2. Spring 2008
Our return to Ringhaddy was Sunday 27th April – ugh, not much wind so a mixture of sailing and motor sailing. We left Carrickfergus at 1025 and just after passing through Donaghadee Sound we entered fog. So, on with the radar and Sea-Me active radar reflector. We had a few small motor boat contacts but all was well clear, and within an hour the fog had cleared too.
We tried out our new boom brake and in F2 it worked well. The test would be something stronger.
We arrived at Ringhaddy at 1620, cleaned up, closed the seacocks and headed home.
It was good to have Minnie B back on her mooring.
3. Gentlemen’s Cruise 2 May – 5 May 2008
The model for the cruise was based on the 2007 Gentlemen’s Cruise:
Norma goes off to Rome with her friends;
Minnie B goes from Ringhaddy to Ardglass Friday;
Somewhere else Saturday;
Back to Ardglass Sunday;
Back to Ringhaddy Monday.
The Gentlemen attending were Greg, David and Nigel and all arrived on Friday afternoon, so by 1700 we were nicely tied up in Ardglass and ready for the pub. It was the Commercial Arms again, our old favourite.
Back at the boat for another pre-dinner drink and a nameless crew member forgot how to measure the gin. When the bottle was nearly finished after just a couple each, we knew we were in trouble. We were eating a chicken and vegetable dish that was cooking in the oven. It seemed to be taking some time – damned gas had run out. The spare was hooked up and we were able to eat at last.
Our destination was Carlingford – a first by sea, albeit Phil and Norma had a delightful weekend there in January, staying at Ghan House, which is a wonderful Georgian house with superb food, excellent rooms, a snug bar and a relaxing lounge. Carlingford is steeped in history and legend. The Normans settled the place in the 12th century and notable sights include:
King Johns' Castle (pre 1210) lying on a high rock guarding the entrance to the harbour;
Taaffe's Castle (15th century) with its crenellated battlements, murder holes, slit windows for archers and barrel vaulted basement;
The Mint, established in 1467;
Much of the old walls have gone but The Tholsel (or gate tower) remains in fine condition, a medieval customs barrier used to prevent un-taxed goods from entering the city; and
The ruins of Carlingford Friary, a Dominican Friory, founded by Richard de Burgo, earl of Ulster in 1305.
Having bought a replacement gas bottle, we left Ardglass at 1135. The wind was E F4 and we had a superb sail south although the sea kicked up somewhat after we passed St John’s Point. The Windpilot was tested and although it steered Minnie B the control lines were not really tight enough and it wasn’t clear what exactly was happening.
In the meantime there was a certain early season mal-de-mer around so it was only Phil having a beer and sandwich at lunchtime.
We had been sailing too fast for our arrival at the entrance to Carlingford Lough so at 1500 we hove-to – crew were impressed by the change in motion and the calm that descended on Minnie B. The mal-de-mer eased.
We saw lots of yachts heading in to Carlingford as early as 1500 which was an hour before the almanac said it was slack water. After half an hour we headed for the bar – still half an hour early, and crossing the bar was very lumpy as there was still outgoing tide.
We motored on up Carlingford Lough on the look out for the infamous Carlingford “Kettles”, which are sudden bursts of wind creating downdraughts up to 40 kts, but since they tend to form in westerly winds blowing off the hills and down the lough we were hardly likely to encounter any.
We tied up at 1700 and found a large contingent of yachts from Malahide, including our old Sigma 33 ‘Sirius’ – we said hello and admired how well she was being kept by Jim and Katy.
A certain crew-member was kept away from the gin bottle and we headed for town to check out the pubs. It’s about a mile to walk from the marina and we had a stroll around the harbour and a look at King John’s Castle.
The pubs were OK and we had a reservation at the Kingfisher Bistro – excellent meal and service. The clientele were very nice too but we didn’t get to know them – it was an age thing.
