An Irish Sea Passage

Saturday 16th July

Our additional crew arrived on Friday afternoon having driven down from Bangor, by car it’s a four hour journey. Martin, Kevin & Erica took the fuel cans to a local garage on the Waterford road to get diesel then filled the tank. In the evening with the boat sorted, a bed made for Martin and Vicky and the navigation done, the five of us went for a lovely meal at The Spinnaker in the other part of Dunmore around the bay.

Saturday morning the skipper was awake early. The crew gradually joined him in the cockpit for coffee or tea. Afterwards the lines were slipped and Temptress headed out on the north going tide. We hoisted the main and made good progress under engine but it was foggy until Carnsore Point. The first mate sat watching the radar as there were several small fishing boats about. The sea was littered with pot markers and guillemots.

Soon after nine the fog cleared suddenly, the wind perked up and we unfurled the genoa. Time to sail with the wind just forward of the beam. There were dolphins and lots of seabirds. After lunch a change of course to a more northerly heading meant we could set the big white asymmetric spinnaker which gave Temptress some extra speed through the water. The wind eased but at least we were making progress, even if it was only 3.5 knots over the ground once the tide turned south. Sadly the wind didn’t stay and with the strong spring tide ebbing south and building, the engine was needed to make forward progress.

Martin having recovered from being blessed by a passing gull wrestled the asym down below where he learnt how to pack this vast amount of cloth in a confined space. Hang the clew on a convenient coat hook then run the tape to the next corner hang that up so there is no twist in the tape then repeat the process along a second side. With all three corners hung up it’s easy to stuff the mounds of soft white fabric into the rectangular bag. Then the crinkles are tied in, in order clew, head, tack along the opening and the Velcro fastenings made.

Onward we motored in the hot sun. The land edged away then started to return. The Wicklow mountains just visible as the air began to turn misty. Though the sun was hot, the air was chilly. After five the ebb tide began to relent from its peak of almost three knots against us. If we can use the next incoming tide to speed us north of Dublin, we may have it flowing with us for the rest of the passage as further up, beyond a large area of mostly slack water, the outgoing tide flows north through the St George’s Channel between the coast of Antrim and Scotland. It’s all a matter of timing.

By supper time it was distinctly chilly again, we donned extra layers. Our fish pie supper made from fish purchased in Dunmore East, was very tasty. A fillet of salmon and of smoked cod plus a monk fish tail in a white sauce with a layer of sauerkraut and topped with mashed potatoes. I didn’t let on until after it had been eaten that I’d mistaken the spice jars and a healthy shake of mixed spice went in the sauce before I’d realised it wasn’t mace! After supper the crew watched the numbers change as the tide turned in our favour. We drank our sundowners then the off watch retired to their bunks. With four watches of two hours, the last watch keeper, yours truly had the luxury of six hours off before being due on deck at two on Sunday morning.

Sunday 17th July

By 02:00 the loom of Dublin is behind Temptress. It’s chilly, the light breeze is from the south east but at the lower end of the forecast range. The moon is mostly hidden behind cloud and the retiring watch, Martin and Vicky, say there has been a few drops of rain. For now it’s dry. The coast of to port seems clad in mist but the visibility at sea is fine.

Temptress is under engine still making just over seven knots northwards. We’ve made excellent progress and the border is only a few miles ahead of us, the entrance to Carlingford Lough almost thirty miles away to the north west. There’s a bit of shipping around, leaving Dublin or simply enroute up the Irish Sea to Belfast or the west of Scotland. Most of it is further offshore.

Late morning Temptress motored past familiar places on the Ards Peninsula – Cloughey, Ballyhalbert and Ballywalter with their caravans. Ballywhisken where we waved madly at Susie’s friend Heather on the beach even though we couldn’t really pick her out in the distance through the binoculars, we knew she was there thanks to WhatsApp! Ahead were the Copeland islands strung out in a chain ended by the lighthouse that marks the southern corner of Belfast Lough. An odd angle to see them from as from the house we look along the chain and see only Copeland itself with the lighthouse peeping over.

The lighthouse on Donaghadee pierhead gleamed white inshore. Then we were passing the 18th century stone pier, glimpsed briefly the harbour it protects and were in the Sound. The gaily coloured buildings of Donaghadee line the shore overseen by the Moat smart in its new grey paint, we point out the landmarks like the sailing club to Erica. Another bout of waving to another unseen friend, Linda, this time upstairs in her house overlooking the Sound and at Kevin’s mum Rhona a little further on. The tide was against us so progress slowed.

By 13:00 Temptress was tied up safely in a berth at Bangor Marina. Donaghadee Sailing Club’s Commodore Steve together with Ross, appeared on the pontoon with bottles of bubbly and glasses to drink it from! We celebrated the completion of this final passage and of Temptress’ circumnavigation with friends in the sunshine, which very much sums up the whole of our voyage. Though we started this not intending to circumnavigate and mostly for the challenge of sailing and the places we could visit, it’s been the friends we’ve made enroute and the fun we’ve had together that have made the past nine years so special.

Now Temptress was in Belfast Lough and motoring past Orlock Point and tiny Groomsport harbour. Suddenly the wind that had been forecast since yesterday finally arrived. The southeasterly force four sped us the final mile or so past Ballymacormick Point and into the bay off Bangor, just in time to make bringing the main down for the final time on this voyage a bit of work. Then it was fenders and lines on, the marina allocated us a temporary berth as we came around into the entrance. We passed the end of Eisenhower Pier with more crazy waving to the first of a welcoming committee – Linda, Rosemary, Gordon and their visitors, further along Vicky’s parents were there too.

By 13:00 Temptress was tied up safely in a berth at Bangor Marina. Donaghadee Sailing Club’s Commodore Steve together with Ross, appeared on the pontoon with bottles of bubbly and glasses to drink it from! Together the crew celebrated the completion of this final passage and of Temptress’ circumnavigation with friends in the sunshine, which very much sums up the whole of our voyage. Though we started this not intending to circumnavigate rather mostly for the challenge of sailing and the places we could visit, it’s been the friends we’ve made enroute and the fun we’ve had together that have made the past nine years so special.

This maybe the end of our voyage however our sailing adventures will continue. First, Temptress deserves some tlc in the form of a major refit, she was thirty years old this year. Then we have the whole of the western islands of Scotland and the coast of Ireland to explore. So as this chapter closes we are already looking forward to the next.

3 comments

  1. It was exciting to track your progress up online from Dunmore and then wave at you from the house as you came around Donaghadee lighthouse! Then even more fun to wave you into Bangor Marina and visit on board. Welcome home! What a wonderful journey around the Earth’s seas and the amazing memories and stories you have.

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  2. I shall miss the interesting bulletins of your voyages. Well done Susie for keeping up the journalism. What a wonderful set of experiences to remember and, as you say, there is still Ireland and Scotland to explore. Wishing you all the best,

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