The Luck of the Irish Sea Timothy Spall: Back at Sea


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The Luck of the Irish Sea

On the first leg of the trip, Timothy misreads the tides near Fishguard, visits Shane's home town of Aberystwyth and finds a lovely cove at Porthdinllaen.


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OK, what I'm gonna do is what I usually do, right?

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There's this, right? On.

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'I'm Timothy Spall, and this is my wife, Shane.'

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Pardon?

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'We're on the trip of a lifetime.

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'We're circumnavigating the British Isles in a barge.

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'It's not the fastest boat on the water.

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'We left London five years ago and we're not quite halfway around.'

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Shall we give that lady a wave?

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Hiya, darling, all right!

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CLATTER

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Have I damaged it?

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'Last year we took on the Atlantic Ocean

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'as we travelled from Cornwall to Wales.

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We're Mr and Mrs Vasco de Gama-Magellan-Francis Drake-O'Columbus.

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That's who we are.

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The electric anchor's not working, so Tim's got to do it manually.

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The anchor's broken.

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You stay there and I'll do this.

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I know what I'm doing, love.

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I think we've run aground.

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Yeah.

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'This next phase will take us into the Irish Sea...'

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Hold on, Shane, hold on! Sit down!

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'..visiting every country in the United Kingdom...'

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One kipper? That's not going to get you far, is it?

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-Irish jig...

-Don't spoil it!

-Doing an Irish jig!

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'..as we make our way up to Scotland...'

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Come on, you old wallowing pig!

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'..one port at a time.'

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Come on, baby!

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There you go. Hello, darling!

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Whatever they've set him in, it's pretty bloody good.

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Wahey!

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Here I am! Another land conquered.

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We've come here on our boat!

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From the safety of Cardiff Marina,

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it looks like a glorious morning

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to continue our round-Britain adventure.

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I'm glad to see somebody's captain.

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He's in there. Give him a knock, Roy.

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He's still in the arms of Morpheus, probably.

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No, he's been out of Morpheus for a couple of hours now, believe me.

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Roy Jones is a local marine electrician

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and an experienced mariner.

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As an extra safety measure, I've asked him to check my course.

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I'm looking at these, erm... Do you want a cup of tea, Roy?

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Oh, go on, but don't make one special.

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I'm looking at these, erm...

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As you get up round the corner here, it says it's got overfalls.

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Do I have to take notice?

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I mean, I have marked them and I'm trying to go south of them.

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Yeah, so you're coming out.

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I'm coming out here.

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Yeah. And out that way, so up there?

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Off Nash you've got the rocks.

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You can see it breaking there, so you want to come out.

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'Nice! Rocks.

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'As if I haven't got enough to worry about.'

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Is it quite fresh out there?

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Looks like it's doing about a three or a four?

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It is. Yeah.

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Oh, I'll come back. If it's horrible out there, I'll come back.

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-Yeah, I say it's enjoyment, it's not a test.

-Absolutely right.

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Because I woke up worrying at half five, thinking,

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"Right, I ain't been to sea for six months

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-"and I'm going to go today, so er..."

-It's always a bit apprehensive, isn't it?

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-You've got to be nervous.

-Yeah, yeah.

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If you're not, you're not human. It's always an unknown, but it's an adventure.

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-Yeah, exactly.

-It's an adrenaline rush.

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You've got it. You got it.

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Bye, Roy!

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My aim is to get us to Milford Haven,

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100 nautical miles away, in just two days.

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This marks the end of the Bristol Channel

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and the start of the Irish Sea...

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one of the world's most unpredictable seas.

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'I don't suffer from stage fright,

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'but I do suffer from sea fright.'

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Right, this is it, then.

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We're either going to go or we'll be back in here in about five minutes.

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It'll take me at least an hour to get used to the waves again.

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That's if there is any, but we'll see - let's have a look.

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It's doing a fair old pace out there, that's for sure.

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It doesn't look very nice to me.

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It's fine.

