You know that you think you have a bad day in front of you when the first words that are uttered at 4.30 am are 'You know we don't have to do this. We are supposed to be having fun.' What we potentially faced was a 100 mile beat in northerly winds from Dublin to the bay off Glasgow. If you haven't sailed before then this is like the prospect of having cold salty water chucked at you intermittently for 36 hours, whilst being sleep deprived and having to navigate the M1 whilst blindfolded. Not fun, not easy and certainly not appealing. You can therefore see why the first words were uttered thus.
We had lots of options as to where to go but our ultimate aim was for either Campbeltown or Troon in the western Scottish Isles. Before we could make these destinations we had to negotiate the busy shipping lanes off Belfast and the rip tides just north of Belfast. With this in mind we had lots of options for destinations ranging from a scary potential entrance in Ardglass to spending the night at an exposed anchorage in Stranford Lough.
As we left Dun Laoghaire our spirits were brightened as there was more breeze than forecast and this was more on the beam. To add to the mix the sun shone and all was happy on Ruffian. This however was not to last. Soon the sea state worsened, the breeze increased and dusk came.
Before dusk however we were treated to our first sighting of Ireland's coastline. Bizarrely we have sailed the length of Ireland and it's always been shrouded in mist. The mountains, yes there are mountains in Ireland, climbed majestically from the sea as their cloak was lifted. We really hope that we have the time and opportunity to visit them on our return journey.
As night fell so came the ships and the fair tide. Fair tide when going upwind is a double edged sword. You want fair tide because it pushes you in the right direction, this however gives rise to horrible steep short waves as the water and wind are moving is opposing directions. On one of these waves the boat got a huge amount of green water over the decks and cockpit. We then realised that this wave must have coincided with a tankers bilges as the whole boat was then like an icerink, covered in some sort of slime. It's difficult enough to move about when going upwind in 20 knots of wind, let alone when your feet don't stay where you put them.
As dawn came we were greeted with our first glimpse of wee bonnie Scotland a long way in the distance and sleep deprivation was now taking its toll on Fiona. She described her eye's as having lead weights on the outside closing them and hessian carpets on the inside making sleep impossible. When we turned the corner at Genoch Rocks sleep finally came to Fiona and Iain was rewarded with a downwind sail in 25 knots of breeze, with nobody around to tell him off.
Come the afternoon of the second day at sea we found ourselves happily in the shelter of Troon Harbour and we could very much tell we were in Scotland. The smell of fried food erupted around the harbour. They do seem to fry everything here from pizza's to pies to mars bars and even fish.
The boat is now slowly drying including our goose down duvet that somehow got soaked and we are very pleased having made it to another country safe and well.
Fiona giving a wind commetry (sorry about the sound can be found here.
Our track from Ireland to Scotland can be found here.
More glamour sailing. Would it last?
Glamour glamour glamour.
although wavey and upwind.
Fast but cold. Check the sea temperature.
The isle of Ailsa Craig in the background. The sun didn't make an appearance.
Singing really makes the heart soar and you should now sing 'Sleep glorious sleep, nothing feels quite like it', to the mud glorious mud tune. Waking from a deep sleep in the marina where we were safe secure and stable was a terrific experience and it enabled us to explore more than we could just by foot. It was therefore time to explore a city and brave public transport.
Dublin, southern Ireland's capital, is a mere stone's throw away from Dun Laoghaire and we felt it was worthwhile to try and discover if there was more to Dublin than just Guinness and U2. We actually found that there is lots and lots relating to Guinness and U2 everywhere you turn in Dublin. The bases of bridge supports are painted black whilst the tops are white, gates are similarly adorned and every pub appears to sell Guinness and not much else. The U2 connection is carried in the soul of every Irishman as it would seem that everywhere we turned top quality buskers sung, strummed and blew their talent at you. Overall, a really remarkable experience.
We had a plan, which as always was up for change, to go to the Guinness factory and take in a beer at the Skybar. This has spectacular views of the city, however after walking across the length of town we found that the bar is only accessible if you do the tourist tour. We felt the tour was an extravagance too far. The cost, measured in Guinness vouchers, was 6 and we thought these were better exchanged for the black stuff itself. Wandering back into town via the Temple Bar district we happened upon Grafton Street. This is where U2 were discovered and the streets were lined with what can only be described as unpaid professional musicians. Jamming was happening everywhere and we were serenaded from here up into the tranquillity of St Stephens Green. In the sunshine, Dublin, like the rest of the country, is a city full of happy friendly people with a rich history who express their happiness without bounds.
Having been in Dun Laoghaire for a couple of days we needed to provision the boat and hadn't seen a big shop nearby, so we made the decision to fill our bags in Dublin with really heavy food based products, before we caught the train back. Bags filled to the brim we hiked across town, struggled onto the train and come Dun Laoghaire we alighted. It was at this point we discovered that within about 100 yards of the boat there is a massive Tesco's. Well done us for shopping early. More research required in the future!
Friday had the nicest of surprises for us. This was not just Good Friday, it was going to be Great Friday. It just so happened that Rosie and Nick were in town visiting family for Easter and 'popped' by for tea and cake. The meeting was short and sweet but was very much the highlight of our day. It was amazing to see their daughter nearly walking and hope Nick's parents make a speedy recovery. As we have said before, 'There are good ships and wood ships, but the best ships are friendships.' Thanks for making the effort to come and see us R, N & D.
Tomorrow sees us having another pre-dawn start and this time making for Scotland, or Belfast if it's too cold. The wind is in the North and winter has set in again so we'll be wrapping up warm and as usual trucking north towards the Scottish Isles.
