Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Day Sailing Round Ireland

Once again we have spend some time compiling the season's blog into a book. With the posts tidied up, and bits added in, this runs to over 52,000 words! There are also many pictures and if we were to publish it as a paper book the cost would be prohibitive.

Day Sailing Round Ireland was published on 3rd November, and is available through Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, etc..
As usual, we have edited the posts into a single voice, mine this time. We think that makes it easier to read. I did do the bulk of the posts this year but it is a joint effort.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Work ashore, ready for winter

Robinetta came out of the water on 15th September, and I drove up there on the 21st, leaving home at 5am. It's a five hour drive, and leaving that early gets me past the traffic bottleneck of Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction before rush hour.

I reached Holyhead at 11am and was shown where to find Robinetta by the yard staff.
Start of Day 1
I got to work putting away ropes and fenders, then unshipped the bowsprit before touching up the hull where the paint had flaked off. There are always patches of bare wood at the end of the season. It was just about dry enough to get a layer of varnish on the cabin sides too.
End of day 1, Proped up rather than on a cradle
By 5.30pm I needed a rest, so headed for my B&B for an early night.

I was back on Robinetta before 9am, to find puddles in the yard from heavy overnight rain. Thursday itself was beautiful though, warm, dry, and sunny, and I got a lot done. First came emptying out the cabin and all the lockers, then giving a second coat of grey metallic primer to yesterday's bare wood. After that it was time to renew the Woodskin in the cockpit, and re-paint the fibreglass there. This had not been done since leaving West Mersea, since it is only practicable to do it when there is only one person working on Robinetta at a time.
A clean, rope free cockpit
The cockpit looked great when I had finished, and I left the paint to dry while I sanded down the hatch surround on the foredeck. The varnish there had got quite badly damaged over the last couple of seasons, so it was time it was redone. I decided to go with Deks no.1, like the forward bulkhead, so had to spend a couple of hours sanding it down completely before I could apply the new coating.

After that it was on with the winter covers, to protect Robinetta's topsides from the weather until the next time I could get to Holyhead.
End of day 2
I drove away at 5pm, feeling as though I had got a lot done in my two days.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Map Updated

This will be the last map update of 2016 as Robinetta's sails are now here in Bishop's Stortford.
Click on the image to go to the navigable map.
Robinetta and Worm have travelled 1349 nautical miles this season in 43 days under way. We spend 350 hours on passage, for 249 of which the engine was on.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Holyhead Parade of Sail

Saturday was scheduled for racing but the weather was horrid and only a few brave souls left the harbour.

Sunday was much better and we headed out of the marina with 5 on-board. Alison and I were joined in the cockpit by Mary Gibbs whose own Molly Cobbler was stuck in Fleetwood following engine repairs. On the fore-deck we had two young sea scouts. We send them forward whilst raising the main to avoid any chance of injury.
The idea was to do about two circuits of the harbour, getting close to the crowds if we could. The problem is that the harbour is shallow with groins near where the public can be!
As well as the Severn class lifeboat leading the parade and squirting everone with their huge water canon the Charles Henry Ashley was looking good.

 Scott Metcalfe's Vilma is always a highlight of the show. She and other boats carry canon for the festival and there were also canon on the shore, courtesy of Hearts of Oak the Anglesey Hussars.

We discovered that our Sea Cadet guests were a major benefit. Not only did they attract ribs and other craft carrying water canon and bombs, which made the whole affair more fun, but they also drew most of the fire to the foredeck! In the cockpit we kept (mostly) dry.

After the parade of sail we lent Mary Worm so she could practice sculling. I don't have a good sculling oar - the ones Alison made for rowing are square cross section and float. I borrowed one from a Mirror dinghy and, as you can see, it worked a treat!

Robinetta and Graunuaile shared the prize for boat traveled furthest. I think we should really have been counted as having come from Portaferry, but I'm not complaining!

