Sunday, 28 August 2016

Carlingford Lough to Strangford Lough. Circumnaviation complete

We were given some mackerel yesterday, (excess catch from a sportfisherman), and Julian cooked them for breakfast. We needed to wait for the tide to be able to leave Carlingford Lough, so it was no at early start, but we were running down the Lough by 10:00. The wind felt quite strong, so the main was reefed, which meant we could not rig a preventer. Since the channel out of the Lough had a noticeable kink between Greenore Point and Greencastle Point the inevitable happened, and we did at accidental gybe. No sail damage, but once again the back-stay rope snapped. This time it was on the port side that went, so still had the old rope, and I am beginning to think the rope was worn out.
Julian cut the excess length from the starboard replacement backstay rope and used it to jury rig repairs on the port one.

As we came past Haulbowline Light House I had to turn the engine on to help us stay clear of the rocks (I was not risking another gybe!). Much to our dismay it then stayed on all day as the wind died to almost nothing. The sun came and went, but mostly went. We closed with the coast to see more of the scenery, but that also meant dodging crab pots, so although George was on the helm whoever was on watch could not relax!
St John's Point Lighthouse

We reached the entrance to Strangford Lough about when we had hoped to, at 18:20, an hour after the flood began. We were moored up in the marina an hour later, with Robinetta's circumnavigation completed. It would have been nice to end with a good day's sailing, and the forecast had suggested that we would get one, but some things are not to be.

As soon as Robinetta and Worm were tied up securely Julian and I headed to the Sailing Club for dinner and a well deserved drink.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Howth to Carlingford Lough

Julian backed Robinetta out of the narrow berth in Howth Yacht Club Marina as red light from the rising sun reflected off the clouds in the eastern sky. By 06:15 we were motoring northwards along the west side of Ireland's Eye, in a glassy smooth sea. I raised the main and staysail, but there was no wind for them to use, and George went on duty, steering a course towards Carlingford Lough. We needed to maintain a steady four knots to reach the Marina at Carlingford before the tide turned against us and made progress into the Lough impossible for Robinetta.

By 0830 I could feel a breeze on the back of my neck. It was very light, but worth letting the main sail out to catch, so I rigged the preventer so we would not gybe if any swell got up, and we motor sailed for a couple of hours.

There was very little sunshine and the breeze felt cold, despite being a southerly. We kept the engine on to keep up the speed and let George do the steering as we headed for Skerries. We were off the islands there by 09:15, and I had to take over the steering for a while to avoid a host of crab pots. Some were very obvious and new, but others were weed grown and half sunk, so invisible until we were too close for comfort. The Skerry Islands themselves were dull lumps of rock fringed grassland, rounded and featureless. Julian had wanted to go between St Patrick's Skerry and Colt Island, but decided not to bother when he saw how featureless they were.

Once we were well clear of the Skerry crab-pots Julian decided to have a go with the mackerel line, so we turned the engine off for quarter of an hour. Without it we were moving at 2.5 knots, an excellent fishing speed, but not for passage making! Nothing had bitten when he hauled the line in, and we were travelling much too slowly, so the engine went back on immediately.

Soon after Julian's attempt at fishing the wind died completely, so I took the preventer off and centred the main sail to stop it flogging in the slight swell that had built up with the following wind. It seemed we would not be sailing today...

After an hour of just motoring the wind came back, but this time on the starboard beam. It built to a comfortable force 3 Easterly and suddenly we were reaching through the water at 4.5 knots. The engine went off, and we sailed the rest of the way to the Lough entrance with George on the helm.

We had chosen to enter the Lough through the Hoskyn Channel, but this turned out to be guarded by a field of pot markers, so Julian took over the helm so steer a careful path through them, and past four anchored sports fishing boats with rods and lines out.
Haulbowline Light House

As we turned to leave the Haulbowline lighthouse to port the wind became on the nose, and we had to turn the engine on for 5 minutes, but as soon as we joined the main channel we could sail again, and did do all the way up the Lough. We were making 4.5 knots with the tide, through beautiful scenery, and once we were clear of the tide race in the entrance the sea was totally flat; more like sailing in a lake than on the sea. Julian was enjoying the sailing so much that he brought Robinetta to within a cable off the Marina entrance before turning the engine on so I could lower sail.

