Gosport

A break in the weather, blue sky and favourable winds, was all we needed to depart Holyhead.

Ahead of us was a chilly two day sail south through the Irish Sea so we made sure we had our winter woollies on. Our destination: Falmouth.

As we navigated through St George’s Channel and the Bristol  Channel we made sure to use the current to our advantage, staying clear of the inshore eddies, counter-eddies, turbulent tidal races and overfalls. Fortunately we had neap tides so the currents were never stronger than 2kn.

After 260nm and two nights at sea, we arrived at the historic port of Falmouth. Rather than stay at the marina, we opted to stay on a mooring as the weather was forecast to be okay during our stay. There are plenty of reasonably priced visitor moorings, so we snagged one, launched the dinghy then checked in with the harbour staff. The shower and laundry facilities are good so we took our time to enjoy extra long hot showers.

Falmouth is in the county of Cornwall. If you like Cornish pasties (which I do), you won’t be disappointed by the number on offer at various bakeries and cafes as you walk along Market Street. Falmouth is a little hilly and it’s an interesting place to walk around. Either along Market Street to poke around the shops, or over the hill through the cemetery to Swanpool then back along the coastal path to Pendennis Castle built during Henry VIII’s reign.  Once again we caught up with the crew of Coruisk and we bundled into a hire car so we could visit the impressive Southampton Boat Show. It was great that we managed to get there as I’d always wanted to visit this boat show. They had heaps of stuff for yachties, unlike some of the boat shows in Australia which seem to cater for fishing and power boats.

After a week it was time to continue our trip east. Our next port was Plymouth 40nm away. With noticeably warmer weather than up north (by only a couple of degrees) we enjoyed the afternoon of tacking our way into Plymouth Harbour along with other sailors out for the sunny afternoon. A short motor to our anchorage at Barn Pool Beach, west around from Drake Island, is where we stopped for the night.

The next morning we waited until we could see the channel markers through the dense fog then slowly crept out of the harbour passing a couple of warships on the way out.

Another glorious sailing day on the south coast. Dartmouth, 38nm away, has an easy entrance. There are a few options to anchor or berth the boat. Just before the three deep water floating docks (where we berthed) is a waste barge where you can drop off your rubbish and fill water tanks. There’s also a diesel barge nearby too. Reeds Almanac lists the options.

Once settled in we dinghied across to the pretty town to pay our harbour dues and have some lunch.  Across the water we could see the Dartmouth Steam Train puffing its way along the tracks. After a couple of nights at Dartmouth as a blow went over, we sailed out of the harbour passing the Dartmouth Castle onto Portland Harbour 52nm to east. Again we only stayed overnight dropping the anchor in the well protected Portland Harbour.

View looking east from Portland Harbour

From Portland we had a 50nm sail to our next destination which took us by the narrow entrance at ‘The Needles’ which leads into The Solent. Fortunately for much of our trip along the south coast the tide is at neaps and we’ve managed to catch the currents also going in the right direction. Entering The Needles at the wrong tide in the wrong conditions can be quite treacherous. But not that day. We sailed our way through the dozens of small craft to drop anchor at a quiet spot off Osbourne Beach on the north coast of the Isle of Wight. The next day we motored our way through the Saturday sailors across the short few miles across The Solent into Gosport – our home for the winter.

Our winter home – Haslar Marina, Gosport

Gosport is well positioned to catch trains or buses around the UK (a quick 5 minute ferry ride to Portsmouth then trains to London). The marina is open to the sea so the water stays fresh, unlike some of the locked in harbours. The climate is a little better down here, and the winter berthing rates are far more reasonable than London and other places along the south coast too.

The naval town of Gosport has everything we need all within walking distance – supermarkets, chandlery, cafes, library, bakeries, fish and chips, etc. It’s also a great location to cycle around and easy to take the bikes on the ferry across to Portsmouth or the Isle of Wight.

