Beyond Biscay

Wednesday 13th July

The first mate took over from Erica at 02:00, Biscay is behind us. Temptress is in soundings once more passing over Sole Bank as in the shipping forecast area Sole. Ahead lies the quaintly named Haddock Bank – I guess that didn’t sound quite as good to those who put the shipping forecast areas together. We discussed as a crew whether it might be worth trolling for haddock but have no idea if they would be interested in a red and white lure close to the surface. So far the only fish we’ve caught were the spanish mackerel off the Andalusian coast.

The whole chart from here to the Irish coast and beyond is littered with depths less than one hundred and fifty metres as well as an almost equal number of wreck symbols. These can be hostile waters given an Atlantic storm. Tonight though there’s slightly more breeze than the early evening’s glassy seas but it’s from due north so we continue to motor. The crew now, though enjoying the voyage, want to reach home. Two hundred and eleven nautical miles to our landfall, a day and a half away.

My meditations are interrupted by another familiar sound , that of Falmouth CG hailing a boat. They are the official rescue coordinator for this area but this VHF transmission was probably a lucky bounce. Falmouth itself is 150nm north east of us. The AIS list shows Wolf Rock off Lands End as under 115nm away.

The rest of the night was not so cosy, the wind had been building from the north since before 02:00 and by an hour into my watch we could probably sail but which direction? The angles weren’t brilliant. I woke the skipper for a conflab. In the end we decided to stay as we were, motoring on a heading somewhere east of north. Fastnet Rock and Cape Clear anyone? We changed watches at four, I made a log entry and climbed into a bunk. Twenty minutes or so later the skipper called me up on deck, a reef was required, we dropped in the second reef in a well practised manoeuvre.

Soon after five I was up again, we unfurled a bit of the genoa and were sailing, the downside was the drizzle and the angle still wasn’t great either. We tried a couple of tacks but nothing was great. The wind was coming directly from where we wanted to be. We missed the shipping forecast which Reeds had as 05:33, we should have trusted the dusty bit of paper that’s been stuck by the chart table for almost twenty years stating the times in fading pencil – it’s 05:20.

At some point Kevin and Erica tacked east as if heading up the Channel for Plymouth. Then around eight the dark clouds started to give way to lighter stuff and the wind went light again. Back to the engine and another change of course to around 350 which with the tide pushing us west meant Temptress was heading for the west of Ireland again. Frustrating to say the least but it wasn’t raining and the decks were drying. The lumpy seas left over from the nights short blow made Temptress bounce and occasionally slam to a halt. Progress is slow, our ETA slipping to Friday when the speed over the ground drops below five knots but we will get there, wherever we make landfall.

The day progressed with long spells of motoring and short spells of sailing. At one point the 3rd reef went in and we were sailing with a tiny scrap of foresail. Then that was shaken out and it was back to motoring. Would Cork be a better destination? I made sure there was a waypoint in the chart plotter for the entrance.

It wasn’t cold though despite the gloomy skies and on occasions the clouds would part revealing a patch of blue. Dolphins and the odd ship appeared usually in the distance. We did have to stop for one massive, empty tanker. The crew finished more books. The pile of unread ones is shrinking rapidly.

The sea state in these shallower waters was confused and making supper became a challenge. The galley slave decided more tins were in order. The planned Chinese style noodle dish that would use up our remaining fresh vegetables will have to wait for flatter seas. Sauerkraut, tomatoes, tuna, pineapple plus fresh potatoes, frozen peas, onion and garlic seasoned with bay leaves and harissa made a tasty supper. On we plodded under engine, the miles ticking down slowly.

Thursday 14th July

Finally we seem to have some westerly in the wind. Temptress is on a port tack, still motoring, but actually pointing at Dunmore East. The wind is from the north west and we could probably sail but I don’t want to wake the off watch. If it holds we can unfurl some Genova at the 02:00 watch change. 110 miles to go and Temptress is making over six knots. We could make our landfall later today!

At the watch change it’s decided there isn’t enough breeze to make decent progress so Temptress motors on through the night. By 06:00 we have a little over 80 miles left. Pleasingly the coastline has started to appear on the chart plotter. The morning sky is blue with a scattering of fluffy fair weather cloud. The sea state is choppy, left over from the recent winds, whilst the breeze is mostly what is being generated by our forward motion.

By midmorning Temptress is running low on fuel. The side deck is awash. We haul out the sails, shaking out the reef. The fuel filler cap is up on the windward side and once the deck is judged sufficiently dry the last can of diesel is siphoned in. It represents nine hours of motoring.

Between us we didn’t have breakfast except some cereal bars so an early lunch or brunch of eggy bread and beans went down well. The crew doze, read and we even haul in the trolling line that’s been out since early morning and swap the lure for something else. It doesn’t seem any more successful. Then on the horizon off to starboard the unmistakable dark smudge of hills. Land Ho!

The second excitement of the afternoon was being hailed by the Irish navy. We’d watched for sometime hovering around a couple of French fishing boats off to the east of us. They suddenly decided it was our turn and the “William Butler Yeats”, a very new looking patrol boat headed over. The radio sprung to life and we were interviewed; boat registration number, gross tonnage, home port, last port, next port, final destination. Then the owners name, nationality and date of birth. He seemed to then loose interest after Being told the skipper is Irish but rapidly ran through a request for the for everyone else on board. That done he wished us a good voyage and they headed off west.

Another round of showers ensued as there’s plenty of hot water when we are motoring. The crew smell sweetly of Hawaiian Tropic after sun butter! Then around five o’clock, the breeze finally relented and swung round to the west. We could have sailed but by now we all want to reach land. With the main eased and the spring tide Temptress under engine was comfortably rolling along through the flat seas at over eight knots. It seems highly likely that we could reach port in time for supper ashore.

Just before eight in the evening we lowered the main off Dunmore East, put out the fenders and rounded the end of the harbour wall. From the seaward side it appeared that just one small yacht was tied to the pontoon but once in the harbour entrance we realised the pontoon was quite full with two medium sized motorboats, the small yacht being rafted to the first one, a large rib to the second and beyond them a gaggle of little motor day boats. Fortunately the owner of the motorboat with the rib was onboard and he offered to move the rib so we could come alongside. Once Temptress was secure the four of us moved the rib and tied it outside of Temptress. It didn’t belong to the motorboat.

Derry, the motorboat owner then volunteered to drive us up the harbour to the fish and chip shop before they closed and recommended Powers Bar for afterwards. He was on his way home but we would see him on Friday evening. The fish and chips were excellent as you’d expect in a fishing harbour. Then we wandered along to the bar for some Guinness. It was great to be back on land after our trip. In the morning we will sort out the paperwork with the harbour master, find some fuel and shop for food for the weekend’s final passage north to Bangor.

Ships Log:

  • Figuiera to Dunmore – 790nm in 5 days 8 hours
  • Cascais to Dunmore – 894nm
  • La Linea to Dunmore – 1214nm
  • Messolonghi to Dunmore – 2637nm

One comment

  1. Well that was some passage got everything. However we’ll managed reading your log. Have to say a quick read as was spiked with interesting detail. Nice.
    Glad the fish and chips was your reward. lol
    Fair winds


Comments are closed.