Monday, 30 August 2010

White Cliffs of Dover

Had chance to mooch about Dover today, before Robin gets the train back home. The seafront has obviously been recently redone and looks very good. The Castle is English Heritage and looks like it's well worth a visit. As well as the medieval keep, there is a roman lighthouse and the Napoleonic cliff tunnels.

The town museum has a 3000 yr old ship that was dug up, and nearby are the remains of a Roman villa. Should be plenty to keep me occupied.

Robin went for a quick recce round the castle and took this shot looking down from the battlements:

Sorry about the colour, but the light was fading.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Gale warnings issued.

Sitting in Dover waiting for the gales to wear themselves out.

We set off this morning from Eastbourne, hoping to make Ramsgate tonight, with a view to crossing the Thames Estuary tomorrow.  No such luck. As we approached Dungeness, the radio beeped out a message from the coastguards: Gale Warnings.

Thames, issued on Sunday 29 August 2010 at 0350 UTC
     Northwesterly gale force 8 expected soon, veering northerly and increasing severe gale force 9 later
Dover, issued on Sunday 29 August 2010 at 0946 UTC
     Northwesterly gale force 8 imminent

Force 7 is bad enough in a yacht, 8 and 9 is beyond a joke. We had hoped to make it before the storms hit, but it wasn't to be.

So Robin is getting the train home, and I'm staying with Catabout until next weekend, when hopefully we can take her home.

 51 07.233'N  01 18.661' E

Saturday, 28 August 2010

So near and yet so far

Out of Chichester Harbour at 7am this morning, and off further east down the coast, motoring all the way. We made good progress with the tide and it was a sunny day, so were feeling optomistic. We crossed the Greewich Meridien  at 2pm. But Catabout hasn't quite got enough boat speed to get us all the way passed Dungeness before the tide turned. As the Dover Straits are where the North Sea tides and English Channel tides come together, the timing is crucial, or you can find yourself going backwards.

So having rounded Beachy Head, we looked for somewhere to stop for the night. Rye, one of the Cinque Ports of old, but now silted up and available for a limited time each tide, was out of the question. Hastings is only suitable as an emergency anchorage, so we were left with Eastbourne Marina.

So we turned in towards the coast, passing large numbers of racing yachts, flying through the water at full speed. It turned out to be Eastbourne Regatta this weekend. The marina is entered by a pair of locks, big enough to take several vessels  at a time.  Once inside, the development is huge.

With just 100 miles to go, I don't now if we will make it in time to complete the circuit within our 58 days. Tomorrow's weather looks good, but Monday when we need to cross the Thames Estuary to get home is looking bad, with strong winds from the north west - just the direction we need to head in.
Fingers crossed.

50 47.474' N  00 19.563' E

Friday, 27 August 2010


We escaped Portland on a gap in the weather in the afternoon and made for the Isle of Wight and the Solent. Motoring all the way, we made good progress, arriving at St Alban's Head at the change of direction of the tide, so as to minimise the problems going over St Alban's Ledge, which is notorious for overfalls and eddies.

As we neared, another yacht radioed us to check which was the best route, as he was unfamiliar with the area. Robin was able to reassure him, based on both the official almanac information and his own previous experience, that close in plus this state of the tide was the best option. It was a little rough, but not too bad.

We carried on passing the Jurassic Coast and Durdle Door, debating the point in the film, Far From the Madding Crowd, where Gabriel Oak's sheep went over the cliffs. The sun went down and we continued towards the Needles, where the tide caught us and we flew into the Solent. Trying to pick out the correct lights was confused a little by a firework display on the coast. We anchored off Yarmouth for a few hours rest, while the tide changed.

In the dawnlight we set off along the Solent, which is a very busy area. Southampton and Portsmouth ports , the naval base, ferries in all directions, and huge numbers of yachts all use this stretch of water.
We picked our way through, and passed the midwater forts and underwater barrier, to go to Chichester Harbour. This is a very pretty location, and we went up to Chichester Marina for the night. Robin went off to investigate Chichester, while I slept!

