Now you're Suckin' Diesel !

Sailing on a Tall Ship

updated 25th July 2019

As I said in my last post, I did not have many sailing plans for this summer as I was job hunting for June. That went ok(ish) but no job yet for next September. So I was very busy right up until the deadline for me to meet the trainees in Dublin and head to Liverpool to join up with the Tall ship Pelican on a quiet Sunday. After safety drills and getting to understand the systems onboard, we headed out of the Mersey on Monday in light winds. I tried to teach the trainees about the navigation markers and how the chart worked as we left the river heading out into the very busy bay. There are over 200 wind generators in the shallow waters of the bay and some interesting platforms left over from the second world war. It was interesting for me as I had not been there before and didn't realise how crowded it is. It would be a daunting place to sail in the dark.

We motored up the east side of the Isle of Man, passing its northernmost point, Point of Ayre, in the dark. By morning we had Scotland and the Isle of Man visible as we headed for Belfast. We tied up in the commercial basin in the morning and after lunch had some time to do a trip to HMS Caroline in the Titanic Quarter. Trainees were tired by now as some of them had not managed their sleep well the previous night and a valuable lesson was learnt so once lights were out they were eager to get their head down. The next morning it was sunny as we motored down Belfast Lough to anchor west of Bangor Harbour. The main reason for the stop was to allow for the Trainees to go up the mast and work the yards, meaning preparing the large square sails for use later. This was intimidating for many, me included, to work at height but it was a great learning experience and you could see from their smiles how much they had learnt about themselves in the experience.

After lunch, we prepared the boat for the long passage south in light winds, aiming for west Wales. The destination wasn't decided yet, winds and tide would dictate. By now the trainees were settled in to the watch routine and after dinner some headed to bed in preparation for being called for watch later in the night. The rest enjoyed the views and the craic onboard as the Trainees got to know each others and "characters" emerged. I was on the 4am shift as we saw dawn off the West coast of the Isle of Man. We had little wind and were motor sailing slowly 5 miles offshore accompanied by dolphins for a while. As we left the Island astern, the Trainees could see the tidal races off Chicken Rock and began to understand about tidal currents and their effects on a vessel. The wind began to fill in as forecast and soon the engine was off and we were sailing south towards the Anglesea peninsula. My watch over, I headed to bed for a few hours. When I rose, the winds were gusting to 30 knots and waves were splashing occasionally over the main deck of Pelican. Some of the Trainees were not feeling well but the everyone looked out for each other and made sure they stayed hydrated and got some fresh air.

At this stage the Captain decided to put in to Holyhead to anchor for a few hours to let the wind pass and help Trainees recover. After an hour rest, they were ready for dinner and the night sail around Anglesea and south to Aberystwyth. Our night watch was relaxed with little wind as we followed the lights of the coast, aiming for the red light beacon on Bardsey Island 20 miles away. We passed it around dawn and made course into Cardigan Bay in fresh Easterly winds. As we got further into the bay the waves eased, but it was gusting 30 knots+ as we anchored outside the harbour in bright sunshine. The Captain made the decision to secure the sails, which means the Trainees were needed to go up the mast and out onto the yards again. The initial fears were gone for many and there were lots of volunteers to head up, returning with big smiles once the task was over. Their reward was a few hours ashore to visit the town and for some, to go for a swim on the beach beside the harbour.

After dinner, we raised anchor and set off in light easterlies towards Rosslare. We had a good passage with pleasant seas and Trainees got lots of rest off watch before approaching the Irish coast after dawn. We managed to get a berth in the harbour and after another magnificent lunch from Abby, the group had a few hours ashore again. Some even celebrated their voyage by visiting the barbers !!! Again, some went for a swim beside the harbour before returning for dinner and setting off for an overnight sail to Dublin. We had some favourable breeze this time and good weather for the sail north up the Irish coast. As we approached Dublin, we got caught in the rope from a lobster pot. After stopping to check it out, we were lucky to find out that it had not fouled the propellor. It was still caught on an underwater anode, se we secured it for now to sort out once we were in calmer water and had the rib to help. So we anchored south of the Bull Wall to have lunch and go up the yards again to secure the sails. By now the Trainees were getting more confident at it and we had it finished in no time. Some of them even got to climb to the top of the mainmast to prove their true seafaring credentials.

Once stowed, we went in the river, past the ferries and commercial ships. We had a date with a bridge to keep and we didn't want to be late..... The East Link bridge had to be raised for us so that we could moor beside the 3 arena in the heart of the city. The trainees time on board was coming to an end but you could see that they had gelled well as a team and many had developed skills they never knew they had during their time onboard. We had a final nights festivities with games, awards and music. The crew were thanked for their incredible patience and hard work in making the trip such an incredible experience for the talented young people we had onboard. Well done to all.

On a serious note, many of you have sailed on Suckin' Diesel over the years. Do you think you might like to pass on your skills to others? Sail Training Ireland are always looking for adult Mentors to support Trainees on board. You don't need much sailing experience, just an interest in supporting others on board. Have a think about it and contact Sindy at Sail Training Ireland if you feel you want to give it a go.