Trip Two: Belfast and back

Joel arrived from Bilbao on Wednesday and I collected him from the airport before heading back for dinner on board. We planned to go where the winds took us for the next two weeks and the next days forecast sounded good. There was a depression west of Ireland which was unpredictable but the first day we had favorable winds to use. We left at 7.30am for the 55 mile spin to Ardglass. Initially the winds were 12-14 knots but they eased a little so we set the Cruising Shute and were sailing along with wind on the beam doing 4-5 knots. It was sunny with cloud expected later. Later after a couple of hours the wind rose a bit so we lowered the Chute and set the Yankee. The seas were comfortable and Joel was settling in well to his trip. Around noon the winds eased a bit so the Chute went up again for an hour or so and then we motorsailed until the winds were less than 10 knots from astern. We motored on and saw could and rain building on the Mourne Mountains. Luckily the system was slow moving and passed to the north of us. The second system came up from astern and we got some rain but also wind from dead astern so we poled out the yankee and goosewinged for a while until the clouds passed us by and the winds eased. At this stage we could see more cloud to the south of us as evidence of the depression approaching the south coast of Ireland. The winds let us sail the last 40 mins into Ardglass and we found 17 knots inside which made mooring difficult in the tight space of the small marina. Luckily there were few visitors to complicate matters. We tied up and went for a wander and pints in Mannies before dinner, looking forward to sailing north the following day in stronger winds.

I was woken around dawn by strong winds. A blow had been forecast to go through during the night but we saw little sign of it before going to bed. But it was blowing hard and on checking the forecast, they now gave force 6 to 7 and possibly gale gusts for the morning, moderating as the day went on. On checking the lines at 7am I could see waves crashing on the rocks outside the harbour and a sailboat was bobbing around in the fishing harbour. Obviously they came in during the night and decided in strong winds and swell it was safer to avoid narrow marina entrance. We found a lot of movement in the marina as at high water the rocks weren't protecting us from the swell. But we were safe and went back to bed to chill and read.

As the wind eased a little in the afternoon we went for a walk south to have a look at Killough harbour. It is really just an inlet with a couple of bays you could anchor in. Someday I will have to give it a look but not in a blow. We then went back to Ardglass and after a shower we grabbed Pete, a singlehanded sailor from Holyhead, and headed to the pub for pints. We talked the usual boat stories before heading back for a dinner of leftover curry from the previous night. All the while the wind was easing and the seas calming in time for our trip north the following day.

We had bright sunshine and only a gentle breeze when we woke the next day. We were off north past Strangford Lough to Belfast. We knew that it would be a long motor but at least it was sunny. It was good pilotage practice for Joel as we picked our way inside the rocks up to South Rock. By then the sun had given way to cloud and still no wind. As we approached the Copeland Islands the cloud and rain came down and visibility was reduced a lot. We had just enough to pick out the markers showing the shallows between the islands and the mainland. It continued to rain until we were approaching Belfast when the clouds started to lift for our spin up the channel into the marina in the middle of the city. We tied up at 5pm tired after a long day but not too tired to forget about a couple of pints in the Crown followed by some seriously good Burritos.

The next day we had visitors and Joel had to visit the Titanic museum. This gave me time to look at a small seawater leak I had in the engine. On investigating I found my impellor pump was leaking a little. I went to change the impellor and found the ones I had didn't fit. So I had to remove it and put the replacement one on. Luckily I had bought a new one last winter. The older one had been reconditioned with new seals but they seemed to be the source of the leak. Minor heart attack averted. I was lucky that I again had spares on board.

Tom and Louise arrived after the job was done and after lunch we headed out the channel for a leisurely sail to Bangor. It also gave the newbies a chance to acctimatise. We did some shopping there before dinner and then bed at a reasonable hour so we would be ready for the 5 hour sail to see Sam in Strangford. We left at 9am with a forecast of northwest winds so we would have the wind behind us. The wind was good to start before easing away after the Copeland Islands. I noticed the expected strong tides were not there also which meant we could be late for the time critical entrance into Strangford. Soon after the winds came up astern so we goosewinged the cruising chute and the main for a couple of hours or more. We had lots of practice with gybing both until the winds got light and the chute came down. Then the winds got up again from the beam as we navigated inside South Rock. All this messing meant that we were now 30 mins late for going into Strangford so we had to call Sam and apologise for not meeting up and head on to Ardglass. We had bright sunshine all the way and a forecast for more the next day. But it was a pity to miss out on a visit to Sam's island in the lough.

