tell you that I always worry that I’ll be hopeless!!!) I consoled myself with the thought that the three of us would be fine and it was just a bit of a cruise…

I arrive to find that that it wasn’t just a cruise, it was a race and then a cruise, it wasn’t the three of us either, as Lady Eira had gone on another boat, it was just the two of us… oh no… help!!! 
Well, after a calming cuppa and a chat about the plan for the day (a race in the morning followed by the La La Rally – a cruise to Caernarfon and back…) I was still panicking internally, but with the calming statement, ‘don’t worry Joy, I only need you to make up the numbers needed to enter the race’ from Mr Eira, I began to feel slightly less tense… but of course, only slightly!

So, out from the safety of the pontoon at the marina we go, we listen on the VHF for our course and start time. Far too quickly we are off, well to be fair, most of the morning was a blur, just the tension remains when I think how close to sailing into a fellow competitor we were at one point, half an inch maybe? Argh! (This was my first introduction to the lovely Talaris of Conwy. Not the best introduction and probably never forgotten by all involved!). Anyway, once the race was over – thank goodness! – we were on our way towards Anglesey. It was a lovely day, and by the time we reached Port Dinorwic, I definitely felt like we needed a rest! 

So after finally arriving at Caernarfon, we then had to wait a while for the tide to rise enough for the Marina gates to open. Well – I loved my day at sea. There were moments of tension, but also moments of bliss, lying in the sun (getting very sunburnt and not realising it – oops!) and enjoying being on the water in such a beautiful place… also, with me on helm going through the Swellies, we managed to avoid A, the divers, and B, the other boats, so all told quite a successful jaunt. 
As much as I loved the day – I knew I was ready to learn more and try and get some confidence on a boat… next stop – Gibraltar! Yey!

Summer’s End – Time Flies

Sailing in North Wales – unless you keep your boat in a marina – is very seasonal, plus of course the weather!!! 

So after a couple more sails on Eira, and one on the CHA, that was the end of my sailing for 2014… how depressing! 
2015 didn’t prove too eventful either, I had met someone new and due to his ill health I didn’t want to leave him at weekends, so only one sail on Eira while Colwyn Bay’s Prom Xtra was on, a little race in the bay followed by munchies at the mooring…. bliss.
2015 disappears and 2016 appears on the horizon. I am invited to become the secretary for Bay of Colwyn Sailing Club – I couldn’t say no to such an offer!!! After my appointment at the AGM in Feb 2016, the monthly meetings followed by a pint in the pub meant that I didn’t completely lose touch. Oh but I did miss sailing…. 
I just needed to get back to sea!
It’s the beginning of May 2016. I had lost so much confidence in sailing (I had only been out sailing once for half a day in 19 months!). A conversation was had around holidays, I was advised that they should be spent doing something that you really want to do, so once you decide what you want to do, go for it! 
That night I was googling sailing schools, I knew I needed somewhere tidal, having had a look at local schools and locations like Tenerife, Cornwall and the Solent – I realised that as RYA prices were pretty much the same it didn’t really matter where you went. About 5 years ago I lost lots of weight, since then I am sooo nesh! I get so cold easily, I thought that I would like to go somewhere warm, I emailed loads of sailing schools for availability on a Competent Crew course at May half term, a few got back to me from Gibraltar and Lanzarote with options but I chickened out…. just not brave enough to click “book”.
After a quiet and not particularly exciting May half term, often enjoying my view of the sea and watching the boats with sadness – I got back on the web and booked a course in Gibraltar for August (getting brave! Was I mad? Yes probably!!)…
Check out my view! 

Sea, Salts & Sail Festival 2014, Mousehole, Cornwall

Well the 11th-13th July, I decided I would take any very first ‘solo’ holiday to Cornwall for the Sea, Salts and Sail festival. So having driven the long journey from North Wales I arrived late and tired at my campsite. Decided to walk into the village, eat and join in with the festivities. 

