We really have passed a watershed now on the fair ship Ruffian. When we left the Solent all those weeks ago we were on a bit of a mission to get to the fabled lands of the Scottish Isles. We are now here and things finally feel like we are cruising and not on some extended delivery. The scenery is breath taking and the winds from Troon to Bute have been fair and the sun has shone. Long may this and day sailing last. It certainly makes a change both starting and finishing sailing in daylight as this is the first time since we left Falmouth over 2 weeks ago that we've achieved it. We think it can now be officially said that we are 'cruising' and not going through the chore of passage making.
Although Troon proved to be an ideal destination for the sail from Ireland it was not ideal in many other ways. Looking at the Troon town website the highlights included, the high street, the marina and a statue. Not much to do or see for the pleasure seeker and so it was with a happy heart that after doing some chores this morning, which included Iain's final commitment to PTC, we started a simple day sail to Bute.
There must be heaps of gold in the hills of Scotland and also an abundance of Leprechaun's as rainbows were a plenty and rain has been absent whilst at sea on Ruffian. We had Arran to the West, Bute to the north, Ailsa Craig to the south and the mainland to the east. Everywhere we looked there was something to see; it was as if the blanket that had been covering all to see when we sailed into Scotland, a mere few days ago, had been lifted.
Industry is clearing thriving in Scotland as on the sail today, fishing boats were getting ready to land their catches and on land, farms were on every hillside. These farms were not of the arable or livestock variety, but of the wind type. We cannot decide if these pieces of engineering give a majestic beauty to the hillsides or are a blight on the eye. Only time will tell.
All it all, this has been worth the wait and the sail here to see and feel everything we have today.
The delights of Troon.
Finally sailing to the 'Isles' with Arran in the background."
The scenary has it's blanket lifted.
Finally sailing to the 'Isles' with Arran in the background
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.