Then back to the marina where some Gentlemen decided on a nightcap in the bar, as if it was needed. But then we were on a roll.
Sunday morning was started with the traditional Ulster Fry prepared by Phil, with lashings of coffee and then we were right as rain. Talking of which, it was pouring down. Oh well, this was Ireland.
We left the marina at 1155 and motored down the lough. The wind was SE F2/3. We were out by 1300 and the engine was off as we sailed north-east in SE F3/4. The rain was intermittent.
By 1430 the wind was variable and we were motoring. Then we hit the fog, which continued all the way to Ardglass. Radar on etc. and with close monitoring of the chartplotter we turned to enter the harbour – we did not visually pick out the breakwater until around 100 metres off.
As we entered we were called up by an unfortunate yacht that had gone aground – the tide was about half an hour before low water. We were ready to raise the centreboard and released the lock, but we were advised to leave the stranded yacht on our starboard side and this was fine. We were tied up and cleaned up by 1700. We settled with a drink and watched the efforts on the stranded yacht to get off and then take a line ashore to prevent swinging round and completely blocking the channel. The fog cleared and the evening sun appeared – the Gentlemen were at ease.
We decided on some drinks in different pubs in Ardglass, so instead of turning left out of the marina, we turned right. There were three or four pubs very close to each other and we selected a likely looking pub – it is only a slight exaggeration that we were reminded of some of the early scenes in the film “Deliverance” – maybe we picked a bad time but the atmosphere was 0 out of 10. The best advice if in Ardglass is to turn left out of the marina.
We had called up a car from Currans Bar and Seafood Steakhouse and once again had a superb meal with our hosts kindly driving us the couple of miles back to Ardglass.
Monday saw us leave Ardglass at 1120 and motoring all the way back into Strangford Lough through fog – again the radar and chartplotter did a fantastic job. We could not see the shoreline until we were well up the Narrows. The fog lifted as we entered the Lough proper and we had a short sail back to the mooring.
Lunch and a clean of the boat and we were home to wives by tea-time.
Another successful cruise and we hoped to repeat the event at the end of the season.
4. Day Sailing and Positioning May-July 2008
The weather was not great in May and June but we managed to fit in some day sailing in Strangford Lough. Then in early July our very old friends, John and Beth, came to stay along with their lovely daughter Juliette. John and Beth live in French Guyana and have a steel boat, a 12m Joshua – the design of Bernard Moitessier. They sailed the boat to the Caribbean in the late 1990’s and cruised for a few years before settling in Kourou for a while.
So, whilst they were with us it provided the perfect opportunity to bring Minnie B from her mooring at Ringhaddy to Bangor so that she was positioned for the start of our summer cruise.
On Wednesday 2nd July, the wind was SSE F5/6 – perfect for a fast sail north past the Ards Peninsula. The ebb tide from Strangford Lough ran from 1331 to 1931, and the NW-going tide through Donaghadee Sound ran from 1639 to 2239, so this was perfect too. Moreover, rain was not forecast – better still.
We left the mooring at1230 and once clear of the lumpy overfalls at the Bar mouth, we hoisted sail with a reef in the main and the genoa. We flew and John helmed all the way to Bangor. We had a close-ish encounter with a southgoing barge-type vessel in Donaghadee Sound which was basically out of control, and with no prospect of them passing port to port we had to turn very smartly to port ourselves and cross in front of them and then pass starboard to starboard. They had clearly got their timing wrong, as well as their ability to handle the boat.
We were tucked up in Bangor by 1920 and collected by Julia.
That night, John and Beth announced they wanted to do our planned trans-Atlantic crossing with us. This was awesome. We were over the moon that two of our oldest friends who already had a trans-Atlantic under their own belts would be joining us. This was a major concern resolved – and they were volunteers.
Our time with John, Beth and Juliette passed all too quickly but it was great to be able to say “We’ll see you in the Cape Verdes next time”.
