Picture shows a windswept Simon and Helen departing Wales – St David’s Head in the background.
Welcome readers to our latest Crazysails post. First of all, can we say a huge THANK YOU for supporting the Kairos crew on our Round Britain sailing challenge – we have now reached 40% of the way to our target for the National Autistic Society, which, as you know, is £2017 – £1 for every year up to the year of our challenge, 2017. It’s still a way to go, so if you can please do make a donation – every little helps. In this latest Crazysails blog we are going to tell you about our latest adventures and how we have ended up writing this post in the Royal St George’s Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin.
The last week has been incredible – three countries in three days, more dolphins than we could count, two whales, seals, a gazillion (is that a word?) puffins, razorbills and guillimots and ….. a change from glorious sunshine to wild winds and a disappointingly low 11 degrees on Thursday- where has that Cornish sunshine gone? I did realise I had made a mistake with my clothes packing when I looked for something warmer in my wardrobe on board and realised that I’d packed more for sailing in Greece than Scotland – and we aren’t even there yet! Needless to say, full of fear and anticipating the worst, Simon has hidden the credit card, just in case I feel a shopping spree coming on in Dublin but as I said to him …. I have nothing to wear and I NEED some new tops … he remains unconvinced! But I digress, back to our travels which, as I was saying, have taken a turn for the chillier!
Shorts & strappy tops – evidence of inappropriate clothing!
It is on wet and windy days, like those we have had recently, that we thank goodness for our C&J Marine cockpit enclosure which has enabled us to both keep warm and dry, given us a larger living space and also a space to air those wet sailing clothes, outside of the boat itself. We mustn’t be too smug but I do feel an immense feeling of satisfaction when we can creep inside our canvas tent and feel snug and warm when others have to batten down the hatches and stay inside on such days; it was truly money well spent. Other sailors, if you haven’t got a cockpit enclosure – get one; you too can feel smug in the rain!
But let’s go back a few days,,, well one week to be precise and our journey from England to Wales.
Padstow to Milford Haven (Neylands Marina)
Saturday 24 June We left pretty Padstow and our last stop in England (for now) early on the morning. The weather looked reasonably settled with the winds starting light at first but increasing to a 20mph later in the journey. The sky was grey and heavy with clouds, though the rain held off. It was a journey of some discomfort mixed with some of the most exciting moments of the trip. As we crossed the Bristol Channel, we had a relentless rolling swell of 4 metre waves coming in from the Atlantic, which was hugely uncomfortable and, as Facebook friends will remember from my post, it was not a sea for those with queasy stomachs, even I felt slightly nauseous by the time we reached the welcome haven of Milford Haven and celebrated our arrival in Wales. The trip was around 12 hours in total and all without any help from the autohelm which decided it didn’t want to play in the turbulent confused sea swell. This left Simon on the wheel most of the time with me trimming and grinding the genoa, trying not to feel yuk at the same time as trying to photograph the many dolphins we had with us throughout the trip. Yes, I must mention the dolphins. Having seen several dolphins over the previous days we have really thought they would prefer calmer seas and didn’t expect the volume we got during this trip. it was hugely exciting and really one of the special times we had had so far on our journey; they were literally everywhere to the both the port and starboard sides, on the bow and at the stern. We actually lost count of how many we saw but it was as if they knew we needed something to brighten this less than pleasurable sail.
Milford Haven was a welcome sight and not at all what we had expected. I had thought it would be industrial and the oil refinery would dominate the area. Yes there were some glimpses of this we made our way down to Neyland Marina which had been recommended to us and found ourselves in tranquil, pretty surroundings, beautiful scenery and a wonderful small, friendly, well equipped marina.
