You can keep up to date with our latest news by clicking the RSS feed link on the left hand side of this page
Auf Wiedersehen Pet
Actor Timothy Spall visited Porthdinllaen on the 4th June 2010 in his converted barge as part of his round Britain coastal tour.
His blog at www.spallatsea.com said
38 NM 4th June 2010
We’ve been adviced to leave Pwllheli 3 hours before low water (8.37) so an early call for us, we plan to slip our lines at 5.30. Will, from Hafan Pwellhi Marina is a sailor and knows what he’s talking about – we want low slack water to pass by Bardsey Island – I have some cruising notes in front of me ‘Tidal streams run strongly through the Sound….[which] can be evil – 50 foot standing waves have been reported…Only tackle it in fair weather and at slack water…The shoals lying offshore of Bardsey Island…cause severe overfalls which can constitute a danger to small vessels’. OK!
Tim meanwhile has been looking at his tidal charts – we went to the chandlery to buy new fenders and I happened to mention to Jane who works in there that we were hoping to get a swing mooring in Portdinillaen (we still don’t know how to pronounce this!) but were worried we’d be too heavy for the buoy, she was on the phone in an instant, “I know someone who may be able to advice you” and the someone is her brother-in-law who just happens to be the coxswain of the RNLI station in that unpronounceable place – we will know how to say it in the morning for we shall practice.
It’s been very hot beautiful day, lots of boat activity, a tractor launching power boats down the slip, boats and jet skis taking on fuel (we’re near the fuel barge) people making the most of the sunshine (I suspect a few over did the sun, lots of red shoulders) are passing our mooring now (we are near the slip) waiting for the tractor to pull them out. Not the quietest spot, a flotilla of idling engines and bow thrusters in use as they await their turn with the tractor, diesel and petrol fumes hovering over the water, but we don’t mind, I wave and they wave back – “We love your programme, are you going to make more?”
Tim’s working out his passage and I’m ducking petrol fumes…
What a lovely pub! We beached the dingy and pulled it up on to the golden sand, the water was crystal clear, you don’t get better than this on the Mediterranean. How lovely to arrive in such an idyllic place, we’d never heard of Porth Dinllaen and are still trying to pronounce it, and it’s not helped because the Charts say it’s one word Porthdinllaen and the postcards (as above) two and the spelling is not consistent either? Never mind the beach wasn’t too busy, people sunbathing, swimming, kids paddling. We heard music as we walked up the steps from the sand, there was a folk band, sitting on the wall entertaining those lucky enough to have a table outside the Ty Coch Inn. I suppose the only place we can compare it to, is the beach in front of The Ferryboat Inn on Helford Passage where we were stranded by the backend of Hurricane Bill last August, but I think this beach and the sand-dunes beat even that vista….Wales and Cornwall are totally different countries, if Timmy and I were blindfolded and taken on a mystery journey we’d know which was which, I don’t know how, but we would. The Ty Coch wasn’t as chi chi as the Ferryboat inasmuch as it didn’t have the oyster bar, or the extensive wine list, but the Ty Coch has utter charm, and we weren’t confronted with signs, ‘please don’t use the tap in the toilet to wash the sand off your feet’ – kids were in and out using the lavs, trailing sand on their wet feet and no one raised an eyebrow. Briony is the cook and as far as I can tell the landlady, she was so pleased to see us, “Oh I’m so glad you came here, we wondered if you would! We saw your barge moored out there, she looks lovely!” – And her mash potato was lovely, can’t get better than that in my book.
4th June 2010
I phoned the RNLI Station and spoke to Alan, the mechanic to say thank you for letting us use their buoy, Mark the cox’n who Tim had spoken to yesterday was out racing with his kids, but Alan said we were welcome to join the crew on the lifeboat, they were going to go down the slipway at 5, how could we resist an invitation like this? Tim had a nap after lunch and I woke him up about 4.30, we’d left Paul at the pub, (he has a horrible job) he wanted to do some filming, so we said we’d meet him at the boathouse. There is a beach either side of the slipway and we were helped to pull the dingy up onto the sand by a couple of the crew and we walked up the ramp and were introduced to some more of the guys.
Tim and I are in complete awe of the RNLI volunteers, they are extremely special human beings and as we make our way around the British Isles we are fortunate because every now and again we get to meet them in the most benign way – not an SOS! Our first experience of the RNLI was with the Sharpness Station in 2005, it was a ’semi’ emergency, not strictly a shout, but they helped us, and then we got to know a few crew when we were moored in Ramsgate, and were only recently helped by the Fishguard RNLI crew. Wherever we arrive on The Princess Matilda and explore (mostly pubs) we meet volunteers, they come from all walks of life, the crew we met today included a green keeper (at the local golf club) a postman and a builder. The assistant cox’n who took us out today was Robert Jones and it was a totally different trip to the one we did with Patch and the Penlee crew.
Firstly, Penlee are mostly fishermen, hardly surprising as Newlyn is a large fishing port, and they are mostly Cornishmen, and Porthdinllaen are all Welsh (although Ken the operations manager is Scouse, but honorary Welsh) and none are fishermen. I believe they are the only Welsh speaking crew in Wales. To see them working as a team, for the RNLI crew all know their jobs and are team players – and communicating with each other in Welsh made Tim and I feel so proud to be amongst them. We climbed up some very steep steps and there is a gantry to get on to the lifeboat, some of the crew were up there already, dressed in their gear, including helmets and we were told to make sure we ducked our heads as we came out of the boathouse. Tim and I were already wearing lifejackets, so Paul was given one, as he was filming and the boat moved forward and we all ducked and then when it was clear of the boathouse it was all systems go, it stopped! The crew all had their jobs to do, for the bridge and the ariels lie flat and are then assembled, once this was done, Robert asked whether Tim would like to join him on the bridge and would he like to take the helm (once the lifeboat was clear of the slipway).
Standing up there at the top of the slipway, looking down to the packed beaches stage right and left, we shared a heightened sense of expectation. The beach audience were enthralled, busy taking photographs – not of Tim – but of the crew and the lifeboat, for they were the stars of this show. The boat started to descend the ramp and in seconds we hit the water and Tim put her her into forward gear and we left leaving a huge wake behind us, several little boats followed us out riding the wake like surf boarders. A wonderful experience, for them and for us. – But for the RNLI it’s no joy ride, they put their lives at risk….