Ram­sey Sound

Yachting Monthly - - PILOTAGE – WEST WALES -

The pi­lots sug­gest that the area off Ram­sey Is­land con­tain­ing South, Mid­dle, and North Bishop is best avoided as heavy over­falls and tide rips jeop­ar­dise safe tran­sit. In­deed, this whole ter­ri­tory is ruled by its tides; an ad­verse flow can make pas­sage risky, dan­ger­ous, or down­right im­pos­si­ble whilst a fair stream is gen­er­ally not only safe, but can be used to boost a yacht's pas­sage up this treach­er­ous coast. With care­ful tim­ing and an eye to the con­di­tions, it is pos­si­ble to run both Jack Sound and Ram­sey Sound in one go, thereby gain­ing the evening shel­ter of Fish­guard after a morn­ing de­par­ture from Mil­ford Haven.

Care does need to be taken through Ram­sey Sound it­self, which de­spite be­ing seven ca­bles wide, is re­stricted to two ca­bles by the vi­cious reef of The Bitches ex­tend­ing east­wards from Ram­sey Is­land. Not only that, but the dan­ger­ous iso­lated rock of The Horse oc­cu­pies the sound's cen­tre – a real ship killer. But fear not, both these re­stric­tions are eas­ily avoided and only re­ally cause a threat to the un­aware, un­pre­pared, or those ven­tur­ing out dur­ing un­wise con­di­tions.

If the nat­u­ral con­straints to this pas­sage are enough to cause you con­cern, be aware that Ti­dal En­ergy Ltd sank a DeltaStream ti­dal en­ergy tur­bine in Ram­sey Sound dur­ing De­cem­ber 2015. This triple tur­bine frame sits on a base 36m long and 20m high in a depth of 30m, twothirds of the way across the sound from Porth­s­tinian to­wards the tip of Ram­sey Is­land (charted clear­ance 13m, po­si­tion 51°52.680'N, 5°19.478'W). Its sub­ma­rine ca­ble snakes east to Porth­s­tinian. A lease agree­ment has been signed with The Crown Es­tate for a test de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme for up to seven years. It should present no haz­ard to yachts; any tur­bu­lence it might cre­ate would be at full ti­dal flow, when I would pre­fer to be else­where! How­ever, I try to avoid such in­stal­la­tions as a mat­ter of course.

Any planned tran­sit must al­ways start with an as­sess­ment of the tides. With a peak Spring cur­rent of 6 knots, it is best to pass at or near slack wa­ter. In calm con­di­tions it is pos­si­ble to go through against the flow – I have passed The Bitches record­ing a speed over the ground of 0.5 knots while the boat speed showed 5.5 knots – and sim­i­larly, if you know the ter­rain well, a fair tide can carry you through, but be VERY care­ful not to be swept on to Horse Rock, The Bitches, or over the DeltaStream in­stal­la­tion. Slack wa­ter, or an hour ei­ther side, is best. The north-go­ing stream starts at Mil­ford Haven HW -0325 hours, and the south-go­ing stream starts at HW +0300 hours. The slack starts around 20 min­utes be­fore each, and might last 30-40 min­utes.

Ap­proach­ing Ram­sey Sound from the south, aim for the mid­dle of the gap vis­i­ble be­tween The Bitches and the main­land. Be­ware Shoe Rock off the south-west cor­ner of the en­trance, and aim to fol­low the main­land shore op­po­site The Bitches. Horse Rock lies mid­way on a line be­tween Ram­sey Is­land's white farm­house and Porth­s­tinian Lifeboat Sta­tion; aim­ing for the lat­ter while stay­ing a ca­ble off the shore will keep you safe. Along this por­tion, St David’s Point should be out of view; if not, you are too far out. After keep­ing close to Point St John, St David’s Head will come into view. Leave Car­reg Gafeil­iog a ca­ble to star­board and head for St David’s. The south­wards pas­sage is a sim­ple re­verse.

The an­tic­i­pa­tion of go­ing through these sounds is only matched by the feel­ing of sat­is­fied re­lief once safely con­cluded. The more often you com­plete a pas­sage the eas­ier you re­alise it is, but the en­joy­ment still lingers on.

Ap­proach­ing Ram­sey Sound. Aim for the mid­dle of the gap vis­i­ble be­tween The Bitches and the main­land

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