West Wales Cruise - Milford Haven to Menai Straits

Recommended places to take your Cape Cutter 19 with details of anchorages, marinas etc

West Wales Cruise - Milford Haven to Menai Straits

Postby Runrig » Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:54 pm

West Wales Cruise – Milford Haven to the Menai Strait

This cruise was undertaken in May and June 2018 with a stopover in Aberystwyth Marina for 3 weeks.

River Cleddau Cruise (21nm)

The cruise commenced with putting in at Neyland Yacht Haven, close to the Cleddau Bridge. The Haven has good road access for trailer-sailers being close to the major route for the Pembroke Dock to Ireland ferry.

There is a sailing club in Neyland which has a launching ramp directly on to the River Cleddau. Being single handed I opted for putting in at the marina where they use a large fork lift to do the job, cost is £70.

The marina has a good café next to the office and a bar-restaurant upstairs serving good steaks.

There are 2 basins in the marina. The upper basin is restricted by a tidal sill. I stayed in the upper basin overnight (£16) and then moved to the reception pontoon in the morning to wait for the tide to turn whilst cooking breakfast.

Neyland was planned by Brunel as the rail terminus for his fast transport system between London and Dublin. The scheme did not take off and the town is a bit faded. It does have a wide range of take-aways and a co-op on the main street. The town is up the steps behind the boatyard office.
From Neyland it is a fine river cruise up the River Cleddau as far as Picton Point, where it is possible to anchor or pick up a mooring to wait the turn of the tide. With the ebb it is possible to cruise to Dale, near the seaward entrance to Milford Haven.
Dale is a pleasant stop on any cruise in this area. The Yacht Club is welcoming and will provide door codes to access showers early morning. It also has a friendly bar and restaurant. There is an excellent gastro-pub on the quay, The Griffin Inn. There is a pontoon in the middle of the harbour during the season where it is free to moor. The pontoon by The Griffin is used on the outside by local charter boats but visitors can moor on the port side of the pontoon. The pontoon dries out at spring tides and the slap on the pontoon floats from the incoming tide can be noisy if staying overnight.

Dale to Solva (20nm)

Dale, being close to the entrance to Milford Haven, is a good starting point for the journey north. Leaving St Ann’s Head at the entrance to Milford Haven at LW gives time to reach Jack Sound at slack water. There can be 7 knots of tide in the Sound so it is important to pass through in the right conditions.

Approaching Jack Sound when about 100m east of Blackstone aim for Tuskar Rock, which is North of the sound. As you pass through the sound and are level with the north end of Middle Isle steer 340 until clear of Wooltack Point and then set a course for Solva. This gives a smooth passage through the sound and then a fair tide across St Bride’s Bay to the entrance to Solva.

Solva is protected by 3 reefs; Black Scar, Green Scar and The Mare about ½ mile due south of the entrance. The entrance itself is marked by Black Rock a small islet at the mouth.
Behind Black Rock, The Pool is accessible at all states of tide and provides a good anchorage waiting for the tide up to Solva or, having left Solva, to wait for the north going tide. Going toward Solva from The Pool there is a bank on the port side of the channel which needs to be cleared. Once past the bank the channel around the bend to the quay is on the port side of the river.

Before the quay there are red visitor drying moorings on the starboard side of the river, these moorings have 2 fore and 1 aft lines on each buoy. There is little room for visitor mooring in the harbour by the quay. Local boats fill the limited spaces. It is possible to dry out against the quay wall and the harbourmaster will provide a plank to use as a fender-board to keep you off the wall.

Solva has a good range of pubs along the river from the quay with The Cambrian offering some fine dining. Up High Street away from the river, The Royal George is a local pub which has great views over the coast. Further up the street after The George is a local shop with basic supplies.

Solva to Portgain (14nm)
This passage involves passing through Ramsey Sound and around St David’s Head. Good weather and a fair tide are essential to complete this comfortably and safely in a small boat.

