Naas, 8th August 2011

Christine arived on wednesday evening in time for a meal with Donal and his family. On thursday morning Donal's niece Karen, who I hadn't met for 11 years, came out sailing with her husband and three kids. We had fine weather and light winds for a pleasant sail out to look at the monstrosity that had been made of Dunboy Castle. This was a tudor style ruin when I first came to Castletownbere sitting on a lovely location overlooking its own natural harbour. But developers got hold of it sandblasting the ruin so that it looked like a modern building. Then they extended it and built appartments behind it to create a 6 star luxury hotel aimed at the American market. Sadly, their timing as well as their taste was wrong and they opened to a flop. Donal says it never really opened, just the occasional day for a big event. Another NAMA project methinks...

On friday I had to finish the laundry and stock the boat for a saturday departure. In the afternoon the parts arived to repair the hydrovane, damamged in the Scillies. Christine and I spent a couple of hours removing the fiddly bits from the old broken pieces to put them on the new parts but eventually it was done, not that we would be using the Hydrovane much as there was light winds forecast for the next few days. Anne arrived that evening and we were crewed up. We had a quiet night that evening readying ourselves for the off. Saturday dawned cloudy with a forecast for winds on the nose rounding Mizzen Head where tidal streams can be strong. So we aimed to leave at noon to be at the head at slack water when the wind against tidal stream wouldn't create confused seas. So we had a quick coffee with Donal and his gang before heading off.

The wind was as predicted, 15 knots on the nose and a swell created by a front coming in. This slowed our progress under engine enough, that we rounded Mizen 30 mins late. There were up to 2 metre confused seas with occasional breaking waves for a mile or two but Anne swears it was nothing compared to our spin around Slyne Head three years ago. On reaching Crookhaven, the drizzle came down in advance of the front. We went for a stroll among the holiday homes marvelling at the way that people can appear so summery when they drive, rather than walk, to the pub in the rain! Having seen all there was to see, we adjourned to SD for grub and a game of cards.

Sunday's forecast was for some wind, easing through the day but on leaving we found wind from astern, too light to sail in so we were off motoring again. But at least the visibility had improved enough to see the islands we were passing. The swell was still there though diminished as we passed through Gascanane Sound off Clear Island on our way to Castletownshend. The tiny haven was a place I had never been to in SD, but I had been there on a Glenans sailing course in the late 80s'. My memories were of a little corner of England in West Cork. That was what we found, lovely stone cotages, mostly holiday homes, sadly, in a quaint village which would be at home in Devon or Somerset. We had arrived at the end of their Maritime festival and were able to marvel at the organised chaos that was the Ball Race, where numbered tennis balls were released down a hill and all the kids in town competed to throw them back or further down the hill. I am sure there was a winner but I don't know how they found out who it was ...... Anne met George Miller, a fellow dentist from college who was there with his kids for a bit of sailing. To me it seemed that George's wife Susan was going to have to spend the few days keeping the kids and George under control. God bless the wife !!!!

Winds lightened further on Monday as we motored on glassy seas onwards to Kinsale. It got misty at times and we had the radar on to see boats coming our way. There were more yachts on the move, especially approaching Kinsale which is a major landfall port for boats from the UK and France. On going in, we found the marinas quiet which we were told is what it had been like all summer. The yacht club marina certainly lacked the international feel that I have found there before. No watching boat porn and chatting to long distance sailors this time.

From there is was off to Arklow on smooth seas. We were far offshore so there was little traffic to worry about and Anne consolidated her new skippering observation position on the foredeck. From there in between each page of her book she was able to tell us which islands not to hit. Very useful indeed !!! I had only been into Arklow once before in my old boat but found the fast running tidal current a bit offputting so we didn't stay. But I have found great faith in my Rocna anchor which has never let me down so this time I was happy to give it a go. The approach across a shallow sandbar focused the attention, but we had no difficulties. We had planned to anchor off Ferry Point across the river from the town, but the anchorage was full of moorings and a bit too shallow. So we anchored in the middle of the river, in the full strength of the flow. But as expected my Rocna didn't let me down and we held fast. After a rest we went ashore for a stroll and found a town with some history which was trying to clean itself up for tourism. There were plenty of unoccupied shops and houses in the main part of town, but behind that, up the hill we found plenty of historical significance. Sir Walter Raleigh lived here and one story about him was the maid dowsing him with water when she thought he was on fire, smoking being a new thing at the time. Sadly though there wasn't a pub which caught our attention so we went to the bar on SD instead and had Anne's fabulous fish pie for dinner with yet more melon for desert.

The morning forecast gave wind from the south or southeast so we were going to be able to sail again at last. We had an offshore passage planned to Dunmore East, 35 miles away. On heading out, we had wind gusting to force 5 close hauled so with a double reefed main and staysail set whe horsed our way on building seas averaging over 7 knots and setting a summer record of 8.9 briefly. It was powerful stuff and we even overtook a boat going our way. But with rain coming in and the seas rising, we were glad to berth alongside a trawler in the fishing port, even though the strong wind made it difficult. The only problem was clambering over the trawlers to get ashore so we launched the dinghy to row the 30 metres to the steps, much to the amusement I am sure of the fishermen.

The next day, the wind had come around to the southwest as we set off to round Hook Head on our way to Kilmore Quay. We had the tide with us as Anne steered us through the confused seas off the headland and along the coast on the far side of it. We gybed to make most use of the wind but still Anne had her work cut out for her to keep us on course as we sailed at 5 knots just off the wind. The Saltee Islands became clearer as the overcast skies gave way to sunshine approaching Kilmore. We berthed rafted outside a German boat, a rarity in these parts, and got set to working on the boat a bit. With the trip nearing the end, there was a good bit of cleaning to do and some maintanance. Having water and a good chandlery nearby, it was time to get started. The anchor and anchor well in particular, were caked in mud as we had spent so much time anchored in Castletownbere and other spots along the south coast. But when the sun is shining, you don't mind these jobs.

After a great feed of local fish n chips we got an earlyish night as we had a 730am start planned to make best use of the tide. We were going to be heading back into the Irish Sea where the tidal current runs strong and you have to make use of it in passage planning. Sadly though the forecast gave winds slackening and indeed we found the winds negligible as we passed Rosslare heading north in bright sunshine over smooth seas. We were headed to Arklow so that I could bring our Fiona Murphy and her family for a brief sail the next day. We aimed for the marina this time as we couldn't have kids clambering over trawlers. The marina has an overflow pontoon outside in the river where we tied up, near the Bridgewater Shopping Centre. The "ladies" on board decided to take advantage and I was subjected to the horrors of shopping after a pleasant day at sea. The following morning Fiona arrived and we headed out for a brief spin with the kids before Anne and I headed north on the last of the tide to Wicklow. Before you knew it, we were heading back up past the Wicklow coast and across Dublin Bay. We even managed to sail under cruising chute for a bit before the breeze died. But at last we were were tied up after another summers great trip, filled with lots of incidences, mechanical, logistical, and medical. You never stop learning on Suckin' Diesel !!!!!!!!!