a travel log
From France to Scotland by sea.

Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Monday 5th of August

Departure from Skomer Island at 11 AM. Arrival at Fishgard at 6PM. Conditions: N-NW wind, turning N-NE just as we were doing the same. Engine on all day (we needed to cover some ground). Sun.

Note: this entry was edited on August 7th - was too tired to write that night... read on why...

This past night was a true nightmare... Our arrival and evening in the South Haven of Skomer Island was truly beautiful. We arrived early, at about 4pm, after some serious sailing in good strong winds. Spent the evening reading, chatting, cooking and observing the hundreds of birds flying around our little cove. Puffins, sea gulls of many kinds, crows, sea hawks. Skomer island is a nature reserve, so I suppose such variety was to be expected. Another boat, a ketch, arrived in the early evening and moored not too far from us. Had a lovely evening, and went to bed.

TWANG.... A loud metallic bang against some part of our rig. TWANG..... TWANG..... In the past I've had a couple of birds misjudge the distance to the mast, and have a little bump in the rigging, but I can't say that I've ever heard it more than a couple of times. Well within about 20 minutes, we must of had about 30. After the first few hit us, I climbed out on the deck, and looked up. Our mooring light at the top of the mast was on (as it should when moored outside of a harbour), we were surrounded by a thick fog, and as I looked up, I saw perhaps 30-40 birds criss-crossing inches away from the light, with some hitting the mast, or the shrouds (the cables holding the mast up), or both. I must say, still being a little asleep, Hitchcock came to mind. Not only were the birds hitting our boat, but they were hitting the boat moored not too far from us - we could hear the impacts on both his masts....

The mood on the boat was somber - here were these beautiful birds most certainly getting wounded hitting our mast, and there was very little we could do about it. I decided to turn off the mooring light, and that helped a little. The number of impacts decreased.... however going back to sleep was difficult. Over the next 3 hours I must of heard about 30-40 impacts - I assume the birds were trying to fly back to their nests, in the thick fog, and were simply not seeing the mast. At least they weren't being attracted to it by the light.

At about 3 AM one particularly bad impact got us all up... TWANG............. THUMP. The bird had hit the rig, and had come crashing down on the deck...

I got the flashlight out, and went to inspect the topsides.... I found three birds - one dead, and two that were clearly shocked, but could probably fly. I put them in the water so they could swim away and have time to recover.

The saddest thing about this whole episode was the feeling that there was nothing I could do.

The next day we were all very tired, and the wind was not cooperating. We motored to the lovely little town of Fishguard. Fishguard at sunset

Apparently in 1797 a french ship, with 600-1200 troups, attempted to invade Britain, and chose Fishguard as their landing place... My guide tells me the french troops were mostly convicts, who suffered a humiliating defeat. The story recounts how Jemima Nicholas, a local Welsh woman, scared them off with a pitchfork... here are some murals on the walls of a pub.

The french invasion of 1797

Jemima, the woman who chased the french away!

1:34:08 AM    
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© Copyright 2003 Thomas Degremont.

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