The crew gathered on Saturday evening for dinner and to get organised. We had a forecast of a little wind for the trip north to the Isle of Mann and a planned departure of 7.30am. Heading out we found little wind but dolphins did join us for half an hour around Rockabill, something I had not seen in the Irish Sea before. We were motoring on gentle rolling seas which eased after 4 hours and the wind shifted more into the south. It then built enough for us to put up the cruising chute and turn the engine off. The wind angle was just workable and we were doing a comfortable 5 knots for the last 5 hours into Port St Mary. The crew handled the trip well and got lots of snoozing in. I would normally start with a shorter trip to acclimatise but the crew were hoping to get to Islay if winds allowed. So their first trip was to be 12 hours and they needed to look after themselves to avoid getting seasick. Luckily, the seas were from astern and only a metre max so not too uncomfortable.
We arrived into Port St Mary at 8pm. We left dinner slow cooking in the oven and headed off for a stroll, which ended up in the bar of the Alfred Hotel. For the new crew, the pint overlooking the harbour made the long day worth it. We enjoyed a good feed on board before getting to bed early. The next morning we were up at 7am for the tide through the Calf of Mann to head to Peel. Low cloud came down and it started to drizzle which made seeing the lobster pots difficult. There was little wind but comfortable seas on the west of the island as we approached Peel. The drizzle eased a bit as we approached and by 10.30 we were tied up in Peel inner harbour. Tom and Louise headed off to meet friends and Joel, Brian and I chilled out on board. After a fish and chips lunch we did some shopping and snoozing. By evening the overcast cloud lifted a bit and we were able to enjoy our pints outside the Creek pub overlooking the harbour. The decision was made to stay another day in Peel so we could explore some more of the island.
By now Islay was off the itinerary as we had southerly winds forecast for a week so we would have difficulties getting back from there. So the trip was going to end for 3 of the crew in Belfast. We agreed that we would go to Portpatrick in Scotland first so they could at least get to Scotland. So our last day on Mann we bussed to Douglas and had a wander. Joel, Brian and I went to the manx museum which I enjoyed and after grub we got an early bus back. We got off at St Johns so we could visit Tynwald, the oldest running parliament in the world. Politicians and Legal leaders meet there once a year to plan the legislation for the following year. From there we took the old train line footpath through the trees back to Peel. By now the sun was out and it was warming up again as the cold front passed through. We relaxed on board before visiting the Creek to "pay taxes" as Joel puts it, and dinner back on board.
Wednesday morning was sunny as we headed out of the narrow entrance to the harbour. Initially we hoped we would have wind but it was just a breeze coming off the hills behind Peel. A couple of hours out we found a little and motorsailed under cruising chute for an hour until that died. We arrived into Portpatrick after 7 hours of bright sunshine and mostly comfortable seas. The entrance was a bit daunting for the crew, especially close to low water when the rocks around the entrance are uncovered. But we snuck in slowly and had a minimum of half a meter depth under us. It was a lovely summer evening, ideal for a stroll around the quiet streets. We then settled down for a pint outdoors while the lamb for dinner slowly roasted in the oven. Needless to say we ate well and slept well that night.
Thursday morning was cloudless with 15 knots of wind on the beam forecast. We set off after a leisurely breakfast and soon were sailing at 4-5 knots in a lovely breeze. Moving away from the Scottish coast we found a 1 metre swell which we were able to easily slice through, though the crew had to be careful to look after themselves to avoid getting seasick. The wind gusted to 18 knots and we put in a first reef for a bit but shook it out as we entered the calmer water of Belfast Lough. We were creaming along at 6 knots at times and enjoying the conditions. Entering Carrickfergus marina we had wind from astern which made slowing the boat down imperative. Tom took it in his stride and did an excellent job of mooring the boat. Well done boss !!
We had time to look at the castle overlooking the harbour, before shopping for dinner. This time I was off duty as Joel and Brian did fajitas, guacamole and wraps which went down well with the crew after a bouncy day on board. The next day was overcast as we wet off for Belfast. Winds were light but enough to sail closehauled at 4 knots. Radioing the harbour we were told there was no berth for us as there were tall ships in. So we had to change course back for Bangor. By now the clouds were increasing and conditions became gusty. Louise did a great job steering us close hauled with up to 20 knots over the deck at times. Her helming was well tested but she rose weel to the challenge. Brian took over and did a good job too for a few miles. It was his turn to moor the boat but in the marina there were gusty winds and not a lot of room as it was crowded so I took over and squeezed us into a berth without damage. That was the last night for Tom, Louise and Brian. It was a fitting final sail for them for a while so we celebrated with a meal out in the Salty Dog which was really good. A great trip for all, with lots of giggles and good food. Three countries in a week: an American holiday !!!!