Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Hats off to Bangor Marina, who, as well as providing excellent facilities, were able to process our payment at 4 o'clock in the morning. We sailed off at 04:30 and made good time along the coast with a calm and dry dawn lighting the sky as we went.
First light can play tricks on the eyesight. When Martyn called down "There's a pedalo out here," it seemed as though the early departure and the hazy dawn light might be confusing his eagle eyes. What on earth would a pedalo be doing off Donaghadee at 06:00 in the morning? However closer inspection through binoculars revealed 3 figures pedalling steadily on their orange-hulled craft. We passed close by and shouted questions about their destination, but they were unable to hear us over the noise of the churning water. We guessed it was a fund-raising stunt en route to Scotland. Hope they made it!
By 07:00 we were celebrating passing the most easterly part of Ireland - Burr Point, near Ballywalter. Hands up who knew that! The passing of the most easterly point co-incided with our second breakfast, which was enhanced by Martyn's special tea. It reminded us of the line in Bonnie & Clyde - "Whatever you do don't sell that cow". (That's today's obscure reference for you to Google!)
We had seen porpoises on our first morning of the trip, and it was delightful to see more, feeding off the coast at Millisle, on the last morning, .
We had our third breakfast shortly afterwards near the entrance to Strangford Lough. Fried egg, potato bread, and fried apple consumed while hove-to in the early morning Irish Sea - an experience to be treasured!
Martyn's parents and sister Susie were in Phennick Cove Marina in Ardglass to greet us when we arrived at 11:20. Fred the marina manager was on the pontoon to wave us in to a handy berth. Also there to welcome us were the ubiquitous John and Ann on the sister Twister Crionna, whom we had met on Rathlin. A great homecoming, which developed into a celebratory lunch in the cockpit when Maire, Lesley and Uel arrived bringing more contributions to a picnic, and more congratulations. A delightful end to the four week odyssey.
Friday, 6 August 2010
This morning Martyn covered a page with calculations of tidal range; least depth in the harbour; predicted minimum at the bar ( the shallow bit at the harbour entrance) and concluded that we had better get a move on. To give due credit, his calculation was that we would have 0.4 metres to spare, which was exactly what the depth gauge showed.
We had a relatively gentle but wet journey past Glenarm, Ballygally, Larne, Muck Island (from the Irish for Pig), The Gobbins, Black then White Heads, and finally across Belfast Lough to Bangor. We arrived in our habitual tropical rain squall, but tied up to a visitors' berth and found the hot showers.
Being now close to home we enjoyed a visit from Maire, Katherine and Kirsty who were suitably impressed by our luxurious quarters. We will restock the wine cellar tomorrow.
The weather forecasts are horribly mixed tonight. We tried six without getting the answer we wanted. The Met Office has a strong winds warning issued, which we don't really believe but are unwilling to ignore. Plans to sail triumphantly into Belfast have been shelved.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
Wednesday's forecast was F4 to 5, occasionally 6. Full of confidence we set off with reefed main and genoa, only to find we were in for a day of hanging on tight as wind and swell gave us an even more 'exciting' ride than the previous day. It is routine for us to clip on with safety harnesses in big seas, but that trip prompted also the fitting of the washboards in the companionway and closing the main hatch for safety. Our slow-reading wind indicator sat at a steady 28kts for a while as we were being driven along at over 7 kts in front of it. That adds up to 35 kts which translates into a F8 gale. As they say, forecasting is not always an exact science.
We arrived in Rathlin around 17:30 and met the Secretary of the Twister Class Association who had arrived the previous day. John and Ann entertained us mentally and gastronomically, but we do have a slight retrospective worry about that Swedish whiskey.
A totally different day today as we left Rathlin at 11:00 to pick up the conveyor belt of the south-going tide down the Antrim coast. Despite light winds we made good time past Fair Head, Torr Head and Garron Point before threading the needle of the narrow entrance into Carnlough Harbour. Tied up alongside a large local yacht we are hopeful of a quiet night tonight.
