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pembrokeshire
may 4-6, 2002

Thursday night's club night was in deepest dark Gloucestershire, in a favourite old haunt of ours, the White Hart in Littleton Upon Severn. Despite the fact that some of us had to travel over thirty miles each way to get there, we had a very good turn out and managed to completely take over one of the many little rooms that give the pub all its character.

Alas, despite the great beer and location, there was one thing dampening down the spirits of the assembled Nomads - the weather forecast. Things were not looking good, all manner of wind directions were forecast but the one thing that was consistent was the complete lack of wind. Estimates seemed to vary from 5mph to 8mph for the whole weekend with differing amounts of wind and sunshine to go with it. The general consensus of those gathered seemed to be that people were going to make the effort, however most were only going to stay for a couple of the days and take the opportunity to catch up with more mundane tasks at home.

Friday evening was the opportunity to pack the van up ready for an early start on Saturday morning to try and get on the road, clear of Cardiff before the football fans descended for the FA cup final. During the course of the evening, the phone never stopped ringing, first of all Neil Bass, who despite bravely offering to do the away day report in the pub on Thursday night, had now decided that he wasn't going to make the journey after all - hence your current scribe. Next to ring was Al, he has a brand new board but didn't think the wind was going to blow hard enough to allow him to use it, so he to chose for a weekend closer to home and then Martin Farrimond decided he to would also stay put. (Despite Joy wanting him out of the house so that she could get some work done - some people would give their left arm to be told to go out and windsurf.) Either way the prospect of a large turn out was looking less and less likely, but having not managed to get out on the water since Saturday and Sunday the previous weekend, Neroli and I were desperate for some more time on the water and dutifully dragged ourselves out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning (although admittedly, not as early as planned, so we didn't manage to miss the Cardiff traffic after all.)

Despite all the hype, the traffic wasn't as bad as feared so we had a reasonably quick trip to West Wales, held up only by the van's insatiable appetite for petrol and an accident on the ring road of one of the villages between Carmarthen and Haverford West. As we approached Haverfordwest, Nancy and Neal gave us a call, they were at Dale having taken a long weekend and driven down to Broad Haven on Thursday morning. They had wisely decided it was not yet camping weather and booked themselves into the Anchor B&B in Broad Haven. The Anchor changed hands over the winter and I think this was the first bank holiday weekend for the new owners - organised chaos I think was how Nancy described it, but overall it appears to have been a highly recommended option.

Sailing in very light winds in Dale didn't really appeal so Neroli and I headed to Broad Haven to pick up a board for a friend from Haven Sports. While there we bumped into Phil & Judy and collectively decided to adjourn to the Swan in Little Haven to plan the weekends events more carefully.

Following a brief snack and some refreshment we decided to head over to Dale and I joined Nancy and Neal for a potter, practising flare gybes, sail spins and other silly ways of ensuring you cool off. Neroli decided to sleep off lunch in the sun guarding my discarded board bag for me while I was away.

The evening saw us all pile round to Judy & Phil's caravan for a bar-b-que and then sat around while their other guests proceeded to keep us all warm by turning the remains of the bar-b-que into an inferno which did a remarkably good job of keeping us all warm. At the end of the evening Neroli and I walked back up the hill to our van which was parked on its own in the field at South Crocket.

Sunday morning woke quite cold, so was grateful to be able to reach up and switch on the heating in the van, I was now beginning to understand why some people thought it was too cold to start camping out yet. The best surprise of the morning though was when I looked out of the curtains - there was wind. Once out of the van, the compass confirmed the wind was blowing slightly west of Northerly - perfect for Dale, so after a quick call to Phil, we headed off to Dale and met Nancy & Neal sunning themselves on the bank trying to decide their next move. In the end, Nancy decided she had done more than enough sailing the previous day so didn't go out but Neal had no such reservations.

From Dale car park the wind could be clearly seen blowing down the Gann. (In fact we had stopped at the top of the Gann on our approach to Dale to try and help determine the size of sails to rig.) We quickly set about rigging our biggest sails and took the Technos down off the roof for only their second outing this year. However we weren't quick enough with our rigging - by the time we got on the water the wind had swung round towards north easterly, leaving us with fluky wind blowing down the Gann. Nevertheless, Neroli and I were both able to get planing and enjoyed our time on the water despite often having to pump up onto the plane more than once per leg.

