Round Ireland – 2000
Ramsey - Red Bay - Portrush - Lenan Bay, Lough Swilly - Aran Roads (Aran) - Inishkeeragh - Chapel Bay - Rossillion Bay - Rinroe Point, Broadhaven - Inishkea South - Inishturk - Inishmore (Aran islands) - Ballynagall, Smerwick - Knightstown, Valentia - Darrynane Harbour - Sneem - Collorous Harbour - Glengariff - Crookhaven - Long island - Skull Harbour - North Harbour, Cape Clear Island - Ilen River - Church Strand Bay, Baltimore - Oyster Haven - Helwick - Kilmore Quay Marina - Greystones - Malahide - Clogher Head - Ramsey.
Boat: Anquette, Westerly
Centaur, 26ft bilge keel sloop.
Skipper: Dave Le Geyt
Crew: Paul Robinson
Beneficiaries of fund raising during the Round Ireland 2000 were The Manx Foundation For The Physically Disabled.
Read an account of the trip, written by Paul from the perspective of an occasional crew member more ...
Below are extracts from the skipper's journal which reveals the route taken.
Boat's preparation just finished in time for the trip - well almost. Just slipped past the swing bridge when the engine cut out. A few minutes attention to the lift pump and all well. Finally underway at midnight. Motored to the Point of Ayre. Conditions very pleasant, air warm and full moon. Started on the trip over toward Belfast Lough - sailing or motoring depending upon whether or not there was a breeze present.
We motored through Donaghadee Sound, with a ship up ahead swapping the Orford red lateral for a freshly painted one. Then sailed under genoa only gently across the lough, in anticipation of picking up the next ebb tide off Black Head.
We picked up the fair tide nicely at Black Head to make good progress, and duly passed inside of the Maidens. Had an open mind re the nights stopover - electing to see whether we could round Fair Head for Ballycastle between slack and the start of the foul tide. We made slow progress off Torr Point and made 0.00 knots off Fair Head, so about turned and (with RIBs passing eastward) to make for Red Bay which seemed to offer the best shelter in the winds forecast. Watched snatches of the England v Germany match 1-0 on our way to the anchorage. We anchored off the pier in 4m odd of water - clear enough t see the sea bed and weed, whilst two other yachts were anchored off the other side of the bay. A Vancouver 27, the other either a Vancouver or a 32/34 Victoria. Had a beer onboard then turned in.
Set off just before 1000 hrs, in thick mist - pier out of sight. Headed east then altered to follow the line of the coast and hopefully slacker tide. From Torr Point started heading NNW to make sure that we went N about Rathlin rather than through the sound, which is indicated as being turbulent during the first two hours of the flood. Sailed quite closely in along the north coast in its lee with a good sailing breeze, raised the main, and once off the island’s western end, headed close hauled SW to draw in with the coast having decided that Portrush seemed the best anchorage.
Sailed close up to the Skerries with some tacking and then motored the last stretch to Portrush - whilst making fenders and warps ready. A couple of boats rafted up alongside the pontoon - near where there was a sign saying “unloading/loading only”. Went alongside and headed ashore to find the harbour master - who was sitting down having a drink outside the yacht club. He pointed out the water tap, provided 20 litres of diesel for £4, and indicated that we could stay alongside the pontoon provided that we left in the morning before 0900 hrs. Charge £7.
As the opportunity was there, a few pints of Guinness in the Harbour Bar preceeded a Fillet Steak Kebab, new potatoes, fetta salad and half a bottle of South African Pinotage - rounded off nicely with an Irish coffee. Even a little time left for a short walk about the town and to view the Skerries, returned onboard for a shot of Whiskey before turning in.
Slipped at 0742 hrs, wearing just a T-shirt as it was already fairly warm already. Started to cross toward the Lough Foyle safe water mark - figuring that we would avoid at least part of the foul east going tide.
At one point (in time) a fishing boat steamed over towards us to show us which way round his net to go. Thereafter we continued to keep a good lookout. Off the west side of Lough Foyle speed fell to as low as 1.4 knots over the ground before slowly starting to improve. Paul spotted two dolphins. I considered Portmore on Inishtrahull but the swell, the W wind and only 3 hours of west going tide dissuaded me from a visit, so instead I altered for Garvan Sound. Quite interesting with stacks off the coast a well as the small islets themselves. A race between them, and disturbances obviously marking the underwater shallows as we passed through the sound with just over knot of favourable tidal stream. Once off Malin Head altered course 245M until having thoughT about Mulroy Bar and the swell and figured that Lough Swilly would be safer to enter and leave, and without such strong tides. Sailed the last stretch in a now NE’ly wind until abreast of the south side of Lenan Bay. Furled sail, put engine on anD motored eastward, skirting a drifting fishing boat with no one on watch - drifting some way down wind of his net.
In the bay found half a dozen fishing boats on moorings, near which we set the anchor, off a quay and nearby sandy beach. After supper landed and went ashore to have a walk on the way back looked over the former British gun emplacement and barracks. Saw a decomposing fox, sheep, loads of rabbits and a rat. With expected NE 4 veering SE 3/4 winds for Tuesday becoming S fresh/strong - started to think about the feasibility of calling in at Aran Island.
Forecast S to SE today veering SW by tonight 5 or 6. Slipped at 0740 hrs and set sail in a southerly wind. Some of the local fishing boats having slipped out just before us. Off Fanad had to divert (furling genoa and putting the engine on) on spotting a buoy for a net - the fishing boat shot toward us indicating which way to pass. Once clear resumed sailing in a good breeze. Quite heavy rain as we crossed Sheephaven - obscuring Horn Head for a while. As the forecast had put Tory Island out of the list of today’s potential stopovers, I decided to sail between Inishdooey and Inishbofin to add interest. Continued to sail close hauled over to the Bloody Foreland - spilling the mainsail in the heavier gusts.
Fortunately the wind was S’ly so some shelter afforded by the islands and mainland coast - which I maximised by taking a route inside Bullogconnell Shoals, then W about Gola. To add further interest used Owey Sound though W about the island would have been an equally comfortable proposition in the prevailing conditions. Passed close to an angling boat in the southern part of Owey Sound. Took care to pass W of Rinnaghy and Bullignamirra before picking up the leading lights and lines for the North Sound of Aran. On turning into Aran Roads found several vacant visitor’s buoys - so picked one up. Nearby a well known yachting journalist and his new gaff cutter, and a motor cruiser which we had seen in Portrush. Watched England loose to Romania in Euro 2000 onboard on the ship's miniature TV.
Walked to the southern shore to have a look at the channels and sea conditions, had Guinness and toasties in the waterfront pub, then bought postcards, Guinness and food from its attached shop, then stamps from the post office. Everyone very friendly. Warm, sunny, bright all day - just too much wind!