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
The wind was a moderate F4 when we started, plus spells of squalls where speed and excitement were raised. As we passed Horn Head, Melmore Point and Fanad Head the wind became more enthusiastic. It was generally a F5 from the West, so we had a reefed main and genoa. A gybe preventer (a rope that runs from the boom towards the bow and back to the cockpit in order to stop the boom swinging back across the boat) was essential as the swell was 'vigorous'. We noted that when the swell from the two competing directions combined we were heeling 30+ degrees one way and immediately 30 degrees the other way. This was not conducive to complex lunch arrangements.
Malin Head and Inishtrahull were left briskly behind as the wind reached F6 and the helpful tide gave us 9 kts on the GPS of which 6.6 was 'through the water speed' (For the uninitiated that is quite exciting on a small boat!)
Safely into Culdaff Bay on time for Martyn to assemble some of the remaining stores into a gourmet meal. Green lentils, red kidney beans, fresh ground nutmeg, with cous cous, accompanied by a fresh tomato salad (honey and mustard dressing), and washed down by a presumptuous little Chilean Merlot. Times are hard.
Monday, 2 August 2010
We decided to go north through Aran Sound, as we calculated that there should be enough water. The narrow channel is fringed with rocks, and our chartplotter showed it as a no-go area. However our confidence was rewarded with a splendid view of the island. The east side is sheltered, and almost lush compared with the other barren western isles. It even has trees. The water was sufficiently shallow to keep us very wide awake. 1.4 metres below the hull may sound plenty of depth but it is rather worrying.
The trip to Tory Island was notable also because it included passing Bloody Foreland, so we have passed the north-west corner of Ireland. Three down, one to go.
The arrival at the small harbour on Tory was interesting, but we ended up secure alongside a fishing boat that isn't planning to go out.
We were highly honoured to meet the King of Tory, Patsy Dan Rodgers, who gave us a warm welcome to the island. So in a short time we were able to meet the incumbent of the oldest monarchy in Europe, admire the only round tower on an Irish island, and inspect the curious 'Tau' cross that stands near the harbour.
All of these cultural delights paled into insignificance however. After some days of being 'boat-bound' we were desperately in need of showers. We asked the smiling owner of the island hostel, and she ushered us in, provided clean dry towels, (what a luxury! We'll never take them for granted again) and refused to take any payment. Tory hospitality.
Martyn later went to fill the water carrier from the tap on the pier. A fisherman stopped him and directed him to the village well that has better quality of water and is used by the locals in preference to the pier tap. We could get to like this place.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Broad Haven is alive with fishing birds. We became almost blasé about the numbers of Gannets executing their dramatic high-speed dives into the sea around us.
The route today left the shelter of Broad Haven and took us past the Stags into the broad expanse of Donegal Bay.
The open jaw of the bay is about 45 miles across, before Rathlin O'Birne Island and Malin More Head complete the inlet. We left Sligo, Donegal town, and Killybegs to Starboard and continued up the coast past Dawros Head to Church Pool off Portnoo.
The sailing was slow at first and needed some engine assistance, but later picked up for another glorious sail in kinder seas.
We picked up a visitors' mooring In Church Pool by 20:00 and are now quietly settled for the night before piloting through Aran Sound in the morning on the way to Tory.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
At eight o'clock we looked out and saw a break in the clouds and a lull in the wind. Thankfully Martyn pointed to the barometer again and counselled caution. As it turned out this was wise. The wind and rain were back in their stride before long and we were happy to have a day in the well-named Broad Haven.
Perhaps it is a sign of dwindling supplies, or maybe some form of mariners' mania, but instead of clutching hastily constructed and disintegrating sandwiches washed down by either salt spray or rain, we found ourselves almost enjoying our sophisticated lunchtime aperitif of cider and olives. (Don't try this at home.)
We now have re-read the pilot books, consulted the tide tables, pored over the charts, and read Wallace Clark, Andrew Phelan, and Alistair Scott. So we have a tentative plan for the next few days. It is very unlikely that things will turn out quite like that, but as the rain starts pattering on the spray-hood again, at least we have a plan.