‘the Spinnaker’ Portsmouth

This whole area, which includes Gosport and Portsmouth, has a proud naval history. Many of the allied vehicles for the D-Day invasion boarded ships from Gosport and there are historic signs around the place with photos and interesting information.

Nearby is the Royal Navy Submarine Museum; across the water is the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, the HMS Victory, from which Admiral Nelson commanded the victory at Trafalgar plus a whole bunch of other naval things to visit, including the Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower.

The largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth, recently arrived and now has its home at Portsmouth. Looks like we’ll be doing some ‘naval gazing’ while we’re here!

So that’s it. The sailing is over for 2017 and we prepare for a long stay through a cold winter. It’s unusual for us to stay in one place for any more than a few weeks so I’m hoping it will be a nice change.

We have plenty to see and do in the UK over winter, but I am also looking forward to spring when Blue Heeler heads back out sailing.

But before I get too settled, I’m taking a quick trip to Melbourne to see my family, leaving Wayne to keep warm and enjoy pies, mushy peas and a few weeks of peace and quiet!

If you’re in the area, do drop by! Until then…

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Hiya from Holyhead, North Wales

As we sail around the world, home is wherever we drop our anchor. Along the way we, like sailors of old, tend to pick up little bits of the local vernacular; in the Caribbean, it’s customary to greet with a friendly ‘Good Mornin’, in Thailand ‘Sawadee-Kai’, or Indonesia ‘Selamat Pagi’.

Here in Wales and around Liverpool we’re greeted with a chirpy ‘Hiya’. Of course the Welsh also have their own language which to the unlearned appears to have more consonants than vowels (classic example is the village in North Wales with the longest name in Great Britain: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, translated into English is “St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave”). Although I was born in North Wales, there’s little chance of me learning Welsh at this stage of my life, except for one phrase ‘Iechyd Da’ (ie: cheers!).

Leaving Dublin for Holyhead

Leaving Dublin early one morning the trip to Holyhead on the island of Anglesey, North Wales, was a pleasant 60nm motor sail directly east. The entrance to the Holyhead Marina is accessible at all states of the tide, with a wide entrance and long visitors dock at the marina from where you can tie up and visit the friendly marina office. We had considered going into Liverpool and looked at alternative anchoring/marina options along the North Wales coast, but with spring tides of 10 metres, incessant 25kn+ winds and bad reviews on some of the marinas, we decided to stay at Holyhead, where we can make a quick exit. Holyhead Marina has excellent shower and laundry facilities, with a well stocked chandlery, cafe and bar/restaurant on site too. The village of Holyhead is 15 minutes walk away.

Holyhead Port (from the Holyhead Port website)

Holyhead has a large ferry terminal with regular ferry service to Ireland and a railway station that links to the National Rail network. Holyhead is a quiet town, and would benefit from a coat of paint and improved foreshore work to make this a delightful tourist hotspot.

Holyhead Marina

Until then, there’s a plethora of charity shops, a few hairdressers and barbers, cosy pubs and even a small cinema to keep the locals entertained. On a blustery afternoon we went along with dozens of locals to watch Stephen King’s ‘It’. Centuries old St Cybis Church surrounded by a Roman fort is in the centre of town.  A little newer and not too far away are plenty of supermarkets – Lidl, and a little further on is Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.

Windy walk to South Stack Lighthouse

There’s plenty of walks around Holyhead. The Breakwater Country Park with walks to North Stack and South Stack offer peaceful trails lined with blackberries and nettles.

The old quarry at the Breakwater Country Park provided the rocks to build the 2.4km breakwater – the longest breakwater in Britain. Now there is a cafe and an old brick works displaying artworks and old photos of the area.

Where it all started..my life that is!

I had a few places I wanted to visit so we hired a car. I visited my first home, the place I spent my first few months before my family migrated to Australia.

From Bangor we traveled to my family’s home-town of Liverpool. Liverpool is only a two hour drive from Holyhead along the North Wales coast.

We could have berthed at Albert Dock at Liverpool, but I’m glad we didn’t as it wasn’t particularly inviting for yachties. Navigating the Mersey River at spring tide is one thing, but planning the escape – wind, tides – could have been troublesome.

