Grand Tour day 39: Swansea to Neyland Marina, Milford Haven

Missing Link log 25 May 1999
Crew: Kim Hollamby & Ken Watson.
From: Swansea Marina, Swansea, Wales.
To: Neyland Marina, Milford Haven, Wales.

Port engine start hours: 338.0. Finish hours: 343.6. Hours run: 5.6.
Stbd engine start hours: 338.1. Finish hours: 343.7. Hours run: 5.6.
Log start: 3601.1nm. Log finish: 3678.9nm. Distance run: 77.8.

Navigation log
Paid berthing fee 15/5 to 24/5 ??100.35.
1035 underway.
1055 cleared Swansea Marina lock.
1105 into Tawe lock.
1130 wpt 1024 Swansea Harbour inner breakwater. 51 36.30N 003 55.63W.
1135-1140 photographs with Fairline 36 Turbo Brival.
1145 wpt 1025 0.5nm E of Mixon PHM. 51 33.00N 003 58.00W.
1216 wpt 1026 2.5nm S Oxwich Point. 51 30.00N 004 10.00W. Wind F3-4 WSW sea 1.0-1.5m waves, occasional bigger onecloser to 2.0m. Mostly long enough that the boat rides over comfortably. Speed 18kn.
1243 51 30.03N 004 20.98W false waypoint arrival alarm. Reset ST80 system to steer for wpt 1027.
1330 51 30.16N 004 38.46W. Speed 16kn, then 13kn. Dropping back as Brival astern.
1440 1.3nm E of wpt 1027 1.9nm S Saint Gowan Hd. 51 30.00N 005 00.00W. Another early wpt alarm. Turn anyway, initially onto track for wpt 1028 6.2nm S of St Ann’s Hd.
1450 spot at least 12 dolphins just S of Saint Gowan SCM; head across and run alongside to to take photographs. Some of them play with Missing Link’s bow wave.
1510 underway again; heading straight for wpt 1029 Steep Rock SHM. 51 40.00W 005 08.30W as no offshore activity on Castlemartin Range. Speed 18kn.
1550 Milford Haven entrance. Run E of Eastern Channel.
1610 just off Pembroke. Drop off plane.
1625 alongside Dale Sailing fuel berth Neyland. 483lt diesel ??102.19.
1700 alongside holding pontoon Neyland Marina.

It was a relief to get away from Swansea. When lines are attached to a pontoon for a week or more, a superhuman effort is required to move them again.

Not that it had been a problem staying for so long. Far from it; the marina had proven a safe place to leave Missing Link and I had enjoyed the mix of traditional atmosphere and modern Captain Catfacilities that are a part of the make-up of the place. Town is a short stroll away and it offers a comprehensive array of shops, albeit in a rather heartless setting which has yet to recover from World War II bombs. But you are soon soothed again by the Maritime Quarter and intrigued by the statue of local hero Dylan Thomas outside a theatre bearing his name and by another representing Captain Cat from Thomas’s classic Under Milk Wood. His role?

“The sleepers are rung out of sleep with his loud get-out-of-bed bell”.

We needed Captain Cat’s bell and the eventual arrival of long promised lighter winds to get-out-of-marina. After a quickly aborted plan to go Monday evening, we instead found a more successful plan for the following morning.

For this leg to Milford Haven we were loosely accompanying Swansea berth-holders Nigel and Angharad and their recently acquired Fairline 36 Turbo Brival. Angharad, or ‘Harry’ to her heathen friends, is one of the established crew who work at the marina and we first met her the week before when she was dressed up for the part and manning the lock office. Now she was in casuals, looking forward to a two-week holiday.

When most people move house, they change their location to do so. For Nigel and Angharad, they relocated their new house from Port Solent and had only just moved into Brival the month before we arrived, the latest in a string of boats on which they have lived for the past three years.

Brival Fairline Turbo 36They had been kind hosts during our stay and we were pleased to spend a little longer in their company as we ran out of the harbour. Taking photographs of landscapes with nothing in the foreground is something of a thankless task; having the Turbo cutting her way across Swansea Bay made for much better images of the Mumbles. So much for the exploitation of the press.

After that we parted ways, with Brival hugging the inshore route and Missing Link running further out to run some checks on navigation gear. At first we could see the Turbo but later she dropped off the edge of the horizon, delayed (as we later discovered) by a fuel blockage.

Our run was relatively straightforward with just a couple of complications and then a real highlight.

First came the discovery that the draw under the forward berth had been left unlatched and had come crashing out, its weighty contents bending the runners in the process. Mark that one down to terminal harbouritis.

Then we were rather intrigued to get an early waypoint alarm and also to see the east/west leg on our route show up as the reciprocal course. We now have a little chore to see if we can replicate the fault.

Ken WatsonBut all was forgotten when Missing Link‘s latest crewmember, Ken Watson, spotted at least a dozen dolphins frolicking in the waves off Saint Gowan’s Head. We nosed over to have a look and soon found ourselves marvelling at an acrobatic display both under the water and over it as the dolphins shot in to ride our bow wave or threaded a dynamic weave through the stern wash. For the dictionary definition of ‘exultation’ look no further.

As with our encounter with basking sharks off the Lizard (see Grand Tour Day 16) it would have been easy to stay much longer, but Missing Link‘s bow was finally pointed in the direction of Milford Haven. Given the lack of activity to seaward of the Castlemartin range we were able to close the coast and soon had the approach channel buoys in view.

dolphin swimming off the bowOnce inside we had a run along memory lane to Neyland: Thorne Island’s hotel and restaurant for (supposedly) shipwrecked mariners, Dale’s sandy bay and waterfront pub, Stack Rock’s lonely fort, the RNLI slipway station at Angle, the still busy oil terminals and the marina in Milford’s converted dock. Finally we were on the approach to the former flying boat station at Pembroke and to Brunel’s artistry at Neyland itself. All had become familiar to us when working at the West Wales Boat Show in 1993 and then when running a trailboat rally here.

Suffice to say we’re pleased to be back and a little disappointed we cannot stay longer. More news tomorrow.

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1999 Grand Tour circumnavigation of Britain by motorboat index.

This article originally appeared on the Motor Boats Monthly website.

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