5. Summer Cruise to Scotland
We had no clear plans other than to the west of Scotland and just see where we ended up. We had been studying the weather forecasts for a week as the other option was to head south, but on balance it looked as if Ireland would have bad weather and Scotland would have not so bad weather – not a difficult choice. Our first port of call was to be Port Ellen, Islay, but after that we were just cruising and just the two of us.
To Port Ellen, Islay Sunday 6th July
We spent the night on board so that we could get an early start, leaving Bangor at 0835. As we motored out of Bangor, a friendly yachtie called “where bound?” Norma replied “Islay”, to which there was an uncomprehending and plaintive call of “but it’s a Northerly”. Well it was, and this was the price we would pay to avoid the bad weather coming to the south of us and to Northern Ireland.
So, it took us 13 hours of motoring, beating and motor-sailing into a wind of N F3 and later F3/4, with some showers, but it was OK. Importantly, we tested the Windpilot and this time we had the correct tension in the control lines, and Minnie B sailed well close hauled under windvane steering. As yet, we had not succumbed to the practice of ascribing human characteristics to the autopilot or the windvane and giving them names. Hm … we are not going to call them Reg, Fred, Annie, Hattie, Winnie or even Winnikins. We make no judgement about this practice by others, but, no, not us really.
When we arrived in Port Ellen, the pontoon was full, so the only option was to tie up to a dirty, rusty (not just rust streaks – this one had gone for the full works) fishing boat. Naw – not worth it. We had plenty of food and drink so we went out into the bay to pick up a mooring. Now this was a good opportunity to try out our new mooring buoy lasso. This was made up by tying the ends of a 10mm braid-on-braid nylon rope to 50cm of 10mm chain covered with a plastic pipe so that the chain would remain straight. It ended up being a bit of a dog’s breakfast where it was attached to the two cleats at the bow. Nevertheless, we motored up to one of the visitors’ buoys and Norma launched the lasso over the buoy. It caught. This was great. It worked and so much easier than trying to attach a rope as the first manoeuvre. Hm, but now what? We needed a proper attachment to the buoy, but we had deflated and stowed the dinghy. We struggled to pass a rope through the ring on the top of the buoy. This wasn’t working. Just as we were contemplating the options of lengthening the lines so that we could get the buoy alongside at mid-ships, or getting the dinghy out and inflating it, a guy from a neighbouring yacht came over in his dinghy and took a line to the buoy – well, two lines as the wind was kicking up and the forecast was for an increase in windspeed. He declined the offer of a beer and we resolved to sort the rope arrangement so that the lasso could be attached to Minnie B more easily.
As Norma prepared dinner, the cockpit tent was made up and we were able to at least have a drink in the cockpit before retiring to the saloon, firing up the heater and having dinner. We slept well that night.
Port Ellen, Islay Monday 7th July
We awoke to lots of wind still from the north and some rain. The cosy cockpit tent tempted us to stay put, relax, read and just chill. We succumbed to the temptation.
However, we did remove the windvane from the stern so that we would be able to carry the inflated dinghy from the stern arch. It is, oh, so easy to take off the windvane by removing only four bolts, just leaving the main bracket. The dinghy was inflated but we didn’t fancy the prospect of a wet trip ashore.
The wind died and a very rolly swell came into the bay and from 0330 onwards there was not much sleep.
To Loch Melfort Tuesday 8th July
With sleep no longer an option we got dressed at 0730 and had breakfast. We looked at the chart and decided that a return trip to Loch Melfort would be in order as if the weather deteriorated we could nip round the corner to Craobh Haven marina.
We left the mooring at 0845 and avoided the ferry that was leaving at the same time. The wind was NNE F1. Doh … nice and sunny (in fact the sunniest day we have had in Scotland – ever) but no wind. Oh well. The day was made up of motoring, trying to sail, trying to get the hang of our recently acquired sextant (a successful auction bid on e-bay – great fun and you could easily become addicted to the buzz of the bid, especially the winning bid).
