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.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Youghal to Dungarvan

Wind against tide made the Youhgal moorings a bit bouncy once the tide turned to run out against the wind around 8 this morning. The weather forecast suggested that the wind would increase to force 5 around lunchtime, but was less blustery than previous forecasts for the day. We decided to leave rather than spend a day on the mooring, but just head 20nm along the coast to Dungarvan. This has a drying harbour we would not be able to approach until 16:30, so there was no point leaving much before 10:30.
The swell at the moorings had quieted down as the tidal flow in the river increased; it had moved down river to the harbour entrance making a marked “bar” there. Since this was in over 5 metres of water there was no problem crossing it, but the short steep seas were uncomfortable and sluiced the foredeck a bit. Luckily Julian had already finished hoisting the jib and tidying the mooring ropes.
Once we were in clear water I throttled back the engine revs. Julian had seen gannets diving and wanted to see if he could catch anything. He ran out the mackerel line for ten minutes but nothing bit so he hauled it in and we got the sails up.
Mine Head
Despite the unpromising weather forecast we had a gorgeous sail east along the “Copper Coast”. The slight swell only became obvious round headlands, which just encouraged us to duck a little further into the bays once we were past, giving us some lovely views.
Helvick Head from the sea
We gybed round Helvick Head as the sun went behind a cloud, and after a few minutes the wind began to increase. The sun had gone, and we were heading too fast towards the entrance channel so we decided to get the main sail down where we were. The area we were in, just off Helvick, already felt shallow and contained a high concentration of crab pot markers. Between dodging the crab pots and eyeing up the depth it was difficult to keep Robinetta head to wind, and the sails came down in a bit of a mess (my fault, not Julians on the helm. It would have been a lot easier if I had remembered to remove the preventer before tying to centre the main..).
The cloud thickened and the wind continued to rise, then it started to drizzle which brought the visibility down. I pulled Worm in so she would not catch on any of the navigations buoys, then we picked our way from buoy to buoy in the Dungarvan approach channel which winds through drying mud flats for over a mile. We were at half tide, and never had less than 1.7 metres beneath the keel, but would probably have gone aground a couple of metres to the wrong side of a buoy.
The drizzle began to be driven by the wind, so we were glad to see plenty of empty moorings just outside the harbour. We would need at least an hour's more height of tide to get to the pontoons inside the harbour, so picked up a mooring to wait.
Conditions in the cockpit were nasty, with the wind gusting to force 6 and heavy drizzle being blown in curtains across the view, but inside the cabin was snug and dry so we went below and had a cup of tea. I called the Dungarvan Sailing Club, which owns the pontoon where we hoped to spend the night (and probably the mooring we were on) and asked for advice. The suggested waiting until an hour before high water to approach the pontoon, so we did.
I pulled Robinetta's bowsprit in and stowed the jib, then sorted out the mess I had made of getting the sail down, then Julian came up to help and we got fenders and ropes ready for the pontoon.
Perch marking Dungarvan harbour entrance
Robinetta was dancing round the mooring to the contrary demands of the tide and the wind gusts, so it took a while to free the mooring rope. The harbour entrance was well marked with perches, but the tide was setting strongly across it, so we took a ferry glide approach to the first pair. Once through those there were no problems.
We were tied up to the pontoon by 1815, with 2m below the keel. A quick call to the Sailing Club duty officer saw him appear with a key fob to lend us to let us off the pontoon and back.
Dungarvan is a good place to stop so long as your boat can take the mud. There was a good Indian restaurant and several pubs within 200metres of the pontoon!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Worn out shackles and snapped backstays...

Yesterday Butch, the owner of Tiger Moon, the boat we were moored up, on asked us to move onto a vacant finger berth so he could take Tiger Moon over to the slip way to dry out and get her keel pressure washed early the next morning. We moved happily, being pulled the short distance into the new berth on ropes.  We were left bow facing out, making for an easy get away today.

We prepared Robinetta and Worm to go, then rushed off to the Farmer's Market that starts at half nine every Wednesday. By ten we were back aboard and casting off.

