Sunday, 25 June 2017


We had planned to head for Ardglass at the end of the ebb so we could have a go on the Curragh but it was not to be.

Alison got a call from her sister - their father was poorly. We quickly found a plane to Edinburgh and arranged for Alison to get onto it.

That left me to get Robinetta to Ardglass. We were rafted to Joe Pennington's Master Frank and Joe wanted to leave at 1pm so I got the boat ready. I assumed he knew what the tides were doing so I decided to leave with him.

I should have waited until nearer high water. With full sail and full throttle i managed nearly 1/2 knot over the ground and any loss of concentration and we drifted back towards the remains of the SeaGen.

It was gusty and I would have reefed more but the steering was too complicated in the whirlpools to play with ropes. Then I inadvertently let go of the stay sail sheet and the stay sail wrapped itself round the forestay. Just in time to have my picture taken.

It seemed like ages but it was only about an hour, then the tide slackened and I could turn the engine off, put george in charge of the steering and sort the sails out. Suddenly I was in control and enjoying myself.

George did most of the steering from then on and it was easy going out of the narrows and along the coast to Ardglass. I got the jib out for a while and had a cracking sail. Then the wind strengthened and I put the jib away again.
Leaving Strangford by Peter Farrer

Turning in to Ardglass put the wind on the nose so I dropped the main. It came down quite nicely and I put one tie on and cut the revs and sorted out ropes and fenders with george steering nicely.

I got into a berth without problems and tied up and checked in. I was in a big berth and they needed it so I moved to a smaller one. I had help getting in and it was easy.

I spent the rest of the day getting Worm on the foredeck and sorting Robinetta to be left for a week.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Race Day

It was quite windy when we left the pontoon but we put just enough of a reef in to balance the no 2 jib. The race started a bit late which meant we got into a good position for the start. Robinetta was in her element - enough wind to make her go and we made some good tacking decisions and kept up with the leaders right through the inner narrows. We were leading the pack of gaffers as we got to the first mark.

Unfortunately we didn't see it.

By the time we realised we had missed it we needed to go a long way back to round it and ended up at the back of the pack.

The next mark was upwind and we struggled to beat towards it. Alison said to go north of the post marking the Limestone Rock but that took us away from the mark and we tacked back too soon and put ourselves aground.

This was not an unusual position for us to be in, but we were used to mud, not sand with boulders. None the less we did what we would normally do, got the sails down, put the engine in reverse, and wriggled our way off. We went aground again almost immediately, but managed to get clear once more and this time made our way out of danger. It had been a close thing. The tide was falling, and we could have been stuck there for at least 10 hours.

By the time we got off most boats were nearing or through the narrows so we retired and sailed gently back. Robinetta had never felt so fast as she did at the start. Now she needs a competent crew!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

An Early Start

Sometimes passage planning and weather forecasts conspire together. When heading south from Belfast Lough the first tidal gate is at Donaghadee Sound. Going between Copeland Island and the mainland shortens the journey, and keeps you away from the overfalls outside the Islands. In order for Robinetta to be certain to catch the tide up to Portaferry from the entrance to Strangford Lough we needed to get through Donaghadee Sound at the first possible opportunity, which was at either three in the morning, or closer to four in the afternoon. Taking the afternoon gate would get us into Portaferry with the last of the evening light, which would have been perfect BUT, by Thursday afternoon the wind was forecast to be from the south west and on the nose, while in the morning it was a north-westerly.

We got Robinetta and Worm ready to leave on Wednesday evening, then went to bed with the alarm set for 00:30. We were away from our berth before 01:00, and got the sails up as soon as possible. The wind was light, but usable, and we motor sailed, with only brief spells without the engine, all the way to Orlock Head where the wind went very light.

Motoring through Donaghadee Sound in the dark, with the chart plotter on and the buoys clearly lit was simplicity itself and the rest of the journey was similarly uneventful. We put the tiller pilot on, and got the main sail down since it was doing nothing. Dawn happened with a grey sky and no fanfare, then there was a little drizzle, but as we passed North Rock and headed to pass inside South Rock the wind came back and I tried flying the jib.

Routen wheel in the distance
Julian came up from resting his eyes below and got the main up, and we sailed the rest of the way to the Strangford entrance where the wind headed us and the engine had to go back on.

Routen Wheel
We took the narrow channel north of Bar Pladdy and were whisked through at 7 knots, despite the headwind and with the engine barely above tick over. We could see the Routen Wheel whirlpool and changed course to avoid it, so ended up going the Strangford side of the tidal generator. The tide washing against it made an impressive wave.

We were now on the wrong side of the narrows to Portaferry, so had to point Robinetta's bow at 90 to the narrows in order to ferry glide across the tidal stream to reach the marina.

Tidal generator "bow" wave

By 08:50 we were safely tied up on a visitors berth. It had been a cold trip, but it was only truly dark the first couple of hours, and getting to our destination early was no hardship!