What a wind up for a start of a journey! I have spent the last nine months getting JEKAPA
ready for this trip. The mast has come down and been re-rigged, had all the wiring and
lighting replaced and new VHF arial. I have practically re-wired the boat, changed the
plumbing, fitted a sink and showermade new spray dodgers plus got the wind generator going
and had to renew the charge regulators for the solar and wind power as they both gave up
the ghost. We have a new VHF radio too. It feels like I have had to do everything twice;
not sure why but things just seem to work for a while and then go wrong but I can' see
where I have done anything to make this happen.
Anyway, it all seemed to be going OK with dates booked for the bridge swings and crew: come
out of Pooles Wharf on Friday and into Bristol marina to flush the water tanks, charge up
the batteries, load up and stock up over the weekend and set off out of the docks into the
Avon to Cardiff on the Tuesday. Well on Friday Mark came to help me move the boat and the
bridge operator flicked the switch to start it swinging. Nothing! Nothing but a small
whining sound from somewhere in the control box. We tried again, we tried jogging the
mechanism with a little nudge, we tried rebooting, reversing, anything we could think of.
Still nothing. After three hours we admitted defeat. Now, being Friday afternoon, the
chances of getting anyone from the Council to come and sort it out were pretty well nil.
With lots of phone calls it was eventually sorted that an electrician would arrive on
Monday morning to check the electrics.
So I spent the weekend worrying if we would be able to get out at all. All these months of
preparation may have been for nothing. We might spend the entire soummer waiting for it to
be sorted out. I did as much as I could in loading up and getting her as ready as possible.
it helped relieve some of the stress but only a bit. Shauna was great: she took me to the
cinema, came to the pub, let me get drunk, listened to me go on and on and suggested
It wasn't an electician but four. Between them they took the control box to pieces, stuck
testing probes in here and there, exchanged theories with their heads buried in a wiring
diagram. Eventually, they managed to get the bridge to swing at 24th of it's normal speed.
It may have been slow but at least I could get out. Yes! As I left they asked me to stay
away for a long time.the joy was tempered though; shortly before a yacht had been turned
back from leaving the docks. The Plimsoll swing bridge had not been able to open! And I was
due to leave in 24 hours... I spoke to the crew later in the day. all they knew was that
they had to ring the lock keeper a nine the next morning. There was nothing to do but keep
on as if it was going to swing.
I went on getting things ready and just hoped. The next day, Tuesday, I was up far too
early but it meant I could have breakfast with Shauna. It felt funny knowing that we were
doing normal things, and that she would go to work as normal, but I would soon be off. She
left and I tidied up. Going down to the docks has been so much of my life in the last year
that it seemed normal too. I did some fresh produce shopping on the way and walked to the
marina. Charlie arrived, we had a quick cup of tea and backed JEKAPA, out into the docks.
The other boat had gone so we assumed the bridge would swing. It did. I thought about the
other times I have left Bristol harbour vias this lock. Once for a week trip to Lundy, via
Cardiff and Swansea, once to got to the Caribbean and once to go to Spain via Brittany and
Scilly. This time to Scotland. Again, it was a lovely, hot day. There was a little wind
which we hoped would blow us to Cardiff. I called up Bristol VTS (sort of water-traffic
control) towards Avonmouth but they didn't reply. We turned into the Severn and sailed for
half an hour before the wind died and we motored ll the rest of the way. The nice thing
about going this way at neaps is that we probably won't run aground. It makes it a much
more relaxed journey.
Cardiff Bay isn't that exciting. Practically all we did was go ashore, have something to
eat and drink and go to bed. Leaving was far more interesting. We took the lock out 2
hours before high tide. There is a counter current eddy along the shore that means, as long
as you keep close to the shore around to Barry, you can gain an extra two hours of tide to
your advantage. With such strong tides this is a big help. Then the wind died again and we
motored through the Nash Passage, a narrow gap between the land and some banks; it waves
about five miles, one hour, on the trip to Swansea. Moreover, you can get there before the
tide turns and tries to stop you getting there.
Swansea has a channel leading between two piers into the docks and the marina. Turn left
for the marina. We got a sudden call from the lockmaster: "You boat, the one that's nearly
run aground. You need to get to the other side." We wondered if we were this boat and what
side to go; we were in the middle. And then we saw the mud; a glistening hill rising from
the left side. According to the depth gauge we should have been aground but mud upsets it
and it starts reading nonsense. Still it felt sluggish getting through to the lock. I tried
calling the marina but no reply. There was obviously something up with the VHF because they
called me but couldn't hear me. (It turns out you have to set up a new radio event though
they appear to work fine!)
We had an almost repaeat of the night before: a drink ashore, I cooked and we ent to bed
fairly early. In the morning we had breakfast and Charlie left to catch the bus home. I
settled down to relax and plan the next part of the trip. It had been good to catch up with
Charlie. We hadn't sailed together for years and our lives have led different paths in the
last decade. We'd put the world to rights a few times over the last two days.