Lazy jacks and caffled lines

Friday 5th August: from Burton to East Angle Bay and back
    Six of us were afloat on about 12 metres depth of sea water on a falling tide.  “Ssh, listen to your Captain.” Eyes and ears strained to follow instructions. This boating experience was courtesy of Boat Owner and Number 1 Niece, she the Captain. Deftly she had unhitched the 36 foot motorised yacht from its mooring and re-tied the small shore-to-mooring tender. We had gathered at midday on the Burton pontoon and were set for an afternoon of cruising and sailing upon the Milford Haven waterway. Previous trips have been upriver, but in calm conditions we turned downstream, seeking wind. What luck to coincide in sunny Pembrokeshire with other family members on holiday or on an earned Friday off. Now the Cleddau crew was starting a Cleddau cruise from right beneath the Cleddau Bridge…
   The Nephew and Boat ‘Usband (demoted from his Captain status on this trip) were deckhands, letting out the lines, winding the winches, letting go the sheets, later hauling up the anchor. Boat Owner steered while the Captain busied herself below producing drinks, snacks, lunch… There is so much to gaze at on a trip downstream of Burton: the high level Cleddau toll bridge at the start, the jetties from which the old ferries had plied their crossings for so many years, the housing clinging to the steep hillsides, the old dockyard, where once fine warships and Royal Yachts were built, and later home in the forties and fifties to the RAF Sunderland flying boats.  A huge white slab all but blocked the way, the Irish car ferry, sideways on, until neatly it berthed. In only 90 minutes time it would be heading back out to the Irish Sea. A marina, a yacht club, a church, a terrace of pretty cottages to starboard, an offshore round tower to port. If fortifications are your interest try scouring the Haven: Palmerston defences are readily visible, Martello Towers at Pembroke Dock, large forts on the north and south banks of the tideway, East and West Blockhouse on seaward facing cliffs, plus several island forts, designed in the mid-nineteenth century to prevent invasion by the French navy.
    The waterway broadens and the horizon is filled with angular shapes.  On the port (southern) side five quite stumpy, still shiny, chimneys indicate the site of the renewed Pembroke Power Station; not much further on the jetties start. Oil tankers were moored beside them. The Nephew, a veteran of the petrochemical industry, explained which was discharging crude oil, which was loading “product”, oil refined into petrol or diesel or fuel for heating. We gazed at the Greek national flag and at the onboard lifeboat tilted at sharp angle ready to launch off the tanker in case of fire. Later two tugs were busying themselves around one of these tankers. Starboard, on the opposite bank, are more massive jetties, these for the even larger tankers (about 140,000 tonnes) which deliver liquid gas from Qatar. Industrial piping marches up the hill to feed into the storage tanks. Then comes the town of Milford Haven, its terraced streets built for the fishing industry. Beyond it, in the deepest water, is another refinery terminal.
    We tacked downriver, heaving ho periodically, intense activity followed by gentle water-lapping progress. A few sailing vessels, a couple of speedboats, the harbour police boat, the catamaran for disabled sailors, all streamed past. A mooring for lunch. No towpath bashing-in of mooring pins was called for, just some agile stretching with a boathook to catch the ring on top of a mooring buoy. We bobbed on the sea, just off East Angle Bay, within easy view of the Angle Lifeboat Station. The enormous Irish Ferry pounded past, on its afternoon sailing for Rosslare. We ate and talked, talked and ate, interrupted only by a warning bleep. The depth gauge! The tide was ebbing still. With only half a metre of water below the keel greater depth was needed. The engine was restarted, the boat untied and turned back upstream.
    The sails flapped, devoid of sufficient breeze. If we were to moor up in time for later arrangements the boat would have to return under power. “Who’s to steer?” called out Boat Owner.
    “I will.” The words fell out of Boatwif’s mouth. But there was no tiller! Hands grasped the large suede-covered wheel.  What had she taken on…?
    “Steer her like a car,” urged this boat’s Captain. Boatwif programmed her mind, trying to concentrate, not to be distracted by scenery or sea.
    “You might need to correct again,” said Boat Owner. “Remember, there’s still the effect of the wind and the movement of the water.”  There were occasional veerings off course, yet no-one else would volunteer to take the helm. While Boat Owner, Number 1 Niece, Boat’Usband, The Nephew and Nephew’s Wife feasted on fresh fruits Boatwif (more or less) kept them out of danger. During the cruise ears had heard unfamiliar nautical terms, now eyes began to notice unfamiliar signage. For instance, what did the big green lollipop warning sign warn of…?
    We cruised back upstream, located the mooring buoy and finished with a wrestling match for the lines (ropes) were very “caffled up” on the buoy (Pembrokeshire term for tangled together).  More rope and a screwdriver seemed to save the day. And what a glorious day.
    Much, much later, in Baby Sis’s house, there was conversation with a one-time professional mariner, who had circumnavigated the UK, a tug operator rescuing and salvaging all manner of craft. Lunch in Belfast, across the Irish Sea for dinner at the Isle of Man, towing dumb barges through the Caledonian Canal – what tales!  It was truly a day confirming our maritime heritage!
    Finally, what were those “lazy jacks”? Pulleys …? Answers please to Boatwif…

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