Charles Fort, Kinsale
We got the sails up in Kinsale Bay and were sailing as soon as we got past the Spit Buoy. We put on the no 2 jib as the wind was forecast to increase in the afternoon. As we cleared Bulman Rock and turned on to course we put the preventer on for another day of nearly dead running with light swell from behind.

We had an hour and a half of pleasant sailing before the wind failed us and went too light to use. The engine went on and we soon lowered the main and tied it off to stop it flogging in the swell.

A few minutes later I heard a bang, and looked round to see that the forward port shroud had come loose from its chain plate. This is the shroud that carries the wiring for the radio aerial, so securing it was urgent even thought there was no load on the mast. Julian went forward immediately, and much to his surprise found that the shackle and its pin were both still on board. He reattached the shroud, but decided he should replace the shackle anyway. The pin was half worn through, but even more alarming the thread was so worn that screwing it in did not hold the pin in place. There could have been real problems if the shackle pin had worked loose while under load in the swell.

As we rounded the headland west of Cork Harbour we really started to notice the swell building. There was a large ship anchored almost exactly on our route and every now and then the swell would swing Robinetta's bow round so she was aiming at the side of the ship, which was also yawing round by 90° on its anchor.

Once we were west of Cork Harbour the wind began to build again, so we raised the main and turned the engine off. We also had the tide with us and were making 5.5 knots over the ground. Then the swell began to get up too.

After a while Robinetta was making over 6 knots and the steering was getting rather heavy. It was time to reef so I lowered the throat and peak halyards before putting the engine on to  turn us ehad to wind. Scandalising the sails did nothing to de-power them on this point of sail, so Robinetta turned quickly into the waves and Julian pulled in the reefing line. I wanted two reefs in
Capel Head

Facing into the waves made it obvious how big they were for a small boat.

Robinetta's bowsprit went into one as she turned, but after that she rose to them easily. Going back onto course took longer, and 2 waves rolled Robinetta well over before I could get her stern on to them again.

Robinetta was much easier to hold on course with the reef in, but that course was almost a dead run. By the time we reached Capel Island at the headland to the west of Youghal Bay we were half a nautical mile further out to sea than planned, since I was making sure we would not gybe. Half a mile before I expected to turn I steered slightly too far to port, and accidentally gybed.

The boom bounced off the working backstay with such force that the backstay rope broke. Luckily that slowed the boom down enough that nothing else got damaged, not even the sail! I quickly made off the previously lazy backstay and we stayed on that tack. Our distance south of our route, plus the knot of tide helping us along the coast helped us make a good course to clear Capel Island.
Meanwhile Julian ducked below and fetched Robinetta's old topsail halyard from the spare rope locker. It was the perfect rope to bring the starboard backstay back into commission.
Moll Goggins Corner at Youghal

After the drama of turning towards Youghal we had a pleasant sail across the bay towards the river Blackwater. The swell disappeared as soon as we were round the headland and our new point of sail contained no threat of a gybe. We got the sails down just before cutting across the west bank. We were only an hour before high water so their was plenty beneath our keel. Julian saw gannets diving, so got out the mackerel line to fish, but we had no luck.

As we came onto the river entrance we saw 3 GP14 dinghies racing, accompanied by a safety boat. This came over to Robinetta, and told us there were 6 new mooring buoys, laid only last week. We went on one, despite the Pilot Book's warning that they would be subject to swell. After dinner on board I rowed us over to the landing stage in Worm, and we had a look round Youghal.

The tide runs quickly past the moorings and made for an interesting return to Robinetta on the way back!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Castletownsend to Kinsale

We woke to fog again, but by 9 it had burnt off, leaving us in bright sunshine. There was no wind, but we decided to up anchor and head for Kinsale anyway. Almost as soon as we were out of the bay we were back in thick fog.
With no wind and no visibility it was time to put George the tiller pilot on duty, and he performed admirably all day.
Every now and then we would motor into clear patches and be able to see the coast line but most of the morning the visibility was less than 2 cables. It seemed to be clearing as we reached Glandore, so we did not go in, but then the fog came down again. We would never have left port in those conditions, and as far as we could see no other yachts did!

