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Cardigan Bay

Friday 25 October 2019
More than two dozen of us ventured into the wilds of Wales on one of the wettest days of the year. Several inches of rain fell on the UK during the Friday at the start of our social weekend. The rivers in mid-Wales caused some disruption with roads closed and diversions in place. However, determined that we were, everyone had a great time as the weekend weather brightened up. Our first visit to Aberystwyth, even with its up and downs, proved a success.

'Sparrow' - David Harrison MBE

En-route we visited the Cae Dai Trust 50's Museum, located on the B4501 road to Nantglyn, Denbigh. Run by a very affable chap known as 'Sparrow', David Harrison MBE is a Welsh philanthropist and a lovely eccentric. A mechanic by trade but he has led a very colourful life as the lead singer in a band called Sparrow and the Gossamers.

He later got involved in boxing and ran a nightclub for the Kray twins. He was a friend of Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery in 1963, which no doubt accounts for the exhibit of the getaway truck used in this infamous robbery. Due to his disability in stammering, he co-founded the British Stammering Association in 1978 with his best friend John Peel.

The museum was remarkable, not only in the quality of all the exhibits but also in the changes which have happened over the last 50 years. Of particular note were the changes in our society to smoking, entertainment, pin-ups and social acceptability. It's really a must-visit museum of life in the '50s.

To read a great 'blog' from a previous visitor about the Museum visit:
Sparrow & Cae Dai Museum

There was some speculation on the hotel accommodation that had been booked in Aberystwyth. Trip Advisor reviews were quite negative so it was with lots of trepidation that we all went to our bedrooms. I just can't understand where such reviews had come from. Everyone was very pleased with both the accommodation and the food provided. Indeed I would like to put on record it was the best I've ever stayed in on any previous NOA social weekend that I've been on.

Saturday 26 October 2019
The following morning a large contingent of us watched the Rugby World Cup game between England and New Zealand and after the wonderful win we trundled off to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CATS) in the foothills of South Snowdonia, three miles north of Machynlleth.

It was unfortunate that the rain came down and in particular that the cliff railway was said to be broken. Regrettable as our party had several who could not easily climb the steep hill to the centre. The organisers did transport some up by a car, but for me, the whole experience was not the best to benefit from what they had to say or had to show. Perhaps a re-visit on a much better day will prove the technology inspiring.

We returned to the hotel and after a visit to a hostelry or two, returned for evening dinner followed by entertainment provided by a young singer who, while he was only 21 yrs of age, knew many of the songs from our yesteryears.

Sunday 27 October 2019
A much brighter day to explore Aberystwyth. Although a thriving seaside town in the summer, the historic town of Aberystwyth is better known as a university town and the centre of learning for Wales, as it is also home to the National Library of Wales and boasts the largest Arts Centre in Wales. The town is huddled between three hills and two beaches.

It has a 778 feet long funicular railway (1896), the second-longest in the British Isles and now a Grade II listed structure. The promenade, the pier, shops, beaches and the new and old harbours were all visited.

Then time for lunch before boarding the coach for our journey back. It was great to spot the famous Red Kites soaring in the bright sky along the A44.  After a diversion or two due to the flooding of the Welsh rivers and some road closures, we arrived back at the marina just one hour later than planned. An enjoyable trip and a great social, with others asking what are we going to do next spring. Let's wait and see!

(click any image to view gallery)

Our return to Glasgow almost two weeks later, Wednesday 10 July.  Joined by Tanya (to crew on Phyllis) who had travelled from North Wales to meet up at Warrington Bank Quay before we picked up Tom at Preston railway station. We arrived early afternoon at Dumbarton and were met by Douglas, our host at the marina.  Both Phyllis and Spray had been well looked after at Sandpoint Marina. Especially considering what the river can do to the boats if they are not looked after.

For those who aren't aware Sandpoint was the place where the Cutty Sark was built.  By the time we got ourselves and the boats sorted we joined Douglas for a beer and something to eat in the town.

The River Leven. Can you spot four wrecks? There were actually six wrecks in the vicinity.

The following day saw our breakfast at Denny's, the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank (the last building remaining from the shipbuilding days) which forms part of the Scottish Maritime Museum.  After breakfast, a must-visit as this was the first commercial ship model testing tank built in the world and it retains many original features today: a water tank as long as a football pitch, clay moulding beds for casting wax model ship hulls and the original Victorian machinery used for shaping models.

L-R: Tanya, Tom & Douglas with the Titan crane in the background..

Then off to the supermarket for victualling the boats with the afternoon on Douglas's RIB upriver to see the upper Clyde and Big Bertha (huge crane), the paddle steamer Waverley and the new navy ship builds by BAE.

The Waverley on berth awaiting repair!