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Look at the way the buoy's moving about, love. That's not fine, is it?

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Yes, it is, it's fine.

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Yeah, it's lumpy.

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OBJECTS CLATTER

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It's all right, it's the change jar.

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My guts are churning and my heart is beating. I feel like I'm going to die.

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I'll be all right in a minute.

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It's good. It's nice.

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Especially when that great big ship goes past us.

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Although I've navigated over 600 nautical miles,

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at times I've been winging it a bit, learning as I go.

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But with the unpredictable Irish Sea on the horizon,

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I don't want to take any chances.

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So I've had some new equipment fitted.

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And it ain't cheap, this stuff.

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All this shit, all this shit, all this technology...

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is all fantastic.

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But at the end of the day, it's an approximation.

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It's 15 grand's worth of approximation,

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because I knew we'd be knocked about a bit.

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That don't tell you, that don't tell you.

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The only people that tell you is the coastguard and they'll say,

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"Slight or moderate sea, rough or moderate sea, rough or slight or smooth sea."

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You never know, because you're at sea.

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We're in the Bristol Channel, which some people consider as a river,

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but it's ferocious, you know?

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After an overnight stay in Swansea,

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we're back on track for Milford Haven.

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And, thankfully, the Bristol Channel is behaving itself. Today, anyway.

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It's always different, every single journey is different.

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And you can never predict what might happen. Anything might happen.

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This adventure we're on, this odyssey,

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it's not something I could have dreamed up until I got ill.

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It was 14 years ago, while I was recovering from leukaemia...

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..that I first began to dream about living on the water.

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Just watching the boat cut itself through this lovely wash,

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it's poetry in motion, isn't it?

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But you know, it's a mixture with me.

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I'm both... I'm not scared of this. This is lovely.

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But you just never know what's going to happen.

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Those two white apparitions there,

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they look like yachts that have just come out of Milford Haven Harbour.

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So that looks like our passage into Milford Haven.

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Sir William Hamilton, a wealthy Scotsman,

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founded Milford Haven in 1793.

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He invited seven Quaker families from America to settle here

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and develop a whaling fleet.

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A few years later, he persuaded the Navy

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to build a dockyard here, making warships.

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Today, it's a thriving port for oil companies.

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Look at it. I mean, it's an extraordinary place.

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I love it, it's beautiful.

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-I love it.

-This is just my cup of tea,

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this mixture of industry and physical beauty.

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I love it, love it!

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The sea's like silk, no wind.

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Sun was out, it was wonderful.

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Yeah, we don't get many of those.

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The first time I'd heard of Milford Haven,

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I was 21 and playing a part in Shakespeare's Cymbeline.

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It always makes me think of Judi Dench.

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Because she played the character Imogen in Cymbeline,

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where she ran off with somebody from Milford Haven.

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God bless you, Jude.

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The Princess Matilda might not look like a seafaring boat,

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but that's exactly what she is.

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She's a 35-ton flat-bottomed seagoing barge

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with a hull specially designed for heavy weather.

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Which we're going to need

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as the rest of the summer will be on the Irish Sea.

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The Irish Sea, it's one of those places that's got...

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You can see Snowdonia, you know?

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So you've got seas and you've got mountains, you know?

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It's going to be like a Lord Of The Rings sort of environment.

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It's going to be magical and terrifying once again.

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Why am I doing this? I've no idea!

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Tomorrow we'll set off for Fishguard

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and our most dangerous journey so far.

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'Between Milford Haven and Fishguard are 60 nautical miles...'

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Afternoon. Lovely day.

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'..and all manner of dangerous obstacles.

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'The infamous islands of Skokholm and Skomer,

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'St David's Head, and The Bishops.

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'I'm going to need all my wits about me

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'if I'm going to take on the Irish Sea and get us there safely.'

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I'm about to skipper a barge into the Irish Sea for the first time,

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but it hasn't started terribly well.

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What I've worked out is, because there was conflicting opinions

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in the guide books,

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that I've left probably two hours too late

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to use the full benefit of the tide

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to take us all the way round.