Friday, 30 July 2010
We ploughed into unpleasant seas all the way to Achill Head, but once round the head we found kinder seas and more helpful winds. The original plan to anchor off Inishkea was dropped as the weather was not sufficiently settled, and we thought we were heading for Black Sod Bay until Martyn had the bright idea of pressing on to Broadhaven. It turned out to be a great idea as we had a superb sail outside Inishkea and round Erris Head.
We picked up an industrial size mooring by 18:00. It could probably secure a modest supertanker, so we should be OK.
We must record our increasing respect for the little yacht - a 28ft Twister - which is absolutely reassuring even in horrible seas, but also sails beautifully, showing a delightful turn of speed. On top of that, the conscientious previous owners (notably Don Henley) have made sure that all the fittings and equipment are of the highest standard. Even the outboard for the tender starts first time!
Tides were puzzling today. The tidal atlas prepared us for adverse tides for most of the leg north from Achill. In fact they were generally favourable. We are beginning to suspect that West coast tidal streams and eddies are mysteries yet to be revealed to us.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
This is where Granuaile, or Grace O'Malley had her base, and we can see the remains of her castle overlooking the harbour.
Tomorrow looks like another early start to catch the tide round Achill Head. The sound of the wind outside our cosy cabin makes us wonder if we will be able to go. Nonetheless, the alarm must be set!
The pilot book said it might be available from the fishermen's co-operative. We asked where this was to be found. The first conversation was along the lines of:
"where would we find the co-op?"
"Oh it's a long way"
"Oh a long long way."
"Half a mile, or a mile?"
"Yes. Past the pub."
We met the most bleary-eyed and dishevilled pub landlord ever. As we walked in search of the co-op, he staggered out of his front door. We asked about diesel and the co-op, he looked thoughtful, repeated the words several times as though he was sure he had heard them somewhere before but couldn't quite focus on them. He fed the hens as he thought, then was rescued by Tom walking by. "Tom, can you help these lads?"
Shortly afterwards we saw a large tanker driving up the road -the size that delivers domestic oil. We flagged it down and had two 10 litre cans filled at the side of the road.
The late departure meant a late arrival at Inishbofin. But it was a great relief to be in after the malevolent seas around Slyne Head. We dropped anchor at 22:00 in the perfectly sheltered harbour after skimming in past Cromwell's Fort and Bishop's Rock.
A lazy start to Thursday definitely required.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
The sea across the Shannon entrance was a potent mixture of Atlantic swell and river exit tide. We were glad to be past Loop Head and into more settled swell. The only negative was the time taken to pass Loop Head - from 05:30 to 11:00. Most normal activities were transformed into a malevolent fairground ride. Going below to make the usual second breakfast was a nightmare of wayward ingredients. When I removed the grillpan from under the red hot grill, a knife, the Marmite, a wayward bottle of shampoo and the previously completed plate with toast disappeared into the empty space. Luckily Martyn did not observe the unhygienic chaos from which his breakfast emerged.
The rest of the day was spent on a glorious sail a long way off the coast past Kilkee and Lahinch towards Inishmore. Sidewinder lived up to her reputation in shrugging off the Atlantic swell and charged along under full main and genoa long after we should have reefed. Very reassuring.
Eventually good sense persuaded us to reduce sail but we still made good time northwards.
The Aran Islands look incredibly forbidding and barrenly rocky from the sea. Spray from breakers at the base of the cliffs was blowing up and over the cliff-tops to blight the land above. There was one small fertile-looking field visible near the Eastern end of Inishmore as we charged through Gregory Channel between the main island and Inishmaan.
An unusual feature of the day was the absence of emergencies on the VHF. Yesterday had three including two helicopter rescues. Every day there have been callouts for emergencies such as lost swimmers; boats with engine failures; a yacht drifting onto rocks; a medical emergency on Innishmore; or Coastguard responses to Mayday calls. Most of these obviously don't make the news, but it is interesting to note how many there are.