50 48.173' N  00 49.019' W

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Henry VIII's Castle

Portland Roads has been a refuge for ships in bad weather for centuries, and control of the harbour area has been vital. During the sixteenth century when Henry was falling out with most of Europe because of his divorce from Katherine of Aragon and formation of the Church of England, a number of fortifications were built along the south coast to protect against invasion by the French and Spanish.

Some of these still stand, one being Portland Castle now in the hands of English Heritage. While our laundry dried at the Marina, we wandered around the castle, looking out of the gunports to see how it would have dominated the harbour. It remained armed and garrisoned for nearly 250 years, then serving as a prison, private house and military barracks and an embarkation point for the D-Day landings in the Second World War. Two of the big Phoenix  Caissons, intended for Mulberry Harbour are still at Castletown Pier.

The rain has stopped, but the wind is still strong.

Stormbound still

Portland Marina is huge. No other word for it. Because Chesil beach is at one side, westerly winds whip over, but you feel totally secure, and the pontoons are wide enough to walk on even in strong winds and rain - I know, I've tried.

The gales and strong winds will pass, but when? Can we find a window to get to the Solent, where we would be pretty well sheltered? Then to Brighton; then Ramsgate; then home. Sounds easy when you  say it like that, but so near and yet so far. At least a good rest.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Mad dash round Portland

When the fishing boat "Rachel" came back in to harbour, Robin checked with the crew and they reported the wind and waves were decreasing. A quick check on the weather reports and we were off. A short window should allow us around Portland Bill and maybe a little further to the Solent, if we sailed into the night.

The wind and waves were better than some we have experienced, but by no means ideal. At least it was sunny and dry. The fishermen had also advised going close in around the Bill to miss the 'Race' (turbulence where two conflicting tides from either side of the point meet up), otherwise it's 5 or 6 miles out, and no guarantee of good seas.

As we neared Portland, the waves were mountainous, breaking over Catabout, and coming at us beam on. But, as predicted the Race was further out, and we turned, leaving the waves to come from behind us as we passed the Bill. By this stage, I was being reminded by my body that stress and MS don't mix, so we opted for Portland Marina. As the seas lessened I made it to bed and Robin brought us safely to harbour.

50  34.364' N  02 27.141' W     211 miles to go

Effect of a good meal and a good sleep.

Feeling much more positive this morning after a good meal and a night spent in the inner harbour. We were rafted up to another yacht, a 54 foot Moody, who set off early this morning to round Portland and get back to the Solent. As a much bigger boat, it has a much greater speed through the water, and can handle conditions more than we can. Once they were gone, we tied up to the dock wall, remembering to allow for the drop in the tide.

Weather forecasts are  now our obsession, as we look for a window to allow us to get further home. The net is both a blessing and a curse, as there becomes so much information to wade through.

Meanwhile, Bridport/West Bay is nice enough to hole up in. There is a difference, to locals at least, between the two locations, but I can't work it out. It's a small holiday place, with a number of flats and apartments overlooking the sea to rent and a caravan park. There is a local fishing fleet  based in the tiny harbour, whose produce, scallops, we enjoyed last night, and a number of quayside cabins selling fresh caught fish and chips, plus other snack foods to the holidaymakers. A number of smaller boats offer day trips out into Lyme Bay or along to Lyme Regis, but are not operating at the moment. Something to do with the weather?

Another refugee from the storms, a small yacht trying to go the other way, towards Dartmouth, is now rafted up against us. She spent last night rafted to a fishing boat, which goes out every day whatever the weather.

Monday, 23 August 2010


The best part of last night was the firework display that went off at 1030pm on the harbour wall - we had a prime site for viewing. Kudos to the man who went out there in this weather and let them off. This makes our third firework display: Fowey, Brixham and Bridport.

Nature provided the fireworks for the rest of the night as the storm system passed over. Today is sunny and less windy, but the waves are still high, giving a half metre surge here in the harbour. More strong winds are forecast for later.