For now we bid Southern Ireland farewell and look forward to seeing you again on our return in May.
Unpaid professional buskers.
At Irelands equivilant of no10.
Iain helping the locals.
Good ships and wood ships. Rosie, Nick & Darcy come to visit.
In his life in business, when trying to sell value, Iain often used the adage 'Cheap does not mean value'. This was definitely the case with our very cheap, read free, mooring in the outer harbour in Dun Laoghaire. The mooring had many qualities but principle amongst them were not access to shore in a F9 and most importantly stability. It was a mooring that would be great to visit, for very short periods, but not to live on. We had however gratefully grabbed the offer of a free mooring with both hands and it was all was good until the breeze really picked up. The met office issued a severe gale warning situated exactly where we were sat and in transit with the centre of the gale and the harbour wall was us. Not ideal.
The mooring was so rolly that Iain was actually feeling sea sick even though we were not underway and poor Ruffian was feeling each set of waves as they were running across seas to the wind. Ruffian did find a sort of rhythm but each bar ended with a snatch of lines loading on cleats and a sharp inhalation of breath by both Fiona and Iain. Ultimately this was not fun, not part of the plan and certainly not in the brochure. We also had our home to consider and an expensive marina for a couple of nights is cheaper than picking bits of you home off a breakwater after she's broken loose. It was just a pity that we only really realised this after a night of no sleep, massive stress and having to endure sleeping in the saloon as the forepeak was too noisy and bouncy to even get into.
We were supposed to be on 'holiday' after all and living on a boat is not supposed to be some sort of endurance test. We therefore succumbed to the sheltered accommodation of the marina, even after all the disparaging remarks that were made in the blog previously. So we went to slip lines in 40knots+ of wind. This is not an easy task when the wire mooring line is welded around the windless and sets of waves are coming crashing in through the harbour wall. Once off the mooring things didn't get any more fun or easier. Fiona had to manoeuvre Ruffian across the breeze and waves, put in 2 gybes and park downwind, whilst Iain clambered around the deck getting fenders and warps ready for the impending parking. Fiona excelled and Ruffian came to a happy halt alongside a finger pontoon where the waves and swell are abated but the breeze is still howling at gale force at the top of the mast.
The wind is set to be at gale force strength, and in the north for the next few days and the waves seen from both Ruffian and the harbour wall are enormous and scary. We will therefore not be going anywhere by boat in the short term.
That'll be quite windy then.
and scarily wavey.
Arklow, although not the centre of yachting for the east coast of Ireland, proved to be full of really friendly people and most importantly a really, really friendly assistant harbour master. The assistant harbour master was so friendly in fact that after chewing the fat with him and telling him our story, he let us stay for free for the weekend on his pontoon and we even managed to plug into shore power for the first time in nearly a month.
Just imagine life without things with 3 pin plugs and where every piece of electricity that you use is monitored and needs to be replaced by some means. This really makes you think about what you use and if you really need to use it, we have therefore, for the past month been very green and have had a very low carbon footprint. That was all to change when we had free run of the magic of electricity. We charged batteries, laptops, camera's, phones, created hot water and plugged in the most luxurious appliance, a heater. Wow what a difference having a dry warm boat makes.
Arklow also provided us with a pontoon to help get the leaks fixed that we had in the calorfier, the diesel leak and holding tank and also sort the steering. All the jobs were pretty easy but every job requires lockers to be emptied and the boat being taken to bits. We seem to spend our lives filling and emptying lockers. Whilst on the pontoon we also found and fettled a barge board so we are now able to go alongside remote harbour walls in Scotland. Somewhat of a relief.
We have found, as we go north that the architecture of the towns is reflected in their showering facilities. In the south coast it's all glass frontages and clean lines, ditto the showers; in Dartmouth the buildings are twee and sweet, ditto the showers; so what happens when the town seems to be covered in pebbledash? Yep you guessed it, peddledash inside the showers. This is one place you don't want to have a shower and lean against the wall by accident. Imagine explaining those graze marks to the doctor?
The comfort of Arklow had to end at some point and ended abruptly at midnight on Sunday when we had to get up when lots of people were still up and partying. We seem to be driven not by the clock anymore, like those at work or play, but by the ever relenting tide and weather that we either need to catch or miss. And so it was that we rose at midnight out of our warm and comfy bed to make it to Dun Laoghaire before the big north east winds set in tomorrow afternoon. We motored throughout the night in flat seas with no breeze and arrived happily in a very sheltered and welcoming harbour.
What then followed was a day of moving the boat. We tied up at some pontoons in a corner of the harbour and within minutes were told by marina staff to move into marina; we were also informed that they would charge €40 per day for the privilege of sitting in this soulless haven of unfulfilled dreams. Instead we moved to the National Irish Yacht Club, which had more convivial surrounding but was still really expensive. This is when lady luck struck. As is our way now, we started chatting to a chap who owned a Nicholson 32 called Zuben'ubi. After talking about our friends within the Nicholson Association, ie Jason Poole the class secretary and our experience sailing them, he invited us to stay on a mooring behind his boat. After a couple of phone calls we were confirmed as Honorary Yacht Club Members for the duration and dispatched to a free sheltered mooring in the harbour.
Ireland's people again never cease to amaze us with the friendly manner and their willingness to help with no recompense requested. We are both big believers in good Karma and think we must start giving back soon.
There are some pretty big winds forecasted for the next couple of days so we'll hold out here and be amused by the entertainments found in southern Ireland's capital, Dublin until it's time again to push north.
Its not all play
Fishing boatrs at sunset.
Racheal, the autopilot, doing her business.
Thanks for Raphe on Zuben'ubi.