Aberystwyth sea front
main page
my photographs
ship's log
weather links
6 May, 2013 3:36
top cat the story
cruises and passages past and present
nautical photographs
Mid Wales Cruise - May 2003

Mid Wales cruise

  Top Cat Leaving Pwllheli  

Pwllheli to Fishguard

We set off from Pwllheli at 1200 on Saturday 24 May 2003 bound for Padstow. It was expected to take near 24 hours to reach our destination. We would spend two to three days in Padstow and then sail back up port hopping.

As we approached St. David's Head at around 0200 on Sunday the wind was gusting at 30kts and both of us were shivering in the cold. We decided to drop in to Fishguard and reassess the trip.

  Fishguard Lower Town 2003  
We reached Fishguard Lower Town at 0530 and picked up a free mooring. Some well earned sleep was then taken. We woke to bright sunshine and a warm midday sun.

Fishguard - 25 May 2003

I was amazed how beautiful and tranquil the lower town is. In 1989 we were storm bound in Fishguard but had moored in the main harbour; a far more dangerous and busy mooring than here.

As I was informed later by Ron from Eala Bhan, mentioned later on this page, visitors at the Lower Town harbour at Fishguard usually tie up alongside the wall.


  Fishguard Lower Town - A pair of Southerlies 2003  
  Fishguard Lower Town - Top Cat on a spare mooring 2003  

When we arrived it was first light and not knowing much about the lower town harbour I just presumed to lift a vacant mooring and make Top Cat safe so we could go to bed and sleep off the previous night.

The last time I had visited Fishguard in 1989 we had picked up a mooring in the main harbour to the south of the lower town. This is a more industrial harbour with the fast ferries moving throughout the day and night. In 2005 we would return to Fishguard and stay a few days at anchor in the main harbour, mainly as a tight wad sailor this means we paid nothing for our stay. The harbour is big enough to anchor right out of the way of any shipping.

  Fishguard Lower Town - Tanya clearing after the dogs  

Later in the afternoon we managed to get ashore and walk the dogs on the beach at the far end of the harbour. Top Cat can be seen at the front of the moorings.

I think Tipper was telling us he had had enough and was ready to go back aboard Top Cat. Just to prove we keep the beaches clean when walking the dogs. I think Tanya will kill me when she sees this photograph.

  Fishguard Lower Town - Tipper is now finished with the beach  

Here I am sitting on the foredeck on one of the new seats that my sister and brother in law bought us for Christmas. It's a hard life sitting about on boats in the sun.

As pleasant as the sunny lazy Sunday turned out; the sunset was stunning. 

  Fishguard Lower Town - Julian sat on the foredeck of Top Cat  
  Trinity Lighthouse on Strumble Head  

Strumble Head - 26 May 2003

We left Fishguard at 0600 on Monday morning. Here you see Trinity Lighthouse on Strumble Head, this was the first time we saw it in daylight but we had been watching it during the night from miles away as it glowed on the horizon.

As we turned around St. David's Head for the second time of the trip we were still faced with icy winds and Atlantic swell. We then decided that 12 hours of that down to Padstow really wasn't going to be a fun trip.

We decided at this point to turn about and port hop up Cardigan Bay spending more time in each port and harbour.


New Quay - 26 May 2003.

After a full days sail, we had wasted a fair amount of time rounding St. David's Head only to find icy winds on the nose we turned back and made steady progress up north again.

in lighter winds as it became, we arrived in New Quay, a sheltered bay as long as the winds are not northerly. We had a relaxing sail, and now our plans had changed, as we were no longer going to Padstow, we could take things easy and day sail without stress.


  New Quay, Wales  
  New Quay, Wales ~ anchorage  

We were woken in the morning by up to six dolphins swimming in amongst the moorings.

We left New Quay about midday on 27 May 2003.



Aberystwyth - 27 May 2003.

We arrived at Aberystwyth at 1500. After securing and signing Top Cat in we went for showers and shot into town.

On the left you see the entrance to Aberystwyth, it was a little shallow as we entered at the end of the tide but with our 2ft 3in draft Top Cat was never in any danger.

  Aberystwyth harbour entrance  
  Tipper guards Top Cat at Aberystwyth Marina  

Top Cat against the pontoon. Occasionally it is nice to be against a pontoon, but the dogs have a habit of jumping off the boat so keeping a constant vigil on them takes away our own freedom.

A sand bar means limited access to the marina, boats drawing 3ft are advised to enter up to 3 hours after and 3 hours before H.W. in calm conditions.

