So, we upped sticks and travelled the 8 miles into the heart of Belfast, tying up in the Abercorn Basin. The basin dates back over two hundred years, but had a makeover when Belfast played host to the Tall Ships Race, some years ago. It’s in an area which was previously part of the Harland and Wolfe shipyard, and has undergone an amazing transformation, like most inner city docklands these days. The trigger for this was the Titanic centenary (H & W being where she was built), and includes an impressive building housing a comprehensive Titanic experience.
A very wet day exploring Belfast. A trip to the Europa hotel to make sure it was still in one piece, then lunch (Irish stew, of course) opposite, in the elegant Crown Liquor Saloon. I remember this as a lively city, even back in the bad times, but today it seems very relaxed and orderly.
A nice NE breeze took us down the coast from Belfast to Ardglass, where it was a might busier than when we were last here. A few familiar faces, as we begin to bump into other people doing the journey back; notably a Belgian couple, Raymond and Anne, who we first met in Oban. They had been stuck in Ardglass for about a week, as a result of Raymond’s heroics – a poor solo sailor had arrived, and become so disorientated in the small harbour, that he had run himself aground. Raymond’s efforts to pull him clear had resulted in a wrecked back, requiring hospital treatment. 4.8.17
60 miles down the coast brings you to Howth, just north of Dublin Bay; and our first visit to the republic. An easy day in a moderate NE, until we arrived – just outside the harbour the skies blackened, the wind whipped up and it threw it down. We joined several other recent arrivals, and gilled around until the conditions abated. This was just a short overnight stop, so no chance to explore – judging by the price at the marina, probably not a bad thing. 5.8.17
A 50 mile beat down to the coast to Arklow, where, for once, the wind freed us at every turn; so not one tack did we preform! Arklow is an interesting little place. The place is quite a sprawling affair, but the centre retains enough of its original architecture to let you know you are still in a small provincial Irish town. The yachting facilities comprise a small marina, a visitors pontoon in the river and a fishing harbour. We chose the fishing harbour, since the following day’s weather was not forecast to be great. When we got there we wondered if we had done the right thing! The place was awash with people and boats, loud music, Viking reenactments et al – it was the local RNLI open day! The entertainment went on into the evening, but packed up at a respectable hour. What time would it recommence in the morning?
Sadly for Arklow, the day did not dawn fair; and though they put on a brave face for a couple of hours, eventually the rain won out. 7.8.17
An early start, as we crept out of the harbour at 0500 – just light enough to make out another English boat (Talora) doing likewise. A quick call established that they too were bound for Milford- we had, in fact, spotted these guys a couple of days earlier; and had remarked on how quickly they seemed be able to get a Sadler 29 going. The sun duly emerged, and the wind direction gave us comfortable reaching conditions, where we were well up to hull speed at times; with the Sadler not far behind. The wind petered out for a few hours during the middle of the day, but returned to give us a final flourish around Skomer Island, and into Dale for the night. A great day’s sailing – in the dry, and mostly in sun! Bumped into the Rustler, Toroa, from Pwllheli and a school friend of David Banks! 8.8.17
Today was forecast to be wet, so we had intended to cower in Neyland; and even before we had left, the first deluge of the day had cleaned the decks. This was nothing compared to the soaking we got as we made our way down the sound – true stair rods exposing the age and frailty of my oillies. The day cheered up when we met up with Leigh (from earlier in the trip) and his wife Jo for a drink. 9.8.17
A hot sunny day spent drying out, before leaving Neyland for Dale, in the late afternoon. This gave us a simple exit the following morning as we planned to visit Padstow – somewhere else new; with a bar to cross and tides to time, ho hum! 10.8.17
We left, with Ray and Mary in Talora, at about 5 – just light enough to see the fishing buoys! The sun came out, and so did the kite, but the wind wasn’t helpful – we were bound due south, and the wind was pretty much due north – on a day when you don’t have a deadline you can play the angles and have fun; but if we missed the gate at Padstow, it would be a long slog round to Newlyn. So down came the kite, and we poled out the genoa; and played with the dolphins until the tide turned – despite having wind, the boat speed had dropped, so reluctantly, it was on with the engine. As we closed the N Cornish coast we we able to sail again, arriving at Padstow 15 minutes before the dock gates opened!
A grey start to our day in Padstow, but it improved as it wore on. This is a place it’s good to come for a day – fish and chips, crabbing, teeming with holiday makers, live music into the night. More than one day would have been a stretch!