We picked up a visitors’ mooring buoy at 1715. The boat was tidied and it was G&T’s in the cockpit before a trip ashore for dinner. We had hoped to visit the ‘Shower of Herring’ restaurant at Melfort Village – a pretty timeshare holiday centre – but it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Instead we had a very nice meal at ‘The Mermaid’, and we could look out at Minnie B on her mooring – rented from the owners of the restaurant.
The walk up to Melfort Village is very picturesque, with quite lush vegetation and this worked off only a few calories. The evening was balmy for Scotland and we sat reading in the cockpit in the lingering light, until 1030. Norma finished reading Douglas Kennedy’s “The Woman in the Fifth” – a page-turning thriller set in Paris.
To Craobh Haven Wednesday 9th July
The Inshore Waters weather forecast was for N/NW F5/6, with rain. We decided to let this one go by and sailed round to Craobh Haven.
We were asked for the length of Minnie B, but not her beam – this would be sensible as the spaces between pontoon fingers are quite tight and it makes sense to put fenders on both sides of the boat. It was a tight squeeze but we were in.
Andy from Sheffield runs a cruising school and he came knocking to see if he could have a look round Minnie B and ask a few questions as he was contemplating buying an OVNI. We did our best to cover the important points and got his details to pass on to Stephen and Francine at North Sea Maritime. We were most surprised and argued the lack of necessity, when Andy returned later with a bottle of wine to thank us for the time we had taken. There are some very nice people around.
After lunch we decided on a walk to Ardfern – after all, we had done the Ardfern – Craobh Haven walk the previous year with David and Jackie. The sun shone, it was warm and T-shirt weather.
We were in need of some retail therapy, so Phil bought a spare main halyard shackle, having dropped the pin when attaching the shackle to the main when leaving Bangor. Norma bought a multi-purpose hair thingy. Apparently it can be anything and provides UV protection – hm, we are the last of the big spenders. We strolled round to the ‘Galley of Lorne’ and sat outside for a drink. We were entertained by young Kieron – the son of the owners – who was having immense fun flying his small wooden aeroplane all round the garden.
On the walk back to Craobh Haven we met a friendly woman and her child who had moved to Argyll from London. It seems as if Argyll is to Scotland as West Cork is to Ireland – full of migrants from various metropolises. They described their laid back life, although winter can be very, very quiet. We passed Lunga House, close to which the path runs. It is a fine old Scottish country house (originally a 16th century Tower House), castellated, turreted, set on green lawns amidst tangled woodland and looks out upon the Firth of Lorne and the Sound of Jura – it is now a B&B/restaurant.
The day had turned out to be glorious sunshine and wind no more than F2/3 – so much for the forecast.
We had dinner at the ‘Lord of the Isles’ (LOTI) pub and restaurant. Our last meal there in 1996 had been dire – we had sailed our Sigma 33 ‘Sirius’ from Oban in pouring rain and we were cold, wet and miserable. We had decided to eat out but LOTI was then under new ownership and we had the most appalling frozen fish and chips, huddled by an ineffectual fire which did little to warm the high-ceiling rooms. This time, however, we had been advised by the marina staff to book in advance since LOTI was now the key attraction in Craobh Haven. We were not disappointed – Norma has succulent scallops and Phil had a fine fillet steak, all served by the attentive staff from Team LOTI.
Then it was back to Minnie B for a post-prandial drink and we decided to watch an episode of “Brideshead Revisited” – one of our favourite TV series. However, we both fell asleep from our exertions and missed most, but that was OK as we would be able to watch it again.
To Loch Aline Thursday 10th July
When we woke up, we didn’t know we were going to Loch Aline. We had been in touch previously with Colin and Lou and they had said there was a prospect of them being in Oban around 11th/12th July on their OVNI 435 ‘Pelerin’, so we thought we would make our way there on the off-chance that we would meet up.