  Aberystwyth castle ruins ~ Julian  

The following day we went into Aberystwyth to see the sights.

We stopped briefly at a cafe and then walked along the promenade which is quite pretty, The Aberystwyth Royal Pier at 800ft (242m)opened on Good Friday in 1865, we did not go on the pier.

The Constitution Hill Cliff Railway at Aberystwyth was opened in 1896. This is the longest electric cliff railway in Britain, which takes you to the top of Constitution Hill.

  Aberystwyth - University of Wales ~ Tanya  

Aberystwyth castle began as a ringwork castle, built by Gilbert de Clare, a prolific castle-builder in the early 12th century. Curiously, the earthen castle was the scene of much intrigue, as the Welsh and Normans repeatedly vied for control of the site. Traces of the stronghold, known as Castell Tan-y-castell, persevere alongside the River Ystwyth.

It is said that the castle changed hands 7 times during its lifetime. The castle was blown up in 1644 to prevent re-use and now the ruins stand on Castle Hill, well worth a visit.

  University College of Wales, Aberystwyth  

University College of Wales, Aberystwyth

Although a resort town, Aberystwyth has also the original building for the University College of Wales and is the home of the National Library of Wales. It is the largest town in Mid Wales.

To the right, the University of Wales, while Tanya was growing up in New Zealand it had always been her dream to study here. As with many dreams she did not manage to come over and study, but the area held a great importance to her, this was Tanya's first visit to Aberystwyth.

Barmouth - 28 May 2003.

After a days sail we arrived at Barmouth early evening on the last of the tide. There was not a great deal of wind so we had motored the final couple of hours close in shore.

In summer Barmouth is a hive of activity, while the tide is in the two ferries run people back and forth to the Island where there is a steam railway


  Barmouth Harbour - Ferry  

In summer Barmouth is a hive of activity, while the tide is in the two ferries run people back and forth to the Island where there is a steam railway.

The Railway has run from Fairbourne village to Penrhyn Point since 1895.


Top Cat on the visitors berth in Barmouth, because of her low draft we were able to tie up right at the end of the wall where there is not much water. Eala Bhan a Southerly 115 also came in after us that evening, the owners who had previously had a boat in Porthmadog had sailed her up from Jersey. They have actually taken a permanent mooring in Barmouth, something I am considering myself.

We left Barmouth after staying for two days, it was dawn and beautifully tranquil as we slipped out on our way to Porthmadog, again though, there was not wind whatsoever. The above photographs taken on 30 May 2003 at 0700 as we left Barmouth headed for Porthmadog.

  Top Cat on the visitors berth in Barmouth  
  Eala Bhan on the visitor wall at Barmouth  

Eala Bhan also left at the same time headed for Porthmadog, she was slightly faster than us under engine and we watched her disappear into the distance after an hour or so.

On the approach to Porthmadog she was at anchor in the channel, I called on the VHF to see if all was okay and found that the impeller on her engine had failed.

We offered her a tow in and made our way slowly into Porthmadog towing her against the tide. We were taken out by her owners that evening for a meal as a thank you and have sparked a good friendship.


I grabbed this shot of Tanya on the helm of Top Cat as we approached Eala Bhan. It was about 0700 and we had had a late night. You can see she was not in the wide awake club yet.

She soon woke up when I asked her to come alongside Eala Bhan and although she made a couple of missed approaches, she did a fine job; I did however take over in the end as her confidence was failing more than she was in reality.

We took on a side tow and made our way to Porthmadog very slowly as I was afraid to run the starboard engine as the exhaust would have overwheilmed Eala Bhan's cockpit.

  Tanya on the helm of Top Cat a Heavenly Twins catamaran  
  On the visitor wall at Porthmadog  

Porthmadog - 30 May 2003

We got onto the visitors berth on the wall at Porthmadog late on. We should have been there early afternoon but as we arrived late we accidentally picked up a rope off the bottom in the starboard propellor, this because we only had inches of water under our keels as we attempted to approach the wall.

We spent a couple of days in Porthmadog before returning to Pwllheli. It was nice to be a visitor and be berthed on the wall watching life go by. This was the end of our weeks cruising and it was back to work on Monday for both of us, such is the grind when you have to go back to real life.

The sail back to Pwllheli was without incident. We snatched a great week back after it seemed that the weather might beat us and we might have been storm-bound after hitting the near gale force winds around St. David's Head. This was Tanya's first cruise on a sailing yacht, she was now completely hooked, it could have gone either way, but she has discovered that she is a natural and loves being out on the water.
back to the main cruising pages