Malahide, 16th Aug
Ian and I left with a good forecast for a couple of days of southwesterly and southeasterly winds before a bit of a blow was forecast. We initially headed north to Port Oriel near Clogherhead. The saturday morning sunshine was pleasant and Ian got used to helming the boat in pleasant breeze on smooth seas. Passing Skerries before the tide turned against us we headed away from the coast as we headed for the distant headland. Traffic was light and the few boats we saw went into Skerries, leaving us alone. Soon enough we approached Clogherhead and saw the harbour busy with colour. Being the bank holiday weekend, it looked like there would be a blessing of the fishing boats in the harbour.
We were moved a couple of times but the local fishermen were very helpful and organised a berth for us alongside a couple of trawlers in for the weekend. They even offered us a lift to the village a mile away. I had not spent time in the village and we were pleasantly surprised at how well the houses looked. They seemed really well looked after and full of charm. We wandered down to the beach on the south of the headland and found a large gentle sloping beach which extended a long way out. The lifeboat station was at the head of the beach and we were lucky enough to see the boat being retrieved from the sea after being out on exercises.
The process was complicated involving the boat slowly approaching the beach until it grounded. Then a powerful tractor with tracks rather than wheels approached the boat and pulled it up the sands until it was well out of the water. Then the tractor winched the boat onto a trailer. It was a long procedure and the well organised team were very impressive.
After a pint in Sharkeys we wandered back to the harbour. Going down the hill we had lovely views of the approaches to Carlingford and the Mournes in the evening sunshine. The breeze had eased and we were able to have dinner out in the cockpit, eating locally caught fish in the evening sun.
The next morning dawned grey and winds were light. We left at 8am as the forecast gave the winds increasing in the afternoon. We set sail and were soon doing 4-5 knots on a beam reach on calm seas. Ian had not slept much the previous night and so went down below for a snooze. We sailed on in low cloud, obscuring the usually impressive view of the Mourne Mountains. After a few hours wind got up a bit, gusting occasionally to over 20 knots. I put in a single reef and then a double as the wind came around a bit onto the stern querter. The seas rose a bit in the last couple of hours as we approached the entrance to Strangford Lough. Ian was up at this stage and enjoying the experience of entering the Narrows where the tides run hard and create swirling vortices as it runs over the uneven seabed. He helmed well and took up up towards Strangford Creek where we tied up on the new pontoon in the pictoresque village on the west side of the Narrows.
We were later joined by Claire who drove down from Belfast to show off her new VW van which she was setting up as a campervan. We had a pleasant evening wandering around the village and dinner onboard. The next morning Ian and I put on our walking boots and headed to Castle Ward, a large estate overlooking Strangford Lough. We had a great bimble around the lough and then through the forests enjoying great views of the Lough and the Narrows.
Just before the tide turned we sailed up the Lough in strenthening winds, heading for the former lightship which is now the headquarters of the Down Cruising Club at Ballydorn, 7 miles up the Lough. We were well reefed down and well under control as we approached the narrow gap north of Sketrick Island. On coming through the gap we had winds gusting over 25 knots coming from behind. Luckily there was plenty of help on the pontoon to help us as we moored up going in reverse against the wind using the bowthruster to steer. Once again we had Anne's choice of getting the bowthruster to thank for giving us the peace of mind in the tricky manoeuver.
Claire returned by road and after a stroll around Sketrick we went off to Daft Eddies for a pint enjoying the views over Whiterock Bay to the south. It was still gusting hard but the
sunshine made the scene very pleasant. She again stayed the night onboard and we had a good dinner onboard. The next morning was again sunny and windy. Ian and Claire went off to explore the gardens of Mount Stewart while I had to sort out a couple of mechanical issues onboard. By all accounts the gardens were magnificent, but I felt happy to have had the time to sort out all the issues onboard.
Just before the tide turned we cast off to head back towards the Narrows. We took the scenic route behind the islands dotting the west side of the Lough. Ringhady Sound in particular was special, a place I would love to bring Anne to someday. Exiting the sound we crossed the open water in gusty conditions heading for Portaferry, giving Ian more interesting crewing experience. By now he was getting used to the procedures involved and was handling the cranky skipper well. Dinner with Claire was followed by a couple of pints in Dumigans pub and a discussion of the weather possibilities for the days ahead.