Rather than sit around doing nothing I had determined that we should explore and keep active. Waited till just about HW before slipping from the mooring and making toward the Carrickbealatroha Lower W cardinal, then for a waypoint mid way between the Arran (***check) due WNW of Carrickbealatroha Upper (with its westward extending reef), the brought the Ballaugh Rock and Carrickbealatroha marks in line for a safe passage down the South Sound of Aran. Passed Turn Rocks green lateral pillar and made for Illancrone. Decided not to anchor off the island as it was largely surrounded on its eastern side with marine farms and instead altered course for Inishkeeragh Road. Dropped anchor off the island, and after some breakfast rowed ashore. Rowed round the E and NE sides of the island to the slip just below the abandoned village. A good day for exploring the ruins. Paul meanwhile walked to the E facing beach to photographs the island's temporary residents - terns and gulls.
Once back onboard we headed over the shallows to Chapel Bay and dropped anchor SW of the Aranbeg islet. We had a brew up and dug out the charts for the next couple of days. Hopefully Blacksod Bay, Inishturk or Ballynakill Harbour, then the Aran Islands will be feasible. Later during the afternoon we moved round to Rossillion Bay. Anchored just outside the local moorings. Some rolling, but otherwise seemed okay.
I set the alarms for 0400 hrs. At the appointed hour - but it still sounded breezy, so didn’t get up. Looked again at @ 0715 hrs and things seemed much more favourable. So we got underway just after 0730hrs, and slipped through Chapel Sound.
We raised sail, turned the engine off and set course for Eagle Island, reaching WSW under reefed mainsail and genoa. As the wind eased, so more sail was raised. Good sized swell remaining.
Had an open mind as to the nights destination, perhaps Portnafrankagh if we could make really swift progress, or perhaps a night sail to Blacksod Bay, or perhaps some shelter could be found in Broad Haven’s environ despite the onshore wind and swell.
During the latter part of the crossing we were visited by two white headed dolphins, Rissos dolphins, which remained aloof before their weariness passed and they played around the boat. We could see them zooming round just a foot or two below the surface, but they showed themselves above the water on very few occasions, much less than the other species would have.
With us unlikely to reach Portnafrankagh before nightfall, I re-examined the charts. Though not marked on the chart as an anchorage, the ICC directions suggested that anchoring E of Rinroe Point might be suited to the prevailing conditions - potentially meeting my criteria for a new anchorage and a safe overnight stop. So, we altered course downwind, insufficient breeze for sailing on this heading, so turned the engine on. Good view of the Stags and their arches, with three of the very large trawlers working off the coast.
Entered the mouth of Broadhaven Bay close to Kid Island, then made sure we were well clear of Slugga Rock and its outlier before turning for Rinroe Point. Found around 6 fishing boats moored off the new pier. Anchored in around 6.0 metres and after something to eat turned in.
Got underway at 0633 hrs and headed for Erris Head, with all the Rinroe fishing boats still on their moorings, though across the bay one from Broadhaven itself was also heading for Erris Head.
As the swell had died down and there was no wind we rounded Rocky Island close to, passed outside of Carrickhesk and inside of Eagle Rock Island and Cross Rock. We passed close enough to have a view of Portnafrankagh, a west facing inlet with a couple of fishing boats inside, didn’t seem so dramatic a view as I had expected. We passed outside of Insihglora, Inishkeeragh and Duffur Rock.
Had decided to take the opportunity to claim an anchorage off Inishkea South, so passed east of Carrickmoneagh before heading just east of south to clear Pluddary Rocks awash off Inishkea North. Then altered WSW for the anchorage, dropping the main. As we made our way in, two fishing boats towing tenders appeared, making for the alternative anchorage south of Rushen Island. We dropped anchor in around 5.7m with a sandy bottom displayed below at @1215hrs. I allowed an hour for this almost mid trip stop. Landed on the sandy beach below the village (abandoned in 1927), just to the north of which found a channel blocked on its western side by a man formed boulder wall.
Had to watch my head as the gulls were diving menacingly close. Walked through the village up toward a very modern hut in excellent condition, which from its shape wasn’t built in the exact outline of any former hut. Just one or two other huts looked like they are used a stores. One hut seemed to be used for storing fine beach and or perhaps the and had simply drifted into the building. Another with roof timbers and a pane or two of glass looked a if it had been used for some purpose or other until relatively recently. Next I looked over the harbour, which looked as if it would e approachable in Anquette - with care. A clean looking green mug on the wall of a nearby hut perhaps left behind by a party taken off from the pier a little earlier by one of the fishing boats. A 12/14ft dinghy with outboard remained moored in the southern anchorage, whilst the curtains in the new hut were drawn closed, so there may or may not have been someone else on the island. I walked back along the foreshore to Paul and the dinghy. We relaunched and returned to Anquette. Raised anchor. Paul deflated the dinghy whilst I got the boat underway and heading in the right direction. Not bad for a 50 minute stop, seemed longer somehow.
The next part of the passage straightforward, direct for Carrickakin, the islet off the western ridge like extremity of Achill Island named the “Ears of Achill”. Encouraged Paul to look out for Basking Sharks, as they used (and possibly still do) get killed on the nearby beach of Keem Bay, with the catching boats based at nearby Inishgallon / Gualennaun Beg quay.
Having passed close to Bills Rocks (some would call these 'islets'), Paul gave a false Baking Shark sighting - I headed over to find two guillemots drifting about 10 ft apart. Resumed course for Inishturk, with the quite distinctive profile of Clare Island (and its lighthouse on its lower northern lower point) in view to port.
Having rounded Gubagarlieve on Inishturk, we could make for Garrary Harbour, despite the S’ly 2 to 4 forecast I hoped we would have sufficient time for a night time kip. Saw fluorescent jackets and a dark hulled RIB, and immediately thought it might be Customs. However, it turned out to be three people wearing lifejackets in a Curragh. Found about 6 yellow visitor’s buoys - one occupied by a Curragh with outboard, one by a fishing boat. We moored up with two ropes, launched the dinghy and rowed to the harbour just ahead of a Mitchell styled work boat, which arrived just after us and moored up to the islands (steel fishing vessel look a like) ferry. Exchanged greeting with locals working on a powerboat, and landed at the slip. We didn’t find a bar ashore and one of the locals that I tried to talk to simply ignored us and walked on. We watched the boat disembark its passenger - a large percentage of the local community who then drove away in vehicles many of which would be classed as unroadworthy bangers elsewhere.
We walked a short distance from the harbour, before once more returning to the harbour, and looked out from the heli pad seaward. From where we could see the curragh being rowed back, and another returning by outboard power.
Back onboard, we stowed the dinghy, had a shot of Whiskey and turned in. Unfortunately the land breeze from the mainland caused an uncomfortable E’ly wind so the boat started pitching uncomfortably, I had to get up to relash the now free to swing tiller. Considered shifting to Inishbofin as I turned in again. If I couldn’t sleep we would move. Meanwhile Paul was already snoring away in the forecabin.
