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Setting sail into the unknown: Edward’s epic journey from Milford Haven to Auckland

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FOR Milford Haven resident Edward Neale, the inspiration to embark on an epic sailing journey across the globe germinated over many years. A seasoned sailor, he harbored dreams of venturing beyond European waters once retired. Little did he know that this desire would blossom into a remarkable voyage, taking him from the tranquil shores of Milford Haven to the vibrant city of Auckland.

Contrary to the trend of charitable sailing expeditions, Neale’s journey wasn’t motivated by a cause. Instead, it was fueled by a deep-seated desire to reunite with his daughter in Auckland, and the aspiration to achieve something profoundly memorable in the process.

Neale’s journey wasn’t his first encounter with the sea. His sailing roots trace back to the 1970s as a member of Milford Haven Sea Cadets, navigating Royal Navy boats and battling seasickness in the English Channel. His maritime journey continued through the merchant navy, sailing a 31ft Westerly Longbow in the 2000s, and culminated in the acquisition of his 38 ft motor sailor Light Symphony, in 2017.

Light Symphony, a 38ft motor sailor built by Austrian company Sunbeam, served as Neale’s steadfast companion. Acquired in 2017, he meticulously outfitted the vessel over two years in Milford Marina, transforming it into a seafaring haven. With two cabins, a well-equipped wheelhouse, and a spacious cockpit, the vessel endured the challenges of the open ocean, a testament to both craftsmanship and Neale’s determination.

Light Symphony on a three-day pause in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Neale’s extensive maritime background, including a four-year deck cadetship, RYA sailing qualification, and experience in the merchant navy, provided him with a solid foundation. Additionally, courses in handling medical emergencies at sea further fortified his readiness for the challenges that lay ahead.

Divided into four stages, the journey commenced in the summer of 2022. Neale’s wife, Janet, joined him for the initial stage to Portugal. Subsequent stages saw the company of friends Phil Jones and Phil Astles, with solo segments navigating the vast expanses of the Atlantic and Pacific.

Unexpected challenges arose, notably encounters with orcas off the coast of Spain. Neale recollects; ” When we reached Gijon in Spain we met a young couple with two small children who had experienced an encounter with orcas. This was a danger I was never expecting to have to deal with. A pod of orcas have taken it upon themselves to “attack” sailing boats by damaging the boat’s rudders, disabling the yachts and forcing them to be towed into port for repairs. There have been many “attacks” over the past few years, with three yachts being sunk when the damage to the rudders caused uncontrolled water ingress.”

Having not anticipated such a threat, Neale adjusted his course, navigating close to the coast to minimize the risk. The Pacific Ocean presented its own trials, with multiple instances of rigging failures requiring innovative repairs, showcasing Neale’s resilience and seamanship.

Choosing to navigate the Panama Canal without a local agent, Neale faced initial difficulties with the canal authority’s web platform. Despite setbacks, he persevered, hiring line handlers and overcoming the unique challenges of providing meals for advisors and crew during the transit.

Low points punctuated the journey during rigging failures, where the imminent collapse of the mast posed a threat to both speed and watertight integrity. Conversely, repairing the rig was a high point, instilling confidence for the remainder of the voyage. The ultimate high was reaching New Zealand, lifting the weight of sailing with a damaged rig.

Gale-force headwinds near New Zealand halted progress for 24 hours, testing both Neale and Light Symphony. The vessel weathered the storm, a testament to its seaworthiness and Neale’s navigational skill.

A failed battery charging system early in the voyage led to the loss of fresh food. Relying on tinned food, Neale made a crucial stop at Rarotonga for fresh supplies during a period of calm weather. The on-board water maker ensured an uninterrupted supply of fresh water.

Fishing attempts varied, with success in the Atlantic but disappointment in the Pacific. Neale’s resourcefulness extended beyond repairs to navigating the challenges of sourcing sustenance on the open sea.

From Milford to Auckland, the journey spanned several stages, totaling months at sea. The Pacific Ocean crossing alone consumed 73 days. While Neale had commitments, the voyage unfolded with a balance between purposeful progression and the unpredictable nature of the open ocean.

A daily blog chronicled Neale’s odyssey, providing a firsthand account of the challenges and triumphs. Expressing interest in its publication, the blog stands as a testament to the highs and lows of his maritime adventure.

Neale expressed gratitude to his former colleague Ian Swales, friend Denzil from Ratsey’s Sailmakers, his daughter Rosie for liaising with New Zealand authorities, and a special thank you to his wife Janet for enduring his prolonged absence and the stresses it entailed.

Having achieved his goals in long-distance sailing, Neale envisions future adventures on two wheels, leaning towards motorcycle touring as his next favored pastime.

In sharing his wisdom, Neale emphasizes the need for comprehensive preparation. From tools and spares to diverse knowledge on mechanics, navigation, and survival, he advocates self-sufficiency and a deep understanding of one’s vessel. Knowing the boat inside out, undertaking maintenance personally and being ready for anything are paramount for those aspiring to undertake similar odysseys.