Albert Dock, Liverpool

Liverpool’s Maritime Museum had lots of information about the Liverpool Blitz of 1940-42, the sinking of the Lusitania, the Battle of the Atlantic from WWII, the Merchant Seamen and the history of ship-building in Liverpool.

Also at this venue is the Slavery Museum which acknowledges that the prosperity of The British Empire was achieved through the misery of the slave trade.

A walk around town weaving our way through hoards of tourists and Scousers, we take a detour into The Cavern Club – rebuilt with original Cavern Club bricks and reopened in 1984. It’s a good place to sit and drink a beer and listen to live Beatles covers on stage. As we drove out of Liverpool, we took a route which took us by the old terrace houses where my relatives lived in years gone by.

Arthur, Ally and Julie at Holyhead

Our travels around North Wales included a sunny day trip through Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia National Park and climbing base Llanberis; another day to visit the impressive Caenarvon Castle, and another day to visit Bangor and the town within Conwy Castle.

We also managed to catch up with relatives – my second cousin Arthur and his wife Julie live on Anglesey and came to Holyhead for a tour of Blue Heeler. Great to see them after so many years.

I also caught up with a distant cousin who has an interest in ancestry. My third cousin Ann and her husband Harry drove us around Liverpool and in particular around the area where they grew up, which also happened to be near where Paul McCartney and John Lennon grew up.

They took us along Penny Lane to view the Sgt Peppers roundabout, by Strawberry Fields (an old Salvation Army children’s home) and even the church where Eleanor Rigby is buried. Ann told us stories of the 1960s and what life was like back in those days. This area of Liverpool is quite beautiful with big parks and streets lined with old trees and lovely old houses. They pointed out the house where John Lennon spent his youth and I found myself humming a few of The Beatles tunes as we went along. It’s great to meet relatives along the way and I hope to meet up with others during our UK visit.

Simpson Bay complex demolished by Hurricane Irma

But I can’t finish this post without mentioning Hurricane Irma. St Martin, our temporary home over three seasons, has been destroyed by this incredibly destructive hurricane. St Barts, the BVIs, and other places we’ve visited will now take months, if not years to reconstruct. I really feel for the locals – the guy who fixed my shoes; the girl who cut my hair; Mike at Shrimpy’s; Hyacinth at The Business Point, and other businesses that support the yachting community – have no option but to stay and rebuild their livelihoods.

Holyhead was whacked with 60kn the other night – the first named storm of the year – Storm Aileen battered the UK leaving many without power and trees blown over with wind up to 85mph. We certainly woke up abruptly as it lashed Holyhead. The newspapers reported it as “Hurricane hits England”, but it was nothing like 180kn winds.

So in a day or so the wind will finally blow from the north so we can make a move south. The gales are coming more regularly now and will only intensify as winter approaches. We need to sail our floating home around to the south coast of England, soon.

Winter is coming…

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Thanks for the craic Dublin!

The sailing distance from Belfast to Dublin is around 105nm. With a light south-westerly breeze, we decided to make the most of the calmer weather and sail directly to Dublin. A strong southerly wind was forecast the following afternoon so we didn’t want to get trapped in another anchorage waiting for weather so unfortunately we missed a few towns and anchorages along the way.

Lack of sleep even on one overnighter is draining, so rather than arrive too early at Dublin, after 80nm and at 1am we pulled into a small anchorage at the Skerries about 23nm north of Dublin. The seas were absolutely flat with zero wind making night entry much easier. We slept solidly for five hours – bliss!

Early next morning making sure to make good use of the flood tide, we entered Dublin Bay. Staying well clear of the frequent ferries and ships departing and entering the busy harbour, we called VTS on VHF12 to request clearance into the port limits. A friendly voice gave us the okay to continue up the River Liffey to the Poolbeg Yacht Club located on the south bank.

