First weekend solo sailing

Well Easter weekend was the first ‘Cruise’ in the Bay of Colwyn sailing calendar. This was the date that I had been working towards so that I could join all of the guys on the Round Anglesey cruise… 

My engine had been run in and was raring to go (4knots flat out – but better than none!). So the next hill to climb was the battery issue…

Most solo sailors appreciate a helping hand from their autohelm. This steers the boat in the chosen direction while you run about the boat sorting the sails, or fenders or the anchor. Well mine had been having a difficult time of it. The battery lasted about an hour with very little power being used by Poppet’s electrical equipment. The depth sounder and the vhf radio uses very little, so the main drain was the autohelm – or so I thought… I bought a brand new leisure battery which had been fully charged, so all looked hopeful and I was ready to go… Yey! Let’s go sailing! 
Well Good Friday the sea was looking a little lumpy, I still couldn’t reef my main sail (make it smaller so that the boat wasn’t overpowered) so I got Poppet ready for motoring. Traumatic was heading to Beaumaris, I hadn’t heard from the other boats. Most of the boats in Conwy Marina were staying put, but with a little prompting from the owner of Traumatic II, I decided to go out and see what it was like in Conwy Bay… 

I left the marina and headed into the channel, motoring happily. Well I love a slightly lumpy sea, and Poppet felt happy too! All good! Traumatic met me at the Fairway buoy, rolling around in the swell… and off we headed to Beaumaris… 

It was great, rather damp but fun… Poppet happily bounced into the waves and yet the cockpit was stable. 

At Beaumaris we picked up mooring buoys (another first for me), and waited for the tide to go out… after a little while, the tide receded to reveal an anchor pointing straight up out of the sand only feet away from Traumatic! Oh my, that could have been really serious! So after waiting for the tide to go out, the anchor was buried point down into the sand, hopefully no longer to be a risk again… 

So after a chippy tea and a pint in the local, off we went back to the boats… it was a lovely star lit night, and I really enjoyed being on a mooring for a change. 


The next day, after a bacon butty, and working out the tides for slack water etc we left our moorings and with the wind directly on our bow we motored down the straits and through the swellies (notorious section of water in the Menai Straits). 

I got all excited when we passed a boat I recognised – Talaris, and waved like an over excited loon!! 
When we reached the Caernarfon end of the Straits the water was getting a little less flat again… 

Traumatic went into the marina first, and after a few minutes or so I headed in and moored up next to her… 

After realising that we weren’t being joined by the rest of the sailing club guys, off we went to meet up with my friend at my favorite ice cream and pancake house, Scoops, then went for a drink (or 3!!) at a nearby pub. 


The next day, feeling rather thick headed, we decided to go back to Conwy, the wind was such that if we didn’t go today we would have to motor… well the best thing about having a sailing boat is when you turn the motor off, you are still moving, there is no noise apart from your hull cutting through the waves and the sound of your terribly trimmed sails luffing if you’re on poppet haha!!! So, one of us with a wet leg, and the other with a sore head, we sailed back, Traumatic miles ahead of Poppet! No surprise there! Anyway – the sail was great, the sea slightly lumpy, the arrival into my berth was my worst ever! Tired, panicked! Argh!!! It was that bad that I was never going to sail again in fact! 

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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!

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…