The weather and sea state Gods were still with us and therefore it was decided that we would cross the St Georges Channel to Milford Haven on what would be a 70 mile passage. Kilmore Quay was one of our favourite marinas, however.
The Welsh gentleman from the previous evening stopped at the end of the boat asking whether we were leaving today? I told him that we were and heading for Neyland Yacht Haven because of its 24 hour access. He recommended Milford Marina which although it had a lock, entry and exit were virtually on-demand now during daylight hours and was more lively with the town nearby. It was his home port and was much nearer Milford Haven entrance and would save us a lot of time, as Neyland was much further up the Haven. He wanted to know what our passage plan was. I told him we were going south of the Smalls ( nasty rocks not underwear) and outwith Skomer and Skokholm Islands a few miles off of the Pembrokeshire coast and a half an hour from Milford Haven entrance to miss the various tidal races and other navigational nasties. His advice was, once we had cleared Kilmore Quay approaches, to head directly for St Ann’s Head and it’s lighthouse at the western entrance to the Haven and therefore going north of the Smalls and between the Viking named Skomer and Skokholm islands, going over the races which were only uncomfortable for a half a mile at the worst, and we would save a lot of time. And he was a ‘rags and sticks’ man!
He was returning the following day, his wife was also returning today but by the ferry from Rosslare on which she had arrived as well. His wife was not fond of the sailing as she suffered from seasickness and boredom, but did like the destinations and staying on the boat. She would not want to hear that Start me Up expected to complete the passage in four hours pontoon to pontoon.
We fuelled up on the self-service pontoon, €1 per litre again, and headed out of the harbour. The narrow entrance was being made even narrower by two trawlers being moored up either side of it, there was only enough space for one boat to safely go-between and no way of knowing whether a boat was heading in. Kilmore Quay needs traffic lights or harbour master VHF permission.
We safely exited the harbour and cleared the approaches and set a course directly for St Ann’s Head as recommended by our Welsh friend. Three and a half hours later having had a gentle following sea we went over the angry but only rippling races between Skomer and Skokholm and arrived at the entrance to Milford Haven a half an hour later.
We made our way up the magnificent Milford Haven until the lock for Milford Marina came into view. There was another VHF channel 80 and 14 situation where there was no answer from 80 and until we were very close no response from 14, then it burst into life instructing us to take the new starboard pontoon inside the lock itself, a large and easy to manoeuvre in, lock that it was. The VHF burst into life again informing us where to berth for the night. 10 minutes later we are on it and the cold beers made a swift appearance, our first beers in Wales.
Milford Marina is indeed a decent facility but there was just a hint of ‘jobsworth’ about the staff and not a little clock watching. We weren’t able to pay our marina fees immediately because it involved loading our details onto a computer and when we asked about the diesel it had to be booked, probably the following day now as it was home time. I looked across to where the fuel pontoon was and could see somebody was being fuelled up as we spoke, I asked the duty manager whether we could do it now, he checked with the attendant who was happy for us to fill up too but please be ready to come alongside when beckoned. We went back to Start Me Up and trod water until we were called over and we filled the tank. It is a given on this trip that you are invariably better off fuelling up when you arrive than when you leave.
That evening we ate in one of the pub/restaurants in the marina. It had a TV featuring the live Andrew Neil interview with Boris Johnson, this being towards the end of the contest for who was to become our next Prime Minister. The volume was off but the subtitles were on, I gave up reading them and tried to judge how things were going from their body language alone. My impression was that although they both seemed to be doing well, Boris was surviving the exchange. I amused myself with this whilst Nigel was outside catching up with his wife and having a sneaky ciggy.
We asked the duty manager on the way back to the boat what the procedure was for locking out. It had to be booked so we booked it there and then for 9.30am (the first available) the following morning. The weather was swinging round to being northerly and therefore perfect for the 70 mile passage across the Bristol Channel to Padstow which was almost perfectly south of Milford Haven.
Going to Padstow was a going to be a very big moment for me on this circumnavigation. I had always wanted to arrive there from seaward, I could start my Cornish pasty survey and we were going to be back in England, although some Cornish people might argue with that.