Entering Dublin Port with famous red lighthouse to port

The Poolbeg Yacht Club doesn’t attract as many transient cruisers as Dun Laoghaire Marina, located further out on Dublin Bay’s southern side. But it is closer to the centre of Dublin. Most of the berths and mooring field are taken up by local yacht club members, and we met a few at the bar our first night. As they sipped their Guinness and watched a reply of their Irish lad Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather fight, they also asked about our travels from Australia. The club has showers, toilets, washing machines, a decent bar and welcoming staff.

Each morning the large cruise ships vibrate us awake

Opposite the Yacht Club on the northern bank of the River Liffey is the busy Dublin Port. Cruise ships, ferries, and other commercial vessels bring hundreds of tourists from Europe and the UK to Dublin. Each morning the rumblings of propellers and vibrations from thrusters only metres away from our hull shake us out of bed as the ships manoeuvre in the narrow river.

The yacht club is a five minute walk from the village of Ringsend, and a further 20 minute walk to the centre of Dublin. A walk through Ringsend Park to a bus stop across the road from St Patrick’s you can catch the number 1 bus right into town for 2 Euro. With Blue Heeler safely tied up on the outer dock, and with Australian song-writer Paul Kelly’s “Every F—-g City” playing in my head, our first port-of-call was a walk through the streets of Temple Bar.

The spread of gentrification in Dublin is obvious, but the city still retains its grittiness. Temple Bar is such an area; once derelict and filled with all sorts of interesting characters, nowadays the pubs are filled with hundreds of less interesting tourists listening to renditions of “Dirty Old Town” or “Irish Rover”. While the cobble roads are flat, the drink prices are steep so if you’re just in it for a beer, it pays to find a pub further out of the area (For a sample of Dublin from the ’90s, I recommend re-watching movie “The Commitments”. Great movie!).

Despite a €70 billion euro bank bailout in 2010, and after a few years of austerity measures, Ireland has managed to exit the bailout, thanks no doubt to the support of tourist dollars. Ireland is now the fastest growing economy in the euro zone for a fourth straight year. It will be interesting to see the impact Brexit will have on Northern Ireland as they exit the EU while Ireland remains.

During our stay we bought a two-day Dublin Pass which gave us discounted entry to a variety of tourist hot-spots and a ride aboard a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus which circles the city. A humorous driver talked as he drove, pointing out various buildings along the way. He even pointed out the cemetery where the inventor of the crossword puzzle was buried, saying “I don’t remember his name, but if you want to visit his grave you can find him four down and three across”. Ha!

The Easter Rising of 1916 took place in Dublin. The GPO (General Post Office) was used as the headquarters for the Irish Republicans and a trip to the GPO Witness History Exhibition is well worth the visit to learn more about this event. Further to the east along the River Liffey is the EPIC Emigration Museum; also worth a visit to find out about the people that left a troubled Ireland seeking better lives abroad. The exhibition also identifies the many people around the world who have Irish ancestry. A surprising list to be sure! Even Barrack Obama’s great, great, great grandfather was from Ireland!

Across the road at the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Exhibition, our guide tells us more about the famine and takes us through a typical ‘coffin ship’, a replica of the vessels used to transport the poor and destitute Irish to other lands. Finally to fill our day, a visit to Christchurch Cathedral, then it’s back at Temple Bar for another pint and a rendition of “Irish Rover” before catching the bus to Ringsend.

Not far from the Rory Gallagher walk is The Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum Experience is new to Temple Bar and you can go there with your Dublin Pass. Tourists are guided through a working rehearsing and recording studio, and learn a little more about contemporary Irish bands along the way. You even get the chance to play a guitar or drums in the studio.

But of course a trip to Dublin would not be complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. Promoted as the most popular tourist destination in Dublin, the self-guided exhibition shows the process of producing the black stuff, famous for its flavour and texture. At the end of the visit you’re invited to pour your own pint and drink it up on the 7th floor with 360 views of Dublin. You’ll often see trucks of Guinness (“silver bullets” as they’re known) making their journey across town.