One fishing boat appeared off our starboard bow then vanished astern, several rafts of guillemots with just fledged chicks sat on the water, and we saw low flying flights of gannets, immature and adults together. Just east of Galley Head we saw dolphins, bottle nosed rather than common. One jumped clear out of the water, but mostly we just saw their rounded backs and fins.

By one o'clock we were heading across Clonakilty Bay in bright sunshine, having seen no trace of Galley Head, which remained shrouded in fog. There were yachts visible now, one well out to see and motoring west, and one almost directly on our route. This one was behaving oddly, going round in small cirlces, and we wondered if there was anything wrong so changed course to look. As we approached they straightened up and motored past us, waving happily, then went back to their circling in our wake. We decided they were probably fishing.
Fog hung over Dunworthy Point and Seven Head, so although I caught glimpses of the coastline west of them we could not see the headland. The wind freshened slightly, right on the nose; luckily there was still not much of it as we now had the tide with us and wind over tide can be uncomfortable, especially going round a headland.

cave entrance on the Old Head of Kinsale
Once past Seven Head the wind went back to light again and the fog lifted, Looking back the whole coast line was in bright sunshine, but looking forward to the Old Head of Kinsale revealed nothing but another fog bank. We had got the main sail up before leaving Castletownsend, but put it down as we began to cross Courtmacsherry Bay. The wind was too light to use it, so all we were doing was damaging the sail. It had made us more obvious in the fog, but we were in sunshine again.

Rounding the Old Head of Kinsale
All at once the fog lifted from the Old Head of Kinsale and we got a great view of it as we rounded it quite close to. We could see Kinsale entrance ahead, with a yacht coming out, and then the yacht vanished abruptly behind the thickest fog we had yet met. We got the foghorn out, and began sounding it at two minute intervals while we both peered ahead, trying to make out any boats coming towards us. Twenty minutes of nervous motoring later we were through the fog bank, with bright sunshine and the entrance to Kinsale obvious ahead.

On the way through the bay to the town we saw a lovely lug yawl dinghy, called Blackbird, that reminded us a little of our own sailing dinghy Tiki, and a huge motor yacht. Its accompanying pilot boat asked me to take Robinetta out of the channel to give them the most possible space.

Kinsale Yacht Club marina visitor berths are on the outside of the pontoon, and they looked very full as we motored towards them. I phoned the yacht club, and when the marina manager heard Robinetta was only 7m long he found us a nice sheltered berth, rafted up on a resident boat on the inside of the pontoon.

We tied up in bright sunshine, wondering when we would next encounter the fog. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Fog or not fog

About 10:30 Julian put his head out of the cabin for a look and thought that the fog was lifting. When I checked at 11am I was not so sure, but we decided to get ready to go anyway. We cast off Robinetta's lines from Aoife just past noon and motored slowly out past the moorings.

The new chartplotter gave me reassurance that we were not straying off our route along the buoyed channel, and the fog as definitely lifting. We could see from one channel marker to the next, and the white pillar, called Lot's Wife, showed well on the hillside above us. Then we were through the harbour mouth, to discover that the fog was not merely thinning; the sea ahead was blue and the coast line eastward showed clearly.

We got the sails up, shaking out all the reefs, and turned off the engine to sail on a reach so broad that I asked Julian to put the preventer on against the chance that the swell would roll the boom across the boat. We had a lovely sail in light airs, with the swell rolling under us and the tide helping us along at 3.4 to 4 knots. Three yachts came past in the other direction, heading west under motor. We saw one sail across our bows, coming out of Castletownend or Glandore and heading south.
The Stags off Toe Head
As we passed between Toe Head and the Stags the wind shifted and almost died. The main tried to gybe across but was stopped by the preventer. Once we were back on course and there was some slack in the preventor line I undid it, and gybed the main across properly. Soon after this we rounded Toe Head and gybed the main again, then hardened up to sail into Castletownsend Bay.

