Menai Strait - Britannia Bridge designed by Robert Stephenson
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6 May, 2013 3:40
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Menai Strait Cruise - June 2004

Pwllheli to Menai Strait

Total trip 126 nautical miles
  Julian comes up from the galley on Top Cat  


We set off from Pwllheli at 1400 on Saturday 29 May 2004 with the intention of sailing around Anglesey. Our intention was to call in at some of the anchorages and small harbours, hoping for short day sails in between. We wanted a lazy cruise, traveling at our own pace with no long passages. This was to be a break from work hoping to catch some early season sunshine.

  Top Cat on her mooring in Pwllheli harbour  
Unfortunately things started badly, the weather forecasts had all been advising of possible gales and poor weather. We had to delay our departure from Pwllheli for 36 hours while we waited for a break in the weather. As it happened on Sunday 28 May 2004 we went for a day sail and had near perfect weather, in hindsight we should have left then. As it was we departed the next day. We had to wait to leave until early afternoon in order to catch the right tide flow through Bardsey Sound, get this wrong and we would end up going backwards.
  Yacht race off St. Tudwals Island  

We had an uneventful sail around the Llyn Peninsula, highlights were few and far between. We passed a yacht race starting of St Tudwals Island off the Llyn Peninsular. Also note the serious lack of wind, it was drizzling with rain and flat calm all the way to Caernarfon.



We reached Victoria Dock in Caernarfon at around 2030z. It should not have taken so long but Top Cat currently only reaches 4 1/2 knots cruising speed under engines.

We decided to stay in the marina at Victoria Dock. It can be a tricky entrance as there can be up to 3kts of current crossing the gate at 90°. This means crabbing into the entrance and then as you leave the current turning the wheel hard over as not to plow straight into the opposite wall.

  Caernarfon - Top Cat at Victoria Dock  
  Caernarfon Castle  

We spent two nights in Caernarfon and had a day exploring the Castle and the town. The weather was warm and sunny, but still no wind. Here are some photographs from Caernarfon Castle.

From the Castle if you climb up to the top of the towers, you are treated to fabulous views of the river and the Menai Straits. Below are some shots from Eagle Tower showing the Swing Bridge to the river moorings and the infamous Caernarfon Floating Restaurant.

Images from Caernarfon Castle
  Caernarfon Castle - Afon Seiont   Caernarfon Castle - Tanya   Caernarfon Castle - Afon Seiont swing bridge   Caernarfon Castle - Afon Seiont floating restaurant   Caernarfon Castle - Prince of Wales  

The Swellies.

We departed Victoria Dock, Caernarfon 0700z Wednesday 02 Jun 2004. We had to leave early in order to hit the Britannia Bridge at HW slack. This is the entrance to the Swellies when traveling west - east along the Menai Straits.

Within the Menai Strait, there is always somewhere to find shelter and pleasant sailing, whatever the wind conditions. The notorious Swellies are completely benign at SLACK water - which does NOT coincide with High water. They exhibit virtually no sea in even storm force winds, but 8 knots of tide and numerous rocks make it prudent to get assistance for a first passage.

  Menai Strait - Approaching Britannia Bridge designed by Robert Stephenson  
  Menai Strait - Swellies marker  

Leaving the Swellies with the Menai Bridge to aft and Tanya taking photographs as we sail slowly toward Beaumaris. We had around 1-5 kts of wind, so sailing is a little exaggerated, I would rather use the term controlled drifting.

  Menai Strait - Menai Bridge  
  Menai Strait - Bangor Pier  

A gentle sail toward Bangor Pier. Over the last few years extensive renovation work has restored this 1890's pier to its full glory. This is how a true Victorian promenade would have looked. Bangor Pier was closed to the public for safety reasons in 1971, but was reopened after much work in 1988.




We arrived off Beaumaris Pier just after midday on 02 Jun 2004. The sun was blazing down and it showed promise of great weather for the rest of our week off. We needed to carry out some maintenance to the wiring to the helm, power to instruments had become intermittent on the way up the Straits.


  Top Cat moored under Beamauris Pier  
  Tipper retreats to the dinghy signifying he is finished walking, sand bank off Beamauris  

As the tide ebbed and it was such calm weather we decided to give Tipper a run on the sand bank off Beaumaris. He ran hard for about twenty minutes and then repeated his 'I've finished now' behaviour that we first saw in Fishguard Lower Town. He got himself into the dinghy and waited for us to take him back so he could sleep in the sun for the afternoon.

That evening the local sailing club were racing off Beaumaris. We had a prime spot to watch from and had a hard evening with a glass of wine sat in the cockpit enjoying a warm summers evening.

At the end of the evening a lone laser arrived at Beaumaris. It turned out he was sailing her around Britain for charity. I wonder how he is getting on.


Passage home.

That evening just before going to bed, we were hit broadsides by a powerboat wake that sent us over to around 50° of heel. This was a very frightening experience and I was sure we were going over as Top Cat rocked to and fro out of control. The power boats which navigate the Straits appear to forget that boats are actually moored along its length and they should slow down when passing.

We awoke the next morning to gale force winds blowing across the decks and ended up storm bound for 24 hours. This meant sailing around Anglesey was now out. We left Beaumaris on Friday morning and headed back toward Caernarfon. There was good wind and we sailed most of the way. It was overcast but because of good sailing we enjoyed the trip back down the Straits.

  Menai Strait - sailing toward Menai Bridge  
  Top Cat sailing toward Porthdinllaen  


Leaving the Straits we headed for Porthdinllaen where we anchored over night.

We were able to use our hurricane lamp for the first time at anchor in Porthdinllaen. It was donated to my cause by a friend in work, and worked wonderfully. There was a strong breeze all night and it maintained a good flame without a problem. The next day we motored back to Pwllheli as yet again the wind died away to nothing.

  Top Cat anchored at Porthdinllaen  
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