Leaving Padstow in the gloom, once more with Talora. Yesterday’s NW had left a decent swell in the estuary, which kept us company until we were clear of Trevose Head. The sun eventually emerged and we took a fair tide in a nice NW down the Cornish coast; making good time down to Pendeen, where we had to resort to our mechanical friend till we cleared the Runnel Stone. In the returning breeze we fair scorched the last 10 miles into Newlyn. 13.8.17
Wall to wall sunshine, with little wind as we crept round the Lizard, up to Helford River. Later we met up, again, with Raymond (with repaired back) and Anne from Drunken Duck.
A grey Helford day, with rain – lots of it. 15.8.17
So far this year, we have managed not to pollute any of the harbours/anchorages we have stayed in. Parker, the holding tank, has come to the rescue; and we have managed to empty him when we have been sufficiently offshore. Today, tragedy struck when I was unable to relieve him of his burden – was it the pump or something more sinister? Either way, we didn’t fancy carting a tankful of sewage around for the rest of the voyage; so with some reluctance we put into (expensive) Plymouth Yacht Haven – the only place this side of Weymouth with pump out facilities. Somewhat amusingly, Dartmouth harbour’s website says that SW Water forbids any pump out facilities on the river for environmental reasons! Err, don’t they get it? All this, of course detracted somewhat from what was a stunning day, under spinnaker! 16.8.17
After pumping out, for free (a mistake I think), with some trepidation I removed the inspection cover on the holding tank. Relief all round, as (a) there didn’t seem to be a problem with the tank and (b) the tank seemed to be doing its job! This probably means it’s the pump; and not a job I will attempt before we get home – which means that we are probably in a similar state to 95% of the yachts on the south coast! Plymouth is a depressing place; ok it probably took some stick during the war, but there a lot of grim areas. Very wet evening, with winds creating a really uncomfortable swell in the marina. 17.8.17
A grey departure, but dry with some sun as we rounded Start Point and on up to Dartmouth. We had decided we would make straight for Dittisham, a place where we have happily stayed both afloat, and ashore. On the way up river we were accosted by a strange man in a rubber dinghy – none other than Steve Tighe, from Hamble! I quickly scribbled down his (new) mobile number, with a promise to ring him later that day. Thankfully, Dittisham hadn’t changed a bit. Smugglers Cottage, the pub on the beach, tripper boats and and ferries; and plenty of free mooring buoys. Sadly my clerical skill had proved to be lacking – I rang Steve’s number only to be answered by Elaine, who didn’t want to come for a drink! Thereafter mobile phone signal disappeared for the day.
Obviously the phone signal is better in the morning, so after spending an hour trying different combinations of Steve’s number I did what I should have done from the outset – asked my children for advice. Sally simply ‘messaged’ Steve’s daughter in Australia, and sent me his number – now why didn’t I think of that? The day was punctuated with frequent gusts and wet squalls, but we did venture ashore for long enough to establish that the Red Lion still has a grocery shop in the lounge bar, selling almost everything imaginable; including gluten free bread! 19.8.17
We are only 24 hours away from home, so we have plenty of time; and as this is such a pleasant, relaxing place we decided to stay for a few days. So today it was on with the walking boots, and over the hills down to Kingswear; and the ferry back to Greenway Quay. Later in the evening the guys on Talora turned up, suitably windswept from their trip from Plymouth.
We had intended to leave this morning, but it was wet when we woke; with the prospect of little improvement- maybe better tomorrow?! 21.7.17
Left Dartmouth early for Weymouth. After an encouraging first hour under sun and spinnaker, the wind disappeared for the rest of the day. We were hoping to make the inside passage around Portland, but timing our arrival from the other side of Lyme Bay is difficult. Although, as we got nearer it became clear that we would, in fact, be in good time to take the tide around the Bill – a great relief, not having to motor those extra miles. Weymouth was well populated, but there is always room for one more inside!
Invited Talora for supper.
Easterlies today, so spent the day in Weymouth; culminating with fish and chips in the evening. 23.7.17
A civilised start time in order to take the route inside St. Alban’s. A warm pleasant sail around to Studland for the evening.
Another spinnaker run down to the North Channel, and on to Yarmouth. Quite empty when we arrived, but, as usual, by dark it was pretty full. 25.7.17
And to finish? A beat up the Solent, with the tide, in 8 knots – perfect! Took a spot on the Hamble River Sailing Club pontoon, as our mooring is sublet till the end of the month. Nice to be home.