We sailed through a line of numbered buoys, uncertain what they were for, then say another abiout 200m away and realised they were lanes for a race.
We turned round head ot wind and lowered the main, then motored slowly into the harbour area, looking for a place to anchor. As we did so 5 or 6 racing skiffs came out, with safety boat escorts. Julian steered Robinetta carefully through the moorings just off the town quay to leave the race course clear.

We dropped anchor just up river of the town, near a 35' gaff rigged yacht. “That's a Wylo,” said Julian. The couple on board waved, and invited us over for a drink, saying “We're OGA too!”
Granuaile at Castletownsend
Once Robinetta was properly tidied up with her sail covers on we rowed Worm over to Granuaile, and had a lovely evening talking to her owners Richard and Eilish Wylie, who plied us with wine, and fed us dinner. Richard built Granuaile and their travels make Robinetta's look tame.

More Fog

We woke to fog for the third day in a row, and looking at the satellite overview we might still have it tomorrow.... Some of the larger boats are moving round the area despite it, but with no radar or radar reflector Robinetta and Worm are safer staying put.

We had hoped to sail along this coast in short hops, viewing the lovely scenery, and with another week before we have to fly home we still just have time to do that, so long as the fog lifts soon. Otherwise we'll have to do longer passages, and miss out places since our days ashore allowance is running out.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Cape Clear

Another foggy morning. Too foggy to contemplate leaving but we didn't want to do nothing with the day so we decided to take the ferry to Cape Clear. The ferry acts as the local delivery service for all provisions to the island as well as passengers and has quite a decent crane fitted to lift heavy goods on and off. A van comes from Skibereen with people's orders which are loaded on to the ferry. Waiting in the queue we heard that today they were holding a family 'run' on the island. The ferry was full. Heading out into the bay the fog seemed to get even thicker. We could only just make out the Lousy Rocks south cardinal.

 We sat inside for most of the trip. After a while we could tell that we were sailing along the north side of the island towards the north harbour but we could only occasionally see land.

Then, suddenly I saw a mast go past the window. A sailing yacht was heading east only metres away from the ferry. I was really glad that we were not out in this weather.

The visibility was a little better in the harbour and there were a surprising number of yachts in there. Four or five. We walked along to the shop and café and Alison bought a postcard and we had a drink. Quite a few people were signing on for the 5k run. We had a little map showing the walking routes so we headed off towards the south harbour. There was also a yacht anchored in there, and a lot more room than it looked like in the pilot book pictures. From south harbour the well-marked path heads south to the point. I'm not sure where this picture was taken, but I'm sure that normally the views are stunning.
 The path then heads north again back to the road and then off the road into the woods. It was brightening up a little and the the light was really interesting.

 The fog was condensing on everything - my hair was quite wet. So were the hundreds of spider's webs.
 Once we left the woods something went wrong and we got quite lost. Eventually we found we had gone around in a circle back to the road. We couldn't work out what we had done wrong so we kept to the road, which we knew wound around to the Heritage Centre.

The Heritage Centre has a number of good exhibits. For me the most interesting one was about Conor O'Brien. I have a book of his on dinghy sailing and knew of his yacht Saoirse which he went round the world on. It turns out that Saoirse was built in Baltimore and has a larger, near sister ship Ilen also built there. Ilen was commissioned by the Falkland Islands as a transport ship because Saoirse had been much admired there during O'Brien's visit. Ilen has been brought back to Ireland and restored.
 Back at the north harbour we could see a little more than before. We had a good lunch at the café and met a group who were paddling around the area in currachs. They had come over the previous day and camped overnight. The had planned to visit the Fastnet rock today but didn't feel safe going in the conditions.
Sea kayaking is a popular activity in Ireland. It's nice to see people choosing to do it in traditional craft.

We also met a Breton family who had been on the other side of the pontoon for a day or two in Baltimore. They had made the trip in their own yacht. I'm not sure if they have radar or not. I hope so.

On the return trip on the ferry I noticed a card on the wall advertising a pub with music. It was quite a way out of town but we walked up there in the evening and had a really fine meal. The music was low key but there was an elderly banjo player who was really excellent. A group of German tourists listening included one chap who had learned some jigs on the flute and he joined in, playing beautifully.