Leaving The Pool near LW will give time to reach the entrance to Ramsey Sound. From off Pontyr Eilun, a rock south of Ramsey Sound, steer midway between The Bitches, which stick out from Ramsey Island, and the mainland. Turn closer to the north of the island after passing the Bitches and toward Gwahan rock north of the Sound. This keeps you clear of Horse Rock and the rougher water off Point St John.

With a fair tide and good visibility I aimed to round St David’s Head about ¼ mile off and then set a course to clear PenClegyr, 5 miles to the NE, by the same distance. Rounding PenClegyr 2 white cones on the coastal cliffs mark the entrance to Portgain.

Porthgain is an amazing place to enter from the sea. It is accessed through a narrow cleft in the coastal cliffs. Inside is a walled harbour and a boat ramp. There is also a great pub, The Sloop, and possibly the best Fish and Chips in Wales at The Shed.

In the past Porthgain was a brick works and much of this industrial heritage is still evident. Boats would enter the narrow harbour to transport the finished bricks around the coast and around the world. The inner harbour looks an inviting place to dry out and walk ashore but brick rubble and rocks are evident through the silt as the water levels drops. The best ground is where the local boats moor to the starboard of the entrance in the inner harbour. I had planned to stay in the harbour overnight but seeing the bricks and rocks as the water dropped I opted instead to anchor just outside the harbour entrance.

Porthgain to Lower Fishguard (12nm)

Local advice is to give Strumble Head a wide berth when there is a swell or significant wind over tide.

When I sailed round the bigger issues were fog and flat calm so I opted to pass close to the lighthouse on the headland and keep out of the way of the ferries which run from Fishguard to Ireland.

Leaving Portgain as the tide turns N gives a fair tide all the way to Fishguard and should bring you to Lower Fishguard with plenty of water to enter this drying harbour.
A course of about 38 degrees for 6 miles from the entrance to Portgain will bring you close to Strumble Head Lighthouse. From there an easterly course for 3 miles takes you off Pen Anglas, marked by an obelisk and a very loud foghorn. Heading SE after clearing Pen Anglas be aware of ferries leaving and arriving. The end of the breakwater is marked by a large green tower with a bell as a fog signal. Do not pass too close to the end of the breakwater as there are submerged rocks off the end.

Heading just west of south from the breakwater look for a starboard beacon between the 2 headlands of Castle Point and Saddle Point. This marks the fairway into Lower Fishguard, accessible HW+/-3. With the harbourmasters permission it is possible to moor alongside the stone wall with access ladders to the quayside. These mooring dry out and whilst the bottom is suitable by the first ladder, the next 2 have a concrete sill which could cause damage if settled on too close to the wall. The harbourmaster can also advise if any of the drying moorings in the harbour are available for short term use. It costs £6 per night if a mooring is available.

Lower Fishguard is a beautiful old harbour. The sailing club on the quay is also a well run café providing home baking and crab sandwiches with local crab. It also has showers and a washing machine. Further away from the quay, up the hill, are a number of pubs and bistros, including The Royal Oak which has live music. Further up the hill is a petrol station and a co-op supermarket.

When I was there a brief storm from the NE blew strong winds straight into the harbour causing minor damage to boats which had dried out and were then scraped on the bottom with the waves on the incoming tide.

Lower Fishguard to Cardigan – St Dogmaels (15nm)

To provide enough time with a north going tide I left Lower Fishguard harbour on the ebb and picked up a buoy in the entrance to the harbour until the tide turned north.

Heading NE from the entrance to Lower Fishguard will bring you clear of Dinas Head and then with a little more easterly in the course it can be a fine cruise along the coast past Newport Bay towards Cemaes Head. With the wind from the NW and the tide running N the sea around Cemaes Head was quite choppy in a F4 wind. In stronger wind over tide it would be an uncomfortable place to sail.