Fortunately, the wind died again during the night suggesting that we had experienced a land breeze. Wind light NE/E. As soon as we had slipped, the main was raised. As there were islands ahead, several alternative routes presented themselves. I elected to pass E of Inishbofin inside of Davillaun so that I could get a view of Rusheen Bay. From E of Inishbofin I though about going E of Cuddoo Rock, W of Ferroonagh West then through Aughrus Passage but the larger scale chart showed that there was no saving of distance to be made from this option, so opted to pass N of Cuddoo Rock, then use High Island Sound. A Navy vessel passed close by in the Sound - whilst they were busy making ready an RIB for launching.
On nearing Slyne Head I discovered that the buckle on a retaining strap had broken - very fortunate as any sailing would have seen the liferaft slip over the side. Lashed it in place. Up in the cockpit, Paul in jacket, jogging bottoms and wellies, plus sun hat - well covered to prevent further sun burn (or was it sun & wind burn?).
Between Slyne Head and the Skerd Rocks not much to see close to. But good views of the mountains to port, the Skerds growing ahead and the Aran Islands slowing increasing in size and extent. From the Skerds, altered course slightly for the NE point of Inishmore. On the way past Portmurvy there was a good view of Dún Aengus Iron or Bronze Age promontory fort, and the Dún Eochla Bronze Age Fort.
We entered the bay between the point and the green lateral, i.e. passing over the tail of the bar, skirted round a Navigational buoy maintenance vessel - busy despatching people ashore in an RIB. We picked up a visitor’s mooring. Madness a Sigma 33 on one of the mooring slipped to raft up alongside three other yachts alongside Kilronan Pier. We had already pumped the dinghy up before mooring o we were soon rowing ashore and after checking the pier for diesel and water (none) we headed off and found the American Bean bar busy, as part of it was being refurbished and out of use. With outside dunnie formed from garden sheds. After a couple of pints of Guinness and a few packets of crisps we rowed back to Anquette.
Got up at 0700 hrs, and headed out of the anchorage. Off Salt Island we raised the mainsail, loosed the genoa. Turned off the engine, and set sail through Gregory Sound. A yacht in the distance seemed to be headed on the north side of and toward the easternmost island. The wind SE light, the sea flat - ideal sailing conditions.
I didn’t have a chart covering the offshore route between the Aran Islands and the coast between Tralee and Smerwick (though I did have charts covering the coast) but with no offshore dangers this was no problem and saved watching a slow track grow across a chart! I rested below for a few hours whilst Paul helmed.
Mid afternoon we ad two white sided dolphins visit the boat, but they were too elusive save for one solitary photograph. As we passed Loop Head, the buoyage ship passed by on its way up the Shannon.
I had a waypoint set for Brandon Bay, but for only a slight deviation and with light E/SE’lies with an absence of swell Smerwick seemed quite feasible and close to the Blaskets - through which the tide would be flowing south from 0700 hrs.
As we neared the mountainous coast the wind began to fade at times. Paul spotted a school of dolphins ahead, at least 5/6 individuals heading W with the tide. With Anquette’s boat speed being low we didn’t offer sufficient interest for paying a visit. With the wind dying at times in the lee of the mountains we were forced to put the engine on. Smerwick easily identifiable by “The Three Sisters” three similarly shaped promontories to west of the harbour entrance. A motor boat as the foot of the mountain indicated the true size of the 849m (***check) mountain to port. The chart suggested that I could make Ballynaglass safely at night, and the Almanac suggested that some visitors moorings had been laid there. Once in the bay with fading light (we having already watched the sun setting and the buoyage ship pass Blasket Sound bound) we dropped the main. I used the binoculars to see more clearly in the dusk. A super yacht anchored in the bay with a riding light, whilst closer to Ballynaglass there appeared to be 5/6 moored fishing boats.
Found all the yellow visitors buoys taken up by local fishing boats and smaller day boats, so picked up a local mooring - which judging by the very substantial chains normally holds a large fishing vessel. Turned in for a peaceful nights kip.
Got up at 0700hrs and was underway 5 minutes later. Sail up we made our way round Carrigbrean, and past The Three Sisters. Off Sybil Point the wind fell light as we altered course for Blasket Sound. I had Great Blasket in mind as an anchorage, but as I feared it was untenable. The SE’ly seemed to be lowing along the N side of Dingle Bay straight into the anchorage. Whilst elsewhere all around it seemed much quieter. Anyhow we went across to the anchorage where three fishing boats were tugging, rolling and pitching at their moorings with their sterns directed toward the beach. An RIB busy ferrying people back onboard one of them - which promptly departed. As it was too wild to anchor we headed out and started motoring toward Valentia. We turned the engine off and tried sailing, but the wind and progress under sail not great. More important to get in at a reasonable time and obtain diesel, water and provisions. We found some yellow visitors moorings NW of Knightstown - none occupied and picked up that nearest the shore. Landed at the slip near the lifeboat and headed to the harbour in the search of fuel. Found a chap engaged in angling dives and boat work who could provide us with some diesel from his premises near the pub. Got 40 litres of diesel for IR13. Seemed to be just one tiny shop selling provisions, B & Bs and a few restaurants. Paul enquired from a local about getting to Cahersiveen, and ended up in getting us a free trip on the ferry and carriage in his car to Cahersiveen. In this market town we had a Guinness. Paul sent an email from the cyber cafe, and we ate ashore at a restaurant opened in March, and managed by a cap who crews for a Sigma 36 each year during Cork week. There were nautical maps and photos of the Chenal du Four lighthouses on the walls, and chains in the stair rails, portholes on the walls, and lanterns over the bar. The food and wine were okay (wine rjoca Sigala, sizzling prawns, filet steak and Irish Coffee). After some delay in finding anyone around, a woman finally turned up at the taxi premises and unable to find a driver, decided to drive us herself back to the ferry. During the trip she chatted much about the local women's football team deprived of a cup through silly rules, and being unfairly treated by a female shop manager in Tralee when returning goods. The charge as £5. The ferry cost IR1 each.
Got up at 0745 hrs. Overcast, mist, not much wind, so motored round Valentia and from Bray Head made for Puffin Island which I decided to pass on the outside. Plenty of Puffins around, and a fishing boat working close in under the islands western side.