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So I reckon we'll get there about 8pm.

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I'm banking on the fact that we'll get there before dark.

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The forecast for the sea is slight.

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But I've got a feeling no-one's told the sea.

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Oh, blimey! Whoa, that's a good one!

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Yep. Hold on. Oh, Jesus!

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That's a good one, whoop!

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And another.

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I think this might be the Irish Sea, love.

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Unless it's like, we don't go out unless it's flat calm,

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this is going to be it.

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'I thought the trip to Swansea was bad, but this is something else.

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'These must be eight or nine-foot swells.'

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Look at my house. My house is a mess. My house is a mess.

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'Not only are we taking a battering, but two of our fenders

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'have been washed overboard and there's a rope loose in the sea.

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'If that rope chews up around my propeller,

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'the bloody engine will stop.'

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You might be able to stick your hand out of one of the windows and...

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I ain't doing nothing.

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It's just hanging by one of the windows here! You'll see it. Look!

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Over here. Look.

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It's going all over my carpet.

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Should have done it in the first place, stupid!

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Fortunately, I keep rope in my handbag as well as lipstick.

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Right...

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That should do it.

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There you go, that's what I was saying about the elements, you know.

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This is when they remind you that they're the boss...

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Whoo!

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..and they're not there for your, not for your delectation.

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Although they can be enjoyed

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and worshipped and feared in equal proportions.

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Somewhere along the line,

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that's what I think I'm sort of doing at the moment.

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'Right now, the tide is going directly against us

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'at about five knots.

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'I'm doing five knots in the other direction,

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'which means...

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'we're actually going nowhere.'

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Well, at least the sun's out.

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After the worst voyage of our lives, it's an absolute delight

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to see Strumblehead Lighthouse, the guardian angel of Fishguard.

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We've been pounded all day, but we're not finished yet.

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I've got to find our bloody mooring.

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It's near the lifeboat station somewhere.

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There's the crane, there's the lifeboat station.

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Where's the lifeboat station?

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Well, I reckon where that...

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It doesn't even say it on the map, does it?

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Yeah. It says "station".

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No, we're heading towards a sort of...

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a sort of place where it dries out.

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Well, don't go over there, go over this way.

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No! No, that's where we're heading, to a place where it dries out.

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This is really relaxing.

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It's what we do to relax. We come into strange ports in the dark

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after being hours and hours at sea.

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And there's another rope in the water there.

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That's the hardest day at sea I've ever had, easily,

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because it was so long

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and so unpredictable, and so many hazards, er...

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And here we are in a place that isn't very relaxing!

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Timmy, you go to the back.

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Look, it's just... We're here now, we're here now.

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-I know, but you go and see to the back, darling.

-We're here now, right.

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You can't do it all.

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In just a few days since we've left Cardiff,

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we've covered 160 nautical miles.

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This time last year, it took us over three months to do that.

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It's a compulsion that drives us on just to keep moving on and on.

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And fair weather, and you just make the most of it.

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You just bang on and go as far as you can

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when you've got nice weather.

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The next port is Aberystwyth.

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Tucked into the middle of Cardigan Bay,

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it's a safe shelter from the extremes of the Irish Sea.

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Aberystwyth sits at the confluence of two rivers,

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the Rheidol and the Ystwyth.

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In Victorian times, it boomed as a tourist town

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and was billed as the Biarritz of Wales.

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For Shane, this is more than just a quick stop for supplies.

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Ages before we met, she lived here,

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but she hasn't been back for 36 years.

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She's off for a walk down memory lane, and to get the shopping in.

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I arrived in Wales when I was, I don't know, about 18, a little hippy.

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I recognise this here, so I think if we go right here,

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then we should come to...Northgate,

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where I used to live.

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While Shane's out and about,

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it gives me a chance to have a look around our lovely old tub.

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Oh, she ain't half picking up some rust.

