Following a string of 5 wet and windy mid-July cruises I was determined to try something different this year and following various discussions in the club and elsewhere, plumped for early June in the hope of better conditions. For crew I had Andy Cunningham keen again and my old pal from caving days, Mick Dunleavy, but at the last minute he went and pulled his back messing about on his allotment and was ruled out by his doctor.. I always told him he should buy his vegetables at Tescos like everyone else! Last minute attempts at pressganging others failed, so that just left the two of us. Still, the weather was looking very promising.
6-7 June Pembroke Dock – Kinsale
With a very decent weather forecast (NE 4-5) we had opted for a long overnight start, heading due west, sort of lunchtime-to-lunchtime plan. Thus we got all the provisioning etc sorted for a short stop on the Hobbs point pontoon at 12 o’clock and set off down haven on a run as the wind was actually easterly. Sorting the spinnaker pole I discovered a large brown speckled egg nestled in the toerail! Still unidentified.. it was cold so we jettisoned it.
We soon picked up with Mikki in Wassail who was out for a daysail and absolutely green with envy that we were heading westwards unbounded. Around the heads we found the sea breeze exactly cancelled the easterly and we wallowed unimpressively for an hour and a half or so before the easterly took over and we got the spinnaker up for a westward push, only getting it down as night
fell to avoid complications. As predicted the wind built as northeasterly and we set up the Sea Feather windvane to take over steering while we worked a two hour one on, one off watch system operated from the comfort of the sprayhood with regular look arounds, but there was nothing much. By about 2am the wind was a very decent force 5 and we were really licking along with a little bit of spray making its way into the cockpit. And so it continued into another sunny day and eventually we came to Cork in good time and decided to go on to Kinsale, which we made by 2pm,
allowing a long pleasant afternoon’s walking up to Charles Fort and around. A good evening up at the Spaniard for music before turning in for a proper night’s sleep.
8 June Kinsale – Baltimore
The sunny weather continues, though forecasts show something nasty our way in a day or two. After a bit of a struggle to get off the pontoon in the easterly wind we motored away and soon got the sails up. A lovely beam reach took us down the spectacular river entrance and on down to the Old Head of Kinsale where as usual we recalled the nearby sinking of the Lusitania in 1915.
Now we had a run, with failing wind so up went the spinnaker again to try and maintain speed. A lazy sunny afternoon was enjoyed passing the various heads with their attendant ports-of-call and then inside the impressively viscious-looking Stag rocks and on past the kedge rock (wreck of Kowloon Bridge just the other side) and into the Baltimore approaches. Now we’re really into the cruising playground, heralded by the daymark known as Lot’s wife or the Irish moon rocket (curvaceous shape is right but in Irish fashion it’s made of brick!)
On the blower to Diarmuid at the ‘marina’ secured us a berth and we motored into this wonderful expansive bay..like a small San Francisco. The marina is actually an ex-Pembroke Dock concrete water bowser, like the ramp at Thorn Island. Amazing connection for us..apparently there are a few of these in Ireland, towed over(with care, presumeably). A balmy night in town, visiting the two pubs (Bushe’s and The Algerian, where we met our French neighbours from the pontoon..keen drinkers they were, on the Guinness. Eventually to bed on a starry night.
9 June Baltimore – Bere Island (Lawrence Cove)
No wind to start with and another bright day, however, after breakfast as we got ready for sea, a wind sprang up and one or two clouds made an appearance. Great..no long motoring trip. Sailing out through the entrance, we were passed by a Minke whale heading in! good start. Wind fell a bit fickle and we had odd bursts of motoring and fishing as we drifted down the outside of Cape Clear Island and then across to Mizen head. Passing close in by the head was very calm and peaceful with a fair tide.. this is how I’ve always found it in the past.
Now we’re heading north and have spinnaker up but the wind is still fickle and requires a gybe every half hour or so. Arriving at the west end of Bere island we downed spinnaker for the restricted passage up to Castletownbere.