So we are sitting peacefully in the Aran Islands, smelling the peat burning, and celebrating being more than half way round.
Monday, 26 July 2010
The jib was changed for the larger genoa, as we hope that some days of moderate winds are ahead. The waterline was scrubbed, a fraying rope whipped, routine engine maintenance completed, and tidal maps endlessly studied as part of the plan for the next leg. The tides are complicated around the mouth of the Shannon, so departure time needs to be right. Having toyed with an overnight passage the continued visibility problem forced a decision to wait for an 05:00 departure on Tuesday.
We contented ourselves with a sail around the open expanse of Smerwick Harbour, checking that the genoa did indeed increase our speed. The childish delight of the day was weighing anchor and re-anchoring across the bay under sail alone. Who needs a garden shed with fun like this to be had.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
For anyone passing through Cahirciveen and looking for good food, Kate and Andrew Cooke's seafood restaurant "QC's" can be enthusiastically recommended.
We did have one minor mishap on Friday evening when we returned to the Marina to find we had been given a key for the showers rather than for the pontoon access. Just as well at least one member of the party was well practised in climbing fences (a mis-spent youth).
Sunday morning departure for the Blaskets was leisurely thanks to the tide times. However the river mist quickly became dense sea fog and we found ourselves navigating through the Blasket Sound without being able to see either the island or the mainland. The carefully plotted course on the chartplotter saw us through, but the combination of a tense lookout for other boats and some very nastily confused seas made it a far from relaxing day.
We made it to Smerwick Harbour and anchored near a little slip where the dedicated shore crew were waiting again. This time we were whisked off for something to eat before returning to move Sidewinder to a more sheltered anchorage off Ballydavid.
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Early morning departures usually involve a quick cup of tea and slice of bread and honey - consumed hurriedly and blearily while thinking about weather forecasts, engine checks, and practicalities of departure. So it is a necessary indulgence to have a more relaxed cup of tea and toast after the first couple of hours of the journey. This is of course followed by an endless succession of energy top-ups through the day, notably supplied by Jane's flapjacks or Maire's fruitcake.
Our route took us across Dunmanus Bay, Bantry Bay, Dursey Island and the wide entrance to Kenmare River. To seaward we left the Bull, Cow, and Calf Rocks. Great and Little Skellig were next and looked forbidding as ever. We sailed close by Puffin Island and saw thousands of the little birds. The highlight of the sailing day was our encounter with a greater number of dolphins than we had ever seen. There were hundreds of them making their way south and busily feeding. The sea in every direction around us was broken by their graceful leaping and diving.
The other highlight of the day was the arrival of the shore-crew in Caherciveen. A welcome sight indeed. Fresh supplies of a few essentials from home and a family catch-up.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
The absence of a blog entry on Wed was in no way connected with our meeting Robert and Freda Salter Townsend in Castletownshend. Robert is South Cork Sailing Club commodore, whose ensign we were flying. As well as entertaining us in Fuschia cottage they insisted that we should join them in Mary Anne's for dinner. We would of course have blogged but mobile phone reception is negligible in the village.
Today we left in a brisk F6 and sailed past the Stags, past Baltimore and through the Gascanane Sound before crossing Roaring Water Bay to Crookhaven. The wind was at times perfect, and occasionally gentle. A superb sail on one tack, including the Sound.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
The route to Cork passed the impressive sights of The Hook lighthouse, (origin of the phrase 'by hook or by crook'), Minehead lighthouse, the all black Ballycotton lighthouse, and finally Roche's Point. The scenery was glorious with corn ripening in the fields and green farmland right up to the coastal cliffs.
By evening we sailed into the wide entrance of Cork Harbour and found a spare berth at Royal Cork Yacht Club.
A little light maintenance followed by yet another high calorie meal and suddenly it's time for bed before catching another early tide.