A visit too, for Tanya and Tom to the recently opened Glasgow Distillery - No Whiskey there yet!  While Douglas and Kevin visited the wonderful River Side museum and went aboard the tall ship 'Glenlee'.  That evening we all enjoyed a wonderful meal at the 'Sugarboat', down the line in Helensburgh. Highly recommended.

Friday 12 July and we said our goodbyes to Douglas and headed down the Clyde.  In harmony with the music played by Tanya on her Penny Whistle, as she did on every departure whilst on the Clyde.  A great sail towards the Isle of Bute with berthing at Port Bannatyne.  A short bus ride to Rothesay for a visit to the famous and not to missed, Victorian toilets.  And then an evening meal in a local hostelry prior to catching a taxi back to the marina.

The following day we departed, to Tanya's music, to sail through the Kyles of Bute.  What a marvellous passage along the fjord passing through the Burnt Islands before sailing south past Tighnabruaich and Kames in the West Kyle.  It's here that a sudden wind shift saw Phyllis's jib part from the end of the bowsprit.  A swift dropping of the halyard and pulling in of the sail sorted it all out in double-quick fashion.

Then around Ardlamont Point and in a northwesterly direction on Loch Fyne brought us to one of the most astonishing marinas on the Clyde, Portavadie.  The complex was originally built for the purpose of constructing concrete oil rigs.  After an immediate move to steel platforms, the facility became redundant and after a little time, it was developed to a marina complex, opened in 2010.  Five-star luxury apartments, private sauna facilities, a restaurant and conference centre.

Never the less the rock blasting at Portavadie and the resulting very deep water intended for building oil platforms has left an excellent and well-sheltered marina.  Well worth a visit, a refuel, an evening meal and breakfast.

Sunday 14 July and we started our homeward bound sail.  Exceptionally becalmed conditions saw us motor-sail southwards to Troon.  Another well-protected marina and a wonderful seafood meal in a very busy Scott's Restaurant on the marina complex.

Monday and we ventured along the South Ayrshire coastline passing Ayr, Turnberry Golf Course with Alsa Craig always within sight in the far distance.  Girvan was our next port of call en route to Port Patrick and then onto Peel (IOM).  Well, that was the plan!   A meal on board before a restful night and an early start.

Time to depart, engines started and into gear.  Phyllis would not budge!  Forward and reverse gears were selected, still, no way would she would go!  The gearbox was suspected.  The harbour master contacted as well as the local ship repairers and marine engineers.  Alas, it was the Scottish wake weeks and no one was available to help.  Reluctantly Phyllis was left in Girvan and everyone, Tanya, Kevin & Tom started on our way home on Spray.

The plan was now to return to Deganwy as quickly as possible so the next leg saw us landfall in Peel (IOM) in the wee hours and then after some rest and recovery an evening departure directly to Deganwy. Arriving late afternoon on Thursday 18 July.  Two and half days after leaving Phyllis in Girvan.

It's another story but Phyllis was eventually repaired after a couple of trips back to Girvan before moving her to Troon for approx six weeks prior to winter berthing Phyllis in the inner Clyde at Largs Marina, where she is now currently berthed until the spring of 2020.

Photos by Tom, Tanya & Kevin
[click any image & scroll through the gallery]

Watch a short, one minute, video of the boats in Scotland.

Photo Gallery at Bottom of Page

The cruise started at the end of the Liverpool River Festival (Tues 4 June 2019) when seven boats attended the event in the Royal Albert Dock, including Jean the Hearts of Oak and Anna Elldi. Some five boats, Comrades, Sara Ann, Phyllis, Spray and Anna Elldi departed the River Mersey on the first leg to Conwy, with Anna Elldi returning to the Menai Straits.

At this point due to the weather and other circumstances, the new departure date was arranged for Tuesday 18 June. Comrades and Sara Ann could not make the revised timescales and remained in Conwy.

Phyllis (crewed by Kevin) and Spray (crewed by Tom) continued to the IOM, Port St Mary before departing to Peel via Calf Sound. After a couple of days a departure, to Northern Ireland ensued with landfall close to Portavogie before sailing along the coast through Donaghadee Sound to transverse Belfast Loch to Carrickfergus Marina.

Our next departure took us along the cliffs of the Antrim coast, hosting a multitude of different nesting sea birds before our arrival in Glenarm.  With the Mull of Kintyre insight, we then journeyed north to arrive in Campbeltown after passing Sanda Island to port and Alisa Craig well off to starboard. Lots of Gannets were seen en route feeding, before going to their breeding ground on Alisa Craig, famous too for the granite used for making curling stones. Alisa Craig dominates the outer Clyde and can be seen for miles and miles on a clear day.

Campbeltown refuelled and refreshed, we enjoyed a visit to the local distillery 'Springbank'.  We then crossed Killbrannan Sound towards the Isle of Arran passing Lochranza to starboard before crossing Bute Sound to enter the inner Firth of Clyde towards Largs Marina.

