Trip on Otter starting 2020-08-28 in BSASep20

The Cleddau Campaign, August 28 – 31 – report by Ian Collins

Skipper: Ian Collins. Crew: Kath Liddiard, Rhian Phillips and Dougal Matthews

Boat: Jeanneau SO 379 ‘Otter

This has for me been the one of very few bright star in this catastrophe called Covid. I was well acquainted with the area from the shore some fifty years ago and have visited occasionally since but never sailed the waters. I have stood on the shoreline and promised myself I would. I have discussed it’s potential with others, but never actually done it.

A lack of suitable charter boats, coupled with a willing crew and a whole three day weekend. I phoned Pembrokeshire Cruising and yes they had a boat available. Six berths in three cabins. But who’s counting when there’s bugs about. And the price £1023 for a three day weekend trip was appealing so we booked.

Travelling to NeylandMap on a Bank Holiday was, as expected less than a travellers delight, but in reality heading to the coast anywhere was not going to be “joy unconfined”. Certainly no worse than the M5 to Plymouth ( approximately the same distance from Bristol 120 miles); or the harassment of Hampshire if choosing the Solent.

On our arrival at Neyland Yacht Haven Dougal and I found everything was as outlined in an email with instructions that included a video tour of our boat by Roland the proprietor. We made contact with Roland, collected our “boat box” and climbed aboard. Shortly after we were joined by Kath and Rhian and we all swanned about within our weekend home admiring Otter, a Sun Odyssey 379 in lovely condition and as we later found an excellent sail. We finished the day in style as Rhian had booked us into the marina restaurant where we had a meal certainly of a standard comparable with the excellent Bridge in Plymouth Yacht Haven, part of the same group.

Our first day we found that as is usual the forecast was not quite correct in all aspects. This time it was an underestimate of wind speeds and gusts by as much as 20 knots on occasions. We crept out of the marina. It is only fair to point out that exit and entry to Neyland is less than generous, particularly at low tide. Of course we left on the bottom of the ebb. Out in the main channel, coming to terms with the gusty wind and the fact that we had not been sailing the Cleddau before, with the exception of Dougal and Rhian who had done some, but certainly, not a lot. It was considered sensible to raise the main using the third reef which blew us along at around 4 knots. Later a small amount of Genoa and we cruised toward Dale at around 5 knots. This was all done, despite the wind, upon calm water.

Our sail plan, such as it was, was to “Turn Right and go to Dale. Anchor or pontoon for the night”. The strong and gusty Northerly winds were blowing directly onshore at Dale. Common-sense prevailed and we returned to Neyland under the shelter of the North shore, for our meal of Beef Bourguignon aboard. Our “Sail Plan” for Sunday was to sail to and between Skokholm and Skomer. The wind early on had taken the saying “Sunday a day of rest” literally so we motored. Arriving at Skomer Dougal pointed out the opportunity to moor in South HavenMap and so we crept in on the depth sounder and dropped the hook alongside the two other yachts sheltering. This anchorage was a joy. We spent several hours lunching whilst being entertained by a family of nosey seals. Lunch over and the arrival of Gin Palaces and dive boats. We set out into calm water with enough breeze over the stern to push us at a stately 3 knots toward home using genoa only. By the time we reached the estuary the wind from the north had re-established its hold and we looked once again toward Dale but could see most of the boats had abandoned it and we had passed them lurking behind the series of small headlands between it and the sea. So late in the day we once more headed back for moussaka whilst tethered to the pontoon in Neyland.

Monday brought the sun and a whole different approach. We took a river trip coming out of the marina and turning left (port for the nautical purist). Possibly not the most recommended time it being on the fast ebbing tide. We crept our way cautiously up the river. The bird life was amazing. I have never seen so many heron in my life. The scenery was beautiful. Steep banks of oak forest opening out to views across farmland. Trot moorings with various craft swinging with the current. At last at the very bottom of the my confidence as to how far I should push our way up the river with a 2 metre keel we anchored amongst the moored boats at Llangwyn PillMap and lunched on hot dogs with copious onions. Lunch over we cruised gently back to Neyland pushing the incoming tide. A day of not a lot of sailing but a very worthwhile boating experience.

The hand back of Otter went without incident. This time included a chat with the crew of Kalel, a Sun Odyssey 36i belonging to Pembrokshire Cruising. These had arrived with us and chosen to set off in the remaining light to Dale. They had arrived in the dark and spent a miserable night courtesy of the on shore northerly wind and had difficulty leaving the pontoon till 1400 the following day. But they were pleased with the boat.

A superb weekend, in great company. A good boat, and nice people to deal with. This area may not appeal if pontoon/ marina mooring with meals ashore are what your after this may not be top of the list. But for good sailing in an ample estuary when the sea outside is less than inviting. Good scenery ( the petro-chemical and gas industry are way less intrusive than I had thought) and wildlife in spades. While dealing with an owner run, small efficient company where they are personally very pleasant to deal with, then this is a venue you should place high on your “To Sail “ list. Thank you Crew

Neyland  51.7096,-4.9422
South Haven, Skomer  51.7344,-5.2831
Llangwyn Pill, Cleddau  51.7435,-4.8999