Leonore Summer Cruise 2014
This year’s two week cruise was for various reasons timed for early-mid July and I had three groups of crew lined up. Andy Cunningham would do most of both weeks but had to leave sometime in the second week, my stepson Dave and his mate Luke, keen fishermen would do the first week, while my old caving pal Mick Dunleavy would make it this year for the second week. We originally planned to leave on 4th , however the weather did not look kind for this period, and not wanting to use up off-work days unnecessarily I advised Dave and Luke that they could put off their arrival from Bristol till 5th and myself and Andy would perhaps try and get the boat over to Ireland before that if they could get the ferry/bus to meet us. As the time came closer I also recruited Mikki to join for a one-way trip and on the 3rd we had a serious weather pow-wow round my computer at home with a view to going overnight that day. Outcome was that whilst ok to start, a nasty looking force 6-7 SSW was heading across our path and round up into St Georges channel, hitting our track in the early hours of 4th. As we couldn’t be sure to be out of the way by the time it hit, we settled to leave later on the 4th, however this ruled Mikki out, which was a shame, Wassail being shore-bound for this season. We confirmed with the boys to take the ferry and we would contact them later. All sorted but as the wind was set to veer round westwards, there Was no hope of making the spectacular westward progress we managed last year.
4-5 July Pembroke Dock to Dunmore East
So it was then that Andy and I began to load up provisions and gear at 3pm in time to catch the last of the tide down Haven, which coupled with a force 5 SSW wind gave us a quick if dismal and wet start. Of course turning St Ann’s at low tide meant anti-tide through Broad Sound and up to Skomer. Worse still, the ol’ Wild Goose race was on top form, giving us a very unpleasant ride till we were clear of Skomer. I grabbed some sleep while Andy did a great job on tiller but couldn’t avoid three big ones getting into the cockpit. The lowering skies with occasional rain brought dusk on early as we headed out as close to West as we could, although in fact 300 degrees was as good as we could manage and as the night wore on we were resigned to making landfall at Dungarvan at best. Unfortunately, in the rough seas I didn’t fancy struggling on the aft deck setting the windvane (mental note for jobs list..I must make this task easier) so I took over from Andy and hand-steered through the night. At around midnight dolphins surrounded the boat, their shapes continually giving me small frights as they plunged alongside. Now it was obvious we could only make Dunmore East, so I trained the GPS onto the Koningbeg rock (so as to miss it!). Gradually the rain stopped and the wind dropped so that by morning we were actually a bit short of wind and had to motor a bit by the Koningbeg, but then the wind picked up again and we had a very pleasant sail into Dunmore in sunshine! As soon as we got reception we messaged the other crew who had just arrived by Ferry into Rosslare and were getting the bus westwards.
Docking at Dunmore’s new pontoons inside the harbour is quite difficult as there’s not much of it and it’s popular, however we were lucky as the crew of Wanda (a Halmatic 30) were aboard and friendly, helping to tie us up alongside. We soon got to know Robbie (skipper), Jack (his son and cook) and Barry (friend) who were very like-minded and heading west as well (from Dublin). Back to business and we had to link up with the rest of the crew, which was not as straightforward as I had thought, the bus service down from Waterford being infrequent and not meshing well with the main route over to Cork. This allowed us a welcome sleep and by early afternoon Dave and Luke arrived got sorted out in the boat (a bit of a cram in Leonore especially since Luke is a big bloke! Time for a Guinness! Over to the Sailing Club sorted that out, though we were careful to pace ourselves. Dinner at the club barbeque followed and then we went pub crawling, ending up in the Butcher’s (Power’s Bar: see last year) where World Cup football was on…little did I realise this would come to dominate evening planning over the next two weeks.