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That's the anchor, so where you're pulling it as well,

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it's worn the paint off and the rust has got in there.

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I wish I could get the bugger up straight, though.

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It keeps getting caught on that bar there.

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Have another go.

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Shane wouldn't be letting me do this if she was here!

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If I can...

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If I can get that up there...

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No, it's not working.

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God, it's all so much smaller than I remember.

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I just remember this being really, really long streets.

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I lived in one of these rooms up here, with a big bay window,

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and there was quite a lot of us living in there.

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Maybe if I can get that...up and round...

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I'm trying to get it so it doesn't stick out.

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Yahey!

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Done it! Talk about adding rust.

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And just in the nick of time.

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The final leg of our first phase

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would take us around the Lleyn Peninsula and up into north Wales.

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Holyhead coastguard, Holyhead coastguard, this is Princess Matilda.

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We're heading towards, er...

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I'm afraid I can't pronounce it the way you can.

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Porthdinllaen via Bardsey Sound, over.

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'This is Holyhead.

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'What's your ETA, over?'

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ETA approximately 12 noon, over.

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'Passage for your safe arrival, over.'

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Thank you very much, Holyhead coastguard,

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this is the Princess Matilda, out.

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'We're heading to a port I've never heard of.

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'Not only that, I can't even say it.'

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Porthdillian, Dillian. Dillin.

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So Llan...Dillan, Dillan!

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Perhaps that's it, Dilthan.

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I think that must be it, that isthmus that comes out there.

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I think that's the edge of, erm...Dinllaen, that's what it is.

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'Every so often I ask myself, "Why am I doing this?"

0:22:290:22:34

'And sometimes I get little clues.'

0:22:340:22:37

He's escorting us into harbour.

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Look, he is, he's flying above us.

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He's an angel. That's amazing.

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He's flying right there, right on the bow, showing us which way to go.

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'It's leading us into

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'one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

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'It's like the land that time forgot.

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'This beautiful cove was once a major sea port.

0:23:010:23:06

'In the 19th century, it was used for bringing trade into north Wales,

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'and it had a big fishing industry.

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'But now their biggest catch is a Dutch barge

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'and two English mariners.'

0:23:180:23:19

Have you got it?

0:23:190:23:21

No.

0:23:210:23:23

-Right.

-Yeah! I got it.

0:23:230:23:24

Right, you ain't gonna be able to pick that up, because that's heavy.

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Right, get it on the boat.

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That'll be it.

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Well done, you got it.

0:23:390:23:41

-Right, so we're on.

-Yeah.

0:23:410:23:45

Welcome to Porthdinllaen!

0:23:450:23:47

-How do you say it?

-Porth-incline.

-Porthdinllaen.

-Porth-en-cline.

-Porthdinllaen.

0:23:470:23:52

-Porthdinllaen.

-Yes.

-Porthdinllaen.

0:23:520:23:54

The pub's on the beach that featured in the film, Half Light Half Moon.

0:23:540:24:01

-Oh, right.

-With Demi Moore.

-Oh, right.

0:24:010:24:03

-OK.

-If you go in, you'll get your picture on the wall with her.

0:24:030:24:06

Oh, right!

0:24:060:24:08

'That was helpful. Did he just mention Demi Moore?'

0:24:080:24:11

Right, Porth...din...kline.

0:24:110:24:16

As in Kevin!

0:24:160:24:17

'As soon as I saw it on the map, I thought, "That's got to be done,"

0:24:260:24:31

'because you have to remember that what we're doing isn't a race.

0:24:310:24:37

'It's about discovering.'

0:24:370:24:40

I just love it, I love it.

0:24:400:24:42

This could be the Greek islands, it could be the Caribbean,

0:24:420:24:45

it could be South America, or it could even be Wales!

0:24:450:24:49

So that gentleman was right.

0:25:020:25:05

There she is, Demi Moore.

0:25:050:25:07

The pub is also a sort of museum to the local lifeboat station.

