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One couple's story of their Round Britain trip of a lifetime!

From Neyland to everywhere - and back!

SY Florentyna 1 SY Florentyna 5

01 March 2018

We love hearing stories about our berth holders travelling around the UK visiting our sister-Yacht Havens and making full use of their TransEurope benefits.

During 2016 and 2017, one of our most popular berth holders undertook the trip of a lifetime, visiting their favourite sailing spots along the way.

This is their story, as written by Mr Ward....

(Don't forget, all berth holders can enjoy a minimum of 14 free nights at any other Yacht Havens marina. Furthermore, some of our marinas have additional reciprocal berthing offers including TransEurope)


"Three years ago my wife, Pam, and I, two oldies who won’t admit it, found a Westerly Seahawk advertised at Neyland Yacht Haven, in Pembrokeshire.

Having been long time sailors but without a boat for nearly a decade, we had decided to take the plunge (if that isn’t the wrong expression) again. We live in Shropshire, not known for its yachting activities, and we had prospected all the marinas and ports which were anywhere within striking distance. Most fell short in one respect or another, even though many were closer to home. We thought Neyland offered a really good combination of price and location, particularly giving access to miles of sheltered water in beautiful surroundings (and interesting where one mixes it with oil and gas shipping).

Because we are oldies, we are pensioners, so we have lots of time. But because we are oldies we actually don’t have all that much time, simply because the statistics aren’t always the damn lies we like to think they are. So we can plan long trips, but we know we’d better get on with it because we may not be able to do that many of them. Our new yacht (well, 30 years old) has proven to be an excellent combination of safe, dry sailing, good seakeeping and comfort in port, amply demonstrating what a loss both Westerly and Ed Dubois were to the boatbuilding scene. We have done a bit of ‘geriatricising’ with gateways in the guard lines, side boarding ladders, electric winch handle, an electric windlass and a few additional handholds. In-mast furling came with the boat – not my first choice, but probably best for oldies.

I’ve rejoined my old yacht club - the Royal Northumberland - which enables me to sport their lovely defaced blue ensign; and I’m on the list of SOY – Shropshire Offshore Yachting. Bet you’ve never heard of that one! And I’ve gone back to school to add the CEVNI test to my Yachtmaster. 90% pass at 75. Not bad.

Over the winter of 2015/16 we laid plans to circumnavigate the UK. August 2016 was to see the tall ships visiting Blyth, where we had done all our early keelboat sailing, so it was a must do, if only to be amongst Northumbrians again. The planning involved stop-offs at Yacht Havens, and at Marinas which are members of the Trans Europe (TE) group, membership of which comes with my berthing at Neyland. The preferential terms given at Yacht Havens played a large part in our plans, since, as in many such expeditions, family celebrations and the like intrude, so a few trips home would have to be built in.

So, in late May we left our berth and turned right out of Milford Haven. Crossing to Ireland avoids a string of tidal gates up the Welsh Coast, so we made for Arklow, with much motoring in clear weather, but light northerlies. We took in a visit to Dublin from Malahide (TE), and then the excitement of entering Strangford Lough. Here we visited the scene of much Game of Thrones filming, the aptly named Castle Ward, to see where the family wealth had gone! This waterway is well worth a visit, and you’ll come away with a nice sense of achievement (unless you get the tides

And so to Glenarm, with its colony of guillemots nesting in the harbour wall. Then motor across a flat calm North Channel into the Clyde, where we planned a stay at Troon Yacht Haven, whilst making the first trip back home. Here we got our first Yacht Havens welcome. As always, not only are the staff welcoming, but they are interested in what you’re up to. It was here that we also ran in to the first day of a Westerly Owner’s gathering, meeting up with several kindred spirits, both on board, and in the glasses!

Returning to Troon we calculated we’d overstayed our welcome – but not a calculation engaged in by the management. We had arranged to meet a friend at Largs. She was at one time Commodore of the Largs sailing club, but had recently lost her sight. Not that it stopped her too much, but her own boat was without a skipper. We radioed the Yacht Haven, asking for a temporary berth where we could meet a visitor who had impaired vision “yes, that’ll be Jill – she’s coming down the bridge now – go to berth xxx”. And so it was that we stayed the night at our second Yacht Haven, before taking Jill around the Kyles of Bute, from where she found her own way home by (several) buses. This was actually our second visit to Largs. On the first the first mate did actually take the plunge, but the less said the longer my marriage will last. Skipper’s fault anyway, of course.

After dropping Jill we made for the Crinan Canal. We had sailed in the Clyde for over a week in June, with quite acceptable weather. There are a lot of very expensive yachts in the marinas. Why, at that time in a short summer, did we see so few on the water?
So, we traversed the Crinan. Great beauty, and a unique experience. What a contrast between the entrance in gentle, but rainy Loch Fyne, to the exit at Crinan into the wild sound of Jura, bright sun and a good wind.
We spent too short a time around Mull and Loch Sunart, but I will recommend Loch na Droma Buidhe, by Oronsay, and Loch a Choire, off Loch Lynne.