Thanks to Peter Philippson for the photographs.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Overnight passage, Isle of Man to Holyhead

We had hoped to stay in Douglas for a day, leaving early on Thursday morning to head for Holyhead, but the newest weather forecast made us change our minds. There were winds gusting to force 7 due then, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday even worse. If we wanted to get to Holyhead for the traditional boat festival we needed to go today.

We headed out of the marina at 10:15 and got the sails up in the bay just outside the harbour. Julian had (most unusually) forgotten to attach the peak halyard when he took the sail cover off on the pontoon, so had to do it as we rolled in the swell. Raising sail took longer than normal. We headed out of the bay under sail at 10:40, with the engine off, making best course to windward.

Three boats that came out of Douglas Harbour half an hour after us gradually caught up and passed us. This happened slowly enough that it felt like we were sailing in company until our courses diverged.

We knew that this would be a long trip, especially since we would get foul tides later on, trying to push Robinetta up the Mersey. Establishing watches, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, from the start made sense. The seas were quite big and were coming from the starboard bow, so we pitched quite a bit. Julian and I both hand steered our first two watches, and it was hard work, although as I came up for my second watch Julian commented that the sailing had been gorgeous. 

Before he went below for a rest he tightened up the peak halyard to take a crease out of the sail. When I looked up a couple of minutes later I saw that the gaff outhaul had snapped. Last time this happened we had just left Eriskay, heading for Lochboisdale and we just took the sail down and motored since it was not very far. This time we needed to fix it en-route as we were much further from shelter. Julian came back up on deck and got the sail down while I held us head to wind on the engine, then we pulled the main sheet in as hard as we could to keep the main centred. The boom rolled sideways every now and then despite this, and Julian rolled with it. Retying the outhaul with a new bit of rope meant standing at the stern, tying knots with one hand while holding onto the boom with the other. He was clipped on to Robinetta with the safety strap but it was still a nervewracking time. The outhaul tension was quite loose when he finished, but the sail was now usable again and we raised it.
Robinetta settled down to cut across the waves again under sail and Julian sat down in the cockpit for a breather before heading down to the cabin. He picked up a fragment and wood, and frowned at it.

I looked forward, and saw that the starboard rear shroud lower dead-eye had sheered clean through the middle, meaning that shroud had no tension on it. The entire load was being carried on the forward shroud and backstay. Julian grabbed the rest of the rope he had just used to replace the outhaul, clipped on his safety line again, and crawled along the cabin top to lash the shroud back into service.

Two gear failures inside half an hour was a telling symptom of how hard a season Robinetta was having. 

I wanted to give Julian a longer “off” watch since he had spent half of it in boat maintenance, so decided not to call him at the end of my two hours on the helm. By that time the wind and swell had gone down a lot. We were just making 3 knots and I was guiltily aware that the reef needed to come out. As I was contemplating doing it Julian came up on deck ready to take over, so we shook out the reef together.

Julian had brought George up with him, and set him to work on the helm. Within half an hour the wind had gone so light that the engine went on, and stayed on.

When I came back on watch it felt like the light was going as well as the wind, so with George on the helm I got the main down, then went forward and tightened up the starboard shroud again. With the much calmer seas it was a lot easier to get tension on it.

Sunset in the Irish Sea
The navigation lights went on as the sun set, and Robinetta's track on the chart plotter began to curve left. George was still steering in the same direction as before but the tide was taking us east of the course. We had known this would happen, and tried to get west while the tide was going that way to compensate, but the wind had not obliged.

I reset George, so we would not be carried too far east, but we were only making half a knot towards where we wanted to go. Our arrival time went from a respectable midnight up to 3am. The tide against us eased at 23:00, and was with us by midnight, but we did not reach Holyhead until 02:45.