Then followed the crossing of St Finans Bay (during which the large yacht anchored in Smerwick passed at speed motoring, with its Blue Ensign dipping in the sea), and Ballinskelligs Bay. With new anchorages in mind, and not wanting to waste much time en route to spots in the Kenmare River, I had Darrynane Harbour in mind. Considered Deenish Island too, but the wind was onshore, and there was a large mussel farm situated on its eastern side. Used the transits to approach Darrynane, with breakers indicating the presence of Muckiv Rocks to port. The approach very reminiscent of Brittany anchorages, a transit mark, rocks close on either hand, sand, shallow water and islands. Having rounded Middle Rock and passed between the beacons (stone pillars) we headed for a vacant mooring. With shallow water, sun and sandy beaches there was plenty of activity, with people swimming off the sandy beach. A Dutch cruising boat, and a Sail Ireland boat on visitor's moorings, plus a plethora of locals boats including wooden yacht. With the dinghy already inflated, we wasted no time in going ashore an exploring the ruined abbey on the sandy Abbey Island, including having a swim in a bay on it eastern side - which seemed to encourage a woman to take the plunge. Paul was encouraged to swim the second half of the row back to Anquette. Once back onboard, we slipped and headed out - the crew of the Dutch yacht probably wondering why. But with the fog falling and the air getting cooler I think we had grabbed the best hour of the day there. Waited for a yacht to enter before passing between the stone beacons and out into the channel, then carefully keeping the transit mark in line astern.
Passed south of Two Headed Island, then round Lambs Head to start the run up the Kenmare River. With time getting on I decided to limit my objectives to grabbing Sneem Harbour and Kilmakiloge Harbour which seemed possible during the remaining daylight. Through not described as an approach in the ICC directions, I elected to pass close south of Inishkeelagh More and S of Potato Island. We picked up a visitor’ mooring to W of Ilaunslea, in company of a large motor sailer looking like that figuring in a number of ICC Direction photographs. After a brew up, upped on deck, we slipped (partially glad to get away from a noisy pair of gulls who had taken up station astern). This time headed out eastward passing between Illaunadan and Rossdohan Islands. Only a short hop over to Killmakilloge Harbour. Piloted us in by eye and judgement, with a large expanse of mussel beds ahead. skirted round them and N of Spanish Island, catching the rudder on something as we tried to head toward the anchorage off Eskadawer Point. Doubled back round the N side of Spanish Island for Collorus Harbour, almost running over a very long floating pick up line on a pot buoy. Dropped anchor in the inlet in around 6 metres of water.
Raised anchor at 0850 hrs after a quiet night at anchor. Glengariff the objective which the ICC describe as somewhere not to be missed on a cruise to Ireland. We sailed (rather motored) close to the River’s southern shore, pat Inishfarnard, and up to Cod’s Head. Having found that the tide would be fair for Dursey Sound, decided to take this shortcut. Paul found the large caves (large enough to row a dinghy into) interesting. Meanwhile I was keeping close to Dursey’s western shore (as just used by a N bound fishing boat). A cable car (licensed for three passengers and one cow) swung across as we made passage through the sound - the tidal stream appearing to be no more than a knot or two.
One fishing boat moored off Dursey’s slip, and two mechanical diggers/excavators ashore. A slab sided landing craft ferry passed on its way toward the Sound, its crew seemed reluctant to wave.
Just a we were rounding Cat Rock off Crow Head I spotted a dark shape in the water to port a foot or two under the surface - another Basking hark -the third of the year ! We circled round a few times, running parallel to attempt to guess its length, approx. 13-15ft in length. After 10 - 15 minutes we continued on our way.
From around White Ball and Black Ball Heads, the latter with a Martello Tower (rather like Seymour Tower back home), we started seeing fishing vessels on their way to and from Castletown Bearhaven.
A plod from the south side of the island and bay checking off the prominent features as they were passed in the drizzle and rain. A crude carrier headed seaward, loaded with decks not far above sea level. Passed Leahill Jetty with its two ships mooring buoys (interestingly not marked on the chart). Found just one mall red mark Sheelane South and couldn’t locate Coulagh South. Once near Four Heads Point I took the helm from Paul for the run into Glengariff. We dropped the main, and Paul inflated the dinghy which was left on deck whilst I piloted from a standing position on the starboard cockpit seat.
The mussel farms here were at least tucked into the shores and delimited with yellow mark with lights as we approached Illnacullen. Skirted round well east of Ship Island and made toward Bark Island (could see two yacht on yellow moorings arranged near Calf Island, one English and one Dutch), with some boats on local moorings to the W of Bark Island. We picked up one of the two visitor’ moorings laid on the south side of Bark Island. Having also shaved and washed my hair and having had a swim the bay before I felt clean enough for the local hotel’s bar. We rowed ashore in the pouring rain - with only just enough later at low tide (i.e. a few inches) to just about reach the slip - Paul walking the last metre in his wellies to pull the dinghy up to it. Had two pints of Murphy’s and 2 packets of crisps in the bar - a chart of the North Atlantic on the wall near the boarded over fire place. The lights kept dimming periodically. With scaffolding outside, no doubt water was getting into some temporary arrangement.
After some rain during the night, it was pleasant to find that it had lessened to a misty and damp morning. We slipped around 0745 hrs and retraced our route, accompanied by a local fast fishing boat. In Bantry Bay I was just a case for aiming for the southern tip of the bay, Sheep Head. When nearing this point we found ourselves in the company of a Bermudan rigged yacht an a gaff cutter all evidently bound round Sheep Head for Mizen Head. The wind livened up sufficient to sail, o sailing best to windward we rounded Sheep Head, passed Three Castle Head and drew near to the Mizen just as the visibility improved, the sun appeared and the sea started to sparkle. We crossed tacks with a yacht that had passed us off Sheep Head. Though I had written down the time of the E and W going tides in my log book correctly, I had forgotten them and believed the tide to be soon turning west and so once we had tacked up to Barley Cove, we rolled the genoa, left the main raised and started parallel to the coast for Crookhaven. It would be a fairly early finish to the day, but would enable fuel and provisions to be topped up, and the water tank. We resumed sail which ended up being just to round Streek Head - there being insufficient E’ly wind for the dead run into the harbour under genoa alone. Found 8 yellow visitor's moorings in the harbour (most vacant) and three yachts rafted alongside the quay.
We wasted no time in rowing ashore, buying provisions, obtaining a pint of Murphy’s in O’Sullivans, buying diesel from the shop next door, then moving to the Crookhaven Inn for chowder and moules, and another pint of Murphy’s. Afterwards took a cartoon of chips from a mobile kiosk, walked to the village limits, then returned to fill the water container before rowing back to the boat.
I had plans to claim a few anchorages, and make jut a few miles east. Slipped around 0720 hrs and motored on a course to clear Bulligmore. Some swell in the bay, but once we had passed through Man Of War Sound the sea was flat. A condition were ideal we decided to drop anchor for a bacon bap stop off the pier on Long Island Sound. After which we resumed our way to Skull. Off Fasnet View (the western point of the harbour) we noticed the house with its own private dock and power boat. I headed up to the pier to take photos and then doubled back outside the main area of moorings. We had only just anchored an gone inside when there was heavy downpour for 5 - 10 minutes before returning to bright and sunny. After a brew up we raised the anchor - or at least tried to - it was tuck fast probably on an old mooring or ground chain. So we paid out more chain and rope so that I could manoeovre the boat so that I could motor backward and pull the anchor in the opposite direction to that in which it had been laid. To my surprise and relief, this time it worked.