0:25:070:25:12

It was the tragic shipwrecks on the Irish Sea

0:25:120:25:16

which led to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute being formed.

0:25:160:25:20

They wouldn't take money for the food?

0:25:220:25:26

No, so I put ten quid in the RNLI.

0:25:260:25:28

'We're both huge admirers of the people who crew the lifeboats,

0:25:280:25:34

'and we want to go and visit the guys here.'

0:25:340:25:37

Hiya, Tim. Hello, mate, hiya.

0:25:370:25:39

'They're encouraging me to take their precious lifeboat for a spin.'

0:25:390:25:44

'Oh, good lord, it looks a long way down there.'

0:25:490:25:53

Right, when we touch the water, when I tell you, full on.

0:25:530:25:57

-Oh, right, really?

-Yeah. OK?

0:25:570:25:59

HORN BELLOWS

0:25:590:26:01

Here we go, here we go.

0:26:010:26:05

This would have taken us about 25 minutes!

0:26:240:26:27

Look at the wash, look at that!

0:26:290:26:33

I mean, that's like... It's absolutely fantastic!

0:26:330:26:37

It's wonderful! It's wonderful!

0:26:410:26:45

How long has there been a lifeboat station here?

0:26:470:26:51

The first one was built in 1864.

0:26:510:26:54

1864, bloody hell!

0:26:540:26:55

Look at these birds, are they guillemots, no? I thought they were, yeah.

0:27:000:27:04

'This beautiful bay has one more surprise.

0:27:040:27:08

'A cliff full of nesting guillemots. Thousands of 'em!

0:27:080:27:13

'They live on the North Atlantic, but come here every May

0:27:130:27:17

'to lay a single egg, then return to the ocean after it hatches.'

0:27:170:27:23

It's like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of guillemots and all their chicks,

0:27:230:27:28

they must be a few days old,

0:27:280:27:29

and they're nesting on the ledges, and now they're all taking off

0:27:290:27:33

because the engines have scared them.

0:27:330:27:35

It's amazing, I've never seen a sight like it in my life.

0:27:350:27:38

Finding places like Porthdinllaen

0:27:380:27:42

just reminds me why we're doing this.

0:27:420:27:45

These are the hidden gems of the British coastline,

0:27:450:27:48

and I'm really looking forward to discovering many more

0:27:480:27:51

when we get back aboard the Princess Matilda and continue on our journey.

0:27:510:27:56

Never been to Liverpool,

0:28:030:28:05

I've always wanted to go.

0:28:050:28:06

Jimi Hendrix! I say! Ding-dong!

0:28:090:28:12

Look at him, ah, look, look. Look at the beauty of that.

0:28:120:28:16

Whoa, bloody hell! Where did that come from? Nearly hit the bugger!

0:28:160:28:20

Tim, it's not funny...

0:28:200:28:23

Timmy, it's not funny!

0:28:230:28:25

# Somewhere at sea

0:28:250:28:27

# A liner is somewhere at sea

0:28:270:28:31

# Bringing to me

0:28:310:28:34

# A traveller who

0:28:340:28:36

# Will fill my life anew

0:28:360:28:42

# He's out on the sea

0:28:420:28:46

# Somewhere at sea. #

0:28:460:28:48

Untrained mariner Timothy Spall has spent a fortune on technology for his new challenge - the unpredictable Irish Sea - as he and his wife continue their mini-odyssey around Britain. From Cardiff they head west to Milford Haven at the end of the River Severn and all seems well. However, Captain Spall bungles his departure to Fishguard and ends up going nowhere at full speed due to the turning tides.

Shattered and in the dark of night, they eventually find Fishguard. They also visit Aberystwyth, a return home for his wife Shane, and then the 'discovery' of the trip so far, Porthdinllaen. Here they find the most beautiful cove they've ever seen, a beach pub and a ride in a lifeboat to see the stunning Welsh coastline in its full glory.

'Mr and Mrs Vasco de Gama' are back on their travels in this seductive and heartwarming series.