Reflecting on the Pacific crossing, Neale expressed regret at the limited time to explore island groups, citing the need to stay ahead of cyclone seasons. Acknowledging the impact of seasonal timing on the voyage’s enjoyment, he recognizes the delicate balance between commitment and exploration.”

PICTURED ABOVE:  Arrival in New Zealand.  Edward, Rosie (daughter), Harry (Rosie’s partner)

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Community

Pop up museum opens in Haverfordwest whilst Castle works continue

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WITH Haverfordwest Castle closed for the next couple years due to building works for the Heart of Pembrokeshire project the Haverfordwest Town Museum has had to relocate to the town centre.

Last September, plans to move temporarily Haverfordwest’s museum to the town’s Riverside Quay while levelling-up works in the town are ongoing were given the thumbs-up.

An application for a change of use of the former GAME electronic games store at 24-25 Riverside Quay to the temporary home for the ‘pop-up’ museum was submitted to county planners by historian and council presiding member Dr Simon Hancock.

The museum itself is moving from its current site at the Governor’s Office next to Haverfordwest Castle due to ongoing works connected with the £24m Heart of Pembrokeshire levelling-up redevelopment of that part of the county town, which is expected to last until Spring 2026.

Work is ongoing to set up displays and create a museum shop and the new Riverside home is hoped to open to the public on March 25.

Museum Curator Dr Hancock said: “We want to make the pop-up museum an informative and entertaining space. We will have models of the castle and Tudor Merchant’s house, displays on the Llewellin churnworks, the Port of Haverfordwest, items made in the town during the Victorian period, David Lindley paintings and the People of Haverfordwest panels.

“We will be open all year round in our new premises and so we will ensure there will be regular changes of content. We would like to hear from anyone who would be interested in volunteering for us.

“The pop-up museum would only be possible thanks to the stalwart support of the county council with funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund for which we are extremely grateful.”

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Community

Local group demands action on Cardigan sewage crisis

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THE GRASSROOTS organisation Save the Teifi has called upon authorities to urgently address the severe sewage pollution afflicting the lower Teifi and its estuary. The situation, which has deteriorated over the last decade, has been highlighted as the most alarming instance of sewage pollution in Wales, according to a comprehensive report by Peter Hammond in 2023.

The organisation is pressing for prompt completion of necessary upgrades to the Cardigan sewage treatment facilities. Save the Teifi advocates for a nature-based solution in the redesigning of these works and challenges authorities to provide substantial reasoning should these eco-friendly options be considered impractical.

Contradicting claims by Dŵr Cymru that the pollution has no environmental impact, Save the Teifi demands intensified surveillance of the river and estuary pollution levels, alongside the quality of bathing waters at Poppit Sands. The visible decline in biodiversity and the health of the river underscore the community’s concerns.

The organisation is urging the initiation of a citizen science programme by summer 2024, aimed at involving the community in assessing river health and bathing water quality. This move seeks to foster a collaborative effort between residents and regulatory bodies.

Regulatory Inadequacies Highlighted

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) faces criticism for its inadequate enforcement against unauthorized sewage discharges. Save the Teifi argues for a bolstering of NRW’s resources, enabling it to effectively safeguard natural resources.

The leadership of Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water and NRW are called upon to accept responsibility for the delays in acknowledging the need for an overhaul of the Cardigan Sewage Treatment Works. The group suggests linking executive compensation to environmental performance as a means to ensure accountability.

Save the Teifi is calling for an official apology and a clear, time-sensitive plan for mitigating the sewage crisis. The community’s patience wears thin, and the urgency for remedial action has never been more critical. Save the Teifi remains steadfast in its mission to protect the river and its environs for the benefit of current and future generations.

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Community

Pembrokeshire Lane Blighted by Illegal Dumping Incident

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OVER a dozen large plastic vegetable oil drums along with assorted rubbish were discovered discarded along a rural lane in Pembrokeshire, sparking outrage amongst local residents. The unsightly scene, strewn with 15l and 20l drums and accompanying cardboard packaging, was first noticed by Councillor Di Clements near her farm residence, spanning across the road between Martletwy and Minwear.

Upon the unsightly discovery, Councillor Clements undertook an immediate investigation into the debris, sifting through the detritus in hopes of uncovering any clues that might lead to the identification of those responsible. The presence of numerous black bin liners containing smaller containers suggested the waste originated from a food service establishment. It is believed that the rubbish was illicitly deposited sometime between 4 pm on Sunday, 25th February, and the early hours of 6:30 am on Monday.

Prompt action was taken by Councillor Clements, who reported the incident to Pembrokeshire Council. The council’s swift response was commended by Clements, as a waste advisor was quickly dispatched to the scene to further investigate the matter. By Monday afternoon, the council had successfully cleared the debris.

Councillor Clements is currently appealing to the public for any information regarding suspicious activities that could lead to the identification of the perpetrator, who she suspects may be a repeat offender in the area. Expressing her dismay, Clements remarked, “I am extremely disappointed to see this and I can’t believe someone would do this.”

The council and Councillor Clements extend their gratitude to those involved in the prompt cleanup and urges anyone with information to come forward.

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