Day 12

Sat 3 Oct:  New Quay to Aberdovey, via Aberystwyth and Borth

Happy Birthday Claire! Curtains back, blinds up. Don’t worry, boxer shorts on.  The “sloe black, slow, black, fishingboat-bobbing sea..” sounds good, Mr Thomas but not quite fitting today’s view.  A flat calm dawn at New Quay harbour, hazy pink sky to the east. One man and his dog are today’s first foot-printers in the damp sand. Enough of this waxing. I can’t compete with Dylan. Lifeboat station just to the right, RNLI flag limp and still. Another good breakfast but no porage! Extra black pudding with the Full Welsh.

Thank you Bernie Humphries, local RNLI volunteer staff, for opening up the Boathouse early, the cheery welcome & tour and the all-important signature. An immaculately maintained 22 year old Mersey Class ALB.

The long, steady climb out of New Quay was just right for beating off the slight morning chill. Another decent road for the 24 mile stretch to Aberystwyth. Plenty of hills but only a couple of slightly painful climbs. Am I getting used to this? Not only am I looking forward to meeting the Aberystwyth crew, but also … rendezvous time with The Birthday Girl herself! Claire and Sil (sister-in-law, Jane) plan to catch up with me for lunch.

Arrived one minute past midday, a whole minute behind schedule. Thank you Rob (crew), Pete (Senior Helm), Sam (Senior crew) and Ian (Paramedic on duty) for hanging on after your morning training/exercise session. A great pleasure to meet you all. Thanks also for the coffee & jam doughnuts! Claire & Jane turned up & joined in the not so brief photo shoot, enjoying the jolly quayside atmosphere with real Lifeboat Men. Also plenty of Aberystwyth University freshers taking up oars for the first time in the rowing club gigs. A perfect, flat calm day for it!

A quick bite to eat then back on the bike to the next stop at Borth. Only nine miles, but very hilly, with a long descent (at 25% in places) to beach level.

Thank you Ron (LOM) and Dave. Lovely to talk to you guys and hear some of your maritime experiences, along with a good cuppa. Keep up the rowing – I’m impressed with the distance some of you rowed earlier that day! I wonder if the rest of the crew has what it would take to power one of the original 1824 RNLI rowing Lifeboats?

Meanwhile, Claire & Jane had gone ahead to Aberdovey, the final destination for today, hoping to find b&b. Although I could see Aberdovey, about 8 miles as the gull flies, across the Dovey estuary, it was another 24 miles by road, up the river to Machynlleth then back down the other side. Thankfully, most of it was dead flat with no wind. Made the mistake of pushing a bit harder than usual, keeping up with a friendly local cycle enthusiast on his regular Saturday ride. Paid the price on the last few miles into Aberdovey, where even the ‘gentle’ hills were hard work.

Very pleased to see lots of lifeboat crew activity as I rolled up to the boathouse. I had no idea that this was the moment they were vacating their premises, boat and all, in readiness for the builders to start a complete renovation/extension of the Lifeboat station. A timely modernisation in preparation for the soon-to-arrive new, larger Atlantic Class 85. Thank you David (LOM) for such a warm welcome, especially as I wasn’t due until the following morning!

Claire & Jane were also already there, looking a little pleased with themselves, having successfully secured a mystery b&b booking.  A caravan. Haven’t been in a caravan for over 30 years, then two come along in the same week. But what a setting. Tucked into the garden of a gorgeous farmhouse up above Aberdovey, with panoramic views of the Dovey estuary.

Back down to the Dovey Arms for Dinner and rugby. England v Australia. A must win for England. You know the rest. Despite some pride in my paternal Welsh roots and a Welsh education, I did feel a little sorry for the team in white. We discovered a new, not so impartial audience in the pub, wearing yellow shirts and voicing Australian allegiance in unconvincing Welsh-Oz accents.  What’s going to happen to those yellow shirts on October 10th?

Day 13