Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Sidewinder in Innishbofin

Ardglass - Crionna leaving, plus Martyn and Allen relaxed


Safely home again and enjoying the luxury of not sleeping in a sleeping bag, it is time to reflect on the trip - what worked well and what didn't.

First of all the Twister:

The boat was superb for the trip.  The relatively heavy long-keel design, along with her renowned good manners, made it safe and reassuring to be out in the Atlantic swell and poor weather that this summer delivered.  The sailing was memorable, and we loved the way that Sidewinder powered through the water when the wind was brisk, but also could be sailed delicately and quietly when winds were gentle.

Accommodation is generous for two.  The cosy main cabin was big enough for our purposes, the storage was more than enough for both provisions and clothing.  Difficult to dry clothes and wet-gear inside of course.

Best bits of gear for the trip:
The expensive Dubarry sailing boots won the award.  Warm dry feet for the whole trip!
The Garmin 551 chartplotter was a delight to use - simple to set up and reassuringly clear in poor visibility.  Martyn's swing fixing that allowed it to be used at the chart table and also swung round for cockpit visibility was essential.
Lined Craghopper trousers - water-resistant, comfortable and all-purpose (ie OK to go ashore in as well as sail in).

Least useful bits of gear:
Swimmers and t-shirts.  (What were we thinking of!)

Educational insight for non-sailors:
Martyn insists that it would be useful for non-sailors to appreciate the process of using the heads (loo) when sailing.  The number of actions involved is daunting, so it is a considerable disincentive to over-use!

For all those men used to the simple unzip, perform, zip, flush, wash hands routine - compare and contrast:

Remove gloves (release elastic closures and velcro fasteners); Remove lifejacket crotch-straps (2); undo life-jacket and remove; undo velcro outer jacket sleeve closures (2); undo velcro inner sleeve closures (2); release velcro waterproof front closure on jacket; unzip jacket and remove; unfasten waterproof trouser shoulder straps; unzip waterproof trousers; unzip fleece; enter heads (loo); open inlet and outlet seacocks; unzip trousers; perform; zip trousers; lower toilet lid and pump lever 10 times, wait 5 seconds and pump 5 times; wait till vacuum subsides and lift lid; operate pump to empty bowl; close seacocks; wipe hands with wet-wipes; use antibacterial gel; redo all those bits of clothing that had previously been undone; by which stage it is time to go back on duty.  Don't forget that all of the above is performed while trying to hang on to a moving environment.  When the pitching and rolling reaches the 'more than 30 degrees each way' stage, the above steps are truly challenging!

Thanks to all the readers of the blog for appreciative messages and comments.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Back to the start

After the evening of fruitless searching for the weather forecast we wanted, we went to sleep expecting to spend a day in Bangor - frustratingly close to the finishing line. Luckily Martyn woke at 03:30 and, as you do, checked the weather forecast. It had changed significantly from the previous evening - showing a window of favourable winds on Saturday morning. We knew that the tides were favourable for the tricky Copeland Sound up to about 06:30 so if we wanted to go we needed to get started.

Hats off to Bangor Marina, who, as well as providing excellent facilities, were able to process our payment at 4 o'clock in the morning. We sailed off at 04:30 and made good time along the coast with a calm and dry dawn lighting the sky as we went.

First light can play tricks on the eyesight. When Martyn called down "There's a pedalo out here," it seemed as though the early departure and the hazy dawn light might be confusing his eagle eyes. What on earth would a pedalo be doing off Donaghadee at 06:00 in the morning? However closer inspection through binoculars revealed 3 figures pedalling steadily on their orange-hulled craft. We passed close by and shouted questions about their destination, but they were unable to hear us over the noise of the churning water. We guessed it was a fund-raising stunt en route to Scotland. Hope they made it!

By 07:00 we were celebrating passing the most easterly part of Ireland - Burr Point, near Ballywalter. Hands up who knew that! The passing of the most easterly point co-incided with our second breakfast, which was enhanced by Martyn's special tea. It reminded us of the line in Bonnie & Clyde - "Whatever you do don't sell that cow". (That's today's obscure reference for you to Google!)

We had seen porpoises on our first morning of the trip, and it was delightful to see more, feeding off the coast at Millisle, on the last morning, .

We had our third breakfast shortly afterwards near the entrance to Strangford Lough. Fried egg, potato bread, and fried apple consumed while hove-to in the early morning Irish Sea - an experience to be treasured!

Martyn's parents and sister Susie were in Phennick Cove Marina in Ardglass to greet us when we arrived at 11:20. Fred the marina manager was on the pontoon to wave us in to a handy berth. Also there to welcome us were the ubiquitous John and Ann on the sister Twister Crionna, whom we had met on Rathlin. A great homecoming, which developed into a celebratory lunch in the cockpit when Maire, Lesley and Uel arrived bringing more contributions to a picnic, and more congratulations. A delightful end to the four week odyssey.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Bangor - so near ......

Our cultural investigations included the hotel once owned by Winston Churchill (the Londonderry Arms - which deserves high recommendation), and the Waterfall Bar which Winston Churchill should have enjoyed had he tried it. Not exactly the material for a blue plaque.

This morning Martyn covered a page with calculations of tidal range; least depth in the harbour; predicted minimum at the bar ( the shallow bit at the harbour entrance) and concluded that we had better get a move on. To give due credit, his calculation was that we would have 0.4 metres to spare, which was exactly what the depth gauge showed.

We had a relatively gentle but wet journey past Glenarm, Ballygally, Larne, Muck Island (from the Irish for Pig), The Gobbins, Black then White Heads, and finally across Belfast Lough to Bangor. We arrived in our habitual tropical rain squall, but tied up to a visitors' berth and found the hot showers.

Being now close to home we enjoyed a visit from Maire, Katherine and Kirsty who were suitably impressed by our luxurious quarters. We will restock the wine cellar tomorrow.

The weather forecasts are horribly mixed tonight. We tried six without getting the answer we wanted. The Met Office has a strong winds warning issued, which we don't really believe but are unwilling to ignore. Plans to sail triumphantly into Belfast have been shelved.