6 July Dunmore East to Dungarvan
Up a bit late and after showers etc. in the harbour facilities, ready for sea at 10, luckily a good deal earlier than Wanda who said they might follow us to Dungarvan and we swapped estimates for this evening’s high tide time and set off, soon reefing down in a stiff westerly forcing us to tack the day away and wait outside Dungarvan doing some fishing till 2015 when I thought it was half tide. As we made our way in along the buoyed channel full of confidence..bump! oh well these channels move about..anchor and wait ten mins for the tide to come up..off we go again..bump! and a third time.. After that it was ok and we got into the main town river and quickly tied up to the Sailing club’s brand new but deserted pontoon. On pontoon duty that evening was Austin who I have met before and who was most helpful sorting us out on the stand-up-in-the-mud end of the pontoon and with entry to the club for showers and the bar. Here we discovered that high tide was 2 hrs later than I had too casually agreed with Wanda’s estimate, so we had in fact tried coming in at 5 hrs before..no wonder we bottomed on the way in! Silver lining was that we had a longer evening for pub crawling which was mostly done in our favourite ‘The Local’ run by famous bodhran virtuoso Donnacadh Gough. No sign of Wanda
7 July Dungarvan to Ballycotton
In the morning duty pontoon man Tommy Power kindly drove me to refuel with petrol whilst others showered and provisioned (especially white pudding) and we then had full Irish breakfast on board. First opportunity to negotiate the channel out was about 11 o’clock so we nosed gingerly out without problems and headed west past Helvick where Wanda was in the small harbour. At first the sailing was good, and more or less all on port tack in a southerly breeze, however this dropped in the late afternoon and we motored off and on after Capel Island. Here there was a bit of trouble starting the engine at one time and I ended up changing the carburettor to solve it. Lucky I carry a large box of spares!We had dinner on the way and eventually motored into Ballycotton as dusk descended. The boys wanted to stay on board and fish while Andy and myself dinghy’d into the harbour and up to the Bar for a few Guinnesses and an internet connection telling us of a better NW 4-6 tomorrow.
8 July Ballycotton to Kinsale
Over breakfast Dave and Luke regaled us with stories of the big bull-headed fish that got away etc..however we did have a couple of pollak for starters..very nice. Motoring out round Ballycotton Island we then set sail westward on a fine reach with the wind regularly up to force 6 but at least we weren’t tacking. Past Cork harbour and on to those impressive rocks the Sovereigns, big and little.
We stopped for a quick fish passing landside of the big one (these boys are keen!) At last we caught some mackerel!.. a rarity in Pembrokeshire these days it seems.
After fishing the wind had turned west so we tacked to the entrance to Kinsale and had a lovely reach north up the river past the massive Charles Fort and onto the KYC marina, where we pulled up alongside Wanda again, although her crew was out on the town. Kinsale YC is expensive but wonderfully appointed with great showers, a permanently open bar and good food care of a franchised caterer. Back at the boat we met Wanda’s crew and fixed to go to town, where we had to find a suitable venue for the football match, Brazil v Germany..well I’m no football fan but the atmosphere was terrific at Madison’s as Germany thrashed the hosts with the whole pub cheering them on. If you popped to the Fir (gents), another goal had been scored when you got back. On returning to the boat we were unable to cross Wanda without falling into the cabin to sample Robbie’s whiskey and Gin collection. It turned out that Barry is a sculptor in bronze and offered to help Andy out with a memorial he is organising for the US coastguard to commemorate two of theirs who washed up on Fresh East beach in the First World War and are buried in Lamphey. Nice one.
9 July Kinsale to Glandore
Off to a fairly good start in a NNW wind reaching over to the Old Head of Kinsale where Dave, trolling, foul-hooked a very large sand eel and immediately stuck it live onto a huge hook and almost as immediately caught a whopper which turned out to be a 6 lb pollack.
Unfortunately as we crossed Courtmacsherry bay the wind turned west and became quite strong, so more tacking and no hope of making Baltimore, and we re-jigged for Glandore but even that was hard work. The natural beauty of the anchorage at Glandore was adequate compensation, and even more so a good meal at the pub. Wanda sailed in and we joined up for the evening. However, apparently the pub wasn’t showing the football, so we had to order a taxi and shuttle over to Union Hall and Maloney’s bar for that, which was a bit of a waste of time as football so often is but I hadn’t been to Union Hall before so that was a new experience…much more authentic as a working fishing village plus you can fix to lie alongside if you ask nicely. Another taxi ride home and a very dodgy drunken dinghy ride back to the boat.
10 July Glandore to Schull
We got up and had loads of breaded Pollack for breakfast cooking some also for Wanda, however even by the time we were ready for sea they still hadn’t stirred so we left with the spare fish heading out to the two Islands in the river, Adam and Eve. With help from the plotter it wasn’t such a gamble to tack out through Adam Sound despite the catchphrase instruction ’Stay away from Adam and hug Eve’ which applies particularly to entry from the East. A force 3-4 NW meant we were hard on the wind again as we closed the Stags, where we stopped yet again for a bit of drift fishing, without much luck. Pressing on and being accompanied by dolphins
we decided that Baltimore was a bit too close for a day’s sail and not particularly good for the required crew change, so we sailed on past and turned north into Roaring Water Bay through the narrow Gascanane Sound, again sailing it with the help of GPS, and the same for the sound between the Middle and East Calf Islands. Now it was only a short distance to carry on north-bound into Schull’s harbour and take a visitor buoy. Wanda came in later and deployed local knowledge to tie up on the fishing quay.