Well I found a nice restaurant and sat listening in to everyone around me. (Not sure I was cut out for eating in restaurants on my own- I literally had to bite my tongue to stop myself from joining in on others conversations!) Well, after food I wandered down to the harbour where the crowds were being entertained by a local male voice choir. After a couple of drinks I decided to wander home to my campsite. Oh dear – hadn’t realised that it was a bit of a one way system! I got sooooo lost walking home!!! Tramping through fields in the rain. At one point I was scared to death by a badger! Eek! My phone had died so no chance of getting my whereabouts by GPS! 

Anyway, the next day I wandered back to the village and watched the various activities from the shore, enjoyed mooching in the artisan shops. There were some great bands on the stage, I spent a lot of time videoing a fabulous older lady dancing away to her hearts content. Well, once again I was earwigging to a conversation between a couple next to me, the gentleman was saying how much he had enjoyed his experience on one of the old Luggers, and wasn’t it fortuitous that he had bumped into the captain and he offered him a sail. So at this my ears pricked up and I stuck my nose in! Excuse me please, I said, did you say you had been out on one of the Luggers? Did you say you know the Captain? Do you think he would let me join them??? I eventually let the poor chap get a word in edge ways, and he said he’d introduce me. So, long story short, I had the pleasure of sailing on one of the beautiful luggers called Barnabas  here she is… http://www.mbla.co.uk/barnabas.htm

It was a beautiful day and there were quite a few of us traditional old boats racing past the “Mousehole” cave and back towards St Michael’s Mount. I have spent many happy weeks and months in Cornwall over my life, but that day was the most memorable ever because as an adult I got to see some of my favourite landmarks from the sea.

Later that day I had a proper Cornish pasty, met up with some friends and watched my friend conducting Porthleven Town Band… The next day I started my journey home…


Well I have already mentioned Eira, she is a Super Seal 26. Sailing with the owners of Eira has been an absolute pleasure, and one much repeated… 

Here is a photo from the 6th July 2014 when we sailed around the Orme back from Conwy. (This was the day after my traumatic experience on Traumatic!). 
Cruising on Eira is like being part of a family, often joined by one of their grandchildren. (Another generation being brought up on the water, what a brilliant education….) always well fed and watered. My bestest ever breakfast butty was on Eira!
16th July we sailed to the Menai Straits and anchored off shore from the gazelle pub, this was one of the occasions when turning up first was a drawback, we walked up the very muddy beach – one of us got our welly stuck in the mud and ended up rather filthy (but my friends, being always prepared, got the baby wipes out – they were needed a couple of times that evening!!). We then lit the barbecues and waited for our sailing club friends to arrive. One of the boats didn’t quite make it in time that evening and had one of those moments aground when you get the deck brush out to clean the sides and pretend it was on purpose!! Bless.

Charles Henry Ashton

I have previously mentioned that my dad loves sailing, well he had to give it up at 65 because lifting the boat onto the roof of my mums car was taking its toll… so he took up windsurfing, then after a while gave that up in favour of a power kite (in his 70s by now). One particular memory always springs to mind, dad still in his dressing gown, with his power kite on Benllech beach, Anglesey. He said, “Joy would you mind putting your arms around my waist as the wind seems to have picked up a little?” So I put my arms around his waist, thinking, nothing will move us (I was rather heavy at the time!) anyway, up goes the kite. Immediately we were half lifted and half dragged along the beach!!! Argh!! Thankfully dad lowered the kite down quite quickly and we were back on terra firma. Phew!!! 

Anyway, my folks moved to Anglesey when my dad was 79, he bought an old fishing boat that was kept in Cemaes harbour.