We were moored up by 1715, having done 44 miles in 11 hours. We only maintained that cruising speed by using the engine in the first part of the day, but the afternoon sail had been lovely.

Friday, 26 August 2016

A short day sail

We planned another shortish sail for tday, straight across Dublin Bay, past Howth, towards Skerries. The forecast was for south west winds at force 3-4 which would take Robinetta nicely up the coast. The tides suggested we should leave Greystones at about 11am, so there was no hurry and we got Robinetta ready at the pontoon before walking to the nearest filling station for diesel (and an icecream).

The wind in the marina felt more like a 4-5 when we got back, sending halyards slapping against masts, but the direction was still good. There was a cloud front coming over, obviously bringing the wind with it, so we were sure it would die away when the sun came back. We had a chat about Robinetta and Worm with the owner of a boat moored up near us, then he helped get Worm in the water and cast off our forelines for us. This made leaving very easy!

Only fifteen minutes after putting the engine on it went off again. We were sailing along on main, staysail, and no. 2 jib at 4.5knots on a run, with the preventer rigged, in bright sunshine. I could see the railway line which runs along the coast through tunnels and over bridges, and the local train in its green livery looked like a caterpillar as it threaded its way along the track through the sea cliffs.

The wind died to almost nothing in the cliff's wind shadow, so we used the opportunity for an easy gybe to head out to sea a little since our course was pushing us inshore towards Dalkey Island. On this course we crossed track with a catamaran dinghy, which looked very small to be where it was, but with two fishing rods hanging off the back was obviously being used for sport fishing.

Julian on the helm was finding the course hard work. We through the wind dying was due to the cliffs, but even after we gybed back onto the previous heading and were clear of the cliffs it did not come back. We put the engine back on, and began to motor sail.

Forty five minutes later the wind came back, and we were soon sailing across Dublin Bay at 6-7 knots. The wind had shifted direction as it rose, and Robinetta was now broad reaching, a lovely point of sail, only she was beginning to be hard to hold on course. A freighter coming out of Dublin seemed to change course to avoid us (it was really only turning onto its heading out of the bay) and as soon as we were sure we would not impede it we ducked head to wind for a minute while Julian put a reef in.

As soon as the reef went in the sailing became lovely. A fast cat ferry (the one we had travelled in last sunday) passed ahead of us, another freighter passed behind, then there were no more big boats to worry about as we headed for the Nose of Howth.

Julian went below to catch the new forecast at 1300. There was much more wind than had been in the 0705 forecast and we wanted to know what was going on. The Irish coastguard forecasts can be confusing as they often cover the whole coast line, on this occasion there seemed to be a total turn around in the wind speed, with a small craft advisory (wind at force 6) being issued. We already had one reef in, our intended destination was an anchorage with nowhere close to go if it got rough.... We decided to head for Howth and spend the night in the marina there.
Looking toward Dalkey from Howth cliff path

Half an hour later we heard the forecast from Holyhead, which made no mention of force 6 winds, and the winds we were sailing in seemed to be moderating, but somehow, with the decision to stop early already made, we ended up going to Howth anyway. It felt like a shame to stop after such a short sail, and we both regretted stopping early, but Howth is a lovely place to visit.

We had a chat with a local in the Marina, who advised walking along the cliffs round the headland, so we did that, then had a very nice pizza in a small Italian restaurant, before heading back to Robinetta. We need to leave by 0600 to get to Carlingford in time to get into the lough, so an early night is a good idea.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Arklow to Greystones

After a morning ashore, with a cooked breakfast in a local café followed by some shopping and a look round Arklow's Maritime Museum we left harbour at 11:30. The wind was very light so we were in for another sunny day under engine. George was put on duty almost immediately, and we headed north up the coast.

We did manage to sail unaided for a few minutes but we had to tack out from the coast, and Robinetta's speed dropped below 3 knots, most of which was tide. We would not reach Greystones before that tide turned against us at the rate we were going, so the engine went back on, and the jib was rolled away.