Friday, 15 July 2016

New chartplotter

It was raining when we went to bed, and Robinetta's topsides were leaking slightly. There are fewer leaks this year than last though....

Then this morning we woke to fog. Visibility was under 100m, and it did not look as though it would improve. Julian and I agreed that this was not a day we should leave port, so we had the first enforced day ashore of the entire season.

We caught the bus into Skibbereen, and went to look in the chandlers there. Julian had done some checking on the internet for replacement chartplotters, and since they had the most appropriate one, an EchoMAP CHIRP 45dv in stock I talked Julian into buying it. He was happy with using the Navionics charts on the tablet, but I prefer the Garmin charts, and now we have both again.

Back on Robinetta Julian installed the new device. It only has one NMEA 0183 port so it won't drive the tiller pilot yet and the cable had to be replaced as the connector is different but thanks to the work he did rewiring this spring it all worked first time. Luckily Garmin haven't changed the position of the screw holes for the mounting bracket so Robinetta has no new holes in her.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Up the river Ilen

Leaving Schull Harbour
We came off our mooring buoy at 0910 and headed out of Schull Harbour in bright sunshine with no wind. The sea's surface was totally unruffled at first, but with a steady slight swell that rocked Robinetta from side to side as we cleared Long Island. We had the stay sail up, but did not bother with the main.
Cows on Calf Island
Julian had made a detailed passage plan using the tablet's charts and he piloted me through a beautiful maze of rocks and islands, including East Calf Island, which has beautiful beaches on the eastern end which happen to be full of.... cows.
We then headed towards Quarantine Island, where there is a narrow channel into Baltimore Harbour. That was not where we were going first though, since we were exploring the Riven Ilen towards Skibareen.
Ruined church on the River Ilen
The river was lovely. The wind got up enough to fill the staysail, and the tide also helped Robinetta along as it flooded up towards Old Court. Robinetta would have to stop there as the river gets too shallow for her, but Skibareen is only 2 miles further on, and we could do that under oar in Worm.
By the time we reached Old Court it was 1230, and I wanted lunch rather than a 2 mile row, so after a look at the boat yards we anchored in the river, and ate on board.
There are 2 boat yards at Old Court, and one was launching a yacht while we ate. It set off downriver just as Julian finished pulling up the anchor, and we followed Aoife as she set off down the twisty channel, but soon lost sight of them.
It began to cloud over, and the wind was on the nose so felt much colder in this direction. We put jackets on, then oily trousers as it began to rain. Luckily there were only a few spots, but it was cool enough that the extra layer was welcome so they stayed on as we headed down river.
Dinghies in Baltimore Harbour
There were several fleets of dinghies racing in Baltimore Harbour when we reached it, and we avoided them, and a big American yacht that looked as though it had just come across the Atlantic. The American yacht anchored, but we went to the pier, and decided to raft up against another yacht on the small pontoon that calls itself Baltimore Marina.
When I was doing the final approach I noticed that this yacht was Aoife, moored up to finish fitting out for her sailing season. We offered her crew a drink, and had an entertaining half hour listening to stories of their sailing adventures before we got on our spring and shore lines.
By evening the overcast had turned to cold drizzle, in an extreme contrast to the lovely warm sunny morning at Schull.

Jury rigged tech

Our Garmin chart plotter has died. Would not turn on when we got back to Robinetta on Sunday. This wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't made it the only way we can display depth.

We've been using the Navionics app on my tablet for charts and navigating old school on the paper charts but depth would be nice.

I built a box to distribute NMEA on wifi but haven't quite finished the software.

Today I hooked Alison's netbook up to the depth box using a USB to serial lead and got depth out using miniterm.py. With a large font on the terminal it was ok. 

After lunch I hacked the python code to extract just the depth from the NMEA sentence which was better. 

Now we have wifi I've installed kplex on the netbook and configured it to broadcast on udp port 2000. Now we have depth on the Navionics app!