As the morning wore on the wind start to swing back Northerly, so we were able to just hook in and hold on and enjoyed some flying legs across the Gann. The improvement in the wind didn't go unnoticed on the beach and slowly but surely more people started appearing on the water. One of the earlier people on the water was Phil Baker, once again he launched his Techno - isn't it amazing, the moment you start thinking of selling something, then you start using it again. Has it redeemed itself enough to stay in your selection of boards yet Phil?

Early in the afternoon we were also joined by Adrian on the water. There wasn't sufficient room in Dale car park for his van, so he parked up at the top of the Gann and navigated the hazardous path through the rocks at the top of the estuary. Jackie and Adrian were supposed to be going off for a walk, however on seeing Neroli and I planing up and down Jackie took pity on Adrian and gave him a sailing pass for the afternoon instead. Adrian then spent the rest of the afternoon hounding people to go faster as they blasted up and down and start doing silly things like duck gybing unfeasibly large sails at the end of the runs.

Towards the middle of the afternoon Adrian decided it was time to start sailing on some different courses for a bit, so proceeded to take us on some mad down wind runs towards the entrance of the estuary - it is surprising how much ground you can lose down wind in a very short space of time when fully powered up and heading down, although in reality what was even more surprising was how easy it was to point the Technos back up wind and get back to the normal sailing line in one upwind leg. Big fins are certainly useful in the upwind department.

Towards the end of the afternoon Steve ? also made it onto the water, he had brought along a friend to have a try but didn't have too much success, largely because they were using a 9.0m sail! After a brief stop for refreshments in the Griffin, Steve went out again later. As the rest of the Nomads started to head off back to their various evening locations, Steve could still be seen sailing out in the harbour.

On Sunday evening most people did their own thing. Jackie and Adrian joined Neroli and I for the night at South Crocket - we took advantage of their new beast of a camper van and enjoyed a quite evening in before crashing out with the after glow of a long days sailing.

Lying in the bed of the van on Sunday night we heard the unwelcome sound of rain drops on the top of the van and had a horrible feeling that this might be the end of the weekend for us. However we wisely rolled over and went back to sleep again. When we woke up again the spots had gone and there were signs of significant wind in the hedge around the campsite. I would love to say that we quickly got up and rushed down to the beach and started sailing again, however limbs were sore and aching from the day before so the start was a bit slower than it should have been. To make matters worse, the van ran out of gas while half way through cooking Neroli's toast.

The general consensus for sailing on Monday was Newgale, so we duly headed off and were quickly joined by Viv & Steve who drove across for the day. The wind at Newgale was blowing directly off shore leaving very flat water behind some small waves coming in on the beach. From looking at the sailors that were already out there it appeared that sails around the 6.5 mark were going to be the order of the day. We all rigged up and went out looking forward to some high speed sailing on the flat water. Unfortunately we started regretting our slow start because pretty much as soon as we got on the water, the wind started dropping and time on the plane was getting harder and harder to find (unless your name is Neroli or Adrian of course).

We all stayed out and wallowed around for a bit, managing to get on the plane when the gusts came through but as the morning wore on, the length of planing spells decreased and the gap between the planing spells seemed to get longer and longer. Phil decided enough was enough and went in to get his Techno but as soon as he did that the wind dropped completely. Fortunately the rest of us had managed to get off the water before the complete disappearance of wind and had the pleasure of watching Phil drift in to shore a few hundred yards down wind of our launch point while we stood on the side drinking drinks and chatting - I don't think it crossed any of our minds to help Phil carry his kit back up - sorry Phil.

Having got all the kit back up the beach we all stood around and had our lunch, hoping that the wind was going to come back. Alas it didn't so we de-rigged the kit and packed up ready to start returning home. To avoid the traffic at Carmarthen, Phil suggested a brief stop off for supper at the Preseli café on the route home - an excellent idea and I am now writing this report while sitting in their car park. I suspect this is a record - a Nomads away day report written before we have returned home from the away day. What was even more surprising was that Adrian developed a wholly new technique for drying swimming trunks - just before you set off on a long journey, you hook them over the ladder on the back of your van. You then drive for twenty miles and hey presto - dry swimming trunks (we believe this technique only works when it isn't raining.)

All in all a much better weekend than expected, bad luck to those that decided not to come. I would love to say see you all at the next away day, however I can't, Neroli and I are off to sunnier climes, so hopefully we'll see you at Daymer Bay at the end of the month.

Ian Long.

Postnote - Alas the journey home took longer than expected - technique problems with the van! We eventually limped home around 11:30pm and certainly didn't meet any bank holiday traffic.

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