Robin is worried that we may be stuck here for a week, but that is one of the 'joys' of sailing, and a lesson for life, you have to deal with what is thrown at you. Personally, lack of sleep and the prospect of more storms, an uncomfortable night and more to follow, and I've gone off sailing. I can see why Ellen Macarthur wept sometimes on her round the world trip. And  unless the weather eases we may not make it home in our time allowed. 230 miles to go.

Ask me tomorrow and I will probably feel differently.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

And this is August?

The forecast of gales along the channel and across southern England tonight made us look for a short hop that we could do before the  weather closes in. Rounding Portland Bill was out of the question. Catabout hasn't the boat speed to be sure of getting  past in time.There aren't very many safe harbours once you leave the eastern end of Lyme Bay behind.

Thankfully Bridport, at the northern end of Chesil Beach was an option. We have moved further in the homeward direction, but should be sheltered from the gales. Now its a case of sit it out until the next break in the weather.

The Round Britain Race I mentioned at the start of this blog is due to begin tomorrow from Cowes, round the Isle of Wight and east up the channel heading for Ireland. I don't envy them at all.

Tonight we are just hunkered down, with a bit of luck we may see Bridport itself sometime tomorrow, weather permitting.

50 42.563' N  02 45.848' W

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Brixham, part of the English Riviera

At 2pm we slipped our mooring at Salcombe, filled up at the fuel pontoon and made for the open sea. Our intention was to round Start Point, then having the wind and waves behind us, cross Lyme Bay, round Portland Bill and anchor in Warbarrow Bay. The first hour or so would be uncomfortable, but thereafter alright, as the tide would be with us too, making for an OK passage.

The sea as we exited Salcombe was quite rough, and the motion unpleasant. For the first time on this trip, both Robin and I were 'stomach aware'. Even rounding Start Point, although better, Catabout was surfing the waves, and rolling from time to time. We looked at each other and then the chart, to review the options available to us. Meanwhile in the background the Coastguard were talking on the radio to a number of boats in difficulties.

Initially we considered Exmouth, but saw that Brixham, as well as being closer, was going less out of our way, so robin worked out our new route, changed our destination on our AIS transmission, and we headed for harbour. Brixham Marina were able to give us a berth, so at 7pm we tied up and settled down to review our progress and work out how far we could get before the weather closes in again.

50 24.015' N   03 30.492 ' W

Friday, 20 August 2010

Station not available

Another day stuck in port waiting for the winds to drop. Even if they drop here, the bad weather is gradually moving east, so we run the risk of catching it up as we head east. A dilemma.

It is raining, but we are snug in our floating home, with almost all mod cons. TV we haven't missed, but radio has been a frustrating experience. We brought a digital (DAB) radio with us, but more often than not around the UK the screen displays "station not available". Thankfully it also receives FM and longwave, so we've still been able to listen to something.

Ironically the internet has been our major source of the digital only stations. There is a long way to go before analogue radio is truly ready to be replaced.

So back to audio books and soduko.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Strong Wind Warning

 Looks like we are here for at least another day. The inshore waters forecast and coastal forecast both indicate strong winds for this area, and our next passage, across Lyme Bay, has no refuges once we set out if the weather is bad.

Strong winds are forecast
For coastal areas up to 12 miles offshore from 0600 UTC Thu 19 Aug until 0600 UTC Fri 20 Aug

24 hour forecast:

Wind -South or southwest 4 or 5 increasing 5 to 7.
Sea State-Moderate, becoming rough in west.
Weather-Showers then rain and drizzle.
Visibility-Good, becoming moderate or poor.

Outlook for the following 24 hours:

Wind-South or southwest 5 to 7, decreasing 4 or 5.
Sea State-Moderate or rough.
Weather-Rain or drizzle, fog patches.
Visibility-Moderate or poor, occasionally very poor.
Used today to stock up on various essential supplies: wine, sweets, ham, strawberries and cream. Oh and hydraulic oil for the steering system. Shoping is back to separate shops for separate things; no massive under one roof supermarket. So the butchers for ham, the winemerchants for wine, sweet shop for treats, general stores for the strawberries and cream.