Here suddenly the wind piped up and we were tacking up the channel well heeled over. We were in plenty time, so decided to press on along the north channel to Lawrence cove, easy going in a good wind. Never having been here before spotting the entrance was a little difficult, but the plotter gave great confidence as usual and we were soon alongside an uncrowded pontoon. What a magic place! A beautiful wooded cove with a sort of Scottish island feel and with a very relaxed marina
atmosphere. As we set off to town it was noticeable how much more advanced all the flowers were compared to home. Only downside was no sign of the pub opening, but we were told to try again at 9:30, so back to the boat for a meal before retuning and sure enough, the pub opened although we were the only customers for an hour or so. The pub, like so much else here is Victorian military and a relic of the time up to the 1930’s when the Royal Navy had a big base here and the population was 2000 rather than the present 200. Beer was very acceptable and the company convivial. Pleasant stroll back, but weather definitely predicted to dive tomorrow.
10 June Day off Bere Island
Sure enough, rain and a force 6 greeted us in the morning and we were already resigned to a day off. On with the waterproofs and armed with a guide leaflet we set off to walk around the island. Lots of militaria including an interesting battery at the East end, complete with six-inch guns and some great pictures of fleets of warships in harbour back along. Walking back along the south coast we were very glad not to be out sailing as we got the full force of the wind. Here there is a an ancient Viking harbour, with a man-made sill at the entrance. Boat for dinner and we now knew the routine for the pub..still it rained and tonight a crew from a chartered boat provided a great yarning and drinking evening.
11 June Bere Island – Glengarriff
At last a dry start.. a bit of help from our French friends pulling our nose out against the wind and we were off out into the main channel and decided to go East down Bantry Bay.. I had a nagging foreboding as we ran down that we were storing up trouble in the form of a twenty mile beat out of the bay next day, however the pull of the beautiful anchorage in Glengarriff was intoxicating. We tied up to a buoy, and the surroundings were as I remembered.. a perfect quiet natural harbour.
Imagine my delight when a) I had ‘phone signal and b) XC was now predicting an easterly for tomorrow! We went into town for a look around and ended up in Casey’s Hotel where we had a good chat with an American couple. We had to explain that the word ‘fecking’ wasn’t really considered to be swearing by young Irish, as they were quite shocked to hear it all the time. Other than that they were having a great time. We returned to the boat for dinner and then back to town for music and drinking, but were disappointed with the music..American.. and it rained between pubs so not a great night, compounded by blowing a shear pin early on the trip back and rowing the rest in the rain. Good job I put an anchor light up as it was pitch black.
12 June Glengarriff – Crookhaven
Up reasonably early and a good cooked breakfast. The wind was indeed Easterly and we set off hoping it wouldn’t change too much towards West. Out past the masses of mussel farms..it’s good to put a place to the label ‘Bantry Bay Mussels’ you see in the supermarket. We goosewinged our way towards Bere Island and the wind began to back towards southerly, but we held off the wind ok. Having seen the west end fort on land the other day made its positioning more purposeful seen from the sea. As we passed on along Bere Island the wind swung towards Southwest and I remember thinking I ought to reef the main as it’s bound to be stronger out in the Atlantic, however I continued to doze as we continued out and turned south towards Mizen. As we approached Mizen Head the wind strengthened and we were badly heeled, but I figured we would soon be turning off the wind along the south coast…and it was getting pretty rough for reefing work. However I hadn’t bargained on some seriously adverse tides North and West and another step up in the wind. Thus we ended up having to tack away from the menacing rocks and not drawing away very convincingly. So on with the engine.. but shortly afterwards the prop came out of the water, engine revs shot up and it conked out. Try and start again..no go! No chance to look at it, so we hove-to to put two reefs in the main and roll in some more genoa.. this was accomplished remarkably easily considering that Andy had a chance to read the wind meter whilst I was at the mast and it showed 42 kt… and stayed there a while! We were now pulling away, but I was still concerned without engine, so called the Coastie to let them know we were in a bit of trouble, but coping.. they were fine and it was good to have the contact and we declined the offer of any assistance for the present. Reassuringly my handheld managed to contact him as well. Gradually we had enough offing to make our way east along the coast and the tide slackened, as did the wind. There was still a fair sea running, so we declined to take the short cut into Crookhaven as there were white rollers in the gap we would need to go through. Taking the main route in we sailed gratefully in the calm of the haven, right up to Sullivans Bar where we picked up a mooring.