The marina looked dark, and there were a lot of moored boats to thread through to get there. Both being tired we decided to pick up an empty mooring rather than try and find a marina berth. The first we looked at said “Dangerous, Do Not Moor” in reflective lettering that showed perfectly in the light of my head torch. The one we picked up had a mass of kelp and a mussel farm on the mooring line, but we made it off on the bits, then lashed it in place with our own line then went to bed. 17 hours for a fifty mile passage is not great, but that is what happens with three hours of a 4 knot foul tide. If we had gone on Thursday as originally planned we would have left earlier, and had a much quicker trip.
A little used mooring line

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Errors and Overfalls

Going to Port Saint Mary was a mistake. The bay is exposed to the south, and almost as soon as we arrived the wind got up from that direction and Robinetta started rolling horribly in the swell. Even though we were tired we could not stay there. Heading back round the Calf of Man to Peel would have seen us beating which did not appeal. Instead we decided to head for Douglas, and came off the mooring at 10:00, with no fog left to obscure the passage.

I laid in a course to take us clear of the overfalls off Dreswick Point, and Julian stayed below to try and get more sleep. I kept looking left, contemplating the two mile detour out to sea. We were close to high water and I could not see any disturbed water off the point, so I decided to cut across. This was not a good idea.

We had had the tide with is through the overfalls coming out of Strangford. This time we had it against us, with a stronger wind behind us. Robinetta, lovely lady that she is, just bobbed up and down and sideways, never feeling unsafe although the steering was hard work. Worm bumped into Robinetta's stern once, but generally hung far enough behind and somehow never took a drop of water on board. Robinetta did get some splashes into the cockpit, and I asked Julian to close the door, just in case a bigger one came in!

Eventually we were through, although it took a while at 1.8 knots! Immediately we were in smoother seas we were making 3.5 knots again. Going round the overfalls would have been quicker, and a lot easier.

We headed up the coast to Douglas with following sea and winds, but motor sailing all the way to make up for the tide being against us. As I checked the course I had put in I noticed we had just entered the Port of Douglas's Harbour Control area and decided to give them a call to say where we were. I used the phone as I was not sure they would be listening on VHF, but they told me to use the VHF and give them a call again when we were 10 minutes from the harbour, since Manannan, the fast cat ferry service from Belfast, would be arriving in the harbour at about the same time as us.

I went on listening watch on channel 12, and about 1½ hours later heard Douglas advising Manannan that the small yacht they could see was probably Robinetta, and that they would call us to check we would stay clear. It gave me a good feeling that they could ID us due to my call, but I was less pleased to be called on the VHF and be told that we needed to turn away and wait south of the entrance.

Turning into the wind felt like quite a difficult manoeuvre where we were, with the following wind and sea, but we complied and it was much easier than expected. Being tired both Julian and I were seeing problems where none existed. Mannanan soon cleared into the harbour and we were free to follow.

The sailing Cruise Liner Wind Surf was anchored in the bay, sending her tenders ashore to the secure landing stage inside the harbour. They were rolling like anything, and Robinetta did the same as we lowered the main, so I did not make a neat job of it.

On the waiting pontoon
We tied up on the waiting pontoon, forward of a Westerly Duo, whose crew came to help us with the lines. They are WOA members and interested to learn that Robinetta is in the “Westerly Story” club publication. 
I got the bowsprit in, and tidied up the foredeck while Julian raised the main sail and and took the reef out since he wanted to tighten the outhaul on the boom. One of the gaff robands had snapped, so he replaced it, and retied the gaff outhaul to tension the top of the sail properly too. He then went on to glue and restrap the tiller pilot attachment point on the tiller. Both of us were pretty much operating on autopilot ourselves. It was 14:30 when we reached Douglas but Julian had to work through his adrenalin rush before he could relax.

The marina staff visited us on the waiting pontoon and gave us a plan of the marina, with the berth Robinetta should take marked on it. They also gave really useful advice about when to call Douglas Harbour and ask for the bridge to be lifted so we could get into the marina. There is a flap gate, which hold the water inside the marina, and entry is only possible for two hours either side of high water. The road bridge crosses the harbour just above the flap gate, and needs to lift to allow entry.