Monday, 19 July 2010
More discussions with our old friend the harbourmaster confirmed that there was light at the end of this wet tunnel. Tuesday morning looks good for a westward passage and in our enthusiasm we thought of a 04:00 departure. He advised against it. The surprising reason was 'lobster pots'. There are so many off the coast here that it is best to have daylight in order to avoid them. There are 30,000 known to be laid between the Tuskar and Hook Head. Poor old lobsters. Not long for this part of the world.
A walk along the windswept beach, followed by the purchase of two further spare cans of diesel, seemed to fill the day remarkably.
The fishing boats are still tied up but there are signs that they too will be off early.
The rations designed for energetic sea passages are being consumed in harbour. Two very over-fed landlubbers will set sail tomorrow. With luck we will reach Crosshaven in the entrance to Cork Harbour. It would be tempting fate to own up to the optimistic plans beyond there.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Plans for next stages expand in proportion to the frustration of being stuck. Don't be surprised if the next entry is from New England.
A day of catching up on minor tasks like shaving and rigging Barbour haulers for the jib sheets. It seemed appropriate to sample the pub for a lunchtime pint before feeding ourselves on toasted cheese on wheaten. This became true Sunday lunch with the addition of chips from the local carry-out.
Book reading; tide calculating; course plotting; a little doze; only to waken to find the wind still howling and the rain lashing. Such is Sunday in Kilmore in July.
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Friday, 16 July 2010
The careful tide and speed calculations were thrown out by the rough seas with wind against tide. Poor Sidewinder was hitting waves that almost stopped her in her tracks, so our average speed was less than predicted. Should have thought of that!
By the time we were nearing the inner passage past Tuskar we were seeing 30 kts over the deck and seriously contemplated Rosslare for the night. The anchorage looked unwelcoming and not particularly sheltered so we pressed on past Carnsore to St Patrick's Bridge and Kilmore Quay.
A slow passage west into the strong westerlies meant that diesel was again in demand. However the welcome sight of the channel buoys at St Patrick's Bridge (a very narrow and shallow passage) was enormously cheering.
Tied up at 21:00 on a pontoon in the fishing harbour. Celebrating getting round the bottom right hand corner tonight.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
On the positive side the Maritime Museum has been thoroughly examined (small but interesting - extolling the historical importance of Arklow in shipping and ship-building.); a purse found and returned to its owner; a strip of mahogany found and purchased (thanks to our helpful Marina manager); a higher fiddle screwed to the chart-table (no more charts on the floor on port tack thanks to Martyn's expert joinery); an internet cafe found and every conceivable weather forecast scrutinised for better news; and another pint of Guinness dutifully consumed.
Contemplating changing the blog to "holidays in Arklow", but maybe we will escape before autumn.
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
As luck would have it, the Arklow festival is this week so a little music and Guinness may console us.
Martyn went exploring and met old-timers who had worked in Tyrrell's Boatyard where many famous yachts, including Gypsy Moth and Asgard, were built. The yard is sadly out of business.
Wexford looks as if it is off the itinerary. Our plan for today was met with incredulity by the local experts who regard the shoal entrance as best left to the locals.
So we wait for fair weather and tides to get round Carnsore Point and along to Kilmore and beyond. Delay again breeds impatience, but tides and wind are hard to argue with.
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
Morning saw quite a rolling swell which encouraged an early breakfast before a brisk sail inside Lambay and Ireland's Eye to make a quick visit to Howth Marina to top up the diesel.
Away from Howth by 11:30, we planned to reach Courtown by 19:30. We passed close by Belem of Nantes, a 3 masted square rigger which looked bound for Dun Laoghaire.
Rising wind and rough seas by 17:00 forced a change of plan and a challenging entrance to Arklow. Strong Easterlies make the shore unwelcoming and the harbour entrance somewhat daunting. In our efforts to ensure a head-to-rain mooring we discovered how shallow the river becomes. Yet another little learning experience.
Two drowned rats safely tied up in Arklow and preparing to sample Martyn's skill in the Galley.