25 February 2010 | Milford Haven
26 July 2009 | Ballycastle
24 July 2009 | Port Ellen, Isle of Islay
23 July 2009 | Craighouse, Isle of Jura
22 July 2009 | Isle Ornsay / Tobermory / Oban
17 July 2009 | Kyle of Lochalsh / Plockton
09 July 2009 | Loch Nevis / Armadale, Skye
05 July 2009 | Tobermory, Mull
01 July 2009 | Crinan Canal / Ardfern
29 June 2009 | Crinan Canal
26 June 2009 | Campbeltown
26 June 2009 | Portpatrick
23 June 2009 | Port St Mary (Isle of Man)
21 June 2009 | Aberdaron / Holyhead
31 December 1969 | Pwllheli
25 February 2010 | Milford Haven
For all those that continue to nag for the final blog.............. here it is.
We had a brilliant sail across the Irish sea and arrived early into Milford, taking advantage of free flow on the lock. Stu's Mum and Dad met us and took our lines.............. marking the end of this particular adventure.
Painfully slow progress South
05 August 2009 | Ireland
It's fair to say that somehow we've managed to upset the weather gods. We've had nothing but strong Southerly winds since we were in Bangor, which has made it very difficult to move down the Irish coast. Last Thursday 30th July, we set off from Ardglass but after about an hour, we were forced to turn back due to the very short sea which just stopped the boat dead every few minutes and made for a very uncomfortable ride. As soon as we turned back North towards Ardglass, the contrast was amazing, with the boat surfing along over the waves quickly and comfortably. Friday brought gale force winds and rain. We hardly got off the boat and neither did any one else in the marina. On Saturday, the wind had moderated but we knew the sea state would probably be even worse than on Thursday, so having seen all there is to see in Ardglass (in about half an hour on the first day!!!), we caught the bus to Downpatrick. Downpatrick is famous for being the site of St Patrick's grave, which is interestingly located in the grounds of the Anglican cathedral and it seems that there is some debate over whether he might actually have been English or Welsh by birth.
Early on Sunday morning, we finally managed to escape Ardglass and motorsailed the 50 miles down to Howth, just North of Dublin. Howth is one of Ireland's main fishing ports so has lots of excellent fish restaurants but is very picturesque. Unfortunately, its proximity to the capital city and the fact that it is a very pleasant place to be mean it's expensive, even if the Euro to Pound exchange rate had improved slightly. You can't get a pint of Guinness for less than â'¬4.20 and a meal for two costs about â'¬50.
The wind has continued to blow from the South so we didn't even attempt to move again until today (Wednesday). We had hoped to motor against the wind down to Arklow, but after two hours of slamming into the steep short seas, we decided to divert to Dun Laoghaire before we broke something. Here, you wouldn't believe there was a recession. The marina here has about 800 berths and most of them are occupied despite the fact that it costs â'¬4,500 to berth a ten metre boat for a year. It is though a very nice marina and even has a specially constructed narrow boat berthed at this, the far end, with four individual shower rooms so you don't have to do the route march all the way back to the main shower block ashore.
The bad weather means we are now running out of time to get back (unless the numbers have come up on the lottery!) so we have had to come up with a plan B, and C! Tomorrow we will attempt to head South again and if the sea has calmed sufficiently either get to Rosslare (plan A) or Arklow (plan B). If that fails, we will have to turnEast and sail to Holyhead (plan C). If we end up in Holyhead, we won't have sufficient time to get the boat to Milford Haven before we have to be home, but either Arklow or Roslare, gives us a chance of making it to Milford Haven by Friday night. Fingers are well and truly crossed!!!
Didn’t we have a lovely time…
29 July 2009 | Bangor
During the weekend it had become obvious that my Kidney infection still had not cleared up and that I would need yet another doctor and some more drugs before I was back to square one...... so with yet another window in the weather with a reasonable forecast (4/5 increasing 6) Monday saw our early departure for Bangor and the bright lights of Belfast. The sail itself was probably amongst the best of the entire holiday and with strong favourable tide we averaged 8.2kts over the ground with 7.6kts seen on our log with 2 reefs in the main and several turns on the genoa. The only horrid part of that particular day was that as we rounded Torr Head we had wind over 5kts of tide (for non boaties this is nasty as the sea basically stands up in steep, short and breaking waves)
The breaking water could not be avoided and so we ploughed through it...... and I do mean ploughed, we buried the bow of the boat repeatedly in the heavy seas for about 20 minutes, a considerable amount of water ran back and was diverted by the sprayhood, thank god! When we went down below after things had calmed it was obvious that the water had found a path in via the mast step (just drips on the charts) but yet another job to add to the list - apply some creaking crack cure - if we every get a dry day!
