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  • #3776

    Last week I taught myself a very valuable lesson – take your own advice!!!
    I always say when asked , I never go out to sea when there’s a 6 in the forecast , however last week after a rather dull, wet but satisfactory sail from the Menai Straights , round the north of Anglesey to Holyhead on Tuesday.

    I was listening to the forecast – Southerly 5 occasionally 6 for Wednesday. so decided to poke my nose out of the harbour as see what the conditions were like around North and South Stack to possibly carry on to Caernarvon. The outward beat was OK , the sea was quite big at around 3m swell and I was soon in the race around N stack , again lumpy and confused but OK , about the same as Pt Lynas the day before – timing was around slack water.
    Had to go a fair way out to clear S Stack as the wind was now up to a 5 and southerly. Tacked and all seemed OK for an uncomfortable but manageable beat down the east side of the island. Then it all went wrong. Visibility reduced to a couple of hundred yards, the rain increased and the wind got up to the forecast 6, I could not reliably steer a compass bearing in those conditions to clear the cliffs of S Stack and with the wind over tide conditions the S Stack race would be too dangerous, I persevered for around 15min but the conditions became impossible, I could only hear the horn of the lighthouse getting nearer but still no sight of land.
    Plan B – return to Holyhead and put the kettle on! – This is when it got silly. I was now at HW +1 with a 6 against a strong tide entering the N Stack tide race. The Sea Kayak pilot notes say “The formidable N Stack tide race in wind against tide conditions should only be viewed by mortals from the safety of the shore” – It is difficult to put into words the battle that went on for the next 1 ½ hrs , planning wildly down 10m breaking seas , huge foaming crests from all directions swamping over the transom and sides , whilst only making 0.5 to 1 Kn over the ground, often going backwards , every time I thought I was through the race the strengthening tide pushed me back into chaos. Eventually the benefit of a F6 on the beam, earnest conversations with my maker and a few years experience on the helm got me out and safely behind the Holyhead breakwater.

    Lessons: Passage planning , carefully study the pilot notes , I should have poked my nose out one hr earlier as the tide race is weaker before HW , increasing to max soon after HW.
    Not only think about what’s in front of you, the gate may close behind making turnaround impossible.


    Lastly – Thanks Ian Proctor – you know why!!


    Bob Harland

    that sounds like a hairy sail.

    I think the F6 rule is a pretty good one. Trouble is what do you do when there is force 6 in the forecast for the next 5 days? We had just that situation in July cruising around the Thames Estuary this year, mainly westerly winds but everyday gusting up to 25knots.
    We chose to take our chances. Most days the storm jib saw action with a double reefed main. The boat handled superbly. I think I would now be much more inclined to go out and at least test the conditions.
    Of course the Thames Estuary is a different bag of nails to Anglesey.
    I always try to treat the headlands of Wales with great respect. If I cannot go past them at slack water, I don’t go.


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