Shrewsbury School

Sailing round Anglesey

Thursday 2 October 2014

“If you can navigate round Anglesey, you can navigate round the world” is the old adage. Shrewsbury School now has a posse of world-capable navigators! Last weekend six Salopians and two adults sailed around Anglesey - ‘The Devil’s Island’ - in pretty much one go.

Departing from Conwy at Friday at 2230, which was the earliest the water was high enough to cross the cill in the marina, the strong tide against as we exited the estuary slowed the boat to a few knots and deepened by the minute; just as well, since taking a new crew in an unknown boat out for the first time, at night, is one of the more challenging situations facing a skipper.

Having cleared the fairway buoy, a 3 watch system saw 3 hours on and 6 off, though the brightness of the stars and the path-like quality of light from the Milky Way kept many of the crew on deck for longer than was strictly necessary; so did the phosphorescence in the water, which was activated by the passage of the boat. The bow wave and the wake positively glowed – it was quite ethereal.

Slack water through Red Wharf Bay turned to a galloping tide behind us past the Skerries and Holyhead, and over some lumpy overfalls; it was akin to something out of Alton Towers under stars, with the loom of two lighthouses sweeping us regularly.

We cleared South Stack by 0430 Saturday morning as the tide was slowing and about to turn against. A short hop past Rhosneigr to Caernarfon bar got us there too early to cross immediately, for lack of depth, but a two-hour tack towards Porth Dinllaen and back allowed us to use the last of the flood at 1130 in the ideal conditions of a light following wind to tie up in Victoria Dock soon after.

It would have been possible to complete the circumnavigation non-stop, but for a bit of tiredness and the desire to see the Castle. Also, I had read about Ainsworth’s fish and chips – they were indeed good!

On exit from the dock next morning, there was a moment of concern as the helm became totally locked, just as the tide picked us up and hurled us past the famous Change Buoy in the Caernarfon Channel. It turned out that the odd placement of the autohelm had allowed a passing limb to brush past the ‘on’ button, locking the wheel: it was relief to get it back, though not until we had explored the use of the emergency tiller!

Navigation through the Menai Straight and the Swellies was entirely undertaken by the boys; accuracy to within a few metres was the order of the day, and it was successfully done, using all the various cross-checks for proper placement in the channel.

Once under the bridges, we dodged past the mussel dredger and headed across the sandbanks of the Penmaen Swatch, over ‘the Pool’ with a back-bearing on the radio tower, and on, under sail, past Penmaenmawr to Conwy. Great weather had meant less sailing and more motoring, but it hardly dampened the mood on board.

Toby Thomas, Brendan Parsons, Dan Lo, Ed Chamberlain and Paddy George formed the crew, with Hugo Morgan as a watch leader. Tim Osborne and I were the adults. I’d normally use the adjective ‘responsible’ at this point, but Tim always bursts out laughing for some reason.
Philip Lapage
Photos by Dan Lo (SH UVI)

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