Mizzen Head Irish Sea version, not as impressive as the other one!

We went close to the shore, inside the bays from Arklow to Mizzen head, then Wicklow Head before heading directly for Greystones.

Wicklow Head

By 15:00 the wind had died completely, so we got the main sail down. The main sheet block had been squeaking for a while, so Julian took the chance to take the block apart and grease it.
Entrance to Greystones Marina

We were tied up in Greystone Marina by 1700 and went for a walk around the town before heading back to Robinetta for dinner.
Beach Bear at Greystones

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Unexpected meetings

I got up a couple of times in the night to check on the anchor. It was holding well and Worm stayed where she should, hanging off Robinetta's stern. There was some swell, but less than at Dunmore East and both Julian and I slept well.
When the alarm went at 0645 bright sunshine was flooding into the cabin in a welcome change from yesterday's fog. After a lot of discussion last night we had decided to go outside all the sandbanks, avoiding the 10 hours of adverse tide in the North Sheer. This meant being away from the anchorage by 0800 to make the most of the north going tide up the Irish Sea.
Dogfish on the foredeck

Julian went forward to haul up his crab pot before raising the anchor. It was much heavier than expected, as it had unexpectedly caught a 3' long dogfish! It managed to free its head as we watched it on the foredeck, and I lifted the rear of the pot to let gravity help the rest of it escape. Julian then picked it up close to the tail and put it back in the water where we watched it swim away.

Even with the excitement of the dog fish the anchor was on board by 0755, and we motored past Rosslare with the stay sail up. The forecast winds were variable, so we left the main down, especially as the morning's wind seemed to be from the North East, directly where we wanted to go.  Luckily it was also very light.

As we entered the South Sheer channel to get round the south end of the Holden Bank I saw a huge dolphin heading towards us. Julian was below frying eggs for breakfast, but I called him up to see. It stayed with us for about fivemminutes, but I only caught a glimpse of its head, just enough to be sure it was a bottlenose. With its size, and black back and sides it looked much more menacing than friendly; very like the one we saw off Achill Island.

Our decision to go outside the sandbanks proved a good one. George went on duty on the helm; there were hardly any crab pots and the tide gave us a steady 5-6 knots over the ground. The wind got up a little after lunch, letting us motor sail. We did try turning the engine off, but our speed fell to under 3 knots, meaning the tide would turn against us before we reached Arklow, which would make the last few miles VERY slow.

The wind died to nothing again by 1500, but by then we could see Arklow, so we got the main down neatly, then pulled in the bowsprit in a relaxed fashion. Despite the constant need for the engine we had had a lovely day on the water, and getting to Arklow by 1600, before the tide started running hard against us felt like success!

We went into the dock, and had a look at the new pontoons, but after tying up and going ashore decided to move to the visitor pontoon on the other side of the river, which we had seen was empty. The marina was on that side of the river, and the maritime museum we wanted to visit, so it felt more convenient.

We came out of the dock and were soon tied up again on the visitor pontoon. We filled the water tanks for the first time since Dingle, then I went to find the marina office and the showers. By the time I got back a twister (a classic bermudan design) was moored up ahead of Robinetta, then Mary, a Cornish Pilot Cutter 30 came in, closely followed by Polly Agatha a wooden built Channel Pilot Cutter replica used for charter. 3 gaff rigged OGA members almost makes a rally! We talked to Mary's owners for a while. They are based in Holyhead and were intending to go to the Traditional Boat festival there that we are booked in to for next weekend.

We went to see the film Swallows and Amazons at the local cinema, then dropped in to the sailing club, and had a drink with Polly Agatha's skipper/owner, before inviting them back on board Robinetta. A good evening.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A bad day on the water

Is better than a good day in the office or so they say.

I've had some very good days in the office. Today wasn't really bad but it felt that way at times. The mooring at Dunmore East was very rolly and we have had better nights.

When we got up the threatened fog hadn't materialised in the harbour but Hook Head was in it. At least we could get across the shipping lane in Waterford Harbour ok. But by the time we had breakfast it had got worse. We layed in a course on the plotter so we would have something to steer by.