We passed W of Bull Rock then round Copper Point on Long Island, then made for W of Calf Island. With the swell I figured that South Harbour might be untenable so elected to make for North Harbour - though it was nearly low tide and mooring options inside might be limited. Set a waypoint for just to the north of the inlet, where we dropped the main before following the ICC instructions. Inside we found a yacht (shortly to be joined by another) mooed up on the S side of the N pierhead. On the S side of the S pier by the ferry, very shallow, with insufficient water for me to back Anquette alongside and further in tan the ferry. So, gently grounded Anquette then rowed out stern and bow anchor to hold her in position on the now rising tide. An RIB topped close by and threw a heavy weight and line over the side, its river clad in dry suit then waded ashore.
Paul dropped a cover from his camera battery compartment over the side, and climbed into the water, but was unable to recover it with his toes nor from duck diving and eventually gave up. I rowed ashore for a few photos.
Back to Anquette, a quick figure out on how best to leave resulted in Paul using the dinghy to recover the bow anchor, then recovering the kedge again from the dinghy. After bringing Paul back onboard we motored out of the harbour. Once in clear water the engine was turned off whilst I recovered the kedge onboard which had been resting in the dinghy.
Keeping clear of the Bullig reef we continued under power toward Drowlaun Point off Sherkin Island, before altering to pass between Two Women’s Rock and the Catalogue Islands passing an elderly Westerly Windrush heading the other way under sail. Kept away from Turk Head a we made our way to the entrance of the Ilen River. Headed toward the deeper water off Inane Point before turning toward mid channel till abreast of the first quay on the east bank. Turned about to steam the flood tide and dropped anchor. Had a wash onboard as we planned to pay a visit to Baltimore a little later.
For the short hop to Baltimore, I used the Sound lying on the W side of Quarantine Island. Followed round the south side of Spanish Island, then Ringaroy Island to reach Church Strand Bay. After motoring around a while to check depths we dropped anchor amongst local moored fin keelers. A large barge occupying the prime anchorage as marked in the directions off the lifeboat slip and the island opposite.
Went ashore that evening for a meal (shrimps then moules marinieres plus Murphy’) and to watch the Euro 2000 final between Italy and France. Some drama, as Italy was 1-0 ahead until the French striker Wiltford scored an equaliser in the dying seconds of the game, followed by a golden goal from Treziget.
That night, instead of sensitive teeth I started having continual pain and mentioned to Paul that the next day could be a non sailing day.
Rowed ashore early, looked at the bus time table to find the next bus due at 0855 hrs (a local workmen having indicated that there are no dentists in Baltimore). Fortunately for us (but to the inconvenience of one of the locals) the 0805 bus was late and turned up around 0840/0845 hrs and started speedily on its way to Skibberean. In fact we were dropped off n a street corner and the driver said that he didn’t have time to hang around and would collect money on the return - he would e back at 1330 hrs. At the Eldon Hotel they gave us directions to the nearest dentist. They had trouble detecting the tooth causing the trouble - after heavy blows to all my teeth on the right side, hot water finally helped highlight the problem tooth - which ad split with the hot water after a few seconds delay penetrating the gap and causing pain. The dentist drilled out a filling, and started that it was uncertain whether due to the crack that the best option would e to extract. A second younger dentist was called n - and he too was non-committal. After highlighting that I wished to try and keep it, the first dentist drilled out another filling to discover a puss filled abscess underneath and then after giving me another injection removed a nerve(s). After opening the crack he filled the tooth with a temporary filling. The injections had worn off, just about, before we got the return bus (20 minutes late) and the pain seemed to have gone. The bus driver took IR20 of me, but needed to go to a pub to get the IR14 change (for two fares) and then waited for a young mother to take her child to the toilet before finally setting off. We returned to Anquette were I started suffering from 12 hrs of the runs. Paul went ashore in the evening, had another meal at the pub, showered at another and picked up a few items for the boat.
Woke up in the morning feeling much better though worn out and tired, and wasted no time in getting up to get underway. Raised anchor and headed out at 0805 hrs.
No wind so under power, passed outside Kedge Island before altering for Toe Head, and whilst crossing the bay another dolphin was spotted heading WSW. As we neared Stag Sound we started seeing quite a few yachts heading W, including a gaff cutter well offshore, and some passing inside of the Stags including a GK29 - most of the yachts towing their tenders.
Whilst passing Clonakilty Bay we were treated to thunder and some vertical forks of lightning. Too add further interest, after passing Seven Heads and its watchtower Paul spotted a Basking Shark (a short while before we had skirted round some salmon nets) I headed over. This one was swimming quite quickly and seemed agitated - its rear fin breaking and thrashing on the surface a few times. After capturing it on film we left it and resumed our course. We had a fair but not particularly strong tide off the Old Head of Kinsale as we turned to head toward Oyster Haven, about which time it started to rain heavily. It ceased before we had reached Big Sovereign - there were plenty of fishing boats around on the now mercury coloured sea. We entered keeping closer to he western shore, particularly near Ferry Point to be certain of clearing Harbour Rock. Quite a few boats inside in the NE part of the haven, with plenty of mooring but only two yachts in the narrow channel in the wooded NW arm of the haven. We found shallows just before the local yachts moored in around 4m of water, but they were all shallow draft, e.g. a Copland 24, so we headed back into deeper water of around 6 m and dropped the anchor. A gentle ebb in the haven, peoples voices ashore, some looking as if they had taken a late afternoon dip. I had some pasta (Paul having eaten his earlier) and then we had a game of chess. Around the boats hundreds of fish rising - I caught a few flashes of silvery fish - those I saw were small but no doubt there were bigger stuff too feeding on them. As dusk approached a large twin masted ketch arrived called Spirit of Oysterhaven and registered in Cork after circling around it dropped back to anchor in the deeper water to seaward and well clear of us. Its crew took a dinghy ashore in the near dark, it had decided too that it need not display a anchor light.
Set of at 0804 hrs and passed inside of Little Sovereign, with mist and haze, but looking like the sun would burn it off. Passed Barry’s Head and Reanies Point from which we started crossing the Cork Harbour buoyage. Saw two dolphins heading SW and then later near the Cork Safe Water mark I spotted a fin flopping from side to side - even from this distance I new it would be a Sun Fish. Had a good view of it's silvery sides. On our second approach it turned upright, pointed nose down and swam into the depths. We stopped the engine and kept a good lookout for a while - but didn’t see it re-surface. Off Ballycotton we had to alter course to pass inside of a Salmon net its fishing boat steaming toward it - though we had already figured out which side would be safe to pass.
With such a light wind it was a simple motoring session, the monotony was broken by a small fishing boat, which started crossing across our bows, when I altered course it did likewise - it transpired that they wished to give us some mackerel - they had quite a catch.