A trip to the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street isn’t too far from the GPO. Your taste buds will be jumping for joy as the smooth taste of Jameson’s superior triple-distilled whiskey flows down your throat. But the jumping stops when you have the opportunity to subject them to the comparative tastes of the smoky double-distilled Johnny Walker and the second-rate single-distilled Jack Daniels! As you depart the tour you are welcome to stay and enjoy a free Jameson Daily Grog which will have your taste-buds jumping for joy again!

To finish off our brief visit to Dublin, we spent a quiet day walking around Trinity College, the Museums, the National Library and W.B. Yeats exhibition, a walk through St Stephens Green to read all the signs regarding the Easter Rising, then to Merrion Square passing Oscar Wilde’s house and statue before ambling back to the Poolbeg Yacht Club. Next stop, Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales.

Time for a pint! Sláinte!

 

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Northern Island

Passing through Northern Ireland by boat, we stopped at two cruiser-friendly towns – Portrush and Belfast. Both have very good facilities and easy access.

At Portrush Harbour, the cost to berth is £21.50 per boat per day. The harbour staff are friendly, there are excellent ablution facilities (50p for shower), the laundry is free to use and the nearby Portrush Yacht Club welcomes visitors to pop in for a Guinness and tap feet to local live music.  The town has all the amenities for a cruiser – Spar supermarket, hardware, post office, etc. Unfortunately at this time of year the town was overrun with tourists and sticky-face kids! Barry’s Amusements is a popular place for families to spend their hard-earned money and for the kids to burn off some energy. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a place like this and after so long away from this culture I wasn’t too enamored!

Sailing south to Belfast

Leaving Portrush we had to time it right so that we could catch the south flowing flood tide through Rathlin Sound, expected to be around 4-5kn. At 10am we motor-sailed from Portrush around Ramore Head, passing by the Skerries to enjoy unusually calm seas on a bright sunny day.

Coastline near Giants Causeway

The rugged coastline dominates the view and it isn’t long before we sail by the natural wonder known as the Giants Causeway on the coast of County Antrim. Our view from the boat is spectacular and the tall hexagonal columns of basalt dwarf the people walking around the tourist trails.

We planned to leave Portrush at HW Dover -7. That gave us two hours to reach the Rathlin sound and catch the tide. With a slight current against us for two hours, just as we reached Rathlin Sound the tide changed in our favour. Our timing was spot-on and our speed increased immediately. First our SOG showed 8.5kn, then 9.5kn, then 10.5kn. We cracked 11kn at one point and with calm conditions we flew along! To our north the Mull of Kintyre in Southwest Scotland could be seen. In a good mood on this sunny day we broke out in song “Mull of Kintyre oh mist rolling in from the sea...”

First view of the Harland and Wolff yard at Belfast. Wind generation towers are huge

Our destination was Glenarm, about 36nm from Portrush, but by 2pm we’d made better progress than expected so decided to continue on to Belfast Lough – 68nm away from Portrush. We were still travelling at 7kn, but this eased as we approached Belfast Lough with the tide against us. We wanted to arrive to avoid a 35-40kn southwest blow the following day.

We arrived at Belfast Lough at around 8pm and anchored near to a yacht club at Cultra, about 5nm from Belfast Harbour and the marina. Up early with the high tide and with the threat of an approaching storm we raised the anchor and made our way up the Belfast channel. We had to wait for a Stena ferry to depart before we could enter the channel and continue up passed the Titanic Quarter and docks.

A famous landmark in Belfast are the large yellow “H & W” gantry cranes “Samson” and “Goliath”. Harland and Wolff, ship-builders built three Royal Mail Steamer ships: Titanic, Olympic and Brittania for the White Star Line of Liverpool. We all know what happened to Titanic. Nowadays H&W’s main construction is wind-generators, which explains those tall towers we saw upon arrival at Belfast. Only when we saw the large blades laid down did we realise how big these wind generators are.