Milford Haven to Killmore Quays, Republic of Ireland
Monday 26 June
We had hoped to see more of the Welsh coast and certainly didn’t expect to be leaving Wales quite so quickly but as the weather forecast looked good for our next passage which was over to Ireland we decided we had to take advantage of this and so early on Monday 26th we left Neylands and headed out of the shelter of Milford Haven and into the Irish Sea. Leaving Wales through the islands that marked the Broad Sound, we had good visibility and were able to see the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline extending round past Skomer and other islands, to St David’s Head, a point which stayed in sight until we were 30 miles offshore. Having had an uncomfortable cross from Padstow, we were hoping to have a slightly easier crossing but had heard about the often tricky changeable conditions on the Irish Sea (my nemesis) but it couldn’t have been more benign and the tide was certainly in our favour whooshing us along and cutting our journey from an expected 11 hours door to door down to 9.5 hours. We recorded speeds (over the ground speeds) of over 10 knots and averaged 8.5-9 for most of the journey. The sun tried to break through the clouds, the wind was a light 2-3 and the sea state smooth to slight. We even managed to eat our pasta salad (pre-prepared) and had several cups of tea! As well as seeing more dolphins and puffins, the highlight was undoubtedly the spotting of two minke whales. I saw the spout from the first one but wasn’t sure what it was so called Simon who was in the cabin below. He came out and (we had become casual about dolphins by now) announced it was dolphins playing in breaking waves. Pretty soon the spout stopped and a HUGE fin appeared together with a large body just visible under the surface of the water. Gee, that was one BIG fish! We looked it up in our pilot book which had a guide to wildlife at the front and sure enough it was a Minke whale. About an hour later when we were 10 miles off the Irish coast Simon spotted another – apparently they often travel singly and are seen around there.
Arriving in Killmore Quays on the East coast of Southern Ireland, we were faced with an incredibly tight right angle turn to port into the narrow entrance of the harbour. We moored up on a visitors berth and got sorted out just in time, as the weather began to change, becoming colder and the wind picked up. We took refuge in Kehoes, a pub recommended for it’s seafood and enjoyed a really delicious and welcome dinner in cosy surroundings but on the way back we felt the Irish rain in all its glory and got back to the boat more than a little damp!
Killmore Quays to Arklow
Tuesday 27 June
We had always decided that to try and keep up with our schedule we would need to move when the weather looked good so, although it had been a long crossing the previous day, it was up at 5.30am, ready for a 6am departure. We followed a Scottish boat, Aestrea and a Dutch boat out of the harbour and we all turned and headed north. It had been dry but damp (after a night of rain) when we left Killmore and we had the same conditions for the first part of our journey. Again we sailed with the genoa and enjoyed good tides carrying us towards Arklow but we had heavy overcast skies and needed several layers of clothing to keep us warm; I felt like a telly tubby, a weeble or some other unattractive rotund children’s toy but was glad of the warmth – is this really June? We had rain threatening most of the way but fortunately it held off and 53 miles and about 7 hours later we arrived at Arklow.
Now Arklow is ‘interesting’. Apparently it used to be a very busy area with a huge explosives and chemical industry. You will see from the photos that many of the old buildings are now abandoned and derelict. We faced another tight entry into a very small marina but we were greeted by a very jolly, helpful harbour master who showed great interest in our challenge and our quest to raise awareness and funds for the National Autistic Society. Further up river and over into the town there has clearly been investment to improve the riverside and shopping facilities and the river Avoca itself, is very pretty and, further upstream, is home to the village of Avoca where Ballykissangel was filmed. Would I recommend going to Arklow? Well probably not as a place in its own right but for a useful stop over and friendly welcome it is just fine.
Arklow to Dun Laoghaire (Dublin Bay)
Wednesday 28 June
Yet another early morning start but this time a mere 37 mile trip from Arklow to Dun Laoghaire beckoned. Again the Dutch boat and Aestrea left around the same time as we did and again we all headed in the same direction. This time we knew rain was forecast and we would be unlikely to miss it so our goal was to get the Dun Laoghaire as quickly as possible, where we planned to stay for a bit of a rest. This also coincided with a bad weather forecast so gave us a good excuse to spend time in Dublin’s fair city (as the song goes).
Our journey went smoothly until we arrived and were given a berth too small for us just as the wind picked up. Our usual smooth landing was not so successful this time and we had to ask for a different berth. DL Marina is huge and there were plenty of spare berths so the Harbour Master allocated us an alternative and pretty soon we were all moored up, electric on and the cockpit enclosure put up, keeping us snug from the rain – and so I return to where I started.
Dublin itself is worthy of a post in its own right and also since I started writing this blog we have had another amazing donation which has pushed us to over the halfway mark. Both of these as well the highs and lows previously promised, I will cover in the next blog but for now Crazysails readers, I thank you for your time and your support and I will let you get on with your life, while we prepare for our next part of our travels.