After only going out in it a few times because it needed work doing, he sold this at 85.
Anyway, in 2014 he had asked to me to go sailing with him on a 1907 decommissioned lifeboat. Definitely I thought. 
So we went out on the 38ft Charles Henry Ashton. Such an interesting experience, powered by oars to get clear of the harbour and then the dipping lugsails and jib were hoisted for a leisurely morning sail. (Check out http://www.cemaesclassiclifeboat.co.uk if you are interested in experiencing it for yourself.) 

I’ve only managed to sail on her a couple of times – once spotting porpoise on our way back from the OGA Holyhead Traditional Sail Festival – but she is certainly very different to sailing a modern cruising yacht.

What a whiff…

I don’t know about you, but I love nature, I love to see sea birds and birds of prey, rabbits, goats and donkeys!! (I live on the Orme but that’s another story!) but I always love seeing the seals and dolphins at sea. So far I had a few sightings of North Wales sea life, however nothing had prepared me for what was to come.

Now, I really did like the Cornish Crabber, maybe it was because it was a cool aqua colour (me being a girl lol!), or maybe it was because it was really responsive at the helm, or maybe it was because it was the first boat I sailed in on the sea, but one drawback was that it was a day boat without a bilge keel (for those of you who have no idea what this is, two keels underneath both sides of the boat that enable it to stand upright without water) so my pal used to sleep on his, and hope that he wouldn’t end up on the floor depending on which way the boat settled when the tide went out. I however, had been introduced to the exceptionally kind hearted owners of Eira, who took me in, under their wings in their pride and joy. Eira could not only accomodate an extra body, but had a heads!!!! Whoop whoop!! no more thoughts of having to pee in a bucket (which I just could not do!!!). Two fabulous folk who happily let me stay on their boat just because I was a friend of a friend. Hey, I could have been a complete nutcase!! Oh yes, I was haha! Never mind they soon found that out and I seemed to fit in. I was introduced to their eclectic mix of music including my favourites Queen – ‘I’m going slightly mad‘ and the lovable ‘Dominick the Donkey‘!

So, enough ramblings already, it is now the longest day in June 2014, yet another sunny day in North Wales. This sailing trip we headed off towards Liverpool. There were a few boats out and I happened to be on Eira, a Super Seal 26, which I found out can sail closer to the wind than all the others in our little cruising group and pretty much always is the first to arrive anywhere – which does have its drawbacks, but today was an exception…

On our way there, a pod of dolphins played on our bow and in our wake, it was really hard to take images as they move so fast, plus you are so busy watching them that you don’t want to go inside to get your camera… too busy enjoying life to capture it…

So we kept on, past all the windmills along the North Wales coast, to Hilbre. As we arrived, there looked to be sand dunes with loads of rocks along the shoreline. We dropped our anchor as close as possible, on our approach all the rocks started moving into the water! – it was seals, hundreds of the things!

Anyway, after a while they came to investigate us – honestly! their breath was sooooo smelly! Very fishy – possibly not surprisingly considering their diet! It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many seals.


After a while of lazing in the sun and enjoying our new friends, we went off to find a mooring. It was a beautiful sunset that night. Some of the boats from our club joined us, one left it slightly too late and ran aground (they shall remain nameless!).

The next day we sailed back to Rhos. What a buzz though – I have seen many seals and dolphins in my travels but nothing yet has surpassed that weekend… I always have to admire them and appreciate their beauty…. just make sure you have a peg handy for your nose for those bad breathed seals!

A ‘Cracker’ of a Cemaes Sail

I have just been going through my photographs to try and write these posts in some order… I have found some photos from a memorable sail to Cemaes Bay, where my folks now live, a week after my first sea sail on Cracker…

As you can see it was a beautiful day and evening, we sailed for (it feels like) hours and hours! This was the first time I really needed a pee when we got there (I honestly cannot emphasise the word ‘really’ enough!!!), I can remember meeting my dad at the beach when we arrived and me going “this is dad” and walking like a very desperate person up the beach for the loo! I really couldn’t face going in a bucket onboard!!  Not on an open day boat for the world to see…

When I rejoined dad and my friend there had been an invitation to my folks house for tea (eek) not quite what I expected – but thankfully it went ok. I then stayed at my folks, and watched Cracker and Eira set off in the morning and I got a lift back home with my dad.