Monday late afternoon we arrived into the large and very well equipped marina at Bangor, the staff here are really professional, work 24 hours a day, the facilities are exceptional (Aberystywth punters to note that again this is 60% of the cost of Aber') After tying up we organised the doctor and collection of more drugs from the local hospital with the most expensive taxi ride ever ( 3 stops, waiting time and 12 miles for Â£35)
At least I could rest now, somewhere safe and comfortable and watch the latest low pressure system roll through ..... we really have had so much rain and strong wind these last 2 weeks that moving on and staying one step ahead of the forecast has been a real challenge. Tuesday saw a brief trip by train into Belfast city, our first glimpse of civilisation for weeks..... so many people and we are able to report that both Stu and I now have fully functioning mobile phones!
For the wildlife spot I can report that Bangor marina is home to several hundred pairs of nesting black guillimots who have been encouraged to nest in drain pipes on the old harbour wall, they are beautiful birds with bright red legs and they were quite tame which enabled you to see them close up, sunbathing with their red legs out behind them (like a dog beside the fire) usually they dive as soon as the boat approaches them.
As there is yet another gale coming through (just a bit fed up of those now) we decided to move again today, we are now in Ardglass, which is likely to be our most southerly port in Northern Ireland before we cross the border to the land of the leprechaun....... Again we are watching the forecast like hawks to ensure that we can keep moving and get home next week.
Photo is of Belfast City Hall
Galed off in Northern Ireland
26 July 2009 | Ballycastle
Yet again the weather forecast foretold of gales....... If we didn't make a run for Northern Ireland on Saturday it may well be Wednesday before we were able to move on.
The forecast was for the strong winds to start blowing in the afternoon and reach gale force overnight and so we set off at 8am and opted to make the shorter crossing to Ballycastle which lies just behind Rathlin island off the north coast. Rathlin is Northern Ireland's only inhabited island which just happens to have a large population of puffins in an RSPB sanctuary on the North West tip.
In the end we motored most of the way across, sailing only the last 4/5 miles past Rathlin and in as the wind freshened ahead of the gale. We spotted thousands of birds on the cliffs and even saw a Skua which is the size of a herring gull but brown and with white flashes in the wings) definitely a new one on me.
Ballycastle is a lively seaside town, again with gorgeous white and sandy beaches and a reddish brown sea that we guess must come from an old copper mine up the river and a safe little harbour. During the afternoon we saw Enya arrive back in; we had met Richard and Marianne in Kyle and had outrun a gale to Plockton with them before my few days in hospital. They actually berth here and so had opted to come home a few days early to miss the bad weather.
On Sunday, the wind blew up as promised so we decided to catch one of the few buses running towards the small town of Bushmills. The whole town was heavily decorated with the union jack following the recent marching season earlier in the month............ Obviously we had come specifically to enjoy a distillery tour ( Stu left with an enormous grin on his face and a bottle of 16 year old single malt - Yes Phill you can try it when we get home)
Scallops, Rupert and free dinner for all
24 July 2009 | Port Ellen, Isle of Islay
Apologies that the blogs are behind but no signal of any sort in either Jura or Islay..
On Friday we headed south again for Port Ellen on Islay, Bunyip was also heading in this direction and so they were not to shake us off just yet. The key consideration was to be whether the Classic Malts Cruise which is a bi-annual event had finished, their last stop was Port Ellen and there was a real risk that we would not get in....... fortunately we arrived just as a couple of boats had left and so picked a brilliant berth on the pontoon amongst the remaining Classic Malt boats who had been partying hard the night before and had spent the previous 2 weeks sampling whisky from every distillery possible and enjoying the regular ceilidhs laid on for them.
Port Ellen is a stunning little town, not many facilities in terms of pubs, restaurants etc (just the usual Co-op) but it has stunning sandy beaches that would do the Caribbean proud and as we walked along the beach during the afternoon we spotted a large Heron helping himself to lunch from the rich waters. These islands are so sleepy and relaxing and yet so friendly that we would recommend them to everyone.
For the wildlife spot we can report that in addition to the Heron, Port Ellen has a resident seal, called Rupert. He is almost tame now (after 7 years of living in the harbour) and has trained himself to spot a returning fishing boat at Â½ mile...... within seconds he is by the side of the boat, bouncing out of the water, performing for free fish. The fishermen seem equally well trained to have allocated a small share of their daily catch for Rupert and it appeared a ritual for them to take 5 minutes to feed him before unloading the catch of the day. These fishing boats were just 15 metres behind us and so we had front row seats for each performance, we saw only 1 small fishing boat arrive and not feed Rupert (much to Rupert's disgust) he snorted and huffed and attempted to bar it's way back out of the harbour.