Once again refuelled, both with diesel and a good meal we set-off up the Clyde the following morning, with the incoming tide, passing Inverkip, Cloch Point lighthouse and Greenock.  We were met by Douglas to show us the way into Sandpoint Marina (a very little known spot really only known to locals) in his powerful RIB. Just on the cusp of the tide, Phyllis just lightly touched bottom on the soft sand before lifting again to continue down the short channel to Dumbarton the final destination on the first phase.   Then treated to a fast RIB ride to get some supper in Holy Loch before catching up with some old friends prior to returning back to Dumbarton. We left the marina the following morning, Thursday 27th June, to catch the train from Glasgow back to home.

Click any Image to View Full Size


The weekend of Friday 26 to Sunday 28 April was the Scarborough trip to the East Coast. Although the numbers were down, due to several unforeseen circumstances, an enjoyable weekend was had by all. The celebration of two birthdays too made the event special.

It's fair to say however that the hotel was disappointing in as much it was a very grand hotel which had lost a great deal of its lustre. Notwithstanding the accommodation, everyone made the best of the weekend trips and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.  One of our birthday guests also looked seriously at buying a boat and is currently at the serious consideration stage.

A stop on Friday took us all to Oswaldtwistle Mill, for an interesting look around two small museums contained inside the mill alongside the various cafes and sales outlets.  One about the workings of the old mill with the second one a memorial to the Accrington Old Pals who suffered very badly in the first world war.

Saturday brought us to Whitby and for some, at last as it was open, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Housed in the home of Captain John Walker, that James Cook lodged with while apprenticed to him.  The rear of the house has a yard and slipway to the harbourside from which the ships were built and serviced.

A prompt return to Scarborough to catch up on some of the sightseeing not to be missed. A trip up and down the cliff face on the tramway, a visit to the castle overlooking both north and south bays and reflection, for some, at the graveside of the famous writer and poet Anne Brontë who passed away in the town in 1849.  Suitable liquid refreshment was also enjoyed by all.

On the return coach trip home a stop at Ripon provided lunch and visits to the Cathedral and several museums including the Prison & Police Station, the Courthouse and the Workhouse.

Some photos from last weekends racing in Conwy.  Well hardly racing really!   Following a delay of more than an hour and then a course which meant we could not return back to our marinas resulted in our race event being cancelled.   Not to worry though everyone seemed to enjoy themselves in the very warm sunshine.  These pictures, show the milling around of the boats prior to a late start.

The first six (6) pictures are from our new member Tanya, who was enjoying her first race with our association.

JULY 2016
Conwy River Festival - Sun 17th - Sat 23rd July.

Saturday 23 July 2016 and the Conwy River Festival saw five boats compete for honours in the ‘Nobbies, Gaffers and Classics’ race. ‘Comrades’ and ‘Anna Ellidi’ the local boats were joined by ‘Spray’ from Liverpool, ’Master Frank’ and ‘Phyllis’ who voyaged over from Ramsey and Peel IOM respectively.

Comrades: 27ft fishing Nobby built at Crossfields of Arnside in 1908, owned by Bob Angell.
Anna Ellidi: 39ft Morecambe Bay Yacht built by William Anderson's of Millom in 1912, owned by Cole Manson.
Spray: 32ft built in 1908 by Crossfields of Arnside, she fished Morecambe Bay until the early 1960's then on the River Dee, finally renovated in 1992, owned by Tom Middlebrook. Spray is a regular competitor in the Liverpool and Conway Nobby races.
Phyllis: 26ft Royal Mersey Restricted Class yacht built 1913 and fully restored. Phyllis is the last remaining example of this class afloat using the Lancashire Nobby hull design, owned by Kevin Goulding.
Master Frank: 40ft Isle of Man longliner once used to fish for cod. Launched in 1896 and continued to fish commercially until 1978. Following an extensive restoration by her current owner she is still found sailing off the Isle of Man coast, renovated and owned by Jo Pennington.

The small fleet assembled, after motor sailing against the ebb out of the river into Conwy Bay. The day’s OOD Pam MacDonald’s dilemma was that there was hardly a breath of wind to be found from the bridge of the committee boat appropriately named ‘Rest A While’. The flat calm day was to present a particular challenge to the large heavy work boats in the race as they struggled to make any way. A fresh breeze ensures that once these giants start to move they take some stopping and their inertia can master the idiosyncrasies of any fickle wind. But alas not today.

Comrades was spotted reverting to her heritage, a crew member fishing from the beam, such was the pace of the race. Phyllis chose to try a different strategy and headed in an opposite direction. As the afternoon’s ebb turned to flood the OOD had no option other than to shorten the course. This resulted in Phyllis being treated to a ‘jibe’ which resulted in her turned to face the fleet. Another little pirouette and then she was being closely chased albeit in slow motion action towards the finishing line. High drama at 1 1/2 knots!