All at sea and having fun

Despite college and work and the theatre I did manage to get some social activities in. The Rhyl Yacht Club was a regular watering hole for Roger and myself.

We had others of course, including the Clwyd opposite the club where we were both members of the darts team for a few years.

But Friday night was usually our night at the club, drinking and playing darts and table tennis.

It reached a stage where Roger and I had our own pewter tankards hanging up behind the bar. If I remember rightly Roger’s had a handle in the shape of a fox.

During the sailing season, of course, we would also be down there, more often than not on the rescue boat although in the late 60s when my brother was away Roger often crewed for me in the family GP14.

Before we had the GP14 the family sailing dinghy was a Jewel class 14-footer and I remember one year when my brother and I entered it in the Menai Straits Regatta.

This was a two-week event based at the Royal Anglesey Yacht Club, Beaumaris, on Anglesey.

A view of the Menai Strait showing the Suspension Bridge

The Straits is the channel that runs between the Welsh mainland and Anglesey.

Races would involve different classes of sailing boats on courses mainly set at the eastern part of the Straits although there was one round the island race which started off going through the Swellies before sailing round Anglesey and Puffin Island.

An aerial view of the Swellies in the Menai Strait.

The Swellies is the stretch of water running between the Telford Suspension Bridge and the Britannia Bridge which includes a number of small islands and rocky shoals which, during the ebb and flow of the tides, cause dangerous currents and even whirlpools.

Not a race for the inexperienced.

In the year I crewed for my brother Nigel we camped with other friends in a field on the mainland and used to crowd into a couple of cars to get over to Beaumaris.

Although the regatta was at the end of July and beginning of August it didn’t always mean there was good weather.

On one day they decided the dinghy racing, which included the Jewel Class, was safe to go ahead but the wind got wilder and a number of boats capsized including ours and a couple of other Rhyl boats.

The Jewel is not a lightweight boat. It is carvel built which means the planks overlap and the joints are sealed.

Upright they are easy enough to handle but once they capsize they can be difficult to right without pulling the mainsail down before putting weight on the centreboard.

While we were deciding whether to right our boat or get it to shore as it lay we noticed one of the safety boats get too close to another capsized boat and rip the sails with the outboard.

At that point we decided to wave away any safety boat that came close to us.

The water was so choppy that it was impossible to work our way round to lower the mainsail so we ended up with Nigel up front with the painter (a rope) tied round him and me at the stern helping to propel the boat as I swam.

We had capsized, along with about a dozen other assorted dinghies, in mid-channel and it took quite a while to reach the shallows. At that point we could stand upright and loose the mainsail, raise the centre-plate and get the boat upright and over to the slipway.

Once we had her strapped to the trolley we managed, with help, to pull her almost out of the water at which point we could take out the drainage plugs to let all the water out as we took her to the top of the slipway to the dinghy park.

Because it was a cold day I had put on a warm, roll neck sweater and as we trudged up to the Royal A clubhouse it was sodden and starting to hang down to my knees.

Under normal circumstances most of the visiting sailors would not have been allowed close to the clubhouse in our sailing gear let alone inside. Once we had used the changing rooms and put on some dry gear, in my case a pair of cut-off denims, an open neck short-sleeved shirt and a pair of canvas deck shoes, we headed straight for the bar.

That fortnight at the Strait regatta did get better, almost, but the bad bits included: a wasp getting into my ear and stinging me; and pigs getting into the camping field and ripping my tent apart in their search for food.

I found out later the farmer’s nephews, who were city born and bred and having a holiday on the farm, had not learned the first rule of being in the country: CLOSE THE GATES!

Not all sailing events had such disastrous moments. One of the annual events at Rhyl Yacht Club was a day sail round to Llandudno Sailing Club in the Bay of Colwyn.

The usual practice was to take some drink and food, normally sandwiches, and the Llandudno club laid on a light buffet.

Two or three times Roger and I went on this trip in the GP. Along with a bottle of squash or lemonade, we would also pack a few cans of lager. A very pleasant Sunday outing for all.

Another good club weekend was the annual visit of the West Kirby Sailing Club. They would race from the Wirral to Rhyl on the Saturday and moor in the harbour for the night (they were mainly cruising boats, such as Hilbres, with up to four crew on each).

Once they were anchored a few of us used to take the punts around the harbour ferrying them back to the clubhouse.

Then the evening fun began. A buffet was laid on and then the Kirby crews tried to drink us dry. We always got in extra for Kirby night.

At times I would help behind the bar and those I had rowed ashore would offer me a drink. Once I had finished behind the bar I had enough marked up to see me through to midnight.

Quite often the youngsters from both clubs would pop over to the fairground for an hour.

The Kirby crew would bunk down in the clubhouse for the night and the following day we would all use a common start line as they raced back to the Wirral and our boats raced to the Earwig Buoy and back.

Happy days all at sea.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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