The 0700 forecast was NE backing N F5/6 occasionally F7 at first, rain, showers. With the outlook N F5/6 backing NW later. We decided to head north – as you do. The tides through the Sound of Luing meant the earliest we could leave was 1500, and even then we had 1.5kts of tide against us as we passed Fladda and motored on towards Oban.
This was to be a learning day. Norma had suggested phoning the marina at Kerrera to see if there was a berth available and to book it. But no, Phil said “we don’t need to bother, they will always find somewhere to squeeze us in and there are plenty of visitors’ buoys; and if you call ‘em up it gives ‘em an opportunity to say ‘no’”. This was to be “famous last words”, or as it is now known “a FLW moment”.
So we arrive off Kerrera about 1800 and the wind is N F5. We call up the marina on the VHF: “Sorry we are full”; “No, all our moorings are full”; “You could anchor over by the town” (no, thanks – it’s a lee shore and the wind could be F6); “We are expecting another 27 boats tomorrow”. Another “Hm”. The other marina option was Dunstaffnage but it looked open to the north and not a great prospect. Phil remembered that we had been recommended to visit Loch Aline on the south side of the Morvern peninsula and a short distance up the Sound of Mull. It would provide excellent, all round shelter and there was plenty of room to anchor. So sail was made and with the north-going tide we were soon making 10kts SOG towards the Sound of Mull. We caught a glimpse of another OVNI and called them on the VHF but no reply – we were left wondering if it was Colin and Lou.
We had a cracking sail past the castles at the entrance to the Sound of Mull and avoided a ferry that showed no signs of obeying the rules of the road and giving way. By 2045 we were anchored in Loch Aline – it is lovely and reminded us of Lakka on the island of Paxos in Greece, to where we had sailed on some of our early boat charters from Corfu. The only blot is near the entrance to the loch, where there is the facility for shipping silica sand from the local mine.
The wind had either eased or the shelter of the hills and trees around the loch was protecting us but the evening became very peaceful and we too were at ease.
We would strongly recommend Loch Aline
To Tobermory Friday 11th July
We left Loch Aline at 1017 with a weather forecast of N/NW F5/6, and beat up the Sound of Mull. We tweaked the sails, adjusting the car settings and had Minnie B pointing as well as she has ever pointed at 40 degrees. The rain stayed off and Minnie B sailed beautifully – we were not racing, no, really, but it was a delight to outsail the boats around us. No, they weren’t all dinghies.
On arriving in Tobermory Bay at 1430, we went in search of a visitor’s mooring. They were full. The pontoons looked full too, but we preferred to anchor, so we went over to the southern end of the bay which meant we could have a nice view down the Sound of Mull through the Doirlinn, a narrow, shallow channel between the southern end of Calve island and the east coast of Mull. This passage dries at low tide. The clear channel is north of the central rock and is marked with two metal perches. There is also wreck to the north of the channel.
We go to anchor. “What? The remote windlass control isn’t working”. OK, so fit the in-line windlass control. “My goodness what’s wrong? That’s not working either.” Never mind, sort that later, we need to anchor even though low water is not until 1910. So, we picked our spot, let go the anchor and dug her in. When we checked our position on the chart, we had fallen back right on top of the wreck. No good. So Phil raises the anchor manually – it was slooooow, but great exercise for the right arm. Norma re-positions Minnie B and Phil lets go the anchor. This time we are in the right place. We tidy the boat and Phil decides to check what the problem is with the anchor. Uh, oh – Phil is awarded “twit-of-the-day”: the power to the windlass had been left on since the morning departure from Loch Aline and when he had turned the switch for anchoring in Tobermory Bay, he had actually turned off the power. Doh …
We took the dinghy over to the pontoon so that we could explore Tobermory – it doesn’t take long, but it is pretty with its different coloured houses and shops along the frontage.