I must finish the dedicated box. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Round Mizen Head

The weather forecasts have been very changeable. When we left Dingle we knew we had three days of friendly wind. It might gust a little strong, (16 gusting 20 knots is strong for us) but the direction West or North West was good to help us on our way. Then on Thursday it would get stronger and swing round to the South West. The wind strength, (20 gusting 30) was something we would not take Robinetta out in on these exposed coasts. She is too small, and the seas too big. Once we were past Mizzen Head South West would be as good as any other wind, but it would make our trip south then east round Mizzen Head difficult, since we would end  up with wind against tide whenever we had a favourable tide to help us round.

Then last night the forecast changed. Wind direction after Thursday stayed the same, but the speed dropped to below 10 knots. It meant than rather than hurrying to find shelter before Thursday we could take our time. We thought about staying an extra night at Lawrence Cove Marine to explore Bere Island, but in the end we decided to stick with our original plan and head round Mizzen Head today.

We came off the pontoon at  07:10, in bright sunshine, but by the time we were out in Bere Haven channel and I was hoisting
the jib it started raining heavily. Luckily we both had full oilskins on, but Julian left me on the helm while he ducked below to add an extra layer and his sea boots. I raised the stay sail and headed happily East towards the end of Bere Island, but then realised that I did not know what happened then. Since I had passage planned yesterday Julian was doing it today, and it turned out that he had not looked at the east end of Bere Island in any detail. He quickly turned the chart plotter tablet on, and directed me back toward the small boat channel out into Bantry Bay. A fishing boat was using it too, which helped show me where it was.
Bantry Bay in the rain

Once we were clear of the rocks I put Robinetta head to wind while Julian raised the mainsail. We left her fully reefed as the wind still felt pretty strong. Julian went below to cook bacon sandwiches for breakfast, while I headed South West across Bantry Bay towards Sheep's Head. With the jib out I would sometimes feel overpowered in the gusts, but loosening the halyard for the stay sail de-powered her enough for safety.

Julian took the helm to let me eat my breakfast, and kept it as we passed Sheep Head and made for Three Castle Head. We were out in the Atlantic swell by now, and our course to clear the headland took us across the swell in an extremely uncomfortable way. Robinetta has a strong rolling motion, which is best avoided, so we headed further west and out to sea to get us more head on to the waves.
Julian, who was helming, thought we were far enough out and wanted to head back inshore. We should have gybed round for efficiency, but decided to tack instead because of the swell. It seemed to take a long time to get back onto the right course! With our stern to the waves we closed with the coast amazingly quickly, and he soon decided it was time to gybe back round to our previous course. Once we were heading out into the Atlantic he passed me the helm for my stint. Meeting the waves at the best angle took a lot of concentration, and within half an hour I became convinced that we were heading way too far west.

between Three Castle Head and Mizzen Head
Meanwhile Julian had turned on the chart plotter to check on how we were going, and proved to himself that we were actually doing very well, and should continue as we were. His earlier tack towards the coast had been prompted by the “We are heading too far west” feeling I now had, so he was able to assure me that we did not need to head East yet. The chart plotter went off, and it was back to eyeball navigation.
Mizen Head visitor centre

Looking east towards Mizzen Head various headlands and islands came into view past it, including the Fastnet Rock lighthouse. I decided it was time to gybe, and round we went. Mizzen Head was on the bow, then to port of it, as the tide pushed us past. We were on the edge of a run, and every time the stay sail began to come over I nudged the tiller so it stayed on the same side as the mainsail. With a reefed main we had no preventer to hold the boom out on the proper side, and while the swell was now behind us if a wave came at a different angle there was a chance we would roll and the main sail would gybe. The last thing I wanted was an accidental gybe, and the staysail flopping over makes a good indicator that we were getting close to one.
Entrance to Crrokhaven

As we got further past Mizzen Head the swell died away, and we were soon in much calmer water. We unfurled the jib, and sped along the coast, for a truly enjoyable sail. We passed the entrance to Crookhaven, which we had considered trying to get to yesterday, and the lighthouse marking the enterance was certainly impressive.

