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.

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