Once Robinetta's mainsail cover was on we had a light lunch, then got the bed out and slept for a couple of hours. We wanted to move Robinetta as soon as possible, but this was not until 2045 when the flap gate would open, so we took the chance for a much needed rest.

After a couple of hours in bed we went for a walk to check out our new berth, and on the way back Julian saw the lifeboat launch down its slipway.
Winching the lifeboat in

Despite the force 6 winds there were 4 yachts racing in the bay. Once of them ended up beached, and the lifeboat launched to recover it and tow it back into harbour. We could see most of the events from Robinetta, and had a ringside seat to see the lifeboat being winched back up the ramp and into its shed.

In contrast moving into the marina was totally non traumatic, even though the wind blew us off our assigned berth and we had to go round again, and we were safely moored up inside by 2100.

Starlight and Seafog

The wake up alarm on Julian's phone went at midnight. We had not put the bed out, just stretched out on the side berths, so getting up was a simple matter of putting on layers of warm clothes. I made a pot of tea, and we had a hot drink as we took Robinetta out of the marina and headed down Strangford Lough narrows with the first of the ebb. Julian helmed Robinetta back along the track we had made entering the lough on Sunday; a very reassuring route to follow in the dark!

Since we were head to wind we raised the main as we went along, not thinking too hard what the wind direction meant.

After we passed the Angus Rock we encountered overfalls. These always happen with an onshore wind during the ebb, but they took us by surprise. The wind was very light, and we were close tot he start of the ebb and only a couple of days past neaps... It took Robinetta at least ten minutes to get through the area of overfalls and her foredeck got a very good wash. At least with the tide with us the waves she kept sticking her bowsprit in did not stop her! I looked back at Worm a couple of times. She was just visible in the glow from our stern navigation light, playing about at the end of her long tow line with no problems.

Julian laid in a course on the chart plotter after we cleared the overfalls while I steered a straight line by using the stars. This was our first night sail of the year, and annoyingly the light on the new compass did not come on with the navigation lights the way it should have done, which left us reliant on the chart plotter as normal. As soon as we had an ETA for Port Saint Mary on the Isle of Man I went below and called the coastguard with our passage plan. We needed them to be aware that a small boat, almost invisible to radar, was out crossing the Irish Sea in the dark.

Julian put George to work, since he is a much better helmsman with poor visibility than a human. Meanwhile I went down below to try and get a couple of hours sleep. The engine went off for about half an hour but mostly we motor sailed.

I put the kettle on and made tea at 3a.m then came up for my watch while Julian went below.

George had no problems with maintaining the course, and we were far enough out to sea that crab pots were not a factor, so all I had to do was keep watch for shipping and admire the stars. I kept an eye on our speed too, and managed half an hour on sail alone before our speed dropped below 3 knots and I put the engine on again.

There were two ships in the area. The first seemed to be a small freighter from its length. As we passed ahead of it it turned its foredeck lights on, maybe trying to see us, but we were at least 4 cables off its bow so the lights did not reach us.

I thought the second ship might be an oil exploration rig at first. It was lit up like a Christmas tree and moving so slowly that I thought it was stationary. After half an hour watching its lights I was finally able to make out a funnel with a cruise line logo on it. They seemed to be making about the same speed as Robinetta, on a collision course, and with the decks so brightly lit the chances of anyone on watch being able to see a small boat with dark sails was slight. I changed course and passed behind them.

Despite the bright stars overhead there was a band of cloud on the port bow. This began to take on a reddish glow as a sliver of moon rose behind it. Half an hour later the stars were fading in the first glimmer of false dawn as Julian came back on watch and I went below for more sleep.

