Caernarfon to Bangor, Northern Ireland (10th July - 11th July)

The reason our destination was set as Bangor was that we wanted to sail from Bangor (Wales) to Bangor (Northern Ireland) ... a small thing but something that appealed to those on board the good ship. We enhanced this by enjoying a curry in Bangor (Northen Ireland) at the Bangla Indian Restaurant thus allowing us to say 'we went from Bangor to the Bangla in Bangor. It is a moot point as to whether passage planning should be built ostensibly around a single amusing sentence but we say yes. No doubt the RYA will, in the fullness of time, add this approach to their excellent Yachtmaster Training Programme.

I feel like I need to explain a little about the Menai Strait. So here you go. It is a narrow stretch of shallow tidal water about 16 miles long, which separates the island of Anglesey from the mainland of Wales.

The strait is bridged in two places: the Menai Suspension Bridge and Robert Stephenson's 1850 Britannia Tubular Bridge.

The strait varies in width from 400 metres from Fort Belan to Abermenai Point to 1,100 metres from Traeth Gwyllt to Caernarfon Castle. It then narrows to 500 metres in the middle reaches and then it broadens again.

The differential tides at the two ends of the strait cause very strong currents to flow in both directions through the strait at different times, creating dangerous conditions. One of the most dangerous areas of the strait is known as the Swellies between the two bridges. Here rocks near the surface cause over-falls and local whirlpools, which can be of considerable danger in themselves and cause small boats to founder on the rocks.

We left Canaerfon as soon as the adjustable sill in the entrance was lowered. This gives you enough time to carry the tide up the Strait past Bangor and out to sea. We left late afternoon, waving goodbye to Selma and Ella who promised to take pictures of the good ship as she went through the Swellies.

Timing is everything for a safe passage and unusually for us, we timed it right!

Approaching the Britannia Bridge and Menai Suspension Bridge

Rob led navigation; Chris steered, and I made tea

A medieval document quoted in the book 'The Menai Strait' states: In that arm of the see that departeth between this island Mon and North Wales is a swelowe that draweth to schippes that seileth and sweloweth hem yn, as doth Scylla and Charybdis - therefore we may nouzt seile by this swalowe but slily at the full see. Roughly translated this means 'it's a bit choppy'. Our pilot seemed more positive.

Eider duck, always the serious member of the team, advised that we should wear Wellies as we sailed through the Swellies ... we thought it was a good idea.

We tried to stay icy calm as we approached the infamous Swellies but sometimes maintaining a poker face is difficult.

As you approach the bridges you come across this statue of Nelson on the shore. 

The statue was erected in 1873, by an artist experimenting with concrete.

Art lover and sculptor Lord Clarence Paget, a former Lord of the Admiralty, lived at Plas Llanfair, up the slope behind the statue. He had used concrete to make statues for his grounds and noticed they were more durable than marble in this exposed area. He found that concrete was much cheaper than marble, bronze or stone and could be manipulated easily.

The Admiralty happened to be surveying the Menai Strait at the time, and Lord Clarence accepted its suggestion that, with only a small alteration to the statue’s planned location, the artwork would serve as a navigation aid for mariners travelling in either direction along this difficult stretch of water. The Admiralty had already marked the statue on its newest chart by the time of the ceremony

Approaching the first bridge. You travel under the starboard span heading for a small obelisk on the shore. You then use a shore transit to determine when you alter course. You get perilously close to the shore. Very exciting and great fun.

As promised Selma and Ella took a video as we shot down the Strait under sail. We did consider using the engine but, hey, we are a sailing boat!

First Britannia and then the Menai Suspension Bridge

Chris calmly sailing us through whilst Rob and I shouted instructions

Just noticed this house on the shore of Anglesey and liked it. What a great spot. The sail out past Bangor was fun. Solent rig with a F5-6 right behind us and a strong tide made for a fun sail.

Having passed Bangor we then headed out into the Irish Sea leaving Wales behind us bound for Northern Ireland

Supper was put on as we sailed at a cracking pace northwards aiming to shave the SouthWest coast of the Isle of Mann by dawn the next day ... which we did. Happy hour continued our PG Wodehouse audio book before we turned in to our watch pattern with Chris kicking off.

Approaching Bangor the following afternoon. 

Couldn't resist it ... play with sound ... and yes I know its the wrong Bangor!

A well-earned pint of Guinness. We were practising our 'stern' look. No idea who owns the fourth hand?

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The award-winning Bangla at Bangor

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