On the water taxi we spotted a couple of boats we had seen in other ports. It is a small world.

Boats, boats everywhere.

Salcombe is dominated by the water, boats of all shapes and sizes, from expensive motor yachts to kayaks, and movement is constant. Like Venice, but with all the water moved out to the side. Water taxis and ferries whizz around, moving people from one place to another.

The town itself is fairly small, and easier to get around than Fowey, the hills here being gentler and more rounded. It is dominated by the holiday trade, many of the houses being second homes or holiday lets. The recent money squeeze, plus the positive actions by the local council should help stop places like this becoming ghost towns in the winter.

There are still a number of small traditional boatyards along Island St, mostly specialising in power boats or the local clinker built style. Close by are the chandlers, that sell real yachting stuff, unlike the high street that sells expensive yachting lookalike wear. Divers don't spend much, but yachties are even tighter.

The harbour master issues all visiting yachts with a bottle of phosphate free washing up liquid to help look after the local environment, and the book issued talks further about protecting the marine environment.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Sweet smell of home

One thing we have noticed going round the UK is the definite smell of the land, which definitely changes place by place. Each coast and each harbour has its own. Living on the land, and often in one place, we tend to lose contact with that part of our senses, although our pets recognise the scent of 'home'.

 Now that we have our noses filled with the smell of the sea during the day, approaching land, particularly if there is an off-shore wind, there is a recognisable smell. Scotland had a definite peaty smell, and as we approached North Cornwall from Ireland, Robin recognised the scent from his childhood.

As we move up the coast, there is a definite change, a hint of farm on the air.

So today we went on to Salcombe. A pretty harbour, whose sand bar was made famous was made famous in Tennyson's "Crossing of the Bar".It looks like a river estuary, but is in fact a sea water inlet. We moored at 6pm, picking up one of the visitor's buoys. Then dinner in the cockit, with a chilled bottle of wine, to the sound of Vaughan Williams, watching the sun set over the South Hams, Devon.

50 14.805' N  03 45.358' W


Today at the regatta was fun. All sorts of stuff going on in the town, the boats on the water all dressed up, the passage race from Falmouth came back. A passage race is like a reverse of a normal race, where you leave when you want, but have to be back at a certain place by a fixed time.The finish time is fixed for everyone, regardless of when you actually arrive. But too late and you are disqualified. So everyone leaves as late as they can to get the shortest passage time, keeping an eye on the other boats. To make things complicated, different types of boat have different handicaps....

Finish time approaches and all the boats pour in, hoping to get here just in time. The skill is in working out your route, time and tides to the nth degree, with just enough margin for the vagaries of the wind.

A brief visit by tender to Polruan, the more traditional un-gentrified cornish village facing Fowey across the river, before back to Catabout for  our evening meal and wait for the highlight of the day, the fireworks. At 9:30 the display began, and we were in a prime site, sitting on Catabout's coachroof and watching the spectacular effects. Watching fireworks from the water is magic.

Because of the shape of the harbour, we got a triple bang, as the sound echoed off the hillside behind us and off the slopes of Fowey. As the glow of the last rocket faded away, all the boats sounded their horns and hooters and the sublime madness filled the harbour.

Well worth staying for.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Enjoying Cornish Sunshine

A rest day, just mooching about Fowey, and puttering about in the tender. The August sunshine was warm on the skin, but not too hot, and the town full, but not overwhelmingly so. The streets are decorated with bunting, and many of the shop fronts are also given a festive trim. We got a newspaper to read for the first time in weeks.

We were planning to leave tomorrow morning, but as it is to be the start of Fowey Regatta Week, with events during the day and fireworks in the evening, we are staying another day. Many of the boats are covered in flags, known as being dressed overall, and the river is becoming a very colourful sight.