Having rounded Cemaes Head the channel to enter the River Teifi is over close to the cliffs on the E shore. Aim for the prominent hotel on the cliff top and then using the way marks and depth sounder to steer clear of Poppit Sands head to the bar and narrows at Pen yr Ergid. Once through the narrows there is a twisting but well marked channel up river as far as Cardigan. It is preferable to enter the river with the last of the flood tide as the ebb sets strongly through the narrows and in the channel in the river.

Just inside Pen yr Ergid the Teifi Boat Club can be seen to port. The channel to the club involves sailing in the river channel and then turning to port through the moored yachts. There is a floating pontoon a short walk along the river bank from the yacht club. The club is very welcoming and has hot showers.

Staying in the channel it is a short river cruise to the settlement of St Dogmaels on the starboard bank. There is a well maintained pontoon where no-one minded an overnight stop in early May. The Ferry Inn close to the pontoon is excellent and has great views of the river from its deck. Also close to the pontoon is the bus stop with Cardigan being a short bus ride away.

Cardigan has a great main shopping street over the bridge and past the castle. It has many cafes and local food shops. At the top of the main street there is a launderette on the right and further on a large Morrisons supermarket. A very pleasant town and well worth a visit. It is possible to sail all the way to Cardigan and moor on the pontoon below the castle but a local boatman advised the bottom is very rocky when the pontoon dries out.

Cardigan to New Quay (15nm)

I left the River Teifi one hour before HW and stayed in the channel close to the east shore and then through the channel between the mainland and Cardigan Island. With a weak tide against and a steady westerly breeze it is a pleasant cruise 13nm along the coast to New Quay Head. After turning to starboard to round New Quay Head steer well clear of the end of the harbour breakwater to clear the easterly cardinal which marks the end of a groin running out from the breakwater. The harbourmaster at New Quay was also a small boat sailor. By phoning ahead he offered a berth tucked well into the harbour.

New Quay was a welcoming town. The yacht club on the right at the top of the slipway has excellent showers and a friendly bar with good advice and stories of the coast. The town is very pleasent to stroll around, with a plentiful supply of seaside goodies such as ice-cream, fish and chips and restaurants, especially The Blue Bell Inn with its fine views over the bay.

New Quay to Aberystwyth (15nm)

Leaving New Quay as soon as the boat floats makes the most of the north going tide. Heading toward the North Cardinal in the bay takes you well clear of the rocks at Carreg Ina which guard the eastern arm of New Quay Bay. From the cardinal buoy it is a clear sail across the bay past Aberaeron to the entrance to Aberystwyth Marina.

Most of the difficulties entering Aberystwyth are when approaching from the north or west. Coming to the harbour entrance from the south west I kept the end of the southern breakwater to starboard until the light on the end of the north wall opened up. I then sailed between the breakwaters and turned sharp to port once inside the northern breakwater to follow the channel up to the marina entrance. The outer wall of the harbour and the floating pontoon opposite it are council owned and have no visitor moorings. The marina pontoons are to starboard of this long pontoon, by the fuel pontoon.

The marina staff were very helpful on arrival, the marina has possibly the best showers of any marina and they kept a watchful eye on the boat when it was left with them for 3 weeks. They also offered a good rate for this long stay.

Over the bridge from the marina to town there is a large M&S and giant Tesco close by and a petrol station on the route to the railway station. The town has a thriving university which adds another dimension to the life of this holiday town. Crowds of students gather on the beach with BBQs and camp fires to watch the sunset, paddle board and generally make merry, when the weather is favourable.

Aberystwyth to Barmouth (20nm)

Aberystwyth is accessible at all states of tide for a shallow draft vessel. Leaving with the last of the ebb gives a full tide for the run along the coast north towards Barmouth. To enter Barmouth it is best to arrive with the last of the flood tide. The harbour is accessible 2 hours either side of HW but a strong ebb tide can make it a battle to get in once the tide is falling. From the outer fairway marker there is a buoyed channel to the breakwater on the north shore and Penrhyn Point on the south. Once past the breakwater turn to port toward the quay where the harbourmaster will direct you to a spare mooring. The closer to the quay you moor the longer you will need to wait for the incoming tide when floating to leave. There are trots in the channel which may be a better option for a quicker getaway, if available.