I woke after only an hour, but it was 07:00 and close to my normal waking up time, so I decided to get up. When I put my head out of the cabin rather than bright daylight Robinetta was motoring through a sea of fog. George was still on the helm, but his attachment point on the tiller had come partially off, so Julian had lashed it in place with a sail tie. It was still functional in calm seas, but could not be relied on to hold in anything rougher.

While on my watch I had fine tuned Julian's course to pass close outside the Calf of Man (the tide would have been against us if we tried to go through the sound). The new course would take us between the cliffs and the overfalls near Chicken Rock, but not knowing this Julian had strayed right of the line, just into the overfalls area. The sea state went abruptly from slight to moderately confused, but as soon as we returned to the line the sea was calm again. George had coped admirably with the waves despite the jury rigged repair, which was a relief.

The Calf of Man loomed out of the fog, about 2 cables away, which gave us some idea of the thickness of the fog! We saw very little of the South end of the Isle of Man as we motor sailed along it. As we reached Port Saint Mary the fog began to thin, and we were able to identify and pick up a visitor mooring buoy at 0900 for a well earned rest.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Day sail on Strangford Lough

It was sunny but without much wind at around 10am as we let go the lines and backed out of the pontoon.

The tide took us through the inner narrows into the Lough and we got the main up but there was still hardly any wind and we motored for Ringhaddy Sound. The sound is a winding passage along the western shore and mostly runs through yacht moorings of the cruising club. At its northern end there is a choice of routes around the many small islands and we picked one and made our way through towards Sketrick Island.
Ringhaddy Sound

Alison had got out our tourist guides of the Lough and she went below to read them. A breath of wind kicked in and grew and we were broad reaching. I set the jib and turned the engine off and we sailed gently north around the islands in the warm sunshine. It was really beautiful and with no deadlines to meet I could just enjoy it. We still had tide with us and with the gentle winds we were doing about three knots.

As I rounded Trasnagh Island I needed to gybe to head towards Skerrick. I just let the jib go, put the helm over, grabbed a handful of main sheet, pulled the boom over and reset the jib.

I wish all gybes were like that.

Alison came back up to the cockpit and all too soon we got near enough to Skerrick that if we wanted lunch at Daft Eddies we would need to drop the sails. We thought about going on but it was August Bank Holiday Monday and we thought it might get crowded later.

So we went head to wind and put the sails away. The passage into the Downs Sailing Club at Balydorn has narrows and needs to be taken carefully but we negotiated it ok and went onto the pontoon by the lightship.

Downs Sailing Club pontoon
The club berthing officer help us moor and asked if we were staying the night. We said it was just a lunch stop and he frowned and said he would have to charge us. I said "that's fine" and he relaxed.

We wandered along to the causeway and onto the island. There is a ruined tower house and then Daft Eddies is up on a hill to the right.

We didn't spot until it was too late that there are two food outlets. Maud's Café is separate from the pub but shares the garden. So we had ordered lunch without seeing Daft Eddies menu! What we had was nice and just what we wanted so it didn't matter. I went into the pub anyway and bought a pint to bring out to the garden to have with my ciabatta/pizza.

There were seven or eight children, boys and girls playing ball in the garden, aged from about four to twelve. They were all playing wonderfully together.

We walked back to Robinetta and paid a lunch stop fee. A local sailor gave us a mackerel he had caught and filleted but didn't want and we let loose the lines and allowed the tide to take us away from the pontoon. It is possible to get out of the north side of Ballydorn between Rainey and Mahee island but we were not confidant there was enough water for us so we retraced our steps. Mahee Island is joined to the mainland by a series of causeways so heading north means going outside it. It has medieval monastery ruins on it but we couldn't see a way of landing to look.

I wanted to get far enough up the Lough to see the end and we managed that with a couple of broad reaches while Alison thought about where she wanted to spend the evening. I had assumed we would moor or anchor near Killyleagh but she decided she wanted to try to get through the narrows to Portaferry before the tide turned and wait there for the midnight ebb. That meant we needed to rush south.

it was getting cloudier and windier which made the decision to turn back easier. It was, of course, a beat back. The water got rougher too.