Once fast I felt compelled to investigate the engine and before delving thought I may as well try it… up it started just like that.. I still don’t know what went wrong. Anyway we had a good night down Sullivans recalling the drama. A local skipper confirmed that this does happen and the Mizen, along with Carnsore and Malin should be considered as dangerous tidal gates in heavy weather.. I consider myself updated, as my five previous encounters have been totally trouble-free.
13 June Crookhaven – Baltimore
After yesterday’s experience we fancied a quiet day and opted to go inshore, genoa-only over to Baltimore, once the wind had dropped a bit in line with prediction. This worked out fine with a SW enabling the tricky passage of Gascanane sound to be negotiated under sail on not too much of a close haul.. (engine at the ready this time!) On the run in to Baltimore the sun actually showed and all was very well with the cruise. Diarmuid once again sorted us a berth alongside the concrete barge. On the other side was an absolutely massive motor yacht 50 ft plus with several storeys, and a very friendly and down-to-earth skipper who helped us tie up.
Tonight and tomorrow were going to be bad, so he was going to earn brownie points taking the wives shopping tomorrow.. I have no idea where round here! Another pleasant beery evening in Baltimore after a curry on board.
14 June Baltimore – Castletownsend
The weather was indeed awful overnight and into morning, a westerly with sheets of rain, but predicted to finish at about 4 o’clock said XC. We stayed in bed late, hoping for the best. The boat was battering and fenders squeaking against the barge. Andy disappeared and had breakfast ashore, and I did likewise a couple of hours later then came back to read a heavy newspaper while the rain slashed on. At about 3 we both went up to have some lunch in a café and get a new Gaz bottle, but there was no sign of better weather. Diarmuid rang to say he was sending all boats off to moorings as the barge couldn’t take any more battering, so we went on down to make ready.I decided that rather than a mooring here, we could make it into the shelter of Sherkin Island where a pub offers a pontoon! Magically, as we left, the wind dropped and the sky blued. In a fit of optimism I said we could just nose outside the harbour and see what sea was still running and maybe we could start our journey eastwards, but I promised we would turn back in if we were likely to be shipping waves. On a very broad reach we rode fine, lifting unbelievably to each following swell and not shipping a drop. Going inside the Stags we turned into Castletownsend and reached up the river still in a strong breeze.
A suitable buoy presented itself and we moored up and quickly sorted dinner and dinghy inflation before heading to the village as it was getting late. After a couple at Mary Ann’s we ventured up to another pub I hadn’t been in before and we had a great night.. Andy found a fireman from New Orleans and his missus so he was well away!.. come see us etc… We were very deliberately as safe as we could be on the dinghy journey back.
15 June Castletownsend – Kinsale
Again the forecast was strong wind but improving later, so another late start, but no rain and a beautiful setting with the grand manor house and posh houses along the front of the village. Out at sea the horizon was distinctly curly.
After lunch we set off, again running, and had a fast uneventful trip to the Old Head of Kinsale , and the reaching up river towards Kinsale. We sailed most of the way, but when I went for the motor…nothing! Battery volts were very low, and while Andy rounded up under genoa I wound on the starter cord (petrol engines have to have some advantages!) and she started up straight away! Whew! Plan B on the hoof was to anchor in Summer Cove. We nosed in very gingerly to a Leonore length gap in the boats on the visitor pontoon and were helped in by others. Off to the club again to register for €30 a night fees and have dinner (very good). General chat was for a truly awful day tomorrow.