There are a group of three young men on the boat moored next to us who are preparing it for crossing the Atlantic in November. Everyone has their adventures and dreams.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Fowey is the harbour of harbours. It ougt to be a kingdom of its own. In Fowey is all courtesy, and good reason for the chance sailing man. For your provision, or your transport, or your mooring, you may pay no more than you should, and whatever you may need in gear is to be had at once. In Fowey there is security from all winds, good holding, and best of all, an air in which other places may be be forgotten.
Hillaire Belloc, The Cruise of the Nona.

After a very disturbed night in Coverac bay, where the very small swell caused some kind of resonance in Catabout's hull and she bounced about, we set off for Fowey. Sailing is truly all about direction. We were setting off into the wind, and had to motor most of the way and had a bumpy journey of it.

But we passed a yacht going in the opposite direction, who was having a very pleasant day's sail downwind, with just one reef in their mainsail. It was all worth it, though. Sidney harbour in Australia wins my personal vote as the perfect harbour, but Fowey is definitely second. Although a sunny saturday in the middle of august, and seemingly jam packed full, the harbour patrol found us a fore and aft mooring and helped us fix up our lines. The location is delightful, and well worth the visit.

We took the water taxi to the shore, as we were too tired to pump up the tender, and wandered around the tiny streets of the town. There are lots of interesting shops, and a fully stocked chandlers, where we got a new DSC VHF radio, to replace the one that died on us, and the 70s radio we had been using since.

Also had a fabulous meal in a little bistro we came across, that served wonerful food and wine.Steins may rule in Padstow, but Tiffins in Fowey is better. Back on the water taxi , which was thankfully easy access for me, and so to bed.

50 19.997' N  04 37.671' W


Saturday, 14 August 2010

Round the Lizard

Lizard Point is the most southerly part of mainland Britain and rounding it marked the most southerly point of our adventure. It is another area where tidal flows meet and run very fast, so getting the timing right is very important.

We had the choice of either an early start or an evening sail, and after a hard day yesterday, we opted to leave at 6pm. because our course was mostly south easterly, until we rounded the point, the first part of our journey was quite comfortable in the northwesterly winds. The dish aerials of Goonhilly Downs wer visible on the hilltops. I guess you have to be a certain age for that to mean something to you.

Lizard Point is noted for the tide races and overfalls that occur there, so we took our route below 49 55' to avoid them. Even so we had a small area of highly disturbed water, where it formed peaks instead of waves.

Once round the point, we were heading into the wind, so motored up to Coverack Bay, where we should be sheltered by a headland tonight.

50 01.537' N  05 05.485' W

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Cape Cornwall

So off this afternoon to round Cape Cornwall and Land's End. Cape Cornwall is one of only two capes in the UK, the other being Cape Wrath in Scotland. Getting the tide times right is essential, so Robin has plotted a number of way points with the times we must be there.

The wind is from the north, ok as we go round, but the waves will be beam (side) on as we do the last bit of this coast. And showers are forecast. Fun times ahead, but it's got to be done, and this is better than southwesterly winds, which are the usual.

After all that, we had a very pleasant passage. The waves were unpleasant until we began to turn south at Pendeen Point. Thereafter things got progressively better as we got further and further round. On the clifftops were ruins of old cornish mines, and a working modern mine.

The weather turned out to be gloriously sunny. Once passed Land's End and the Runnel Stone, Robin and I looked at each other a heaved a great sigh of relief. We had done it. We were on the south coast.

After entering Penzance Bay, we made for St Michael's Mount, and anchored in the bay close by. A fabulous view as the sun goes down.

50 07.286' N 05 29.193' W

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

St Ives

This morning we left Padstow for the next hop, ready for going round Land's End. The wind was still coming from the north, so there was quite a swell coming down the River Camel as we sailed out. Once in the deeper water, we were able to turn south west and life became more comfortable.

Apart from the adrenaline soaked moment when the replacement bolt on the engine alternator block sheared again. But we've got sails and we're not afraid to use them! Thankfully Robin was able to replace, while at sea, the broken bolt with the spare he had bought, planning to put it in place when we got back to Tollesbury. And fine boat cord makes a good temporary drive belt to keep the water pump running while he got everything ready to do the job. No more complaints from me about the number and range of tools kept onboard!