Rather than heading down the exposed east side we decided to seek calmer water and threaded our way back to the entrance to Ringhaddy sound

There were two or three traditional dinghies sailing in the sound.

When we got near the narrows we could see boats already coming through so we thought we might be too late. But it did no harm to try. If we got washed back into the Lough we could pop round the corner to Killyleagh.

In the event we got through with very little trouble. One of the staff at the marina helped us moor and when we said we were off at midnight he said there was no charge for that.

We wandered into town and brought fish and chips back to the boat, eat them, set the alarm and put our heads down.

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 not 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.
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 the one on the port side that went, so still had the old rope. 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.

Mountains of Mourne
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.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Back to New Ross

Our trip back to Ireland started early, since we were driving to Holyhead to get on the ferry. We left home just after five, and were in Holyhead by ten. This gave us plenty of time to park the car in the Marina car park, then walk to the ferry terminal with our bags.

The fast ferry got us to Dublin in plenty of time to catch the 1545 bus to New Ross, and we were on board Robinetta by seven.

Robinetta felt quite dry inside, although there was mould growing on the frying pan again... We got Worm off the foredeck and re-instated the bowsprit, then headed out for fish and chips, and to do some shopping, but were in bed before 2200. It had been an early morning!

Monday, 15 August 2016


We will be back on board on Sunday. Dividing up the route north back to Ardglass and then over to the Isle of Man and Holyhead into 30 nm stages might look a little like this

New Ross Kilmore Quay 33 
Kilmore Quay Rosslare 20
Rosslare Arklow 33
Arklow Greystone 25
Greystone Skerries 28
Skerries Carlingford Lough 29
Carlingford Lough Ardglass 25
Ardglass Peel 32
Peel Port St Mary 15
Port St Mary Holyhead 46

If the weather isn't kind to us we can cut across from Dublin to Holyhead - it's only a little farther than from the Isle of Man.

There are several more places to stop - Wexford, Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Howth and Drogheda all look sensible. 30 nm is a very comfortable day sail with some time ashore. We can do more, especially on calm days. We also might want some days ashore - maybe Glendalough although that might mean hiring a car.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Map updated

 Link to map
Click on the image to go to the navigable map.

In the last fortnight we covered 264 nautical miles in 71 hours, spread over 10 days. We were moving under wind power for 30 of those hours, while the rest of the time we were motor sailing or under motor alone.  

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Two rivers and a bridge

Waterford Dawn
I woke really early, and noticed a reddish tint to the light coming into the cabin, so stuck my head up to have a look. Julian asked what I was doing, then got up to take some pictures. while I want back to sleep.

After breakfast we went to the Medieval Museum, which was well worth the visit, with some interesting stuff about the trade rivalry between Waterford and New Ross. As we wandered round the town it began to drizzle, so we took our sandwiches back to Robinetta to eat. The weather did not help my end of holiday feeling!

The tide was due to turn at Dunmore East (the entrance to Waterford Harbour) just before 3, so there was no point leaving Waterford before 2. The tide was still ebbing rapidly at Waterford then, so we had to think hard about how to leave our berth safely. There was plenty of room in front of us, but the tide would soon sweep us down onto the next boat along... I thought we had enough room once Julian pushed Robinetta off at the bows and we swung out into the river, but then the current pushed the bow back in and I had to reverse in a hurry. That was the perfect manoeuvre as it made the stern swing out, and we were soon clear of the pontoon and all the boats without hitting anything. If only I had planned it...

We were soon heading down river in poor visibility due to the drizzle, with the engine hardly above tick over; just enough to give us steerage way. We were making 5 and a half knots. My calculations had told me that with at most an hour and a half to low water there should have been less than a knot of tide with us even at springs, but I was obviously wrong.