16 June Day off Kinsale
And so it was! It rained hard with a vengeance and you could tell it just wasn’t going to stop. Oh well, showers, breakfast, a reasonably large town.. not too bad.. but every trip out involved staning in the new location dripping all over the floor before dis-robeing. At the club we met our Frenchman from Baltimore and recounted our respective journeys.. we had chuckle when he was so gutted to hear that there WAS a pub at Bere Island, which he didn’t find out about! He had to head for Brest next day, which was due to clear up in the morning. We had a sodden evening sampling bars and finding some reasonable music.
17 June Kinsale – Ballycotton
The rain petered out somewhat reluctantly by mid morning and we headed out, the engine starting well after I gave the batteries a charge yesterday. Getting something back for €60 fee, I got their rib to tow our head out from the pontoon and into the channel where we were fairly close on the wind, and had to take to tacking to get past Cork, but then it set in a better direction and fell away so we settled on making for Ballycotton. A local fishing boat came past going for the gap between the Island and the harbour, which I bottled out of following as it’s known to be a ‘local knowledge only’ passage and I didn’t know his draught.
Sailing round the Island we took one of the visitor buoys and got into our usual dinner/dinghy routine before going into the harbour for refreshments. Walking into town we hooked up with a couple who ran a hotel somewhere in central Ireland and they insisted on getting us a drink, so we reciprocated and so on through the various pubs in town.
18 June Ballycotton – Dunmore East
Practically no wind this morning, but as prediction, so I got up early at 6am and ‘sailed’ off the mooring and very slowly made our way east while Andy slept. .still, it was nice and sunny and occasionally a breath came up and we reached the dizzy speed of 3kt for a few spells. My failing batteries gave a good excuse for a bit of motoring from time to time… still Andy didn’t wake..Capel Island, Youghal, and eventually Dungarvan crawled by.. I had planned to stop here, but somehow on double-checking I had made a balls-up of the tide calculations and it just wasn’t going to work out..pity because Dungarvan is one of my favourites but accessible strictly 2hrs either side of HW. On we drifted eastwards and I ‘phoned my old pal Tom Kennedy of Dunmore (Waterford Harbour SC) and we were then set up for the evening. In classic style a very healthy wind blew up for the last couple of miles and we made our way into the much-awaited new pontoons Tom had told us about in the SE corner of the harbour. These are not actually that brilliant, being crowded with some permanent craft, and a bit stuck in the corner… but only a problem for us long-keeled, no-reverse luddites. Rafting onto a very helpfully crewed yacht made it easy in the end.
Tom came and greeted us and promised to get us some petrol..brilliant! We were whisked off to his home just up on the cliff and treated to a steak and potatoes dinner, followed by a trip to Powers Bar, known locally as ‘The Butchers’ (for that it used to be… nice to see pubs being created rather than the other way round we seem to get over here) This was local music night which was a great bonus for us and we had a fabulous night socialising with all Tom’s friends… with only a reluctant eye on the coming 5am start for home tomorrow.
19 June Dunmore East – Pembroke Dock
Five o’clock start, circling around inside the harbour we de-fendered and got the main up to avoid bouncing around outside. A beautiful sunrise was still lingering over Hook Head lighthouse as we made our way out over the races at Waterford harbour entrance and set course for the Koningbeg buoy.
Again luck was with us and we were usefully off the wind and a bit more so once we got to the buoy. Apart from a short spell of failing wind in the middle of the day we made good progress and eventually Grassholm came into view.. I find this always takes much longer than it should, but the explanation is that the white guano cap blends into the horizon so that its height doesn’t show. An easy expectant cruise down to St Ann’s then got us home into the Haven and we made it up to Hobbs to dump gear and get back to the mooring by 10pm with just enough light.. a big advantage of a June cruise.