Much planning had been done to enable this trip to be dovetailed with my friend Phil’s trip to the Channel Isles which I had promised to go on.. but the best laid plans went awry while we were in the Channel Isles, and my trip to Ireland had to be postponed, eliminating other crew save for myself and David Hammond an ex-colleague of mine.. and so it was that we rendezvous’d for shopping in Pembroke Dock and then after picking Christine up from work had a couple of pints in the Royal George in Pembroke whilst setting alarms for tomorrow.
13-14 July Pembroke Dock – Kinsale 140m wind F2-3 N
Our aim was to get a good way west in one go, and we set Kinsale as the target. Tide dictated that we should set off early, to make the most of west-bound streams, and so we did, leaving the mooring under sail at 0630 two hours after high water, with The Smalls lighthouse 27 miles distant. Progress was initially excellent with the light-ish northerly wind taking us to The Smalls shortly after midday, and we then entered the Smalls TSS, north-bound, no-man’s land then southbound with only one ship each way. We were then met with a wonderful dolphin display featuring lots of showing off – very welcome way of passing time un-noticed. In the afternoon the wind fell light and we struck the spinnaker to try and keep speed up, until dusk when we doused it for an easy night with about 70 miles to go to the Bulman buoy off Kinsale. In the night we motored to restore batteries but shortly before midnight we suffered a total electric failure, all lights and nav-aids going down. David got me out of bed and I went for a look in the switch-box, and on opening the door everything came back on, so neglecting further investigation for the moment we worked out a rig for jamming the door in an ‘on’ position, we carried on! We motored most of the dark hours in very low wind, but in the morning with about 40 miles to go tried the spinnaker again for an hour but not really progressing we returned to motoring. I was really chuffed that we could motor for so long on the refurbed and improved engine (see last year’s tribulations). A good winter’s work!
In mid morning we managed to sail again, eventually making our way past the Bulman and up river to Kinsale Yacht Club marina, tying up at the visitor pontoon, and having a swift guiness whilst paying at the club bar for our stay. Plenty time to fetch fuel and provisions from town before a rest, fix the electrical system (fatigued solder joint) and off to town for a top-notch meal at Crack-Pots and a few more drinks in assorted bars.
15 July Kinsale – Cape Clear Island North Harbour 46nm wind F3 E/ESE
We were fairly hemmed in on the pontoon in the morning but luckily folk in the outer boat ahead of us were up early and we pulled Leonore’s head out on my superlong polypropylene floating rope into position to put the engine on (no neutral available) Again, we planned to get west as quickly as possible and with a reasonable wind we reached down river and quickly over to the Old Head of Kinsale over breakfast, and then turned west where we had a great spinnaker run. Heads that are often so hard won in westerly winds passed quickly.. Seven Heads, Galley, Toe, and soon we passed Kedge Rock outside Baltimore and headed through Gascanane Sound into Roaringwater Bay under sail, then, heading for Crookhaven, I thought we would look into Cape Clear Island harbour to see what the new developments were like. As it was late afternoon, the busy ferry time had passed so getting caught in the narrow entrance channel was a low risk, and we had a clear run in, turning past what used to be the only deep water berth, and there it was – a sizeable deep pool with pontoons around the edge, so we pulled up on the nearest, and then turned the boat around ready for departure in case others came and made it difficult. Great.. off to pay dues but we soon found that it wasn’t considered finished yet, so was free for the time being.. better and better, considering showers and fuel were already available! A bit of walking in the evening and a simple pub meal made for a very satisfying day.
16 July Cape Clear- Glengarriff 31nm wind F2 W > F3 NW > F5 W
Up early again, but only light wind, so we motored to Mizen Head, and headed north, hoping to
make northwest to Dursey Sound and then Dingle, but this was impossible and we had to tack a couple of times just to keep to a northerly course and so decided to go for Bantry Bay. Passing Sheep head we were able to go on spinnaker as we turned into Bantry in a rising northwest wind and made good time to Glengarriff, where we picked up a visitor buoy. After a meal in town, the pub entertainment was Irish music, but performed by a multinational band which didn’t include any irish! Good to learn that the music is popular in Holland, Germany, USA and Austria!