Our initial plan had been to finish today's sail in Baltimore, but as we passed along Long Island we decided to stop earlier, and headed for Schull instead. We sailed into the bay, hoping to wait for some wind shadow before lowering the main, but it continued to feel strong, so we ended up going head to wind just after the Bull Rock red beacon and dropping the main there.

After looking round the bay we found the visitor moorings and picked one up at 15:30, after a lovely but tiring sail round Mizzen Head.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Portmagee to Bantry Bay

The patter of rain on the roof woke us, but it soon stopped, and we had sunshine by 07:30 when we turned the engine on to leave. Coming out of Portmagee felt simple since we now knew the way, and we raised sail and turned the engine off before we met the swell at the entrance.

Puffin Island
I had written up an old fashioned passage plan for the day, and as soon as we were outside Puffin Island we turned onto a compass course of 145º which we would follow for the next 17nm, towards Dursey Sound. This put us on a very broad reach with the swell coming from astern, and as the wind went lighter we shook out the reef and tied on a preventer to stop the boom lifting too much as the swells rolled under us.
Skellig Michael
As Robinetta passed Bolus Head we were making an average of 4 knots over the ground, which put us ahead of schedule, which was no bad thing. An hour later we furled away the jib. We were virtually running and it kept loosing the wind and just flapping about so it was better away. Even then we kept up over four knots.
We could see the Skelligs in the distance, but were not tempted to head out to see them!

entering Dursay Sound
As we reached the entrance to Dursey Sound Deanha of Dingle came past us and motored ahead, but we kept sailing through the sound, on full main and staysail.
The cable car went overhead as we approached; an odd sight!

Cable Car across Dursey Sound
The wind increased as we came through to the south side of the sound, and we went head to wind to put some of the reef back in, before turning back onto course to clear Crow Head and Cat Rock. A big French yacht was motored in the other direction, and we waved at each other, then he headed into Dirsey Sound, and we gybed round onto our new course to take us along the north shore of Bantry Bay.

Black Bull Head
Our destination was Lawrence Cove Marina, on Bere Island, and we had a lovely broad reach along the shore. I had given Julian a course to steer to keep us well clear of any coastal dangers, but as we closed with Black Bull Head it became obvious that I should have made a bigger allowance for leeway and tidal push. We went closer than I planned, (still out far enough to be safe though!). Almost as soon as we were past the wind began to build.

We put in the second and third reefs within minutes of each other, and soon after lowered the main completely. We had put the engine on to do this, but as I finished putting on the sail ties I realised Julian had turned it off again. We were sailing just on the staysail, but Robinetta was sailing well, with the coast line sliding past noticeably. Just for interest we used the Marine Traffic application on Julian's phone, and discovered we were doing between 2.5 and 3 knots on staysail alone. No wonder the main sail was overpowered!

Entrance to Piper Sound
An hour later later we entered Piper Sound, headed to pass north of Bere Island, through the sheltered channel, then into Lawrence Cove. We put the engine on, but the staysail was still doing most of the work as we passed Castletownbere, then followed the channel round to Lawrence Cove Marina.

We needed to use the chart plotter to find the entrance, bu once we knew where it was we found it well buoyed and simple to enter.

I got the bowsprit in, and Julian picked out a blown off berth. It took us two goes round to get it, but there were no real problems, and we were soon tied up securely.

It was quarter to seven by the time we wandered up to the marina office, which was shut, but since we wanted to get off early in the morning we phoned the number on the door, and Rachel came down immediately and took our money. She could not have been more helpful, phoning the shop (which shut at 7) to make sure they would stay open until we got there, and making sure we had the right change for the shower.

After our shop and a drink at the pub we headed back to Robinetta, but got waylaid by Noel from Deanha of Dingle who invited us aboard for a drink. We ended up eating dinner very late!

Monday, 11 July 2016

Back on Board and sailing

The taxi from Kerry Airport took us along the coast on the way to Dingle. Watching the breakers rolling in to the surfer's beach at Inch made me doubt that we would be going anywhere before midweek, but the forecast was for lighter winds tomorrow, so we could only hope the swell would go down.