Once ashore we couldn’t find anyone who knew where to pay or when the shower facilities might be open, so settled on pub-crawling round town taking in a pub meal where the Wanda boys joined up with us. No football tonight.
11 July Schull to Castletownbere
Andy got up early and took Dave, Luke and all their gear off to town in the dinghy, to catch the bus to Cork and on to Waterford where Jack (as group youngster) had recommended they break their journey for a night’s clubbing etc. Returning with provisions Andy cooked breakfast and we set off in the drizzle to round the dreaded Mizen (see last year), Andy catching up on sleep in the blissful absence of Luke’s snoring. Of course wind today was SW and light, so tacking again we weren’t making sufficient progress to get the tide right at Mizen, and I put the motor on for a few miles to Mizen Head in varying degrees of poor visibility.
Passing Barley Cove I marked on the plotter the position of a bad race probably worse than Mizen itself which was passed without incident but the northbound coast passage frustratingly still required a close reach to keep away from rocks. Visibility remained poor as we passed Dumanus Bay and Sheep’s Head into Bantry Bay, and in fact all the way over to Piper’s Sound and up to Castletownbere, where on Dinish Island we did manage to clock one of Barry’s sculptures - a memorial to fishermen lost from the town.
Anchoring in the designated area we made off to town in search of a shower, which was eventually found after blagging our way into a new gym. Unfortunately they hadn’t yet rigged up the hot water to the shower, but what the hell it had been a cold wet day anyway. Now at least we were clean. The convenience of moby texts had enabled us to let Mick, our new crew know where we would be as he made his way west from Cork airport, and we duly met him in McCarthy’s Bar (made famous by the eponymous book, with the front cover picture of a nun sat outside the bar). It was a great night to be here as the band arrived and set up right next to us and delivered as good a session of Irish ballad singing as I’ve heard in a long time. Many, many pints later we staggered down the road and out to the boat by dinghy.
12 July Castletownbere to Baltimore
We had planned to go into Kenmare River (actually a full sized ‘fiord’ like Bantry Bay but called a river by a past noble landlord to infer riparian rights over fishing etc…end of historical note.) and over to the northern side where Derrynane is a stunningly beautiful harbour, a fitting turn-around objective for the cruise. However, we actually had difficulty seeing our way into Piper’s Sound and on exiting into Bantry Bay found continued poor viz and a contrary west wind for our proposed 10 mile trip to Dursey Sound before we could enter Kenmare River. After so many days on the wind and with the prospect of poor visibility at Derrynane, plus the wind predicted to go SW tomorrow (beating to Mizen), we ditched the plan and luxuriated in a reach south with today’s west wind. Luxuriate is though, too grand a word for a rough drizzly day, but still it was a relief to be reaching and it didn’t take too long to get down to Mizen Head, tame today, and start running east. As it was Saturday we briefly considered stopping at Cape Clear Island for the famous gaelic music session but mooring here in the tiny harbour was problematic last time I came, so we pressed on for Baltimore. This meant passing through Gascanane Sound again and following the south shore of Sherkin Island into Baltimore harbour, where we rafted up at the ‘marina’- an ex Pembroke Dock concrete water bowser as per Thorn Island, except afloat!
Another pub crawl (well, there are only two pubs) with a meal at the Algiers Inn between two visits to Bushe’s bar (including a shower) was the order of the night, with Andy staying at the Algiers to watch the football. Making our way back to the marina we were flabbergasted to find a swish new public toilet/shower block which had been built since last year when there were only toilets which were particularly dire as a rule. Chatting whilst we walked in through the grand entrance we were startled by hammering on the other side of the Gents area which turned out to be a guy who had been locked in. OK we said, we’ll help and fiddled with door handles etc, but it became obvious that the door was indeed deadlocked, as was the Ladies, and our immediate thought was ‘what chance of contacting the council at this time of night? I left Mick comforting the captive while I went round to the pub and asked a barman, who asked another and then one of the customers, who had the phone number of the guy who locks up for the council. Something to be said for small town networking! Round at the toilets, the council guy turned up and unlocked the crew member of one of the English marina boats… he had called everyone on his phone but nobody could help, so he had camped down for the night on his towel. Council man apparently checks for people, looking under the toilet trap doors and if he can’t hear a shower running, locks up. Said the ex-captive ‘but I was probably just drying off after shutting off the shower’ however council man gave no indication he was going to change his routine, so watch out!
