Weeks 1 to 2 Blogpost
Updated: Jun 11
So, I left off with us at Plymouth and preparing to leave for Falmouth (although this picture is of Kingswear and the next one is Dartmouth). I had expected to be able to give more regular updates than this and I hope you haven't thought that disaster struck, but I hadn't reckoned on just how 'full-on' this trip was going to be. Whenever there has been a chance for a few minutes off it has been needed for a rest or to see to something that could be better set-up. Here goes with a short log of things in the rest of the first fortnight. I will endeavour to do some VLOGS separately.
DAY 5 - Thursday 26 May 2022
The 40nm to Falmouth began with a worrying failure of the engine battery to get us started. Electric mains shore power did the job, but it seems it can't hold sufficient charge for more than 24 hours, so we'll get another in Falmouth. Accompanied out of Plymouth Sound by some interesting British navy boats on exercise. Fleet Auxiliary ship and landing craft? It's good to know we are in good hands. During the day there was a 'Securite' radio message warning vessels that if they were ~20 miles south of us they should not get worried if their GPS devices went haywire - there was a GPS blocking test being undertaken! That will teach people to use charts as well as GPS plotters. Tom Roach (friend of John Rew) joins us and is a complete star because we couldn't get the battery for the engine we wanted, so he went and acquired one for us - total legend. Excellent burger restaurant.
DAYS 6 to 7 - Friday 27 May to Saturday 28 May 2022
The BIG one. Off at 0615. The wind really is annoying because, if it blows at all, it still persists in pointing straight at us everywhere we go. So the engine is going to have to be put to some considerable use. A member of the crew has a bad attack of mal de mer and is suffering, poor chap, nonetheless putting a brave face on it. Decided to have 2x 4 hour night watches (2100-0100 & 0100-0500). Fabulous birdlife as we cross the widest part of the Bristol Channel. Dolphins follow us for long periods after 0400 and up to 0600.
Puffins, guillemots, terns, razorbills, cormorants, every kind of gull... I'm guessing many live on Lundy Island.
At 0900 on Saturday morning we approach the channel into Milford Haven's long estuary and at 1000 pass through the lock into the marina. But as we turn towards the fuel berth we lose all engine power. Fishermen sorting their nets help pull us onto the fuel berth. No marine engineers are available - they've all gone out sailing and will be back at work Monday! Tom, magnificently, has a brother who knows all about marine engines; Neil has masses of know-how but has to dash with Steve for the train; Andy the boat owner is helping by phone with the online manuals. Thought we had worked out the problem - which is with the gear box, but even with harbourmaster's help we fail to effect a repair. Neil (best 1st mate ever), Steve, John and Tom - thank you - fantastic work. New crew start arriving - James, Janet, Mark and Annabel.
Lovely meal ashore in sunny weather.
DAY 8 - Sunday 29 May 2022
As we file up the hill for church, resigned to falling behind our plans by two days or more, perhaps even the whole 8 week adventure if the problem is too big, Mark decides he is going to persist in trying to find a marine engineer today.
He is another complete legend - text message incoming from Mark after the second hymn tells us he has dug an engineer out of a shed in a boatyard who will have a look at midday. Much increased volume in the singing followed - we think English Male Voice Choirs are just as good as Welsh ones. Midday and Windjammer Marine (big shout-out) examine the issue. Suddenly the issue is identified - a tiny oil tube had sheared at a compression joint due to stress from so much engine use. Full repair not possible but problem can be bypassed. Job done. Spirits raised - back on track.
DAY 9 - Monday 30 May 2022
Ten minutes shy of 11 hours to get from our 0540 departure from Milford Haven to Kilmore Quay in Eire. Excellent sailing weather until some quite difficult confused waters at the junction of the Atlantic (coming round the South of Ireland) and the St George's Channel / Irish / Celtic Sea. We raft up against a big fishing boat and take advantage of the limited but adequate facilities. Cooking on board because everywhere is closed.
DAY 10 - Tuesday 31 May 2022
Another great day of sailing from Kilmore Quay to the river pontoon in Arklow. Beautiful classic French boat with bowsprit moved to get sufficient space for our long 44 feet to squeeze in. Re-provisioning and showering a delight. Draught Guinness in its home country - at last, while having a cracking dinner in a local hotel bar.
DAY 11 - Wednesday 1st June 2022
Leave Arklow at 0650 to travel to Dublin - the Poolbeg Marina on the River Liffey. Wind fills-in at 0830 and again we have great sailing. Annabel starts sounding a bit like her mother when she asks if I am really insisting on sailing though the channel between the mainland and Dalkey Island in order to get into Dublin Bay. Yes, I am! All under control - although a couple of quick tacks required to get headway after the wind shadow created by the land. Never in doubt! John Tuck has arrived in v good time to join as replacement crew, Ed has flown in to Dublin to meet Annabel and fly back, and another new crew member Jack Harris arrives as we say farewell to James and Janet. Thanks Annabel, James (top helmsman and coach) and Janet - what a crew! Then Jack takes all our breath away as he books transport, top seafood restaurant, delicious wine and before we know it (almost) everyone is digging into oysters and fine fish! Jack you are incredibly generous and we REALLY love you!
DAY 12 - Thursday 2nd June 2022
Dublin farewell at 0710 - there's a seal in the whiffy Liffey. Ardglass at 1830 - a long 63 nm on the water. And then, having squeaked into the marina I realise that to benefit from the best tides we have a 6 hour turn around. So, new provisions purchased, a quick meal on board, a dash to a local pub and an early night.
DAY 13 - Friday 3rd June 2022
The first 2 hour night watch for an 0045 departure went like a dream - away quickly and quietly and with no fuss. Even better - every one of my predicted passage times and likely positions was bang-on. As soon as it was light the sails were up and we sailed up the north channel of the Irish Sea. Decided that it was best to get a fair way north and then cross over to Scotland's Mull of Galloway. Made such excellent progress that we decided to add a stop - to drop down for an early lunch at Portpatrick. Unfortunately the tide was too low to get in for a couple of hours, so it was time to go fishing. Threw back a couple of pollock which were too small, but we kept a herring and a gar fish to become an amuse bouche for tomorrow's breakfast.
Into Portpatrick. Harbourmaster very chilled despite our anxiety about the space: "Just let nature take its course." A fun lunch at the Crown Hotel.
Fierce squalls in pm gave us up to 21kn of wind but we cut through it and then turned down into Loch Ryan (where Stranraer is) and found the most beautiful anchorage in a bay called 'The Wig'. Utterly spellbinding beauty.
DAY 14 - Saturday 4th June 2022
A lie-in: set-off at 0810. Last day with this excellent crew. Wind not ideal directionally so lots of motor sailing. Troon reached later than intended because the wind wasn't going to play - ashore 1745. Troon Marina is the poshest I've seen. Farewells, showers, clothes washing, provisions, gas....thank you Mark, John and Jack - we had a ball.
A blog for the 3rd week to follow soon....