Updated: Sep 4, 2018
It all started in Cardiff Bay Marina, where we bought the boat from David and Sarah.
Although we’d been out on Chelsea with David and Sarah once before, it was our first proper sail with her and we were absolutely buzzing! We finished work and drove down on the Friday night. It was a bit of a mad rush and typically, we got caught in 3 hours of traffic. We had bought a LOT of stuff with us – mainly scatter cushions and throws (Ryan can’t get enough of them) – so it took us a couple of hours to unload the van then Ryan and Dean went to do a food shop whilst I put everything away. I wanted to hoover so we plugged into the electric, but nothing worked. Confused, I rang David and Sarah and luckily, they were on their boat on another pontoon, so they popped over. It turned out we hadn’t plugged the electric cable in properly – great start! I think this worried Sarah a little bit as she quickly began talking to us about being safe and phoning them whenever we needed anything. 700 calls later, I imagine Sarah is regretting that offer slightly now! David also set up the chart plotter with a route we could follow which was one job Ryan didn’t need to do – thank you David! Once all the bits were unpacked and stowed, we set our alarms and went to bed.
In the morning we woke up and had a little team meeting about who was going to be doing what as we left the dock. This has now become a regular tradition and has made us much smoother with our departures. I was in charge of undoing the lines on the dock, Dean would be watching out and catching the lines on the boat and Ryan was at the helm (steering). We had 13 knots of wind pushing us off the dock which, at the time, I hadn’t fully appreciated how much that would move the boat. I undid the lines and on the final one the boat suddenly swung out and started pulling away from the dock. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to jump back on, so I tried to pull the boat back in – a ridiculous idea as the boat weights 14 tones and that against the wind was never going to happen with my little arms! Another mistake of mine – I was wearing my slippers which aren’t the most grippiest of footwear. The boat was going out further and further and I slipped over and was being dragged along the pontoon. At this moment Dean shouted to Ryan that I had fallen over to which he responded – “tell her to get the **** up!”, excellent Ryan! I managed to put my foot against a cleat to stop the boat from pulling me into the water and somehow pulled the boat back to the dock slightly so that Dean could jump off and help me pull it in, which he did. I jumped on, then Dean, and we were away.
Cardiff Bay marina has a lock, so we began approaching the lock but had to wait for 15 minutes as it only opens at certain times and we’d missed the one previously - I think I was being dragged along the pontoon at that point! Ryan did so well at controlling Chelsea in the wind for that long, its not easy and it was our first time but he’s very good and managed it like a pro. The lock opened, and we started to go in. The wind was mad and blowing from the only direction in the marina that wasn’t sheltered – typical. We approached the lock sideways, Ryan says this is called crabbing. Whatever it is called, its not nice being on the front of the boat seeing a big concrete wall coming and thinking Ryan’s fallen asleep at the wheel or something. Just as we got to the wall of the lock entrance – and I am talking a matter of feet away – Ryan straightened up the boat and we docked successfully. Next challenge was leaving. We went to leave and Ryan suddenly realised the engine had stalled. Not sure what was going on, we radioed through to the marina and let them know we wouldn’t be moving out of the lock just yet. Ryan realised it was because the fuel valve was on the wrong setting, changed it and we were off. If the boat had stalled when we were waiting outside of coming into the lock, we would probably have drifted into the rocks, so we felt very lucky indeed that it happened to happen as we were tied up. Writing the boat off before we’d left the marina wouldn’t have been ideal, especially as the previous owners were right there to see it all!
We left the lock and continued to motor for a while when the engine cut out for a second time. Ryan had to change the fuel valve settings once again. This time he got it right and that was the end of the stalling fiasco, thankfully. It was at this moment that we all had a chance to reflect on our departure from Cardiff Bay. To sum it up in 3 words – scary, challenging, intense – BUT we had done it and we were proud of ourselves. We continued the sail, heading to Padstow and all seemed fine. Only major drama during the sail was when we suddenly saw a crab pot and Ryan banged 30 degrees on the autopilot. At that exact moment we got a gust and ended up surfing down a wave sideways, which turned the boat pretty sharply and everything went everywhere. Poor Poppy got the brunt of it - she ended up on the floor by the stairs covered in smoothie, coffee and juice – sorry Pops! Dean’s bed had looked better too - we’d left the window open and Poppy’s water bowl flew in and went all over - sorry Dean! As we began to get closer to Padstow, the sea state went a bit mad and we had 8-9ft waves. This was really exciting, and it was a great feeling when the boat surfed down them. We were slightly panicked though as we knew there was a huge sandbar as you head into Padstow and we only had a few hours to get there in time. Chelsea has a draught of 2.2meters so we must be carefully with where we go so as not to be caught out by the tide and run aground. We put the engine on as well as having the sails up and we were doing around 9.5 knots, which is pretty good going.
As we started approaching Padstow the skies decided to open, and it hailed with thunder and lightning, just what we needed! This made it extremely difficult to see anything so spotting crab pots and marker buoys was impossible. We tried to phone through to the harbor office but there was no answer, “looks like were doing this alone then!”. Dean and I had to go out onto the deck into what had now become a storm of biblical proportions, to do the fenders and lines. How one of us didn’t get blown off is a miracle. Whilst we’re hanging on for dear life, Ryan managed to get through on the radio to speak to the harbor office. The harbor master said casually, “just follow the marker buoys”, to which Ryan replied, “what buoys, we can’t see anything”. There was a bit of a pause and then “oh yeah, fair point”. When we later spoke to the harbor master, he said he hadn’t been looking out the window but as soon as he did he understood what we meant! Thankfully, the harbor sent out a really lovely guy on a rib to guide us in to the harbor. He was shouting at us to move to starboard, but we thought he meant once we passed a buoy and we hadn’t seen any yet. As he continued to shout, I looked over to Portside and realised there was a beach about 8 meters away – “RYAANNNNN there’s a beach just there”. Luckily Ryan managed to turn to starboard, the guy on the rib must have breathed a sigh of relief and it was another near miss for the day! Later Ryan told me we had less than half a meter of water under the keel, so it really was a bit dodgy. We came up to the harbor and realised there were 2, an inner and an outer. As usual I got it all wrong and directed Ryan to the outer harbor, so we got strict instructions called over the radio to go to the inner one and Ryan had a moan!
I wish I could have recorded mine and Deans face as we entered the inner harbor and Ryan started to move the boat to where it would be moored. It was just a wall with a big ladder on it leading up to the ground. We both shouted back at Ryan that there was no pontoon and we had no idea how we would possibly be able to jump onto the ladder, Spiderman style, climb up and tie off, all before Chelsea ploughed into another boat or the harbor wall. “Abort, Ryan ABORT”. Ryan started to reverse out then realised we wouldn’t get back over the sand bar now so there was no option. He headed again for this spot and Dean and I looked at each other as if to say, well it was fun while it lasted. Luckily a guy from another boat must have realised we had no idea what were doing and came out to catch our lines. He was called Ray and we actually spent quite a bit of time with him during our stay in Padstow. If you’re reading this Ray - thank you so much for your help!
So, we were moored up in our first spot of the trip. It had been an eventful day, but the feeling of achievement was amazing, and we went to the pub to recover, I mean celebrate!
The next day we slept in and then had a look around Padstow. It was a beautiful harbor in a lovely little town and there were some great bars and pubs – we tend to judge places based on their drinking facilities! We also got a few jobs done and gave the boat a good clean, ready to set off the next day for leg 2.
Gorgeous views along the coast in Padstow
The next leg began - We woke up at 3am, had showers then conducted our team meeting to plan our departure from Padstow.
Next off... dolphins!
And the night sail!