After arriving on Robinetta on Sunday evening Julian and I spent Monday morning turning her back into a sailing boat. According to Peter the marina manager the weather had been horrible the entire time we were away, but the only signs of this were that my clothes locker was wet inside. This always happens when it rains! Worm had made a very good cover for the forehatch, and the whole forepeak was drier as a consequence.

The antifoul on Worm's underside had got quite scraped. The weather was dry so I put a fresh coat on. We had to let this dry a bit before relaunching her, but there were other things than needed doing meanwhile, like scrubbing off the weed that had grown on her sides since we left her, and filling the water tanks.

We had topped up Robinetta's main diesel tanks before leaving her last month, so now had an empty 10litre fuel can. We walked along to the local petrol station and re-filled it, then on the way back stopped for lunch at the Fishbarr on the Marina quay. Once we were back on Robinetta I got the chartplotter out, and connected it to its power lead in the cockpit, and we were ready to go. Except we weren't. The chartplotter would not turn on.

After half an hour of checking and trying Julian gave up trying to make it work. There is power getting to the plotter,  but nothing works.
We set off anyway. We have passage charts, and our back-up electronic ones on Julian's Samsung tablet. The major problem is that we now have no depth gauge...

We motored slowly across Dingle Bay, and I helmed us to keep in the wel marked channel, while Julian got the bowsprit out. Fungie the Dingle Dolphin was in the bay, and watching 3 fully laden trip boats chasing the dolphin was entertaining, but distracting. The trip boats charged past us and out past Reenberg Point, which let me concentrate better on Robinetta's own passage out of the bay.

The swell outside felt challenging at first, but we soon got used to it and hoisted the reefed main for what turned out to be a pleasant sail towards Valentia Island. Three common dolphins appeared alongside and paced for for a minute before heading off again, so much more civilised than the chase after Fungie!

Entrance to Valentia Sound
Our destination for the evening was Port Magee at the south end of Valentia Island. There is a bridge across Valentia Sound just north of it, so we had to go along the Atlantic side of Valentia to reach it. Once past the Northern entrance to Valentia Sound the sea state worsned, with more cross waves on the swell which varied in height quite randomly. Julian was helming by this point and finding it hard work. There was spray breaking on off lying rocks,and it was our first sail for a while without the reassuring “you are here” of the chartplotter.

I turned on the tablet, and checked our position and heading using the navionics chart. We were half way along Valentia Island, and just where we should be relative to the coast, and on a good heading to clear the rocks at Bray Head where we would turn. I switched the tablet off again to save its battery. When we first bought Robinetta we used to sail her the old fashioned way. It is easy to become too reliant on GPS.

Soon after this we put the engine on to help Julian hold the heading. Robinetta was being knocked off course on an irregular basis, and everytime this happened the sails were set incorrectly for her new course and she would slow down. Having the engine on, on quite low revs, helped Julian regain course much more quickly.

Bray Head
Once clear of Bray Head we gybed Robinetta round and headed north into the Portmagee channel. The swell seemed to follow us round Bray Head, but every curve of the channel decreased the wave height. We got a lot of wind shadow from Valentia Island and I dropped the main while Julian held the course. We had a good chartlet to follow, but I asked Julian to put the tablet on to check our pilotage and we reached Portmagee Harbour without problems.

There are pontoons there, opened in 2014, with 1 visitor berth reserved on the hammer head. This was already taken, by Déanha of Dingle, a large(ish) motor cruiser we had seen in Dingle Marina only that morning. We approached carefully and saw the skipper had put out plenty of fenders and opened a gap in his safety rails, obviously inviting people to raft up. Julian pulled Robinetta's bowsprit in and we approached slowly for a perfect gentle stop.

Neither of us felt particularly hungry, so after a snack we walked ashore to the pub for a drink and to pay for the mooring. Portmagee has brightly painted houses, a little like Tobermory, but is much smaller. There are a lot of visitor information plaques, and we enjoyed a little walk around before heading back to Robinetta to sleep.