So we made it to St Ive's Bay and picked up a mooring for the night. Got to work out and get timings right for the tides going round Cape Cornwall tomorrow. Another adventure.

50 12.692' N 05 28.324' W

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

We're on holiday too.

Today was a real rest day and a reminder we are on holiday too.

Although the day started in a typically damp cornish fashion, it turned into a lovely sunny day. Robin finished the laundry, and I stayed in bed until it was time to strip the bedding for washing.
It was wonderful to rest amongst other folk on holiday. With an adventure like this it is very easy to constantly be moving on, moving on.

Meals were eating out in the multiplicity of eateries in the town; a pub, fish and chips in a quayside cafe; an italian overlooking the harbour and the street entertainers. Tonight was a fire eating unicyclist.

Padstow has been a wonderful break for us both, and wins the vote for best yachties laundry facilities. There was a piper during the day. The guitarist is back tonight.

Tonight, some of the working fishing boats have come into the protected harbour because tonight is a very high spring tide, combined with a northerly wind, which will push the sea swell down the river.

It will be sad to go tomorrow.

Monday, 9 August 2010



Arrived in Padstow harbour (right in the middle of the town) after grabbing a few hours sleep. The last 24 hours were exhausting. The channel into Padstow has a sand bar, which limits access to certain states of the tide.

So we had to wait our time in the relative shelter of a small bay called Port Quinn Bay, just up the coast from Padstow. When it was time, we came out into the swell again, passing some small day trip fishing boats containing somewhat green holidaymakers, regretting their choice of 'fun'.

Seeing the sun come up and glimpsing the north cornwall coast in daylight was a real blessing. We were also joined for a while by some porpoises, who swam alongside in the dawn light. They were supplanted by a pod of common dolphins, including some mothers with babies. Obviously we were this weeks must see in the cetacean world.

So, Padstow. A small fishing picturesque village on the north Cornwall coast, now very popular as a holiday centre. Across the River Camel is Rock, one of the summer haunts of the the youngsters of London's beautiful people including the Princes William and Harry. Padstow is also home to Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant.

And Rick Stein's Cafe, Stein's Patisserie, Stein's Deli, Stein's Fish and Chips, Stein's Gift Shop, Padstow Seafood School, St Petroc's Bistro.

As a harbour user we get use of a wonderful shower and laundry block, and provide part of the entertainment for the holidaymakers around the harbourside. Looks like we will star in many people's holidays snaps and videos showing us coming in and mooring in style, and form part of the charming backgrounds of those shots taken eating icecream etc.

After eating at a harbourside pub this evening, whilst our laundry is whirring away in the machines in the Harbour Office block, I came back to the boat, while robin went to pick up the washing. As I sit here now, a guitarist is playing and singing meloncholy songs as the sun sets and most folk are making their way home at the end of the day. One of those magical moments.

50 32 .473' N 04 56.282' W

Rough Weather


We got weather forecasts from the irish coastguard and by phone from the helpful Falmouth coastguard in england. It looked like an ideal day to attempt the crossing to the Scilly Isles so long as we set off straight away. The crossing should take 36 hours, and the weather is set to worsen in 48. The second half of the journey is totally exposed to the Atlantic weather and the large rolling waves formed by the prevailing winds.

Initially the passage went well, the weather benign and we made good progress. I made some bread and some dessert to eat later. One very valuable lesson though - don't expect something to set when bouncing up and down in a boat!

However, the winds changed earlier than expected and we were soon flying, even as we reefed sail. The waves were getting bigger still, and as the wind was blowing straight from the direction we wished to go, it was getting very unconfortable.

So we made the decision to turn for Padstow in the north coast of Cornwall. The distance was not much less, but the worst of the weather would be coming at us sideways/diagonally instead of on the nose. It was a hard and tiring trip, but the worst was at night, when we couldn't see the height of the waves and so worry about them. To give you an idea of the weather, the passage we expected to take 36 hours, took only 24.

