Thursday, 30 May 2013

Great news - we have a new starter motor, crew Ian returns to Capraia tonight and we set off tomorrow (with everyone else it seems - it's the TT next weekend)  for the Isle of Man.  These few days have not been wasted; Holyhead, previously in my mind a place to get the ferry to Ireland, is now seen for what it really is: a friendly, welcoming port full of fascinating maritime history.

Whilst the rest of the OGA fleet have been enjoying the 'crack' in Dublin, Capraia's crew has been checking out some of Holyhead's history.  One of the oldest sites visited was the ancient church of Saint Cybi, built on the site of a Roman fort strategically placed overlooking the port of Holyhead.  St Cybi, who was the first cousin of St David and the son of a Cornish Chieftain, founded churches in Devon, Cornwall, Ireland and Wales. 

In more recent times, 1845 in fact, work started on the 1.5 mile long breakwater. It took 28 years to complete and claimed the lives of more than 40 construction workers. Stone was blasted from the nearby Holyhead mountain and transported by rail to the breakwater. Two derelict mansions dominate the shore at the end of the breakwater - these were built and lived in by the architect and the civil engineer who oversaw the project.  Both are derelict and rather sinister looking - the one below was apparenty modeled on Hampton Court!

A visit to Holyhead's Maritime Museum, in the old lifeboat station, revealed a wealth of maritime artifacts including the story of the packet boats sailing from Holyhead to Ireland.  The idea of stepping off the train, crossing the platform and getting on the ship is appealing!  One of their most famous captains, Captain Skinner had one eye, one arm and a raven perched on his shoulder.  He dressed in the uniform of a Naval officer except that his buttons were silver not brass.

Yet another interesting fact (certainly for me!) concerned the square lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. It is one of only two square lighthouses in the UK - built that way to be more comfortable for the lighthouse keepers! 

I visited the Lifeboat station this afternoon and met the Coxwain, the Engineer and some of the crew. Not only did I get a guided tour around the new Tamar lifeboat - but we also had a trip around the bay! (they were going anyway to test a new part fitted to one of the engines - I know how they felt).  The hi-tec £2.7million vessel is incredible and strapped into a shock absorbing seat doing 23 knots into a moderate sea was exhilerating and reassuring!

Holyhead has been an education and a pleasure.  Thank you.

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