Spent the next period of time cutting and cooking the mackerel which helped pass time as we slipped past Mine Head. Muggart’s Bay in relation to the others was quite short, so we were soon rounding the rocks off Helvick Head. We dropped the mainsail as we turned to pass N of the harbour. Initially we picked up a visitor’s buoy but when we discovered a £5 please tag I decided to anchor instead. No one else had tried charging or the use of these buoys.
We got underway at 0630 hrs after a peaceful night at anchor. We skirted round a fishing net being laid ahead of us as we left the bay. Around an hour and a half later we got sailing breeze and the engine was turned off. Sailing speed was good, and Tramore Bay, and then Waterford Harbour (being entered by a ship) appeared in good time - then the breeze started to fail.
Starboard tack took us toward Baginbun Head, but with the wind so light tacking made either around 030 or 165M, so we reluctantly put the motor on an started motoring to windward. The next problem was that we would arrive at Kilmore Quay on low water springs - a prospect not that enticing from the chart - with a shallow approach and heads either side of the leading approach. Two other yachts entered before us. With the depth sounder running and Paul continually reading out the figures, and my scanning the transit lines with binoculars whilst steering we edged in. Two fishing boats moored in the entrance on ether hand reduced the entry width to that of a larger fishing vessel bream. Inside we started getting the fenders and warps ready - whilst an impatient harbour master beckoned us toward a berth. I just kept giving the thumbs up each time until we were ready with all fenders and warps ready.
We set of at 0645 hours, and after keeping to the transit line, turned eastward to cross St Patrick's Bridge. As the wind was northerly we raised sail. The boat was sailing fast and I made some bacon baps. After which I reduced the full main to the third batten as I envisaged motoring to windward to make progress past Carnsore Point.
Once off the cardinal mark, we turned to windward. Ideally I would have made 045M but the sea was rough and with the tide just turning to flow northward it was likely to get rougher in wind against tide conditions. After trying the conditions for a while, I figured that it would be prudent to about turn. We motored sailed in the quite steep seas (touching 9 knots at one point when surfing) back to the cardinal mark from which we resumed sailing.
The next challenge was to spot the small St Patrick's Bridge mark in the seas, I had a safe latitude which I sailed the boat onto and then kept eyes posted until the buoys finally showed themselves when close to. Once on the other side of the bridge the conditions were much easier. I gave Paul the helm whilst I considered the options - either Kilmore or Waterford. Had to settle on the former - as adding miles to the remaining portion of the trip wouldn’t be wise as it was likely that a number of days would be lost whilst the forecast strong winds passed over.
During periods of bad weather, each day is punctuated by periodic checking of forecasts - hoping for some kind of improvement. A few examples below.
WE15 071226 UTC July 00 Valentia 070600 UTC July 2000 Issued at 0600 hrs. Situation at 0300 hrs. A mostly moderate northerly airflow over Ireland will gradually back mainly W to NW by midnight tonight. Forecast from Belfast Lough to Roches Point to Eris Head and for the Irish Sea N to NE 4 or 5 backing N to NW by this afternoon further backing NW or W by midnight later increasing 5 to 6 in the west. Weather Mainly fair, visibility mostly good. From Erris Head to Malin Head to Belfast Lough N to NW 3 to 5 becoming W to NW 4 or 5 by afternoon increasing W’ly 5 or 6 overnight, patchy rain or showers, visibility moderate at times in rain or showers otherwise good. Outlook for a further 24 hrs until 0600 hrs Sunday winds backing W to SW on Saturday increasing strong and gusty. Rain becoming widespread followed on Sat night by clearer weather with scattered showers.
WE17 080740 UTC July 00 Valentia Until 0600 hrs Sunday 09 July Issued at 0600 hrs at 8/7/00 situation at 0300 hrs. A moderate to fresh west to northwest airflow covers Ireland, this will back nw’ly today and strengthen , as fronts move eastwards across the country. Forecast from Fair Head to Wicklow Head to Mizen Head and the Irish Sea West to NW 4 to 5, backing W to SW by early afternoon and increasing 5 to 7 this evening veering W’ly overnight. From Mizen Head to Slyne Head to Rossan Point W to NW 4 to 5 increasing W to SW 6 to 7 and gusty later this morning, then veering W’ly during the afternoon. From Rosan Point to Malin Head to Fair Head W to NW 4 to 5 backing SW during the forenoon, then veering W’ly this afternoon and evening and increasing 6 to 7 and gusty. Weather for all areas widespread rain today, clearing slowly southwards tonight and early tomorrow. Visibility for all sea areas moderate to poor, later to becoming good, except in the south. Outlook for a further 24 hours until 0600 hrs Monday 10 July 00 strong and gusty westerly winds veering NW to N and possibly touching gale force in the north and west. Rain in the south at first, occasional showers otherwise.
WE20 091940 UTC July Valentia Until 1800 hrs Monday 10/07/00 Issued 1800 hrs Sunday 09/07/00. Situation at 1500 hrs A cool, unstable NW’ly airflow covers Ireland. The flow will veer more N’ly as a depression centered over Scotland continues to drift slowly away into the North Sea. Forecast From Carnsore Point to Slyne Head to Malin Head NW veering NW to N 6 or 7 gusting gale force 8 slowly moderating tomorrow to 5 or 6. From Malin Head to Howth Head to Carnsore Point and the Irish Sea W to NW 4 to 6, gradually veering NW to N and increasing to 6 or 7 locally gale force 8 tomorrow. Weather for all areas occasionally squally showers, visibility moderate occasionally poor in showers otherwise good. Outlook for a further 24 hours until 1800 hrs Tuesday 11/07/00 Strong N’ly winds slowly decreasing to moderate. Showers becoming isolated.
WE22 101940 UTC Jul 00 Valentia Until 1800 hrs Tuesday 11/07/00 Issued 1800 hrs Monday 10/07/00 Gale Warning North to North West Gales continuing between Malin Head to Wicklow Head to Mizen Head and the Irish Sea tonight. N to NW gales between Mizen Head to Slyne Head to Malin Head will cease later tonight. Situation at 1500 hrs, a depression of 990 HPA in the North Sea, directing a strong north to north west airflow over Ireland is moving slowly eastwards. Forecasts from Malin Head to Wicklow Head to Mizen Head and the Irish Sea. N to NW 6 to gale force 8, decreasing 5 or 6 Tuesday morning and further decreasing 4 or 5 Tuesday afternoon. Forecast for coasts from Mizen Head to Slyne Head to Malin Head N to NW 6 to gale force 8, decreasing 5 or 6 tonight. Decreasing W to NW 3 to 5 on Tuesday morning. Weather for all areas Islolated showers good decreasing moderate I showers. Outlook for a further 24 hours until 1800 hrs Wednesday 12/07/00 W to NW decreasing light to moderate. Rain and drizzle developing in the west. Otherwise fair.