There was another bonus. As dusk fell, we were accompanied by a pod of dolphins, that played in the waves around and under the boat. Initially they were with us for about ten minutes, but were soon back and stayed about an hour. Robin took a short video, which I hope works.

51 09.278' N 05 47.720' W at midnight, sailing.

Ever onward 2


Left Wicklow for Wexford/Rosslare to the south, prior to heading for the Scillies. Both of us are feeling internet withdrawal symtoms, being so used to being able to check information and communicate at will.

A beautiful day, although not that much wind, so we had to motorsail for much of the way. The weather in Ireland may be wet, but rains everyday, but part of the day, so that you exerience both glorious sunshine and rain on every day. In scotland our experience was either a very wet day or a lovely dry one. We were lucky in that a heavy rain day was usually followed by a sunny one.

We anchored for the night in north Wexford Bay to get a good rest before the long trip in the morning back to England.

52 21.726' N 06 20.568' W



Today is a mooching about day, as the winds are forecast upto F6 south of here where we wish to go. Too strong for comfort, particularly as they will be blowing directly at us.

Wicklow is a nice enough place, friendly and doesn't feel at all foreign. Even the newspapers, a good measure of being in a strange place, seem much like home. The stories are the same, just the names are changed. But even there, the sports pages are full of english premier football clubs.

Wicklow harbour is very much a working fishing harbour, with boats coming and going all the time. But visiting yachts like ourselves are accomodated on the east pier of athe outer harbour, where sections have had boards and ladders added, so you can tie up safely.

We ate ashore at a chinese restaurant last night. A nice luxury, even if the streets seem to move under you as you walk. Robin is on shopping duty today, topping up our fresh stores with fruit (including some delicious strawberries) and such like. Our stores are holding out quite well, only soft drinks running very low.

Heading South


Left Howth at 8am and had a wonderful sail south in the sunshine,before the VHF radio crackled into life "dublin coastguard, a small craft warning" Your heart sinks when you hear these words. It is never good news. It turns out to be a strong wind warning for later on today and tonight.

Fighting tide on these coasts is bad enough, but a strong southerly or southwesterley wind as well? So we headed in to Wicklow harbour, where we tied up inside the east breakwater to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

The next boat along belongs to a Belgian who has lived in Ireland for the past 12 years and speaks english with an irish accent. A cup of fresh coffee and a break and off to investigate Wicklow.

The town is decorated with bunting - nice of them , but how did they know we were coming? Actually, I think it is left over from the Wicklow regatta festival.

52 58.966' N 06 02.042' W

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Other reason for stopping at Dublin

Ok, come clean time here. The reason for bringing forward our dream trip around Britain is that I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and earlier this year I had a particularly bad attack, which stopped me working and restricted me greatly. So it was now or never.

Today I had an appointment for an investigation into one of the latest theories concerning MS, a poor blood flow from the brain via the venous system, called CCSVI or Chronic Cerebral Venous Insufficiency. Unfortunately, for many and various reasons, I have not been able to get the scan done in England.

The scan showed a very poor flow on the right side, despite the fact that my jugular vein is wide open, and a number of additional veins have developed to help carry the blood away. My left side is normal. When I sit up the jugular veins do not collapse as they should, so that the vertebral veins take over the flow. Perhaps a blockage further down causing a backup? Certainly worth having the next stage, a venogram, done.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dublin's Fair City

Made to Howth Marina today, where after a quick wash and brush up we headed off to view Dublin. In many ways it feels like Cambridge, right down to having a Trinity College.

And it has a Starbucks with WiFi access, so coffee it is then, while I catch up on the world.

More later.

Welcome to the Republic of Ireland


We said goodbye to Northern Ireland and the UK today and headed south for the Republic. A long haul across Dundrum Bay where the tides that flodd in to the Irish Sea from North and South meet up, creating an area of slack water for most of the tide.

With careful timing we were able to enter the bay with a south flowing flood (rising)tide, and leave with a south flowing ebb (falling) tide. This helped us maintain the overall speed we needed to get to our destination before dusk.