We spot ‘Karan’ tied up – a Sweden 360 owned by Brian and Liz from Ringhaddy Cruising Club. A visit is in order, so after our wander around Tobermory, getting weather forecasts from an internet café, failing to by a pick-up buoy for our anchor as the chandlery has sold out (“Everyone has been buying them – must be a lot of anchoring going on”, says the guy in the chandlery. Hm, signs of the recession hitting yachties?), we take beer for Brian. He was with some friends and Liz was due in a week or so. Meeting up with people unexpectedly is such a great part of cruising.
We dine onboard and successfully watch that episode of “Brideshead Revisited”.
To Loch Sunart Saturday 12th July
What do you call an Orangeman with 500 songs? An I-Prod.
To-day is celebrated by Northern Irish Protestants, including the diaspora, because in 1690 William of Orange defeated James II at the Battle of the Boyne. This is odd, because the battle was actually fought on 1st July, and King William was on the side of the Pope. The date is easily explained: in William's day Britain was still using the old Roman calendar devised by Julius Caesar. More than half a century after the battle, the Julian system was superseded by the Gregorian; 11 days were wiped from British calendars; and 1st July became 12th July.
The papal alliance, which many Protestants prefer to gloss over, must also be seen in the context of the times, in which dynastic ambition often outweighed religious allegiance or scruple.
King William III was the Protestant head of the Dutch royal house of Orange. He was married to Mary, the Protestant-raised daughter of King James II of Britain, a convert to Catholicism.
James's naked ambition to lead Britain back into the old church alienated the court and many of his subjects. In 1688, powerful establishment figures invited William and Mary to take the throne. But when they landed in England, the royal army, led by John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough, defected and James fled to France.
But he had friends among his mostly Catholic subjects in Ireland and a redoubtable ally in Louis XIV of France, then at the height of a ruthless drive to make himself Europe's overlord.
William was rabidly anti-French, and was an eager recruit to the alliance of powers which opposed Louis. Other leaders of the League of Augsburg - later the Grand Alliance - included the Austrian emperor, Leopold, and Pope Alexander VIII.
Thus, when James landed in Ireland in a doomed attempt to win back his throne and promote the Catholic faith, he was indirectly fighting the Pope. And William, defending the Protestant ascendancy in both of John Bull's islands, was at the same time advancing the cause of the Vatican.
For all that, the victory at Oldcastle, near the mouth of the River Boyne, was hugely significant for Ireland and Britain. It glued William and Mary firmly on the throne, and consolidated the momentous changes in the British way of government known as the Glorious Revolution.
So, there you have it.
We had showers on board and monitored water usage – 10 litres per person including hair wash. Not sure if we need to speed up and use less. To be kept under review.
We then went ashore to pick up some petrol for the outboard and a few provisions.
We left Tobermory at 1230 and arrived at Salen Bay at 1445 and picked up a mooring. The trip through Loch Sunart was under engine as there was no wind. It was a twisting and turning passage with grand sweeps of the hills down to the sea. Houses and farms were dotted about. It was quiet and peaceful – we saw only one other boat until we neared Salen Bay. We upped the revs slightly as there were two other boats appeared with the same purpose in mind – a visitor’s mooring. The bottom of the Bay is littered with military detritus, fishing gear and discarded moorings, so anchoring was not going to be an option. In the end there were enough moorings for everyone.
The harbourmaster was out to visit in a flash and collect the dues. He advised phoning for a reservation if we wanted to eat at the Salen Hotel – he recommended the food. So we took his advice and we were rewarded with an excellent meal taken in the conservatory overlooking the bay – far better than eating in the dining room which was a bit gloomy.
We had been trying to do a test transmit with the SSB to Falmouth, Spain and Greece but this was proving unsuccessful – all we were getting was the message “Wait for ack”. We never got an “ack”. Hm, Hm. Our SSB installers name was blackened yet more.
Salen Bay was lovely – very quiet and relaxed place and quite pretty. Again, the vegetation was so lush.