We moved out of Dunmore east harbour waved off by the Waterford Bahai’s on the harbour wall and by Phillipineese fishermen from the fishing boat we had been tied alongside, and set sail for Wales and for Bristol.
The journey started gently, cruising through the sunshine. Off the southeast point of Ireland we sighted dolphins again (our man at the Science and Marine life HQ has identified them as Bottle nosed dolphins) the pod was ”200 strong”. This time some of them briefly graced us with their presence and played in our bow wave. We arranged ourselves into shifts (one hour on 4 hours off), as we did not expect to reach our destination until the next day. Through the night a breeze began to pick up so at around 2pm Paddy and Steve hoisted the sails. The boat began to keel over as it took the strain of the wind and Natasha fell out of her bed.
In the bottom of the boat there is often water, it is called the bilge water. In the Winny it comes from leaks in the engine water-cooling system, from leeks in the deck and from oil and grime and ming that accumulates at the bottom. Paddy was awoken by the bilge water washing up the side of the keel to where his shoulder rested and climbed up on into the cockpit to find Oshan grinning wildly at the wheel, a wet wind, Wales in sight and Winny pounding and dancing through a rough sea. We worked our way passed the beautiful cliffs of Pembroke peninsula, South Wales and found sanctuary from the wind and the waves in a little anchorage just off Caldey Island, Tenby at about 8am. The anchor was dropped and the krew longed from some porridge and some sleep. However, there was a problem. There was a large amount water washing around in the bilge and all 4 of our bilge pumps had stopped working. We set to work trying to find the sources of the problems. It seemed that both our electric pumps had burned out and both hand pumps had lost their seals. Garry and Steve set to work trying to get to the bottom of the electric pump problem whilst Oshan, Natasha and Paddy used there bicycle repair knowledge to patch a ruptured suction pump. We all failed, gloriously! So we formed a chain from bilges, up the companionway ladder though the cockpit to the deck and bailed the ship manually using all the ships basins. As we bailed the tide was rapidly going out and the ship became closer and closer to grounding. We bailed franticly and managed to empty her just before we hit bottom, pulled up the anchor and set off down the Bristol Channel.
However out from our sanctuary we began to thump in to nasty waves and a strong wet head wind. Oshan sat in the cabin grasping on to a bowl of Tahini whilst everything else, all the jars, pans, plates, carrots, books swirled frantically around him. The captain made a decision that it was not worth battling such a sea so we turned back to Caldey and the sanctuary it offered.
Back in the anchorage everyone and everything was wet so we lit up the stove, buttoned down the hatches and began to get warm and dry again over a delicious Middle Eastern lunch constructed by Oshan. We ate and then we sat in the gentle warmth, removed from all the chaos of the ocean and chatted until we all fell asleep around the table.
The wind swung around to the southwest, we awoke and set off again. The Bristol Channel is massively tidal, huge quantities of water wash up and down it twice a day everyday, the tide, yah. So it is best in a boat to wash up with the tide and to time the journey so one doesn’t have to push against it. We aimed to work our way up the channel as far as we could get before the tide changed and then to find some place to hide from the wind and the waves. With a good wind to help us, Winny surged onwards. Again passed dramatic cliffs and again blessed by bottlenose dolphins who stayed with us for about an hour and jumped and played about the bow of the ship. Sweet glory.
That night we put the anchor down in a fairly exposed bay. Loads of water had gotten into the bilges and had been sloshing about. All was wet again. We checked for leeks, bailed out the bilge water, ate a stodgy lentil and potato mush and went to bed. This time it was paddy’s turn to worry about the anchor slipping as we bounced around on waves and as the boat produced its symphony of bangs and clatters and scrapes and rumbles.
Awake the next morning we bailed some more water, ate some oats, wheyed the anchor and then set off for Swansea to try to buy some gas for the cooker and some bits of bilge pump. We were slightly worried that there might be a problem with the engine so we went slowly by sail through the lumpy sea. We floated into Swansea, which was our first real sanctuary from the roughness we had been experiencing since Ireland. Everyone got busy; Captain Gazza went to buy bilge related things, Oshan set off on the bike to get some gas, Paddy and Natasha filled the boats fresh water tanks, checked the engine and Steve got ready to install a new electric bilge pump. Progress was made. We were never so happy to hear the sound of an electric pump. However, we didn’t manage to get everything sorted before Swansea harbour closed its sea lock for a few hours due to the spring (big) tide. Whilst waiting for it to open again, the shipping forecast began to give gale warnings for the Bristol Channel (where we were planning to be sailing). Parts of the channel have the second most vigorous tides in the world along with its maze of sandbanks. A gale would have made our journey incredibly difficult. We decided that we would shoot out through the night to get to the mouth of the river Avon in order to catch the early 2 hour window where in a boat is able to sail upriver to the Bristol docks (this window appears only twice a day). Because of the looming gale if we did not get in for this first window we may have faced serious problems.
listen hear for the gale warnings ->http://soundcloud.com/big-ocean-music/gale-force-warning-in-undi
The sea lock opened and we shot out like an eager hippo, into a beautiful sea, a sunny sky, and a fair breeze. There was no sign of the Gale but there was a tension, if we didn’t make it we would be mice meat. The first part of our voyage was with the tide. We made fantastic progress under steam and sail, getting up to speeds of 13.1 knots, the fastest recorded on the good ship Winny, and spirits were up. As the sun set we began to punch the tide, progress fell to round 2-3 knots. However we were blessed with a supportive wind and with gentle seas, (2 meter waves had been forecast), and due to the initial speedy progress we kept with our intended schedule. Through the night all the krew kept watches and slept in turns apart from the skipper who stayed up as we negotiated the sandbanks, the open seaways and big container ships. Despite all that could have thwarted our progress, we were showered with blessings and a fair wind and put down our anchor at Portishead in the early dawn.