Passing Strangford Lough we experienced the powerful effect of the mass of water flowing out of the Narrows, which can reach up to 8 knots. Although two miles off the coast, the outrush of water deflected us nearly a mile further out.

For most of the day the wind was kind and enabled us to sail rather than motor in the direction we wanted. You get atotally different view of the coast as you pass in a yacht. Things come slowly into view, then you pass and they slip slowly astern, the whole process taking several hours.

At once stage we could see Scotland, the Isle of Man, North and South Ireland. Even as we sit at anchor near Dublin, we can see the Mountains of Mourne in the distance.

Our anchorage is shared by a huge number of seabirds who colonise the cliffs of Lambay Island, a private bird sanctuary. As the sun is setting, the noise level is decreasing. Some I recognise, like the squadrons of gannets plunging into the sea with barely a splash, like an olympic synchronised diving team. Others are just a pleasure to watch.

Some get confused by the two hulls on Catabout. If sitting on the water as we approach, they swim away, but some pick the wrong direction and end up swimming in front of the other hull, then ducking below the water and coming up some way away.

Anyway, today is the halfway point in our odyssey, both in distance and time.

53 29.893' N 06 01.215' W


Just realised I missed out our journey from Scotland to Northern Ireland!
It was incredibly calm, the sea like glass most of the way, so we had to motor. After all the tales of crossing the North Channel, with problems of tides, winds and waves, it was almost a let down. The day was sunny and we eventually anchored in the delightfully named Knockinelder Bay, just north of Strangford Lough.

54 22.729' N 05 28.821' W

Sunday, 1 August 2010

End of our first month

Last day of July and we weighed anchor at 0720 am to get as far as we could on the way to Northern Ireland, or even as far as Bangor Marina in Belfast Lough. The waters between Ireland and Scotland, known as the North Channel, have strong tides that sweep up and down the coast, so it is important that you time your crossing correctly.

The forecast said that the wind shold move round to be ideal for us to get to Ailsa Craig in time to catch the southerly tide to aid us on our way. Sadly the wind didn't change soon enough, so we had to modify our plans and head for Loch Ryan.

After several hours viewing Ailsa Craig from all angles, it is a remarkable rock, about 340m high and 2 miles in circumference. |It is a volcanic core and is visible from many miles away across the sea - hence it's knickname of Paddy's Milestone. The granite has been used to maked the best curling stones, and the island is now home to a huge collection of seabirds.

Loch Ryan is the base for ferries across to Belfast, so we had to time our entry to the small bay where we anchored around their schedule.

55 00.104' N 05 04.895' W

Sea mist and fog

Perhaps some of you remember the song Mull of Kintyre? It talks of mists rolling in from the sea.
Well that was the main feature of our day today.

We had hoped to sail to Loch Ryan, ready for the crossing to Northern Ireland, but once we left the bay at Lamlash, the visibility closed right in, and we opted to go back to Lamlash Bay and try again tomorrow. It's a lovely location, but can't get the mobile internet there!

55 32.475' N 05 06.118' W

The Isle Of Arran

The next morning we were off as soon as the sealock opened at 8am. It was a beautiful sailing day, as we went down Loch Gilp, Loch Fyne and into Inchmarnock water to the Isle of Arran in the mouth of the Firth of Clyde. The sun shone on the mountains, either side of the lochs as we headed south. The shortening of the days is noticeable now, as we get a double effect, from the passage of the days and the earlier sunset as we move south.

At the end of our sail, we anchored in Lamlash Bay, a beautiful half moon bay totally sheltered by another small island called Holy Island. Now used for retreats,it is the site of a monastery founded in the 12th century by Somerled, Lord of the Isles. There is also evidence of Viking occupation in the form of runic inscriptions in St Molaise cave.

Shortly after we anchored, we were visited by a swan and two cygnets. Robin fed the with some bread and cake, which the cygnets took, while the parent watched over them. It hisssed loudly if He got too close trying to photograph them.

55 32.475' N 05 06.118' W