The next morning was the first real bad day of the trip with rain and reduced visibility. Claire kindly drove us around the peinisula before she headed off after tea and cake in one of the numerous cake shops. At this stage I went to Dumigans for an afternoon pint with my laptop to review the weather forecasts for the week ahead. They showed 2 days of light winds ahead followed by mostly headwinds. This meant that if I headed north to Belfast as planned, I could most likely be stuck a long way from home waiting for the weather to change. The chain of depressions coming across the Atlantic did not bode well so I decided to change the plan and head no further north. We would sail or motor south when the weather allowed and in the meantime, enjoy the local geography.....
After a quiet evening on board, we woke to bright sunshine and lighter winds as forecast. As Ian was still snoozing, I went to Dumigans to sit outside and use their wifi to check the weather. It was all differenty again, showing light winds after the weekend, but who could trust that.....After a lazy breakfast we left Portaferry, out the Narrows with the tide, heading for Ardglas. We arrived at lunchtime and I dove under the boat to change the hull anode and clean the dirt around the log which was causing the speed not to read properly. I was glad to get both done, especially the anode which was well worn. Claire and Humberto arrived after lunch and we had a leisurely stroll around the village before a pint in Mannies followed by dinner and poker onboard.
The next morning was sunny and pretty windless. On going to the marina building I used their wifi and the forecast repeated what had been forecast the previous day. We were to have a front coming over the weekend followed by light winds for most of the next week. This meant that we could get to Carlingford and hike over the weekend. We would be able to motor or sail south slowly on light winds whenever we wanted during the week. We were chatting to our neighbours who were going to Peel in the Isle of Man. I geve them the times for the lock gates in the harbour and remembered the great ice cream shop on the seafront. An idea planted in my head and suddenly we were off to Peel ourselves. Why not salvage something from the trip....
We had little wind and calm seas for the 5 hour trip over, arriving just before the lock gate opened to let us into the inner harbour. There was lots of movement in and out as the weather was more settled than it had been for a while. Going in to the harbour, we spotted another Rival 41, which is a rarity as I had been told only 82 had ever been built. By chance I met the owner later in the chandlery and we swapped stories. Sam had come over from Strangford for two days but had been there 3 weeks with engine problems. Needless to say I helped out a fellow Rival owner a bit over the next few days.
We knew that we would be in Peel for at least two days, maybe more so the next day we put on our boots and hiked the old train line to Douglas, and wandered the capital for a bit, before returning on the bus. That was a good day out and gave Humberto and Ian a feel for the island. The next day I helped Sam on his Rival 41 a bit and serviced the new Honda generator and Yamaha outboard on Suckin' Diesel. Meanwhile Ian and Humberto went off on the bikes for a tour to the south of Peel. By all accounts the tour was a success giving them great views though Humberto's face told it was a bit of a struggle at times. At one stage I met a couple admiring Sam's boat as they had a Rival 41 as well. They were astounded to hear that I had one also. I had never seen 3 of them in the same harbour before so there was lots of story swapping and technical gossip as we discussed our common adoration for the Rival 41.
The monday would be our final day as the strong headwind was forecast to ease so we had a lazy day around Peel, visiting the museum and castle before doing a hike up the hill overlooking the harbour. Sam then joined us for a pint and dinner aboard to celebrate the visit to the lovely Isle of Man.
Tuesday brought the forecast light winds as we headed out of the harbour at 8.15am. There was some moderate seas left over from the previous days southwesterlies which we had to bounce through for the first few hours. We motored away from the island as the seas gradually eased until they were calm as we approached Irish waters. We tied up before 9pm and were early to bed.
Jill arrived the next morning to join us for the last few days. We had light winds forecast and weren't going too far but with new crew onboard it was good that we had lots of time to sail slowly and lots of time to do it. We sailed at 2-3 knots past Howth and into Dublin Port. Jill proved herself to be a good helm and made the most of the light airs. The same the next day as we headed south to Greystones but we lost the wind half way there and motored the rest. It was hot and windless in the Marina but relaxing for the crew. A pint ashore was followed by dinner and Jill then devastated the crew by destroying all at poker.
Next day we put on our boots and did the Bray Head walk in glorious sunshine and great views north and south along the coast. The next day we started with little wind but soon it came and we had fun conditions, even having to reef at one stage. All enjoyed it as a great celebration of the end of another unpredictable voyage on Suckin' Diesel.