We dropped the buoy and as we motored out I bent on the no 1 jib. The boat was pitching a lot and it was hard work.

By the time I got back to the cockpit the visibility was terrible and Alison was struggling to steer a compass course to match the plotter route. There wasn't much wind but I got the main sail up and it gradually filled. Motor sailing was a bit better but the wind was SE and we had to put a tack in to clear Hook Head.

We did see the light house, once we were very close. We could make the course now and the wind strengthened enough to turn the engine off. We had 10 miles to go across the bay to Kilmore Quay and all we could see were three shades of grey, one for the fog and two for the sea, so at least we could make out the waves. The sea state was ok and I thought about using the autohelm but decided to put the effort in. After an hour Alison suggested the autohelm and I gave in and we set it up. Steering with nothing to look at is tedious.

I have a new toy. A collapsable creel. As we were intending to anchor tonight I needed bait, we were going quite fast over the ground but a lot of that was tide so I got the mackerel line out. After a while the wind died and we decided to put the engine back on so I hauled the line in. It felt heavy so I was hopeful but I didn't say anything. Yes. We got two nice mackerel. I filleted them and we put the filets below for dinner and kept the heads and backbones for bait.

Off Kilmore Quay are a group of islands called the Saltees. There is almost a causeway to them called St Patrick's Bridge. A marked channel crosses it with 2.4m minimum depth. We never saw the Saltees, or the Kilmore shore but we did see the buoys (except one which we had heard was off station on the radio).

The next leg was to Carnsore Point. Then we would be in the Irish Sea. Alison heated some soup for lunch as it was cold and grim in the fog and then stayed down to wash up. She missed the only patch of blue sky we had all day. As we got near Carnsore Point the clouds broke a little and I spotted Black Rock and the shore. it really felt like it was clearing up and I saw brightness where the sun must be.

But it lasted 5 minutes and then closed down again. We never saw Carnsore Point itself or even the wind farm.

I needed to rest my eyes and Alison took over the watch - George was still at the helm. One of the bad things about the new chart plotter is that it snaps way points to bouys too readily. I usually change it but I had forgotten to do the one called Splaugh. The line from Fundale to Splaugh avoids rocks and banks on either side. We were ok until the tide turned but sometime around 4pm we found ourselves in nasty overfalls and a ridiculous amount of foul tide.

One moment we would be on course, the next going backwards or heading straight for the rocks. At least the rocks were not scarily close.

We fought our way north east, rarely making 1/2 knot over the ground. That got us out of the overfalls but all we could do was hold station. I phoned Rosslare and found the next ferry was coming in at 17:30. So we needed to keep out of its way too. At least we were at the edge of the channel and the visibility was improving. The tide gradually slackened and we could head in the South Shear at 1/2 knot, then a whole knot! The ferry came past with plenty of room and we started to relax. It had been a stressful hour or two.

We made our way past the harbour to the recommended anchorage in increasingly benign conditions. Another yacht was already at anchor looking comfortable. We dropped the hook well west of it. A little fleet of Walker Bay sailing dinghies came out of the tiny harbour nearby and used us as their race mark. We exchanged greetings. I got the new creel out and tied it to the chain of the dinghy anchor, put one of the mackerel remains in the zip bait pocket, tied the line to Robinetta and dropped the assembly over the bow.

I put some rice on and skinned the filets and fried them gently in butter with the remains of our garlic and then dumped a jar of balti sauce in. It wasn't exactly a gourmet meal but the fish was tasty. We finished off with cheese and biscuits.

Then we started planning. Today's tides had scared us. The route north from the anchorage leads through the North Shear. The pilot says the tide runs south 10 hours out of 12. Tomorrow, the favourable two hours started at midnight and noon. North of there the favourable tide would be from 8am until 2pm. The only way to make it work was to leave at midnight, get through the Shear and anchor north of Raven Point until 8am. We were too tired to do that!

The next best option was to head back out of the South Shear and north outside the sands. That looked ok.