During our short 2 hour slumber all were awoken by an interesting and alarming noise. Gazza jumped out of bed realising that the tide up the Bristol Channel was so strong our anchor had lost its grip. We began to move with increasing speed towards a great harbour wall whilst the captain decided on a plan of action. Just then we moved from a hard clay seabed to a rocky seabed and the anchor caught hold and disaster was averted.
We awoke at 7 and pulled up anchor in the drizzling dawn and watched an incredibly huge ship appear around a headland to be met by 3 tugboats. Once it was out of the way we moved up to the mouth of the Avon and negotiated the thin sailable channel in its big dirty mouth. Sailing up the Avon seemed like a miracle. The tension of the days before slipped away as we passed luscious tree lined banks, old boats and buildings, and floated under the great Clifton Suspension Bridge and sailed into Bristol’s floating harbours lock.
Once in we had to wait around for the tide to do its thing. In time we were tied up right in the centre of Bristol in the rain with a fire alight. We sang a guttural song and stamped like Vikings and praised our incredible nautical satnav device that had been a much-needed aid whilst negotiating all the complexities of the previous days. We fell in to weary slumber and we furiously tried to make all shipshape and Bristol fashion, in equal measure. In the afternoon the krew was gathered from the boat and taken to the residents of the wonderful Poppy and Pablo where we arrived dirty, damp and tired, where lovers were reunited after a month in separation and where old friends were met. We removed our damp layers, scrubbed down and then were fed an scrumptious meal. And fell into deep slumber within strong walls and foundations safely removed from the gale that had arrived.
Bristol was explored by the krew; by bike in the early morning blown around by the wild winds, orally with mouth-watering Masala Dosa’s and visually in the Arnolfini with insights into the Super Power within Africa. That evening was marked with Paddy and Olive’s engagement party where the respective families all met each other for the first time. It was a joyous and harmonious affair.
The next day was Saturday. We had a schedule. Lunch was conducted on the boat, food was provided by Oshans wonderful mother, Farahnaz. The boat was awash with friends from near and far. The magnificent gathering flowed over the gunnels and onto the pontoon. Everyone was then packed into cars and moved in convoy across town to the home of the lovely Ruth for a devo. From here Pablo, Oshan and Paddy sped off to Hobgoblin, Bristol’s most incredible music shop filled with instruments from all over the world. They dribbled but refrained from smashing all there cash on obscure instruments.
Diddley Squat a band Paddy plays in and the vanguard of the Northumberland Reggae movement had been booked in to play in Bristol in the amazing Caribbean restaurant/venue; the Plantation, that evening. Everything was set up and then a multitude of incredible people began to arrive; friends and family from all over England. We ate marvellous Caribbean goat stews and jerk chicken and then Diddley Squat began to play. The extremely loving audience, the delicious food, the sweet venue, the incredible spirit that has become wound up with our voyage, all combined to create an outrageously blissful gig. People passing on the street were attracted by the buzzing vibes and came in to dance, the venue filled up so much that people were dancing back out onto the street. In the middle, all the krew came on stage and we played our sea shanty “oh we’re sailing across the sea, the Winny’s in full sail // all the people in the world are going to learn to live together”. The gig finished with the entire crowd chanting “give up your sorrow, give up your pain”. It was a highly powerful moment.
The next day started with a mighty meaty brunch then all made their way to the Baha’i centre for a devotional. Lots of people came and we reached glorious heights. listen hear=> http://soundcloud.com/big-ocean-music/devo-in-the-bahai-centre
After the devo the krew rushed back to the boat to receive a group of Somali youths who came down to check out the boat and hear about our adventure. They explored the vessel and gave us gifts, rocked the boat and tried to push each other off then we told them our story. They were a sweet bunch of youth. After all the weekends activity the krew were weary and went to bed.
On the itinerary, Monday was set for our day of departure but before we went anywhere it was decided that some issues in the engine room needed to be sorted out. Wonderful engineers; Peter and Andy from Motion Marine, came to inspect the engine and discovered problems. The Fuel injector pump tubes were cracked and needed replacing and our exhaust water swan neck was irreparably damaged. This meant that we are not able to leave until Saturday at the earliest. This set back enabled the krew to embark on a number of issues. We made connections with Pablo’s band member who drives lorries, Tony. He found us some thick inner tubes that Oshan used to fix a bilge pump. Steve conquered the electric bilge pump issues. Paddy attached the lea boards onto the bunks. These are not boards, but rather bits of material that are fixed to the bunks that can then be strung up so that people do not fall out of bed when sleeping on rough seas. Oshan whipped all the ropes (made the ends tidy). Our delayed departure enabled us to play lots of music with the good people of Bristol, and let us catch up on well-needed rest.