I had phoned the Barrow Bridge yesterday to advise them that I would want a opening today, and now I phoned again to give an hours notice. I felt slightly silly, we were at low water springs and there was every change that Robinetta could just about fit under the bridge, but the Barrow Bridge is on a disused railway line, and opening it does not inconvenience any trains!

Barrow Bridge
The bridge began opening while we were still in the River Suir and as I turned Robinetta towards the bridge, and into the ebb tide from the River Barrow her speed dropped from 5 knots to 1. Even when I throttled up to maximum we were making less than 3... The bridge operator came out onto his balcony and watched Robinetta slowly pass through.

The river Barrow is shallower than the Suir, and at low tide we had barely 2m beneath the keel. Plenty for us, but the river is buoyed for big ships. It is very pretty and looked totally rural, with wide muddy banks fringed by reeds. After about half an hour the ebb had ceased, and the drizzle cleared away, leaving us with a bright hot afternoon.  Once the decks had dried Julian asked me to make a start on greasing the shackles (a necessary job before leaving Robinetta) but the tide was hurrying us along again and I did not finish before New Ross came into view.

We saw a small freighter tied up to the far bank, making it obvious that the river is still used for commercial traffic, and the town quay side had the Dunbrody, a ex-working replica of a famine ship. The Three Sisters marina at New Ross is mainly used by motor boats, which can pass under the bridge in the centre of New Ross and gain entry to the entire inland waterway system of Ireland. It was only half full, so there was plenty of room for us to leave Robinetta there for a month.

We put Worm upside-down on the foredeck again. The tide current sweeps though the outer berths of the marina, bringing rubbish with it, so Worm is safer up there than in the water. She also acts as a good cover for the leaking hatch, and can not fill with water herself, so Peter at Dingle did us a good turn when he insisted Worm would fit.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Up the river to Waterford

Robinetta grounded at about one in the morning. Unfortunately I had left the stern line on too tight, and as the pontoon also grounded we were pulled over slightly towards it. The tilt woke me, and I realised what was happening, so went up to release the line. Julian and I have slept on the slant before, and this was not nearly as bad as the first time we dried out at Maldon, but it was still a nuisance. Julian did not sleep well, and as soon as he felt there was enough water to support Robinetta again he went on deck and pulled her upright. When I woke at 04;30 Robinetta was upright again and floating.

Dunvargan in the sunshine
We wanted to be away from the pontoon early, so set the alarm for 06;15. By 6:50 we had cast off and were motoring away in plenty of water. The tide was still running in, so we made slow progress until we were clear of the channel, but once in the bay the tidal streams were much less.

We got the sails up, and managed to sail some of the time, but we also motor sailed, or just motored as the winds were light and variable. We did get some good views of the coastline, with their identifying marks, put up long before the days of GPS when it was essential to know where a long a coast you had made landfall.

We used the tiller pilot for most of the day, even when sailing, and "George" coped with the gentle swell nicely. It is really helpful to have such a third crew member after an early start, but we did need to keep a careful eye out for crab pots.

Dunmore East
We followed the coast as it curved round past Swines Head and headed into Waterford Harbour past Dunmore East. We had thought about stopping here, but it was only just past lunchtime so we decided to keep going all the way up the river Suir to Waterford.

We turned the engine off for a while and sailed slowly towards Duncannon, but the wind died away again, so we got the main sail down and went back to engine.

The channel is well buoyed, but there some big ships come down it. It was an interesting trip, with some fun tidal effects where the Kings Channel and the Queen's Channel rejoined at the eastern end of Little Island. I saw an actual whirlpool here, only 1m across though!

I phoned the marina when we still had an hour to go before we got there, and were told to go on pontoon C, which is the third (and last) one along the river side before the bridge. The marina manager was waiting to take our lines when we arrived, which was very useful given the strong current in the river. I had forgotten to pull Worm in close, but Julian saved the situation and we were soon moored up in the centre of the town.