Looking at the photos – who says you don’t get blue skies in North Wales!? And I promise you some places look way better from the sea than they do on land!

Sailing rediscovered

Well many years later and with a continued love of all things afloat…

I have mentioned in my introduction that my life had drastically changed, coming out of a 11 year marriage that had broken down and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I made a new friend, who had invited me to go sailing with him, he had just finished working on a dinghy and wanted to try it on a lake. He had a yacht which was over-wintered in a boat park, but wanted to extend his sailing season with a dinghy on lakes.
In December 2013, we met up to go sailing on a nearby lake, me with homemade Cornish pasties in hand… It was a cold but fun experience. When I had been out with my dad sailing as a kid I had never done anything other than sit there and follow instructions! Sea Miracle seemed to be a lovely boat, and once again, I didn’t do anything except sit there and follow instructions! I did have a go on the helm, although from what I can remember there was little wind and I only had to try and keep it in a straight line, no tacking or gybing for me! However I loved it…
In April, he invited me to test his lovely new Cornish Crabber ‘Cracker’ on the sea. We drove to Trefor on the Llyn Peninsula and set sail for Caernarfon, it was a beautiful day with slight winds and I realised that my love of all things sparkly came from seeing the glint of the sun on the sea, so beautiful. So inspiring… I had been really worried about sailing on the sea knowing that I knew next to nothing, would I be seasick? Would I hate being in this little boat for hours? but I loved it again…

The next day we set out to Caernarfon to bring ‘Cracker’ back to Conwy, the weather had changed, the wind had picked up and the sea was lumpy. Knowing that the limit for ‘Cracker’ was force 5 and knowing that there were gusts of force 5 we weren’t sure whether we should actually sail. Anyway, we did, I loved the rise and fall of the sea and it was exhilarating when it felt like we were surfing along on the waves. Again I thought this was amazing! I realised I liked it more than the day before when it had been really calm.

Oooooh, I’ve just found a video…

I sailed a few more times on ‘Cracker’ each time becoming more aware that I didn’t have a clue! I would be on helm and could follow basic instructions but how do you keep a boat in a straight line with wind and waves! Eek! During this time I began to meet with his sailing club friends, all of whom were so lovely and actually quite normal! Not the posh toffs one might expect when you think of yacht owners… funny how prejudice creeps in…

Moving on, the next boat was a Cornish Shrimper named ‘Traumatic’ – not a name I would choose for a boat, but hey, any opportunity to sail was fine by me!

We were sailing from his mooring in Rhos-on-sea to Conwy. The wind made our passage difficult, the Shrimper didn’t sail as close into wind as our friends and they arrived in Conwy long before us. We only just made it around the Great Orme, having nearly turned back a few times. We made it around the Orme and had to follow the narrow channel into Conwy on a falling tide. The wind and sea state had picked up and it was raining, I was on helm, we had to tack (at this point I still had no idea what tacking meant) I turned the boat, too far, oh pooh! Panic arose as we had to counter my oversteer whilst keeping within the channel and not running aground – my poor friend nearly got cut in half with the tiller. We got back on track and then had to tack once more, what did I do? Exactly the same thing again! Well – shouts from my friend and absolute horror from me – I was never going to sail again! My friend asked me to make a vhf call to our friends to let them know we were arriving. I will never forget my first call “Eira, Eira, this is Traumatic, Traumatic!!!!!” And oh it was.

I haven’t sailed with that particular friend since, I’m not sure if it is because he thinks I tried to kill him! Or whether it was due to a change in his life circumstances – I like to hope it was the latter haha! But anyway – I truly want to say a gigantic “thank you for reintroducing me to sailing. It has honestly made a massive impact on my life.” I will never forget those experiences…