Rod, Ally, Kim, Wayne – Belfast

By 8.30am we had docked at the small marina in the historic Abercorn Basin. As luck would have it, a friend of mine I hadn’t seen for maybe 12 years and worked with over 20 years ago was visiting Ireland and visited us at the dock just after we arrived.

So nice to see you again Kim and Rod!

Belfast marina is nicely set up for passing cruisers. There is a pay machine where you pay with credit card a reasonable fee of £16.50 per night per vessel. This includes electricity, water, wifi, showers, toilets, and laundry facilities! The marina is conveniently located at the Titanic quarter and about a 10 minute walk to the city centre over the River Lagan. Right next door is the W5 Odyssey centre with cinemas, Pizza Hut, a pub and more sticky-faced kids!

Belfast Harbour, Abercorn Basin

Impressive architecture of Titanic Exhibition Centre.

With the Titanic exhibition centre so close, that was our first visit the following day (we re-watched the movie Titanic the night before to get in the zone!). Half the day was spent walking around, enjoying the stories, the information about ship-building, and the visit to the smaller “Little Sister” of Titanic, the Nomadic. The Nomadic was faithfully renovated in 2013 after one hundred years of service. Nomadic was used as tender to Titanic to transport first class and second class passengers to the larger ships which couldn’t dock at Cherbourg in France. On the site where Titanic and Olympic were built side-by-side is a footprint of Titanic which you can walk along. It’s about 270m in length – still long by today’s standards, but not as high as modern cruise ships which often come to Belfast.

Of course in Belfast, there is no way to overlook the recent history of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

A popular day trip for tourists are to visit the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of murals dotted around Belfast.  Painted on sides of buildings, Peace Lines and other flat surfaces, the images communicate messages from the various groups – loyalists, republicans, catholics, and protestants. Nowadays though contemporary topics are being painted to bring some optimism for the younger generations.

There are a number of ways to visit the murals. Most tourists pay for a taxi tour to drive around the areas between the notorious Falls and Shankill Roads.

Contemporary messages give optimism to new generation

We chose to hire a Belfast Bike and ride around. This was a good idea until the rain bucketed down on us. But it disappeared soon enough and we continued our trip along Falls Road, passing the office of Sinn Fein and stopping to view the many murals along the way. At one point along Whiterock Road I chatted to a local who was surprised to see a couple of tourist bikes in this area. Seems they don’t get many! There is still a sense of disquiet in West Belfast, but it doesn’t stop the groups of tourists that visit the murals. The following day, I went for a stroll through Belfast and into the Cathedral quarter. Before long I headed west along Clifton Street then Crumlin Road. There were murals in this area so to see them I turned left and headed towards the infamous Shankill Road.

The time was around 12 noon on a Sunday and nobody was around. Covering the terrace homes with small front gardens, bunting, flags of both the Union Jack and the Red Hand of Ulster were everywhere, strung from rooftops, flagpoles and lightposts. I felt a little uneasy in this neck of the woods, made even more daunting as I could see the high ‘Peace Walls’ which divide the communities. Out on Shankill Road I breathed out and walked back into the city.

It’s almost twenty years since the Good Friday Agreement and the rumblings of the past aren’t so distant. Only a couple of weeks ago a group of youths caused riots in West Belfast, while in central Belfast, police officers were pelted with petrol bombs, stones and other missiles.

But in downtown Belfast, things are normal enough. It’s easy to get around, has a good selection of shops (I finally bought a new camera!!), the St Georges Market fills in a Sunday morning, there’s plenty to see and do including some great architecture, such as City Hall, and of course plenty of pubs and eateries. The waterfront area is developing and makes for a nice stroll along the River Lagan.

Staying longer in Belfast than expected is not a bad thing. But this weekend we expect the winds to ease and we can make our way down to Dublin, 100nm to the south. We must remember to change courtesy flags!

Until then, here’s an extract of a C.S.Lewis poem from the square at the Cathedral Quarter:

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Wild Atlantic Coast – Northwest Ireland

Sailing the west coast of Ireland takes a lot of patience as well as time. Every few days a blow will come in from the west, or south, or northwest making even planning short passages difficult.