13 July Baltimore to Kinsale
We awoke to sunshine..first time in a few days, and a fine westerly force 4 to go with it! So enjoy breakfast and motor out of harbour, setting sail for a leisurely run eastwards. Easy progress meant we passed Castletownsend, Glandore and Courtmacsherry without any need to be stopping and in fact as we approached Old Head of Kinsale we were making nearly 8 knots overland.
Sizing up the race off the Head we kept out to sea but moved in once south of the head avoiding the white curly ones which weren’t too bad today. Once past the Head we turned north reaching up to and into the river to go up to Kinsale and just as last week, there alongside was Wanda, so we tied up to her. This time they were all on board so we planned our evening in two groups – all out football fans to watch the World Cup Final and drinkers to tour best pubs with a view to keeping up with play as and when. Most everyone favoured Germany, who duly won in what seemed to me like an uninteresting match.
14 July Kinsale to Ballycotton
Andy got us a good breakfast and then decided to jump ship at this point as he had a unique chance to meet an old friend back in England. A decent SW force 5 was spoiled by poor visibility, but we made our way out of the river and eastwards north of the Big Sovereign . As forecast, the rain and poor viz improved gradually all the way to blue sky, although the wind stayed up which made for
nice early stop on a visitor buoy at Ballycotton. Up went the dinghy and we went ashore for a few pints at the Harbour Inn and a good chat to a Dutch singlehander who was planning an onward trip to Milford, so we gave him advice and offered help if he needed. The locals told us of the recent arrival of the old Ballycotton Lifeboat Mary Stanford to a display location on a plinth to the west of town, so we went for a look. As shown in a painting in the pub, Mary Stanford took part in a famous
rescue in Feb 1936 for which a gold medal was awarded. Conditions were horrendous, hurricane force winds with rain and snow, with spray flying over the 200ft lighthouse on Ballycotton Island. See Wikipedia for more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNLB_Mary_Stanford_(ON_733)
Previous trips have found food scarce, and a likely looking posh hotel has always been too posh for the likes of us, however, things have changed economically and Mick managed to persuade the hotel to let us have a meal there.. absolutely excellent it was, fish and steak alike, although the myth of Ballycotton potatoes being the best in Ireland is overstated.
15 July Ballycotton to Dungarvan
It seems to be a rule for our eastbound trips that there will be no wind at Ballycotton… and so it was today. Starting early we part-motored and part-drifted in a very light southerly. Still, it was nice and sunny and very gradually the wind picked up to a constantly sailable level as we passed Youghal and Mine Head. Arriving early at Dungarvan Bay we anchored up at Ballynacourty Point and slept awaiting the tide for a motor in up the buoyed channel to Dungarvan at 1745. At the new pontoon we were again met by Tommy Power and given keys etc. for a welcome shower at the Sailing Club. We had a great last evening in Ireland eating at The moorings and pubbing at The Local where we got a good forecast to get home tomorrow, not so good the following day. Having had a few too many and relying too much on previous experience of the old pontoon, and neglecting the current spring tide, we both went to sleep on the starboard side outside the pontoon, and were shocked to wake and find the boat leaning over at about 20 degrees outwards with the warps straining horribly. The mud at the new pontoon is not as soft and liquid as it used to be! As the tide came in we righted with no apparent damage. Phew!
16-17 July Dungarvan to Pembroke Dock
With a high tide around 11 we had a leisurely and large caver’s style breakfast at the Ormond Café before vittaling up and getting ready for sea. Tommy told us we had no need to use the buoyed channel with such a big tide, but we took the safe option and followed it anyway.
Out at sea,with 70nm to The Smalls, a SW force 4 was ideal for heading across to Pembrokeshire via the Koningbeg Rock, and the Sea Feather windvane did a great job steering for us all the way to The Smalls whose TSS lanes we began to cross in the late evening. Here the sea became rough and the wind dropped, so to avoid the annoying rolling and sail slatting we had to motor on and off. However as we headed over to Skokholm in the dawn we managed to sail more stably which was a real blessing for our one-on-one-off watch system . At last we came in between St Ann’s and the mid channel tower, but probably a bit unsociably early to use the newly acquired moby signal. At around Milford we reported in to the coastie, downed sails and packed up ready to for a quick dock at Hobbs Point to unload and off to the mooring to round off a great trip in which Leonore sailed every single day, we didn’t get seriously wet and winds were not too strong or too light.