Monthly Archives: June 2016

29th June, Ardglass to Strangford Lough

The marina at Ardglass is very small and couldn’t accommodate yachts much larger than Harvard. It is also fairly shallow, so it’s hard to know how it keeps going financially. The 80 year old harbour master, Fred, was in hospital when I phoned to see if they could fit us in – but he happily told me that the marina building was open. He gave me the key code and said we should help ourselves to anything we needed and then leave the marina fee in their honesty box. There can’t be many places where people are so trusting!

A couple of days ago the Radio 4 weather forecast talked of “autumnal weather” coming. At the time I thought I had misheard. Unfortunately not! Woke up to pouring rain and a possible forecast of gales – although that depended on which forecast we listened to. We decided to go to Strangford Lough anyway. It is only 5 miles from Ardglass and, as an area of almost landlocked water, offers good shelter – so it wouldn’t matter what the weather did.

You have to get to the entrance at slack tide to catch the flood – which was not until about 4pm (BST). By then the rain had eased and the promised gale hadn’t materialised so we had to motor-sail the 5 miles. This was partly because there was little wind, but mainly because the swell was so big and uncomfortable

We were very lucky in that Alistair Bell had lent us a chart of the Lough. (In our ignorance we had mistakenly assumed that it would be possible to buy one in Ardglass). The chart gave us headings for the entrance, which is narrow, 5 miles long and with a fast tide, but it is more important for the Lough itself which is about 3 miles wide and 12 miles long. It is shallow in parts and full of islands, reefs and shoals, so a chart is essential and it is important to navigate carefully.

Visibility was very poor and it was difficult to use the transits suggested by the chart in the frequent showers that kept falling, so we were grateful to have the chart plotter as well, particularly at the entrance. Having emerged from the narrow entrance where the water is very turbulent, it was amazing to enter into the calm and almost flat waters of the Lough.

We motored up the main channel trying to enjoy the peaceful scenery and low hills in between the showers, and arrived at Strangford Lough Yacht Club around 6.00pm (BST). We were about the drop the anchor, but a friendly official from the club suggested that we picked up one of their moorings. There was some confusion about which moorings were free, but we finally settled down to dry out and warm up with a good supper.

28th June, Douglas to Ardglass

The bridge was lifted for us to leave Douglas at 5.45 (BST) which was around high tide and after that it was a case of motoring in very little wind down to the south of the island and around Chicken Rock. At least the tide was with us so we made good time. Even though the forecast was for a SW wind, the wind went SE so Richard boomed out the genoa and after avoiding a cargo ship we spent a couple of peaceful hours running downwind before a rain squall came through and the wind went SW as predicted. Bowled along at over 6 knots on a reach until more rain came through and the wind died. By that time we were off Ardglass so it was on with the engine again and we were soon moored up in the very quiet marina. Not a lot to see in town, so after dinner onboard it was early to bed.

24th-27th June Douglas, Isle of Man

Having arrived at the “heart of the British Isles” in the sense that the Isle of Man (IOM) is surrounded by England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, it was a bit depressing to realise that it was the same day of the referendum result and the possible beginning of the break-up of the United Kingdom. We spent a lot of time on Friday listening to the radio and trying to decide if we should be worried or not. It was amazing that, even though the Isle of Man, as a crown dependency, is not part of the EU, wherever you went you could hear people discussing the result.

Douglas Marina

Douglas Marina

We were tired after the overnight sail so we did little else, just snoozing, having a small wander around Douglas and a visit to the yacht club in the evening.
The wind was forecast westerly for the next few days, making it difficult to go to Northern Ireland as we had planned, so, as neither of us had visited the island before, we decided to make the most of being here and see as much as possible.
IMG_1533On Saturday we caught the steam train down to Port Erin on the south of the island. Walked all around the headland by The Calf of Man where there were lots of seals, and round to Port St Mary (4 hours walk and up and down) before catching the train back to

Calf of Man

Calf of Man

Douglas. Richard really enjoyed the train experience.
The north of the island is served by an electric train, so we caught that on Sunday to go to Ramsey. The weather was not so good and hanging around in a Victorian seaside resort in the pouring rain was a bit sad, but we found a good pub in which to read the Sunday papers. The IOM is like stepping back in time in the sense that everything closes on a Sunday so there was little else to do.
The island is beautiful – a bit like Devon, with rolling hills and small fields and farms. It has no motorways and altogether life seems to take a slower and more relaxed pace. On the way back from Ramsey, we stopped at Laxey to take the mountain railway up to the highest point on the island, Snaefell. It gave us a chance to see more of the countryside, the old mine workings and part of the TT mountain course, but unfortunately the summit was shrouded in mist so we didn’t get the spectacular views over to the Lake District and the Mountains of Mourne that we had hoped to see. Richard went up to the summit anyway, just to say he had been there. Again Richard enjoyed the electric railway experience.

On arriving back to Douglas and after taking the historic horse drawn tram back along the seafront (rumour has it this will be the last year they will operate; Richard not so keen on horses) we found the Rustler 36 Seol Mara moored very close to us with Alistair and Carol Bell on board. This was a real highlight as it was virtually the first time that we had found anyone else cruising. We soon warmed up after a rather soggy day when they came on board for a drink and chat.

The wind was still westerly on Monday, so we caught the bus to Peel on the West coast. We had intended to sail there, but realised that wouldn’t be practical. It is another pretty Victorian seaside resort, with a lovely beach and impressive ruined castle right on the seafront. IMG_2197It is also where Manx kippers get smoked so Richard had to indulge in a kipper bap but found it a bit of a struggle. After Richard had gone for a run we joined Alistair and Carol for a drink on Seol Mara and agreed to keep in touch and hope to meet up later in the season.

23rd to 24th June Liverpool to Douglas, Isle of Man

The lock of Liverpool Marina only opens for a couple of hours either side of high tide, so we had little choice but to leave at mid-day. It then takes 3 hours to follow the channel out of the Mersey, so it was already getting late in the afternoon (3pm UT, 4pm BST) before we could start the 58 mile trip to Douglas. Knowing that would take us around 12 hours it was clear that we would arrive in the early hours of the morning and we didn’t want to get there in the dark – so we wanted to go slowly! At first that was easy. What little wind there was was on the nose and we tacked north to clear all the wind farms and oil rigs. In fact even when the boat speed dropped to 0.2 knots and less we considered not putting the engine on, but I mutinied at that point and we motored for an hour or so. Eventually, as forecast, the wind started backing round to the south west and, by the time it was getting dark the gusts were up to 24 knots. Even with 2 reefs in we were doing 6 knots and couldn’t slow down any further. It was great to be sailing, and it was the right decision to reef, but in the lulls the boat didn’t push through the increasingly large waves as well as it should. The motion got rather uncomfortable and I got seasick which meant Richard had to do most of the work. However the timing worked. We just made it to Douglas in time to get over the sill in its marina at 3am UT/4am BST when there was just enough light to see what we were doing.