We were moored next to a large boat (Freedom 39) whose skipper as well as enjoying the odd dram or two indulged in Scuba diving so I was fascinated to see him return from a dive with a large netted bag of Scallops..... being nosy (as I am) I asked whether he had indeed dived for them himself or just intercepted one of the returning fishing boats. He had been near the rocks at the entrance where the dredgers can't reach and had a large haul..... I chatted to him and watched him open the scallops and clean them. Hilton was very generous and we acquired a large bowl of hand dived, freshly caught scallops that were to become dinner with bacon, garlic and a dressed salad..........yummy!
Now the by-product of Hilton's pastime was that he had the fish slops, together with a couple of mackerel that he would fed Rupert with..... Rupert did not disappoint and performed a number of leaps from the water to retrieve yet another sitting of dinner, Rupert is, as you can probably imagine a large and rather portly looking seal who lives the life of Riley.
I have to report that Stu has not had a shave since my birthday and is now sporting a fairly healthy beard, although he is disgusted to note the amount of grey that is in it. I am not sure how long this will survive but I promise faithfully to capture it for the record before it is shaved off.
Oban to Jura - Old friends and wild rides
23 July 2009 | Craighouse, Isle of Jura
Wednesday we made for Oban as planned although it was to be a short stop only. Having now some time pressure to move south we decided that despite arriving fairly late on Wednesday that we would need to leave really early to catch the tide at 7am through the Sound of Luing which is a notorious spot to pass....... And with it fast approaching spring tides we would not be able to make progress at all unless we timed things correctly.
In the end the underwear crisis was averted only by hand washing as the marina was full again and people had formed an orderly queue for both the 2 washing machines and the 2 driers, so we looked liked a Chinese laundry for the evening (with rows of undies along the guardwires) and the sun shone and the wind blew and clean, dry underwear for both of us resulted.. Whilst in Oban we caught up with the intrepid crew of Blue Moon who since we had last met them navigated the entire length of the Caledonian Canal to Inverness and back and themselves were heading south for tall ships week in Belfast and then home.
The next morning dawned (dark and rainy) and we reluctantly dragged ourselves from the warm bed to don full oilies and catch the tide.......... Which didn't disappoint. When we arrived at Fladda which marks the northern entrance to the Sound of Luing we encountered strong favourable tide.......... No really strong favourable tide, 6.5 knots in fact which added to our boat speed gave us over 12 knots. The waters boiled and swirled around us for a good 20 minutes and we enjoyed yet another wild and free ride.
Now the crew of Blue Moon were not the only old friends encountered ..... as we headed south towards Craighouse on Jura (trying to keep away from the submarine playing in the area) we heard someone call us on the radio......... someone had spotted us, it was Barbadee (a fellow Aberystwyth boat) mutual friends had told them to keep their eyes peeled for us and I think they were as shocked as we were to actually see each other, small world eh? We chatted for a little while on the VHF and then they headed north for Oban and we continued the journey south to Jura........ spotting a porpoise on route, quietly making it's way north.
Now they say that things happen in three's; well when we picked up a mooring buoy in the beautiful bay at Craighouse we found ourselves next to a Maxi 84 called Bunyip. Now what was strange about this was that Stu's Mum and Dad had owned that same boat between 1994 and 1997 (it had been their first cruising boat and they had always wondered what had happened to it) Well we resolved then to speak to the owners and find out all about where she lived and what they had done to her since Phil and Barbara had owned her......... we didn't have to wait long as when they returned back from a trip ashore they spotted that we were also a Maxi (but missing the distinctive blue stripe by the windows) and so proceeded to come across and say hello and ask about our boat....... We told them about Bunyip having been in the family, they were fascinated and invited us aboard for drinks and nibbles and to see for ourselves. Many stories were told and mysteries unfolded as the sun set and the light faded. They were truly lovely people and Phil and Barbara will be pleased to know that she has such a good home and doting owners.We exchanged E mail addresses, phone numbers etc and resolved to get in touch. They are based in Carrickfergus (Northern Ireland and so offered to help us with anything we needed whilst travelling that way home)
Jura is one of the larger islands, it has 3 tall distinctive mountains called the Paps of Jura (round and breast like) and stunning, sandy beaches but it has only 200 inhabitants and the mainland can only be accessed via a short ferry ride to Islay first. They do however have a large distillery which convinced Stu (without much persuasion - well a large free dram at 10am to be precise!) to part with some money in exchange for a bottle of 16 year old single malt (yes Phill you can try it when we get home!)
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