Barmouth is a pleasant holiday town with the Bath House Café overlooking the harbour, The Last Inn providing good food and music and Born and Bread providing lovely pies, pasties and speciality welsh baking. The bakery is by the railway level crossing near the coop supermarket away from the harbour.

Barmouth to Portmadoc (16nm)

This is an interesting sail which requires the navigation of the inside passage of St Patrick’s Causeway and then timing the entrance to Portmadoc, some 4 miles up river.

Leaving Barmouth as soon as the rising tide allows and turning north at the outer harbour buoy, run parallel to the coast for 5 miles staying ¼ mile off shore. This will allow you to pass inside the Bemar Bank. As you approach the bank St Patricks Causeway may well be visible as a line of breaking waves to port. The pilot book advises steering the East Passage once over the Bemar Bank. On a rising tide near high water and fair weather I sailed closer to Mochras Point and over Mochras spit, mindful of trying to reach Portmadoc before the tide turned in the river. Once clear of Mochras point a northerly course will bring you towards Portmadoc fairway marker.

The entrance to the buoyed channel is north of the marker going around Harlech spit. Again, with fair weather and high water I took a direct line into the buoyed channel over the spit. There is a well marked channel past Samson Bay until the channel up to the town of Portmadoc appears to port. The channel goes past boatyards and 2 lines of moorings to port up to Madoc Yacht club and the town quay all to port.

In the river outside Madoc Yacht Club is a long pontoon where space may be available. The downside of this pontoon is that in a gale from the south the wind funnels up the channel and, in such conditions, this is a very uncomfortable spot for a small boat. With a gale forecast during my stay I was fortunate to be offered a berth by the yacht club on the drying pontoons inside this river pontoon. Sheltered by the quay wall this proved a very calm spot on a very breezy night.

Portmadoc, originally established to export slate from the North Wales quarries is a pleasant place to visit. It boasts 2 narrow gauge railways, a great pub for food and ale, The Australia, owned by the Purple Moose Brewery. At busy time you may have to wait for a table before you can order food. There is also a very tempting set of treats in The Big Rock Café along the main street.

With winds blowing strongly from the west or south it can be difficult or impossible to leave Portmadoc because of the chop created in the channel between Blackrock Sands and Harlech Spit. But there are worst places to be storm bound and it is a pleasant stroll along the coast toward Pwhelli to look at the channel in storm mode.

Portmadoc to Pwhelli (12nm)

Leaving Portmadoc near high water gives an easier passage through the channel and less chop than when the ebb is running strong. From the entrance it is a passage of 8nm across the bay to the entrance to Pwhelli Marina. In settled weather it is possible to anchor outside the marina entrance. If entering the marina it is a well marked channel sheltered by a spit east of the fairway buoy. It is advisable to phone or radio ahead so the marina office can give clear instructions on where to find your berth in what is quite a large marina.

The marina is accessible at all states of tide and has a full range of marine services on site. It is also a national sailing centre and has a very grand bar and restaurant facility in the centre with fine views of Snowdonia and the bay. The bar also serves an amazing delux fish finger sandwich.

In the main summer season there is a pop-up shop and café in the old sailing club building next to the marina office. They serve breakfasts, hot drinks and a range of groceries including fresh local bread.

Going out of the marina and turning left it is a 10 minute walk into the town. There is a train station and the usual range of holiday town pubs and cafes but these days Pwhelli is not a premium destination and the centre did look a little tired.

Pwhelli to Aberdaron (16nm)

With comparatively little tidal stream in this corner of Cardigan Bay and access at all states of tide leaving Pwhelli Marina has the rare luxury on this coast of being at a time of your own choosing. Head for the sound between St Tudwals Island and the Lleyn Peninsula and round Trwyn Cilan into Hell’s Mouth. I stayed close inshore around Trwyn Cilan to avoid rougher waters marked on the chart further out.