Sailing deep within bays only means that at some point you have to come back out the same way, usually with the wind against you. From Galway to Northern Ireland we enjoyed a variety of sailing, ducking in and out of harbours to avoid blows. Here’s where we sailed:

 

Galway to Inishmore, Aran Islands, County Galway

At some point you just have to take the best weather forecast to escape. The lock at Galway opens two hours before high tide and closes promptly at high tide, so we had little option but to leave no earlier than 11.30am on 2nd August. Our destination: Aran Islands, 25nm to the west. We knew we would have a headwind, but at least it was less than 10-15kn (F4). Making the best of the conditions, we tacked, tacked again, and as the ebb tide flowed against the westerly breeze, the seas chopped up making headway slow and lumpy. This was the best day to leave, as the following day promised 20-30kn (F7) winds from the east, before backing to the south west for the rest of the week.

After six hours we reached the mooring field at Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. There were a few free visitors moorings and usually as we’ve found, most are empty. Not many yachts travel this coast.

You might wonder how we know where the moorings are. We have a couple of resources – Reed’s Nautical Almanac is really the only guide we have. ActiveCaptain reviews along this coast are few due to the lack of cruiser activity, so I’ve added a few of my own reviews for sailors contemplating sailing this coast.

Wayne living on the edge, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Wednesday’s blow from the east did eventuate, so we stayed aboard as Blue Heeler splashed around in the seas coming in from the east. On Thursday with a soft 10-15kn wind from the SW we went ashore. There is some room at a floating dock for smaller yachts and here is where we tied our dinghy. At the harbour are two bike rental places, so we each grabbed a bike for the day and went for a ride around the island.

The island is only 10kms long, and within an hour or so of gentle cycling passing a seal colony along the way, we reached the famous primitive circular ruins of Dun Aengus at the edge of a 100m high cliff. Archaeologists are uncertain as to the purpose of the site, and believe it may have been constructed for religious purposes perhaps around 1000BC.

The island is divided by miles of rock walls; small parcels of green paddocks some with a horse, or a couple of cows, or a donkey or two. After a couple of hours looking at more ruins, we returned to the village, had lunch at Joe Watty’s bar, and bought a few things at the Spar supermarket. The islands are also famous for the Aran jumper made from thick off-white wool knitted in cable patterns.

 

Aran Islands to Inishbofin, County Mayo

Again with light wind from the NNW, we had no option but to beat north. After a few hours we could veer east and sail. The entrance to Inishbofin is extremely narrow so following the lead light and the charts was critical. Too far to port the light shines red; too far to starboard the light shines green; white light – straight ahead! Gun Rock to the east gets very close, but at half tide we had 10m under the keel at this point. Once through we turned to starboard and motored the short distance anchoring in 4m south of the new pier and north of Port Island. Checking the tides in this shallow anchorage is also very important.

Ruins at Inishbofin

Inishbofin to Ballyglass, Broadhaven Bay

Up early just after high tide we motored out again following the white lead light. Heading west then around the shoals we had a better angle to sail north towards Broadhaven. By 8.30am the sails were full and by 8.45am I’d whipped up a batch of bacon and eggs and hot steaming coffee and we settled in for a long 60nm day. The wind was light so we had to motor for a couple of hours. Eventually our course veered north so at this point we could motor sail, but only when the wind increased upwards of 10kn. The final few hours we had a great sail.

Turning east for the final leg of the trip the wind was up at 15-18kn so we sailed up to the Broadhaven lighthouse before pulling in the genoa, then a little further in we furled the main. To the north of the fishing dock at the small beach are three free visitors moorings.

Once again we remained aboard while a 20/30km SW blow passed over.

Ballyglass, Broadhaven Bay to Killybegs, County Donegal

The distance to Killybegs from Ballyglass is 60nm so to make sure we reached Killybegs at a reasonable time, we motor-sailed with 15kn winds behind us. The swell around 1.5m carried us into the wide mouth of Killybegs Harbour, home to a fleet of huge fishing vessels. Superbly maintained and worth millions of dollars, these vessels only work three months of the year as they meet their quota of fish for the region.