WE23 110740 UTC Jul 00 Valentia Until 0600 hrs Wednesday Situation at 0300 hr A fresh to strong NNW airflow over Ireland continues to slacken as a weak ridge of high pressure approaches from the Atlantic. An occluding frontal trough will follow. Forecast from Malin Head to Howth Head to Roches Point and the Irish Sea N to NW 5 to 6 locally 7 gradually decreasing 4 or 5 today further decreasing NW’ly 2 to 4 overnight scattered showers at first becoming mainly fair to later visibility good apart from shower. From Roches Point to Slyne Head to malin Head N to NW 4 or 5 decreasing NW 3 or 4 today backing S to SW overnight 2 to 4. Fair today and for much of tonight. Outbreaks of rain and drizzle spading from the west towards dawn. Visibility mostly good becoming moderate in rain or drizzle later. Outlook for a further 24 hrs until 0500 hrs on Thursday winds becoming light to moderate SW to W on all coasts and on the Irish Sea Rain or drizzle in the west extending slowly eastwards. Associated mist or fog patches.
WE24 111940 UTC Jul 00 Valentia Until 1800 hrs 12/07/00 Issued at 1800 hrs 11/07/00 Situation at 1500 hrs A NW flow slackens ahead of a developing weak ridge followed by an occluding frontal system which will move into western areas tonight and pass eastwards tomorrow. Forecast from Malin Head to Howth Head to Roches Point and the Irish Sea NW 4 or 5 backing W to SW 3 or 4 overnight then veering W to NW 4 or 5 on Wednesday afternoon. Mainly fair patchy rain or drizzle spreading east tomorrow but clearing in the afternoon. Visibility good becoming moderate to poor in rain or drizzle. From Roches Point to Slyne Head to Malin Head NW backing W 3 or 4 further backing SW this evening then veering W to NW 4 or 5 overnight and increasing 6 tomorrow afternoon. Mainly fair, rain and drizzle developing tonight mostly clearing for a time tomorrow but returning by evening. Visibility good becoming moderate to poor in rain and drizzle. Outlook for a further 24 hrs until 1800 hrs 13/07/00 fresh occasionally strong W to NW winds with further outbreaks of rain drizzle and fog most persistent in western areas.
After being stuck at Kilmore for a number of days, I was very keen to progress, so with a reasonable forecast on Tuesday evening I turned in early to get up for 0400 hrs. Still a little dark when I slipped, got fenders and warps in before leaving the harbour - by which time it was light enough to see the surface of the sea. I already had waypoints set for a course close round the coast. This time St Patrick's Bridge buoys easy to see, their lights clearly visible and no seas to hide them ! Once over the bridge, altered course for north of Tercheen Rock and the wreck north of it. The pot buoy clearly indicating the strength of the favorable tide. As I neared Fundale had two sightings of an elusive dolphin, and then a yacht heading south (busy passing inside of the buoy). Exchanged greeting with a fisherman on route to the Splaugh Rock red lateral. Today The Bailies were nothing to worry about. A good view of Carna pier afforded, whilst from seaward a ferry inward bound for Rosslare passing the Tuskar Rock. A large yacht overtook me - us before reaching the South Long cardinal, before heading off NE’ward bound. Astern a HSS Catamaran passed by.
Headed between the Long Bank an the Lucifer Bank, then E of the Blackwater Bank to pass via the Rusk Channel. A few pots laid near the Rusk's southern red lateral. In the channel the speed dropped due to the foul tide down to 1.5 knots over the ground. I considered either anchoring off Polduff or heading inshore to look for slacker tide - however with the tide due to slacken in a couple of hours I was probably better placed where I was. I had spent the whole afternoon putting the genoa out then taking it in, taking a turn in the main and then taking it out, and the wind swung from all directions other than east. saw six mussel dredgers at various times all making their way south. Loads of yachts heading south - for Cork week ? No north bound yachts seen since the one and only yacht back in the Rosslare area. For a while recorded more than 7 knots of ground speed -which mostly occurred whilst sailing close hauled I a good fresh breeze -which saw me reduce the main to the third batten with genoa to match. However, it started to fail again, and so when nearing the Horseshoe red lateral off Wicklow Head, the motor had to be put on again. round speed falling - now don to 5 knots. Not a great forecast for anchoring off the coast. Malahide too far, Dun Laoghaire and Howth visited before so I headed inshore for Greystones. I would anchor off for a couple of hours kip, and if the wind came up before 0400 hrs, I would get underway. Plenty of dinghies making their way back to the harbour. As I anchored just to its N an RIB pulled up alongside and asked if I was alright (seems they don’t get that many yachts anchoring off). The wind reasonable light but some rolling - backwash from the sore and the remnants of ship’s wake as they passed up and down the coast.
When dusk, a small inshore fishing boat approached the harbour from the North. I hung out my anchor light from the boom (the cigarette lighter socket has proved useful for my PC, mobile phone charger and powering anchor light).
Woke before my alarms (set for 0500hrs) due to the rolling and pitching, the wind was up, the waves bigger. Topped up the fuel and raised anchor straight away. Started heading north at 0446 hrs. I could have sailed - close hauled but hadn’t yet decided whether I was headed for Dun Laoghaire or not. Quite breezy but I had time to try and get round Howth and possibly on to Malahide. Jut one other yacht to seaward - on its way into Dublin Bay. Two ships and a high speed ferry crossed ahead as I made my way over toward the Bailly light on the Ben of Howth. Conditions not too bad really, entered under the lee of Howth, tide still flooding north, skirted round a few pot buoys, then pawed east of Ireland’ Eye before altering course for Malahide.
Got fenders ready before starting to look out for the channel. The binoculars helped pinpoint a small safe water mark, and red and green mark leading up the channel. At first pair found 3.7 m which increased to high four then fives a the channel followed toward its narrowest point. Whilst passing through the moorings laid in the channel I put two bow warps out, then headed into the marina. Large with plenty of vacant berths. Seemed very quiet, no obvious berths set aside for visitors.
On reporting to the office found that due to building works - no toilets and no showers (for which a reduction in the berthing fee would be made).
I ran the engine for a while, as I intended to check the oil level. Mopped up some water under the cool box, but when I opened the engine compartment I was surprised how much water was there.
Got under way about 1210 hrs and headed out with the ebb tide. Once near the fairway buoy I set the wind vane, raised the main (to third batten) and unfurled some genoa. Quite gusty at times and the wind varying in direction so frequent adjustments to the windvane. Held port tack until just south of the Rockabill lighthouse. Tacked an found that with the foul tide we were losing some ground. Soon tacked back onto port, this time clearing the lighthouse but with the foul tide it would take an awful long time to reach Clogher Head. Reluctantly put the motor on and furled the main. With the tide and the seas just the right length to slow Anquette down as she pitched sped was initially quite low, altered course a few degrees o that the main would help a little. Three yachts (two traditional ones) heading south with the benefit of a free wind and good tide their progress was good. Once away from the Rockabill lighthouse I didn’t have to worry about pot buoys.
