Cardiff Bay Barrage

Last Sunday we woke to a cold dry and sunny day and looked out over Cardiff Bay to discover a small coaster entering the Queen Alexander Dock.

Ship entering the Queen Alexander Lock, Cardiff just after dawn
(Barrage in the foreground with Flat Holm and Steep Holm Islands in the background)

 I took to my Ship Finder App to discover it was the 2,600 tonne RMS Neudorf. The ship has now left Cardiff and is on its way to Rotterdam. It is currently off the Isle of Wight but last night was off Plymouth.

Before we left Cardiff we visited the barrage. On a sunny but cold Sunday morning it was busy with walkers, runners and cyclists. We walked to the exhibition about Captain Scott and his polar exploration colleagues. 

The barrage is an impressive structure and has three impressive locks. One was out of action for maintenance. 

Lift Bridges

Lock Gates

The wind was rising and the sea became quite rough. It was one of those occasions when you leaned into the wind walking one direction and then got blown back.

A choppy Bristol Channel

We then moved on to Penarth for a breezy walk along the promenade and the pier as the tide went out. 

Penarth Pier

Penarth was the scene of my first rowing (actually coxing) success. In 1959 I coxed a Llandaff  Rowing Club Senior four to win the regatta. My abiding memories of this sea regatta was how carefully you had to steer the boat under the pier when racing and celebrating our win with a drink in my commemorative half-pint mug using Vimto - I was only 12 years old! I still treasure the pewter mug - good prizes in those days. The oarsmen (as they were called) won pints and of course celebrated with beer - possibly Brains or Hancocks).

Sea anglers on a cold at Penarth


I spent some of my formative years in what was then the newly proclaimed Welsh Capital and, although an English lad from the North, I really enjoyed my time living there. The city had a lot going for it in the late 50s and early 60s, but with the regeneration of Cardiff Bay it now has even more. In the past we have visited the some of my old haunts, but this time we decided to push the boat out and stay in the heart of Cardiff Bay in the St Davids Hotel for a couple of nights - after all it was my birthday!

St Davids Hotel, Cardiff at Sunset

The hotel is in a prime position on the waterfront close to the National Assembly and the magnificent Pier Head building with its Gothic Revival architecture.The hotel isn't cheap but it has impact and we enjoyed being in the heart of the bay. It was a quiet weekend being just after New Year but all the facilities of the city were open.

Pier Head Building and the Bay at night

The bay and docks area of Cardiff fascinated me as a youth, particularly the shipping. I was fortunate to have a father who worked on Bute Street and was able to show me around the docks on Saturday morning. It was in the days when the office working week included Saturday mornings so I accompanied Dad to the office (doing homework) and then had my treat a visit to see what shipping had recently arrived. Nowadays the docks are very quiet but there are marinas with yachts and the lake that was formed by the barrage.  In my time living in Cardiff we had only views of the mudflats. The steamer service to Weston-Super-Mare and other points along the Bristol Channel was governed by the tides and the huge rise and fall had quite an impact on their timetable. As a youth I often went on the Campbell paddle steamers the Cardiff Queen & the Bristol Queen.The most fascinating aspect of any trip was standing by the windows to the engine room and watching the reciprocating motion and the paddle wheels. It was particularly enthralling when the steamer was being manoeuvered and the wheels were rotating in opposite directions. 

We are always up for boat trips and this stay was no exception. Although the Bristol Channel steamers have long since gone small boats operate from Mermaid Quay so we took one to travel into the city centre. The MB Princess Kathrine operates all year so were able to pick up transport from the quay and travel up to Bute Park (Cardiff Castle). The fun of doing this is obvious as you head across the bay towards Penarth with a useful commentary and then turn up the River Taff towards the city. Its certainly the best way to see the Millennium Stadium and the complex structures that overhang the river. The boat, the Princess Kathrine, has plenty of capacity but last Saturday mooring it had only four passengers.

Princess Kathrine approaching Mermaid Quay

Millennium Stadium from river level
Cardiff Castle Keep & Moat

We spent the day visiting the wonderful castle with its Gothic Revival interior and travelling out to Llandaff to visit the cathedral. I used to cox and row at Llandaff Rowing Club and we just had to visit their clubhouse which brought back many boyhood memories.

Llandaff Weir and Boat House

Magnetic Kingfisher

Our friends in Sheffield bought us a very special present a year ago - a kingfisher made from cutlery (mostly spoons) by a talented local artist. With the subject matter it just had to decorate Albert. With its magnetic base adapted from a lawnmower clutch it was ideal for a prominent position on top of the stove.

Cutlery Kingfisher

It now appears that the artist who made our Kingfisher, Jason Heppenstall, has had a significant commission. Carrying on the ornithological theme, has now made a bigger and better bird, a peregrine falcon that now sits outside the station in Sheffield. The falcon is made entirely of IKEA Allen keys.

Falcon and artist Jason Heppenstall

The message must be - when you have constructed your flat-pack furniture don't throw away the tools they could be handy one day!

Bathroom Finished and Negotiating Ice in the Marina

Today we visited Baxter's Boatyard at Yardley Wharf to pick up Albert after the bathroom refurbishment.  The new tiles, sink, basin and taps and the joinery required all look very good. We are very pleased with the job that Bob did. With the weather (snow and ice) progress was a little delayed but the job looks the part.

New Wash Basin, Tiles, Taps and Worktop

It was time to move Albert across the marina from the boatyard moorings to our own mooring just a few yards away. As we got Albert ready Mike Askin and Victoria passed the wharf going north with horse boat Mercury in tow as a butty. Unfortunately my camera wasn't to hand.

Mike has recently posted another of his excellent You Tube videos of his escapades with Victoria. This time it was of Victoria and Mercury breaking ice (and braving the snow) on the Tring summit. I presume that today's journey was part of the same trip.

Our trip (yes trip!) was across the marina but it proved to be eventful. It was clear that earlier in the week there was ice in the marina and it was not safe to move the boat. Today with temperatures rising the marina looked calm and the water clear. But what we didn't know that just by our berth there was a large submerged sheet of ice just a few centimetres below the water. We had to break it up to get moored up. Luckily it wasn't thick enough to damage our new blacking but the noise from the prop was impressive and for a while maneuvering was not straight forward.

New Shower and tiles

So early next year we shall spending some time cleaning and tidying up the cabin and then making some other further improvements.

Bathroom Refurb Progress

Today I visited Baxter's to check on the progress with the bathroom refurbishment. All progressing well although a couple of plumbing fittings are awaited.

Tiling in shower

The tiles look good, especially the border tiles which match the curtains.