Sailing by the Stars – A unique perspective of the Welsh Coast

Sometimes sailing can create magical moments and a couple of weekends ago, there were certainly a few on Challenge Wales.

A full boat of people with various sailing experience, Challenge Wales set sail from Penarth for its ‘Sailing by the Stars’ voyage – a non-stop two day voyage in the Bristol Channel.

The idea was to give novice and experienced sailors additional experience, and training, in night sailing, learning about being competent onboard at night time, while meeting new people and sharing experiences.

With charts on the table, the Skipper discussed the planned route – he had been watching the weather forecast feverishly over the earlier days- and the  passage plan was to head out of Cardiff, down the Bristol Channel towards Pembrokeshire, then head back sailing behind Lundy Island and back up to Penarth.

Passage taken by Challenge Wales as she departed Cardiff and sailed non-stop

Passage taken by Challenge Wales as she departed Cardiff and sailed non-stop

As night fell, the boat split into watches with one watch tasked with cooking an evening meal and there were compliments to the team about how good the pasta was! – one of the  staple foods onboard Challenge Wales.

Being on the water and seeing the clear sky at night enabled some of those onboard to catch a fleeting glimpse of the International Space Station for a couple of minutes as it orbited past. We did know we were likely to see it, during a particular time window, so we were extra vigilant to catch it. We were now sailing by the stars (thank goodness there was no cloud!), and what a starry sky it was once the light pollution of the towns were left behind.

For most it was the first time seeing a spectacular Moonset, the moon disolved slowly into the sea as the gradual appearance of a breaking dawn in the sky took over.

The sun on the horizon as Challenge Wales sails

The sun on the horizon as Challenge Wales sails

As Challenge Wales headed back to Cardiff, there was a short-lived frustration as the wind dropped and the engine had to go on but it wasn’t long until the wind picked up and the thrill began as the spinnaker was deployed. From no wind to 24 knots of wind created excitement on deck enabling Challenge Wales to storm up the Bristol Channel and back home.

Exploring the Welsh Coast on Challenge Wales

Exploring the Welsh Coast on Challenge Wales on our 2 day adventure voyage

Ongoing feedback during the voyage, and an informal short ‘on-deck seminar’ on Engine Room Fires, enabled everyone to get something out of the two days.

Listening to a short safety awareness talk

Some of those onboard listening to a short safety awareness talk – a fantastic outdoor classroom

It’s not very often that Challenge Wales offers non-stop sailing voyages but the positive reaction and experience means there will certainly be more planned into our 2017 calendar.

“A great weekend, it has left me eager to get back onboard Challenge Wales soon!” Bob

“Excellent trip, great prep for longer voyages.” Colin

“It provided an ideal opportunity for me to gain an idea of the disciplines and routine of a watch system during night-time hours.” Howard


The next Sailing by the Stars voyage on Challenge Wales is 4th – 5th June. Suitable for all experiences, and for adults only. If you are also interested in becoming a Challenge Wales crew volunteer this voyage can act as your qualifying trip. Find out more at www.challengewales.org 

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