Killybegs has a floating dock for cruisers to tie up to, all very new and computerised.  As Monday was a bank holiday we tied to the floating dock (again plenty of room as not many yachts up this way), and the next morning the Marina Manager, Gerard, came to see us. Cost was 2.00€ per metre per night plus electricity and water. Seems this is the going rate for many small marinas along this coast.

Killybegs is a small town and despite the marina having no facilities, you can get laundry done at “Ship Shape” laundry services, buy groceries at Spar, have a haircut and one of many hairdressers/barbers, or go out for dinner at one of the many pubs.

Killybegs, Ireland

Killybegs to Arranmore, County Donegal

After two nights at Killybegs we left to motor 6nm to Teelin Bay and grabbed one of the three free visitors moorings. This would give us a head start on the next day’s trip to Arranmore.

The trip to Arranmore from Teelin Bay is only 36nm but the forecast was for strong SW winds that same evening and we wanted to be out of the weather by lunchtime. From Teelin Bay this stretch of coast is known as Slieve League, apparently one of the highest sea-cliffs in Europe.

As we rounded the north of Arranmore, the wind had already increased to 27kn and the seas grew bigger by the hour. Arranmore also has three free visitors moorings and we grabbed one and again holed up for a couple of days waiting out a 25-30kn SW blow.

Arranmore to Ballymastocker Bay, Lough Swilly

The next leg of our journey in County Donegal took us from the island of Arranmore some 42nm to Lough Swilly. Passing around Fanad lighthouse, we sailed a further 5nm into Lough Swilly to grab one the few visitor moorings at Ballymastocker Bay on the west coast of Lough Swilly.

That afternoon the VHF was abuzz with activity; the news that a diver was missing from 2.30pm that afternoon about 16nm north of us. This area is well known for wrecks of steamers and minesweepers torpedoed in WWI and WWII. That afternoon the Lifeboat vessel from Lough Swilly, fishing vessels and a helicopter searched for the missing diver. The next day we learned that the diver didn’t make it to the top and was found at the wreck at the bottom some 65m below the surface.

The beach at Ballymastocker Bay is quite beautiful. Unusual to see such a nice beach in these parts. The views from the anchorage are fine, but very exposed to the east and south.

Now, picking up a mooring can be a little tricky as many of the free moorings have no line attached. We have two methods; as Wayne drives close to the mooring I lay on the deck, reach down and thread our mooring line through the shackle on top of the mooring, then Wayne drags the mooring line to attach at the bow. Not easy to do in rough weather!

If there is a line attached to a mooring it’s usually fairly light. Another trick we use is to grab the thin line, tie it up short on the bow cleat, then with the aid of a heavy lead fishing weight on the end of our mooring line, I dangle it and thread it through the shackle so we can hook it and drag it through and tie-up, then repeat on the other side. Seems to work but if there’s an easier way, do tell!

Lough Swilly to Portrush, Northern Ireland

From Lough Swilly we passed through Inishtrahull Sound between the island of Inishtrahull and Malin Head the most northerly point of Ireland. Once we’d sailed by the entrance to Lough Foyle, we were officially in Northern Ireland, leaving the Republic of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Coast behind us.  From this stretch of coast the large Atlantic swells ease as they roll towards the Sea of Moyle, the narrow gap between northeastern Northern Ireland the southwest Scotland.

About one mile out of the touristy Northern Ireland town of Portrush was a strong smell of fish and chips! The entrance to the harbour is easy in fair weather. Wouldn’t like to try it with a NW swell. Once tied up Wayne got the lowdown on the facilities then asked the harbour-master if there was anything else we needed to know. He leaned over and quietly advised “You might want to take down that Republic of Ireland flag”. Oh, yes, oops!  Quickly Wayne removed the Republic of Ireland courtesy flag and hoisted the British red ensign.

Welcome to Northern Ireland!

 

 

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