In time the seas got a little smaller as we (the boat & I) drew slowly in toward the coast, and the wind was dropping to moderate and becoming less gusty. There seemed to be more ashore in the vicinity of Clogher Head than the chart suggested. The binoculars revealed that the caravan park shown as down the coast has in fact grown northward toward the root of Clogher Head. Dropped anchor in about 4.8 to 4.9 m. Not a place to swim as it was thick with jelly fish around the boat. To the south I could see a shipwreck showing on the beach, plus a ship anchored seaward of the training wall outside Drogheda.
My motive for sailing to Clogher Head was not to claim a new anchorage but to improve the wind angle a the wind expected to shift from NW to N. The few miles gained northward today should ensure a free wind which isn’t close hauled if I choose to sail south about the Isle Of Man.
Had intended to get underway at 0430 hrs but had a few minutes extra before getting up and getting under way at 0505 hrs. Got sail up (main to third plus genoa) and turned the engine off. I was soon hoisting the rest of the main sail. Had one or two light patches of wind where I decided to give it the minutes before putting the engine on. In fact it built up to and remained at a steady moderate breeze - progress was actually quite good - so perhaps I would be able to get further than Port St Mary or Derby Haven.
Not one yacht out the water, but quite a few ships including one large tanker passing behind and one cargo ship ahead when I was within a mile of the Chicken Rock lighthouse. Though the tide was not due to slacken off and turn for another 1.5 to 2 hours it hardly mattered as the wind was gusting down from the hills. I took the lines off the tiller and hand steered with the windvane still set - kept an eye on its vertical arm to check that it was mostly centered as I didn't want to put things under unnecessary strain. I noticed off Langness that we had peaked at about 8 knots over the ground. That was with a reduced headsail and the full main mostly spilling wind.
Once round Langness I started thinking about reducing the mainsail and handing over to the windvane. Once off Derby haven I decided for expediency to put the engine on whilst we headed to windward (i.e. toward the shore) I put a reef in however the engine had not been getting any cooling water. Once the windvane had control I lifted the engine cover - not as much water there as I had feared, but bailed it out.
Fortunately the wind had stayed NW rather than veer N, and what's more it had backed a little as it passed over the land giving close hauled in fresh to strong conditions so Anquette was storming up the coast - in fact it looked as if this was going to be our fastest passage up the east coast. Laxey looked a little blown out, but I had already decided to make for Ramsey as knowing my luck it would be northerly by morning requiring either tacking or motoring.
Only when off Maughold was the engine tried, and there was water coming out of the exhaust. As we headed inshore toward the pier head quite a sky scape with the sun setting and a certain purple hue in the water.
Inside I tied up to the west quay, alongside the Centaur Shimmer which I thought looked like Steve and Jane's boat. Sure enough they returned onboard later to say that they had planned a holiday in then Clyde but having been unable to get round the Mull of Galloway in the north westerlies they had decided to make for Ramsey instead. I got up at 0300 hrs to check the warps. The harbour master was swinging the bridge at 1000 hrs to let some boats out so I was able to go through and moor the boat in its usual berth.
One of the aspects which makes a cruise enjoyable, is sailing along some unfamiliar coast - as there is no knowledge about what the scenery will look like round the next and each corner. However, by now I had more or less run out of new coastlines to visit within 'ordinary' leave with Anquette. However if I traded up from a 26ft to say a 32ft boat, then I could get further and explore new coasts. So after this trip round Ireland I started considering what larger boat would be suited to the purpose. Aside from being about 32ft in length I also wanted a fin keel boat - it being a safety factor having a boat able to make to windward in a gale. If I could find a suitable boat in good time, the Faeroe islands might be a suitable objective for the 2001 cruise.
Having previously sailed a Westerly Fulmar in gale force conditions, I knew it could cope with the kinds of trip I hand in mind for the future. It was just a case of finding one in good condition and at the right price. The next closest match to my criteria was the Sadler 32 - which I hadn't sailed before.
After a couple of wasted trips around the UK looking at Fulmars three things were evident: many had been used as sailing school boats with consequently high moisture content in their hulls and only basic equipment (sailing school boats not needing roller furling genoa and other labour saving devices which are expensive extras to add onto the price of a second hand boat), whilst private boats seemed to have relatively high prices - resulting from Westerly's reputation for building solid boats - albeit many Fulmars seemed to have either have been treated for or require treatment for osmosis.
So it was that I happened to stop off at Gosport, and whilst looking the marina came upon a Sadler 32 named "Balstara" which was on the market. Inspection whilst it was afloat showed what was viewable to be In reasonable condition - apparently having had fairly light usage. Their was water in the engine compartment - stern gland and misaligned engine requiring attention. Would have liked to inspect the boat out of the water but no time to do so - so arranged for a surveyor to inspect the boat out of the water. A few weeks later I had acquired Balstara complete with new engine mounts - the cause of the misalignment. Being as I had only a few days of untaken leave, I wouldn't be able to sail the boat round to the Isle of Man - oh and it was the last week in November.
As it happened I located a haulage company that were taking a boat from 'up north' down to the Solent, and consequently for a very reasonable price I could have Balstara put onto a truck up to Fleetwood. The boat arrived at the marina, and was relaunched with the staff re-stepping the mast. I nipped between the Isle Of Man and Blackpool on a couple of 'bumpy flights' so that I could get the boat ready for it's first sail in the Irish Sea. Finally about a week before Christmas, it looked as if there would be lull in the weather - sufficient to get the boat across to Douglas. So jumped onto the car ferry on the Friday night, with dinghy and a few other pieces stuffed into the boot of a car belonging to a friend relocating. With a volunteer crew arriving by plane next morning Balstara was ready for its first voyage under new command.
Unexpectedly, there was not a breath of wind. A straightforward 12 hour crossing under power with a totally flat sea. At the destination the boat was long in the water before being lifted ashore and stored in the cradle, which had arrived just a few days earlier, adjacent to the Douglas' new lift bridge.
Now I could inspect the boat thoroughly and start work on the refit which would get the boat ready for its first 'challenge'. At some point during the few preceding weeks I had determined to head to Iceland in June. Weekends, evenings, and even half hour sessions during work day lunchtimes were dedicated to the refit. Key items were attending to the lower rudder bearing, replacing a defunct GPS, adding a wind vane (parts of which were dispatched from California and Sweden) and beefing up the transom which would also support an emergency rudder (if ever required), a new cooker, modification of the anchor locker bulkhead and manufacture of stainless steel webbing, modifying the mast to add an attachment for an inner forestay, swapping the tired mainsail for a more modern fully battened equivalent, rubbing down the hull and anti-fouling, some re-wiring inside the boat, arranging for a heavy weather headsail and storm jibs to be made up, fitting of a NavText receiver, rubbing down the hull and anti-fouling, plus other jobs which have now slipped my mind. Things seemed to becoming together nicely - even had two people come forward to volunteer as crew on what was now being referred to as "The North Atlantic Challenge".
What happened next ? more ...