Crossing Hell’s Mouth in winds blowing f5/6 the bay lived up to its name and needed the outboard and a 2 reefs in the main to make progress. The choppy waters eased further west as the arm of the Lleyn Peninsula began to provide some shelter. Passing between the headland of Carreg Gybi and the off lying rocks of Ynys Gwylan you enter the quieter waters of Aberdaron Bay.

The bay has a gently shelving beach and good holding tucked in the shelter of the cliffs in the west of the bay. It is well worth a trip ashore to explore the small village, walk the headland overlooking Bardsey Sound and experience the warm welcome at the Ship Inn afforded small boat sailors.

Aberdaron to Morfa Nefyn (20nm)

The pilot book advises the NW flood tide to pass through Bardsey Sound begins at HW Dover +05:00 hrs. Aberdaron is close enough to the sound to time passage for these optimum conditions. Staying mid channel and continuing west after leaving the sound keeps you well clear of The Tripods, an area of rocks, currents and confused seas directly north of the sound. When clear of theses hazards turning NE will give a good run along the coast with a strong tide.

It is worth considering that if the wind is from the N or NW the strong tide will generate considerable wind over tide waves and you need to take this into account when planning your timings and the capabilities of boat and crew.

A straight line distance of about 15nm will bring you off Carreg Ddu, a rocky headland with Morfa Nefyn behind it. Identify the pole beacon with 2 black balls which marks the out lying dangerous rocks of Careg y Chwislen. The pilot book advises passing north of this marker but a local sailor advised it was safe to pass between the hazard and the headland if conditions were favourable.

The plan was to anchor east of Morfa Nefyn well clear of the rocks around Port Dinllaen but a mooring was free off Porth Dinllaen and I opted for the security of a mooring. The famous Ty Coch Inn is in the village and well worth a visit.

Morfa Nefyn to Menai Straits (Port Dinorwic) (21nm)

The key tidal gate on this leg is to arrive at the fairway marker off Carnarfon Bar 3 hours before HW. This will give enough water to cross Carnarfon Bar and a fair tide up to Port Dinorwic.

A heading of 23 degrees from Morfa Nefyn for 11nm will bring you close to the Carnarfon Fairway Buoy. From there a well marked channel twists through the sand banks at the end of the Menai Strait and passing Abermenai Point enters Menai Strait proper. If the timing has gone well it will be a good tide up the strait for the 6nm to Port Dinorwic.

Port Dinorwic has an inner harbour accessed by lock gates. It also has pontoons which dry out to mud. The entrance to these mud berths is at the north end of a rock wall south of the main marina. The South Dock with the drying moorings also has a launching ramp. The marina crew are happy to assist with retrieval using the ramp and marina tractor (£40 for a 2 nights mooring and retrieval with the tractor).

Port Dinorwic has a bus service to nearby Carnarfon with its historic centre, famous castle and railway station. It also has a very good pub to celebrate the end of a cruise, the waterside Garddfon Inn. At busy time bookings are essential in this popular and lively inn.

Irish Sea Pilot (2nd Ed.) David Rainsbury. Imray
CC19 Association Member
Posts: 38
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Bewdley, Worcestershire

Re: West Wales Cruise - Milford Haven to Menai Straits

Postby ianrmaciver » Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:06 pm

Great trip , one to dream of during the dark winter days .
Your log is a brilliant resource for cruising the Welsh coast...much better and more relevant detail than The Irish Sea Pilot .
Looking forward to your next expedition.
Best regards,
Ian Maciver
CC19 Association Member
Posts: 67
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:52 pm

Re: West Wales Cruise - Milford Haven to Menai Straits

Postby oak » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:36 am

Very enjoyable read, RUNRIG
sitting in the gloom following your progress
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Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: ireland

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