Winds later in the week looked like strengthening and going westerly followed by southwesterly so we decided to make a long push 45 miles to Skerries to have a better wind angle. We left Ardglass with a forecast for no wind followed by light southeasterly. We motored for 5 hours before the winds came around and we were able to sail closehauled in light airs on flat seas for the last 3 hours to the anchorage. It was very pleasant and easy for the new crew to navigate in. We even put on Harry rhe Hydrovane so they could see how it worked. We anchored at 5pm and then took the dinghy ashore for a wander and a pint in Joe May's before dinner.

In the morning we had the predicted strong westerlies making for a lively dinghy ride ashore to get supplies. It was still strong when we got back so we upped anchor at noon to head south. We had two reefs in the main and a reefed headsail as we creamed along at 6-7 knots in gusts approaching 30 knots. Speed records were likely to be set today with Tom setting the benchmark of 7.8 knots. This was strong conditions for the crew but with well reefed sails we kept it comfortable. Passing Howth Head the winds got a bit fluky but set in again as we crossed Dublin Bay. Two ships were coming out of Dublin Port as we crossed the channel doing 6 knots. We had to radio them both to let them know we were there and the second one kindly altered course 10 degrees to pass behind us. Approaching Greystones the winds eased a little to make it easier to go in the entrance and moor in the tight harbour. Heavy rain before dinner meant that there would ber no visit to the pub this time so we stayed put and celebrated on board the end of an epic trip.

The next day we had southwesterlies forecast so we headed the 15 miles to Wicklow. Once outside we found that we could sail closehauled on a straight course so decided to push on for Arklow. The wind was again strong but not reaching the 30 knots gusts of the previous day. As we passed Wicklow head we found the winds more on the nose so we had to head further off the land. Also the strong 3 knot tides against the wind meant for lumpy seas so we abandoned Arklow to head back to Wicklow. With the wind now behind us we could surf the seas though progress was slow against the tide. Joel even set a speed record of 8.1 knots in one gust. Soon enough we were were tied up and were for a stroll around the pretty town before dinner.

The short hop back to Greystones the next day had light favorable winds. We entertained ourselves by doing man overboard practice which the crew found tricky but we did manage to rescue our victim in a reasonable time each time. We tied up after a short two hour hop. After the previous longer days sailing it was good to have a shorter day and we all managed to siesta for an hour to unwind before heading for a pint. Yet another different day sailing for all onboard showing the diversity of experience on the water.

Tom and Louise took us out of Greystones for the 2-3 hour spin north to Dublin Port. Conditions were very variable with winds from 5-25 knots so they had to work hard to keep the boat moving. We had dry conditions again which gave us tourists the chance to oogle at the lovely houses along the way, especially while passing through Dalkey Sound. Crossing Dublin Bay, we were back up to 5-6 knots boat speed. A truly great way to end the weeks sailing for the newbies. They had a complete diversity of conditions and had the chance to see how to manage a boat in very different wind speeds and angles. I hope they feel they learnt from the week.

Anne joined us in Dublin for the night and we went for a stroll up to Irishtown to do some shopping. Tom and Louise went home with their stuff but rejoined us for dinner so we had a last night to celebrate their trip. Joel also had learnt a lot and we had lots to recount to Anne about the lessons learnt on this trip. We had a great giggle and had a late night as a result. The next day we were a bit lazy getting up and headed out of Dublin Port at 1pm. Winds were variable as before even though the forecast was for a 5-6 southwesterly. After Howth Head they settled a bit but again the trip was a variety of wind angles and strengths. It was a suitable way for Joel to end his trip. He even moored the boat in the marina, something many find difficult in Malahide. And then it was over. Another year of summer sailing. Maybe not as long distance as previous years, but weith plenty of variety and learning thrown in.