Many months ago, we took the plunge and upgraded our beloved, Artful Dodger, for a newer model, Ruby May a 39ft Beneteau Cyclades. You can find out more about her here. Since then she has been stuck in SW Wales, thanks to various COVID rules in England and Wales. But as lockdown restrictions and ‘stay at home’ advice has recently shifted, we managed to pay her a visit and have a shakedown sail on her ahead of our planned passage home.
I have always been a massive nature lover. A lover of the great outdoors, fresh air, and adventure. I love spending time just sitting and watching the nature around me. And one thing that has long been on my list, is to visit a ‘Puffin Island’. So, with a shakedown sail needed to put our new boat through her paces, we looked at the chart and found ourselves drawn to the secluded island of Skomer, off the SW coast of Wales.
Just 12 nautical miles from the port of Milford Haven (where Ruby May has recently been based), Skomer Island is a secluded rocky island and nature reserve off the Pembrokeshire coast. It is also home to one of the UKs largest Puffin colonies, with Puffins present between April and August. A short sail away, and with plenty of possible anchoring spots, we decided it would make an ideal shakedown sail, to test out the various systems, sails and gear on our new boat.
We wanted to see as much of the Island (from the water) as we could, albeit in a very limited window, so timed our sail to coincide with a north flowing tide which would allow us to cut through the race between the Island and mainland. The race can run at up to 8kts here, and it didn’t disappoint. We flew through it, and before long found ourselves on the North-side of the island. In the sky and sea around us were hundreds (if not thousands of puffins)! Swooping and diving, skimming the water, and checking out new nesting spots, the beautiful black and white birds were everywhere. Whilst in the warm sunshine, a group of content-looking seals were lazily basking on the shore. This is nature at it’s best, so undisturbed. We were alone in the cove, and seemed to go unnoticed by its residents, as we silently watched the spectacle before our eyes.
Once the tide turned, we headed back through the race and found an anchorage on the South-side of the Island, ready for an early departure back to Milford Haven in the morning. The anchorage was surrounded by high cliffs, again home to hundreds of Puffins and other magnificent sea birds. There, I sat on deck and watched the birds until the sun disappeared behind the cliff top. What a treat. It’s one of those scenes that you never want to forget. I closed my eyes a couple of times, as if to take in the sounds, but also to try and retain the picture around me in my mind. The waves crashed against the cliffs, birds buzzed all around us, it was so undisturbed, so remote and peaceful. How incredibly lucky I felt to be the witness of this spectacular and undisturbed nature.
The night on anchor, wasn’t quite as peaceful however, as the rocky bottom caused much vibration through the chain, and the swell was fairly rolly (despite being on the South side of the Island, and sheltered from the Northerly breeze). There were several times in the night, where either one of us felt the need to leap out of bed and go up on deck to check that we weren’t dragging! So, if you are considering sailing to Skomer, and anchoring here, pick your anchorage wisely to avoid a rolly night. Albeit it’s a small price to pay for the incredible scenes that await you.