Skip to content
Archive of entries posted on April 2011

Back to Ireland

Still without a sailing wind, but with a surprisingly lumpy swell, we crossed back to the east coast of Ireland, and spent a night at the snug little marina at Ardglass. The harbour is beautiful but the town itself has little to offer unless its many small pubs are of interest. Timing our departure carefully, we reached the entrance to Strangford Lough at slack water, so avoiding the potential overfalls outside and tide in the narrows which can run at up to 7 knots. Once inside the lough we continued round to the SW end and moored off Quoile Yacht Club, in a quiet and pretty spot which induced us to be lazy for the rest of the day.

Isle of Man – 2

'Lady Isabella' - The Great Laxey Wheel

‘Lady Isabella’ – The Great Laxey Wheel

Fin & J treated us to another day’s car hire – a sporty wee Nissan Micra Convertible – and the two sports cars (theirs a proper one) toured in open-top company round Onchan, Laxey and Ramsey. We visited the famous Great Wheel at Laxey, water driven as IOM had no coal for steam engines, which provided power to lift buckets of zinc ore to the surface, and latterly also to transport miners up and down the 1500ft main shaft, otherwise a long and dangerous climb on ladders. On our last day we returned to Douglas to potter round the town and visit the Manx Museum, while Fin & J drove round the TT Mountain Course. We found the Isle of Man a very attractive place and really enjoyed our week’s visit.

Isle of Man – 1

Inner Harbour, Peel

Inner Harbour, Peel

Snaefell Mountain Train

Snaefell Mountain Train

After a big shopping in Douglas, the Skipper picked up a hired car for the day and set off round the IOM’s five Marilyns – Snaefell, Slieau Freoghane, South Barrule , Mull Hill and Bradda Hill. The morning of Fin & J’s arrival on the Liverpool ferry was wet (the first rain in a fortnight) but good weather then returned for the rest of our visit. Peel was busy over Easter weekend, with boat trips, a re-enactment at the castle and hill and road races. One afternoon the Skipper stood on a knoll above the harbour for a while, watching the swing bridge open and boats come and go, and was apparently dubbed ‘Statue Man’ by the crowd below. It was a surprise to be accosted by a group of young women demanding to be photographed with ‘Statue Man’!

To The Isle of Man

Three Legs of Man

Three Legs of Man

Inner Harbour, Peel

Inner Harbour, Peel

An easy crossing of the Irish Sea took us to the Isle of Man at its only west coast harbour – Peel. At high water, and with the footbridge at the mouth of the inner harbour open due to repairs, we were able to go straight in and take a pontoon berth. The inner harbour is prevented from drying out by a flapgate, which is raised as the tide falls and lowered as it rises, allowing entry during a four hour window round the time of high water. At low water it is possible to walk seaward from the flapgate for 100 metres without getting wet feet! Peel is a very attractive small town, the town centre just above the harbour having narrow streets and lanes, with tightly packed old houses painted in many colours. The three-legged Manx symbol is everywhere – on buildings, street furniture, signs and flags – all adding to the feeling of being somewhere different. A visit by bus to Douglas confirmed its city atmosphere and crowds, and a much less attractive or relaxing harbour, so we have decided to remain at Peel for the duration of our visit to IOM.

A Watery Tale

Out with the Old

Out with the Old

In with the New

In with the New

The last few days had seen us baling out a couple of bucketfuls of water from the engine bilge each day. Tasting proved it was not salt water so the problem was not serious, and must be from the fresh water system, somewhere in the stern area. The huge cockpit locker was emptied (no small task) for access to the pump and calorifier (hot water tank heated by recirculated engine cooling water). A telltale hiss told of a pinhole leak in the calorifier, which was traced on removal of some of the outer insulation. Due to age, the old unit was obviously beyond patching up and had to be replaced. A very helpful marine engineer was soon aboard and managed to source a modern replacement. The Skipper took out the old (vertical) unit and with great contortions managed to screw down the new (horizontal) unit, then assisted the engineer with fitting the new couplings and revised pipe layout. The water tanks were refilled, the engine run to check the heating and all declared OK. All this took place over two days of beautiful weather in Bangor, appreciated if not enjoyed as most of the time was spent down in the depths of the locker!

Bangor

We crossed the North Channel in millpond conditions to Bangor, with its excellent marina. Another yacht left Portpatrick at the same time as us. We chose to hold to the shortest course, adjusting for tidal flow as we went, while the other yacht kept a steady heading allowing the tide to first sweep her south then back north as the tide turned. Neither strategy prevailed as we reached Bangor together.

Portpatrick then across the North Channel

Portpatrick

Although Portpatrick, our next port of call, is itself an attractive place the same cannot be said of its harbour, snug though it is. Depths just outside are less than charted and we had uncomfortably little clearance on entry. The harbour wall is high and dirty, and the pigeons and starlings nesting in holes fairly mess up a nice clean yacht! Overnight, a yacht settled aground in its berth when there should have been enough water to stay afloat. We were glad to get away the next morning.

Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig

The morning brought poor visibility, and as we headed south we ran into fog – quite thick in places, but with tantalising glimpses of the sun's outline in others. An inbound US submarine gave regular radio reports of its progress through the fog towards the Cumbrae Pass for a rendezvous with British and Dutch vessels for a naval exercise. Eventually Ailsa Craig loomed out of the mist, its upper levels clear but its base still shrouded in fog. This cleared before our arrival to anchor off, allowing the Skipper to add the ascent of another Marilyn to his list. After a quick look round at what remains of the old curling stone industry, we crossed to Girvan for the night. A chat with the Harbourmaster warned of the possible noisy arrival of the Wick Lifeboat during the night, but our sleep went undisturbed.

Cast Off and Away

Arctica's New Cockpit Cover

Arctica’s New Cockpit Cover

Launched, rigged and loaded, we left Dumbarton to start our Summer 2011 cruise. There was a moment of anxiety as we strayed into shallow water at the edge of the unmarked channel from Dumbarton Rock to the Stone Beacon. With a sigh of relief, we soon joined the main River Channel and continued uneventfully down to Greenock, where a large container ship was berthing. Passing the yotspots of Cardwell Bay, Gourock YC, Inverkip Marina and Largs Yacht Haven we moored at Millport, well satisfied with an initial short trip to re-familiarise ourselves with the navigation and communications systems. As a trial run, we put up the new cockpit canopy and enjoyed its protection and all-round visibility for the evening.