We went to bed.

On the plus side, we got to where we planned to, nothing bad happened, we had couple of hours pure sailing, we caught fish and we tried out the creel. On the minus side we never saw this section of coast - we might as well not have been in Ireland and we failed to understand the tides..

Monday, 22 August 2016

New Ross to Dunmore East

It rained in the night, but we had left the cockpit cover on so the cabin stayed dry. The rain did mean we had to fold the cover away wet, but it would have been any way since Julian wanted to wash off the “message” left by a sea gull.

The tide was supposed to turn about 0945, but it seemed quite slack at 0900 so Julian backed Robinetta out of the finger berth where she had spent the past four weeks, and we re-moored her facing up river on the outside hammerhead of the pontoons. This would make leaving later a lot easier.

Then we headed off for a tour of the Dunbrody replica.

By 1115 we were back on board our own old wooden boat, with Worm in the water behind her, held nicely by the current. I was on the helm, with the stern line in my hand as a return, while Julian was on the pontoon, letting off the spring and bow line. I was supposed to hold her in place against the current with the engine, but the bow swung out as soon as the lines were off, and I had no chance to control her. I could not get her to steer back in, so Julian threw the bow line on board, while I pulled the stern line out of the water.

For a moment I was afraid I would not be able to make it back to the pontoon against the fast running ebb, but once I gave Robinetta full revs I was able to ferry glide back to the pontoon where Julian stepped aboard.

The damp early morning had given way to a warm and sunny day, making it possible to admire the river Barrow at its prettiest. It is a haven for waterfowl, with wet lands and mudflats, as well as woods and farmed land. It was quite a shock to round a bend and see a small cargo boat tied against a dock!

I had given the Barrow Bridge an arrival estimate of 1315, but the tide took us along even quicker than I expectd and we were in sight of it by 1245. My phone rang, and it was the bridge operator. “Is it you just came round the corner?” He told me we would need to give him 15 minutes to move the bridge as he had to walk across to the control tower in the middle, so we turned back into the current and put the engine into higher revs to hold station on a red channel marker.

After five minutes of doing that we decided to turn round, and take up station on the next green down the channel for a change, but almost as soon as we turned towards the bridge I could see it begin to move, so we did not need to wait again.

The river Suir felt very deep once we entered it, with the main channel 8-15 meters deep rather than the 3-5m of the Barrow. A coaster overtook us as we headed towards the ferry crossing at Ballyhack, then we saw a French Briganteen, La Malouine moored up alongside the quay there, obviously allowing visitors aboard as she dried out alongside.

We carried on close to the north side of Waterford Bay to get a good look at Duncannon, a drying harbour with a surprising number of quite large fishing boats in it.

Then we followed the channel as it ran quite close in along Duncannon Strand. The wind was stronger here, right on the nose, and set up a nasty short steep sea with wind over tide in the shallow channel. Half an hour of this had me wondering about heading back up river, but then the waves gradually got further apart as we approached Creadon Head, and once we were round it and heading straight for Dunmore East we just had a light swell.
We headed for the anchorage, just off the main beach, but it felt very narrow and close to the swimmers by the time we were inside the 3m depth area recommended for anchoring. Instead we turned back towards the harbour and the moorings just outside it. There were no visitor moorings, but plenty of vacant named ones. Most looked too flimsy and close together for Robinetta, but there were a few larger ones, so I headed for the one with the most space around it. When Julian picked it up he found a good heavy rope with an inbuilt bridle. It looked well cared for and with no strong winds in the forecast seemed sturdy enough.

There was an uncomfortable amount to swell, and as usual Robinetta was swinging very differently to the yachts around her, so I wondered about moving onto the new pontoon we could see inside the harbour. The boats on that were moving a lot too, so we decided to stay put, and rowed Worm to the pontoon instead.

Dunmore East is a busy place, with an active fishing fleet as well was plenty of tourists. We spent a lovely evening ashore, wandering through the village and its scenic park, looking out across Waterford Harbour. We ate an enjoyable dinner at the Spinnaker pub/restaurant before heading back to Robinetta, over full with food and drink.