And so we approached the Caledonian Canal. Fort William seems to be missing a trick, with no moorings for passing yachties. The canal is a masterpiece of engineering amongst splendid scenery. OK, the hills attract the rain, but we do all carry good waterproofs. I’d allowed two days to run down Loch Ness – but even if there were no monsters visible, we had a monster wind behind us, and did the trip in 4 hours.

The Moray Firth and the Aberdeenshire coast were notable for the welcome, but also for the on the nose winds. We got a favourable forecast for a night crossing of the Firth of Forth, and within a few days we were at Blyth, stopping on the way at the unforgettable anchorages of Holy Island and the Farnes.
We made our goal of being at Blyth for the Tall Ships – and what a welcome we got from all our old friends at HY Tyne – the magnificent preserved wooden lightship used as their club house.

But, time pressing, I had made arrangements to leave the boat for the winter at North Fambridge Yacht Haven. I won’t bore you, dear reader, with a list of the highlights, but they range from the sorry sight of the fish docks at Grimsby, to the festival at Wells next the Sea. North Fambridge is a unique and special place – way up the River Crouch, and although it’s in a muddy hole, that doesn’t detract from the welcome we were given, and the reciprocal mooring arrangement. Over winter we did some essential maintenance whilst planning to second leg of our trip.

Unexpected shortage of crew led to us making the shorter crossing from the River Crouch to Dunkirk, rather than to planned Ijmuiden. My concerns over shipping in what are billed as the worlds busiest shipping lanes did not materialise – we saw only 4 ships, none of which were near collision course. We sailed into a month of glorious weather on the waterways of the Netherlands. On return we were near to Jachthaven Biesbosch. For a yacht with an air draught approaching 16m the way in is the way out, circular routes being limited by bridges, so we reluctantly gave it a miss – to Dordrecht then - and with that went my ambition to visit every Yacht Haven.

Crossing back to Dover (TE), we began a long slog along the South Coast. Westerly winds prevail, of course, but in past experience the summer brings days of sea breezes giving at least some reaches. Not at the times we were sailing. All our long sails were either light westerlies, so motoring, or strong westerlies. We don’t do 8 hour beats! We had volunteered to take part in Blind Sailing week, hosted by the Royal Southampton YC at Ocean Village. Our visually impaired crew were a couple whose only impairment was to have no sight. Notwithstanding, both had high powered professional jobs, had brought up 5 children between them, and had RYA Competent Crew qualification. WE don’t moan about anything now!

At the end of the week we had booked space at Lymington Yacht Haven. All my crew had gone home, so it was single handed from Ocean Village. Setting off in no wind, I expected an easy ride. This coincided with the finish of the Round the Island, so a good look out was required, with swarms of fast yachts around, all of whom seemed to be on right of way courses! Added to this, the Oriana was timed to set sail, constrained by draught…. As I rounded Calshot the wind lifted to 30 knots, on the nose, necessitating a motor sail to windward. I entered Lymington, and radioed the marina. There they were, ready to take my lines and welcome me in. At which point the wind dropped again. Home for 10 days, and then back to Lymington. Whilst on the next leg of the journey, I was able to leave my electric car charging – thanks for all the hospitality.

And so we carried on – still into strong westerlies, laying over for the weather in Brixham, Dartmouth and Salcombe, and being bounced around on a buoy at the mouth of the Yealm. Plymouth Yacht Haven provided a fine welcome – and another electric car charge. They also permitted a diver to go down to inspect my propellor – we had been short of power a suspected some fouling. Nothing was found, but in the end a far more serious problem emerged.

As we travelled westward the shape of the coast gave us better sailing, which would have been really good, had we not developed problems with the furling main. This was a MaxiRoach vertically battened sail, really past its best when I bought the boat. But with some ministration from the sailmaker it had done us well for 2000 miles, but now it had decided to jam at the top of the mast, so that the last third would not emerge. So, whatever the weather, we were reefed. A stop at Mylor Yacht Harbour (TE) produced a rigger to clear the jam, only for it to reappear shortly afterward. As we rounded Lands End the constant westerlies gave way to a moderate southerly. Following stops at St Ives and Padstow, we ran across the Bristol Channel with the wind behind us, until 2 hours before we entered the Haven, with the tide against us the westerlies returned with a vengeance blowing over the tide at a good F6 – the roughest weather in the whole of our circumnavigation!

And so, we were back on our berth at Neyland. To welcome us they staged their summer party, complete with fancy dress competition – which, dressed as Jane Torvill and John McEnroe, we won (together with every other entrant!). After thorough research a new main has been provided by our on site sailmaker – Stephen Ratsey, at a price well below every other quotation. The transmission problem led to a failed gearbox – and we’re still investigating the reason – likely to be a failed cutless bearing. Luckily the failure
occurred at the marina entrance – so more of the excellent Yacht Havens service came into play in response to my plaintive radio calls. So we have visited every UK Yacht Haven. It will come as no surprise that the service has been unfailingly helpful and cheerful, and the cost of our circumnavigation made more bearable by the inter marina concessions."

- Dave Ward