Skip to the content

Starting a new hobby can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to sailing. From picking the perfect vessel to mastering the art of sailing, there are many factors to consider before heading out on the water.

In this blog post, we had the pleasure of catching up with Milford Marina Coordinator, Helen Picton, as she shares her own boating journey and offers some advice for all those looking to follow in her steps...

When did you start your boating journey and what inspired you to get into sailing?

I first started working for the Port of Milford Haven as a Guest Relations Executive back in 2021. I would work weekends based in the Milford Marina office and would find myself often looking out at the boats and picking which one I would love to have. The idea of sailing really appealed to me for some reason, and I just had this vision of me sailing off and writing a book.

What is your favourite thing about boating?

I love turning the engine off and listening to the sound of the wind in the sails.

Helen Picton on her yacht Ronor
Tell us more about your sailing yacht, “Ronor”

Ronor is a Mirage 28, a bilge keel sailing yacht. She is in the boatyard at the moment for some maintenance including a new seacock by the engine, and some rudder repairs. I was full of excitement when she first came out and like a bull at a gate, I ripped all the headlining down!

As most boat owners know all too well my motivation has waned a bit due to the weather preventing things being done and I keep finding extra things that need doing. So, to get my mojo back, I’ve ordered some sparkle to add to my boat in the form of glitter wall cladding! Once the repairs are finished, she’ll just need to be anti-fouled and she’ll be back in the water.

Helen's yacht Ronor on the boat hoist at Milford Marina
What’s the best thing about being a berth holder at Milford Marina?

Definitely the community, I’ve made some lifelong friends! I’ve been given instructions on how to sail and have had lots of help and advice from my fellow berth holders. Everyone helps everyone, we all keep an eye on the boats and there’s always an invite either to hop aboard my boat or theirs.

Helen Picton on her boat with friends
It can be daunting to head out on the water for the first time, what advice do you have for any novices to sailing?

There is so much to learn but practice makes perfect! I knew absolutely nothing about sailing when I first bought my boat and I had a few rolling of eyes and sniggers, but this made me even more determined to learn as much as I could and attempt to do it well. I’ve had the best and most patient people who have taken the time to come out with me onboard Ronor.

I managed to get out on the Milford Haven Waterway more than twenty times last summer (Yes, I did count!) and I have also completed a marine radio course and the RYA Level 2 Powerboat Handling course, which have been extremely useful and would highly recommend.

Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the rules of the road (safety regulations in place to reduce the risk of collisions between vessels) and abide by the bye-laws in order to safely navigate along the Milford Haven Waterway.

The Port of Milford Haven’s Notices to Mariners advises of particular activities or situation which may impact on the safety of users or those carrying out activities, please subscribe to keep up to date.

Helen Picton on her yacht
Where has been your favourite place to sail to and why?

There are plenty of places to sail to, but I would have to say Lawrenny! I spent the whole of the summer up and down the estuary while learning the basics. I absolutely loved getting to Lawrenny, mooring up at the bottom of the pontoon and proudly looking at my boat from the beer garden while I enjoyed a well-earned break and a bowl of chips.

The Milford Haven Waterway is phenomenal to sail around as the scenery varies throughout, the views are hard to beat.

The Port of Milford Haven have produced a Leisure User Guide which shows how to use the Waterway safely including designated areas, dead slow minimum wake areas, pontoons and moorings along the Waterway and more.

Helen Picton's yacht Ronor at Lawrenny
We can appreciate that it’s not always ‘plain sailing’ when it comes to boats, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face so far?

My biggest challenge was actually getting back from Lawrenny the same day I took the photo above. I was advised to always go with the tide (with my tiny engine), but I was insistent that I wanted to go to Lawrenny and on our way back we were really battling against the tide.

It was a calm day with hardly any wind and to cut a long story short we ended up having to sail onto the Mackerel Stage before being towed in. I had spent 16 hours on the estuary by the time I’d got home but with the mindset of every cloud has a silver lining, I would never have sailed onto a pontoon with no engine otherwise - all good learning!

Luckily, I managed to get back to my berth, but I always make sure my lifejackets and radio are in good working order in case of an emergency.

If you ever find yourself in difficulty whilst on the Waterway, it’s imperative to know how to call for help.

Have you got any sailing goals that you’ve set yourself?

The next goal I have after a few local sails (I feel a bit rusty now) is to sail out of Milford Marina on my own with a fellow berth holder on their boat in front of me and then anchor or moor up a short distance up the estuary and then once I feel comfortable, I’d be happy for them to leave me on my own for the night. Eventually, I would want venture further afield and maybe even make use of the Passeport Escales scheme!


When will you be heading out on the water next?

I’m being lifted in this week, just in time for the good weather. I’m eager to get back on the water once I’ve carried out all the necessary pre-season boat checks!

Helen Picton on her yacht Ronor

Sailing on the Waterway: safely

The Milford Haven Waterway is a busy waterway and, in places, is used by commercial traffic. Everyone needs to know how to act to keep themselves and others safe while afloat. Advice on general safety, rules and regulations that apply on the Waterway, how to call for help along with the Tide Tables and Leisure User Guide and lots more useful information can be found on the Port of Milford Haven's website and should be reviewed before setting off.

Flexible berthing contracts available now

Milford Marina provides first class facilities and the perfect base from which to discover the Pembrokeshire Coast and beyond. Start your journey today and receive a no obligation quote instantly.