17 July Glengarriff – Bere Island 18nm wind F5/6 WSW
Strong wind and rain was forecast for the morning, moderating later, so we decided on a tourist trip to the gardens of Garinish island, which we thought we would do by dinghy from the boat. However,
we almost didn’t get there when the cloud lowered to a fog and we had no visibility or satnav.. however we made it listening out for tourist boats, and then a lifting of the cloud. These gardens and walks are beautiful, even in the rain, and a warm café was welcome too. Making our way home, the outboard ran out of fuel, and we had not thought we needed to bring any (if we had made a direct line there) so time for David to try rowing. This was not easy as he hadn’t done it before and despite being a quality violin player was unable to master the co-ordination required and I despaired of getting home but for a strong westerly wind. If we hadn’t grabbed the boat at the first attempt I would have had to take over rowing, as the wind would have demanded straight line progress.
Anyway back to sailing.. it’s a long haul against the weather out of Bantry Bay, and as the wind was strong-ish I opted for a part-journey, stopping at the remote Lawrence Cove marina, and so we set off reefed down for a wet slog, which turned out to be quite fun and we were welcomed into the marina by the friendly owner to complete a good day, managed despite the weather. Here we met Kevin & Tina Rogers of Swn-y-Mor from Milford, who I knew in passing, so we had a good natter about our trips.
There’s not much on offer in the ‘town’, Rerrin, so we ate on board and investigated why the wind turbine had been going fast enough to explode before we tied it up en-route.. turned out to be a corroded connector allowing unrestricted speed. A trip to the quaint ex-military pub and then bed.
18 July Bere Island – Cape Clear Island South Harbour– Sherkin Island 52nm wind WNW 4
Up early again, and homeward bound now, motoring up to the top of Piper Sound just outside Castletownbere, where we could set sails for a broad reach in a nice moderate wind. Once we got out of Piper sound we had a lovely straight run for Mizen Head. On the way it seemed like a good day for staying at Cape Clear Island’s South Harbour (a first for me) with the wind being in the north, so after a spinnaker run from Mizen Head we pulled in to the bay and anchored in a really quiet spot. Motoring the dinghy ashore to the small harbour wall we went walking, ending up at the North Harbour again, where we got phone signal and found out that a strong southerly was on the way with a foul day tomorrow.
As the South Harbour is unsafe in a southerly we had a quick dinner and set off for Baltimore Harbour in a building swell.
Going for another first, we resisted the pull of Baltimore itself, and pulled up on the concrete barge pontoon at Sherkin Island, run by the Sherkin House Hotel just up the hill a bit, planning a day off tomorrow. For the evening we had a couple of drinks at the excellent proper pub the Jolly Roger a bit further up the hill, then came down to the Sherkin House for a dinner and a local’s music night.
19 July Sherkin Island – walking day off. Wind W F7
After a bit of a rough night being pushed onto the barge (there were no spaces on the lee side) we took breakfast at the hotel and picked up what there was on tourism, then adjusted and padded mooring lines then set off walking around the island, which does have some lovely locations and vistas – as well as some very wet overgrown grassy paths!
Unfortunately the café was having a locals lunch meeting so we only got coffee, but we were still running on breakfast really, so lunch was skipped and we got back to the boat and took showers offered by the Hotel. Later on we had dinner in the Jolly Roger to round off a relaxing day.
20 July Sherkin – Barloge Creek – Castletownsend 12nm wind WNW F4
A leisurely start, going genoa only out of Baltimore harbour and south of Kedge Rock,
making our way eastwards, and using GPS to find the hidden entrance to Barloge Creek (a third first on this trip).
The Creek is a popular tourist day tripper destination, renowned for the seawater waterfall at Loch Hyne. We anchored close behind another yacht in another beautiful location and took the
opportunity to experiment with set-ups for the sounder which has given up working in its normal location. By the time we had to leave we had sorted out a successful set-up with a sensor that read the shallow depth through the wooden hull, like for a fibreglass hull – conventional wisdom has it that this doesn’t work! Creeping carefully out we turned east and sailed through Stag Sound and into the river that runs up to Castletownsend.
Here we took a buoy that I have used several times before as it’s always free because it looks awfully close to Cat island and indeed the plotter says you’re over red-hatch uncharted rock but I found it works fine and have used it reliably. It being early we had time to look round the fascinating church and also walk out of town to the ancient hillfort which has fabulous views out over the coast. I was glad to see the portable toilet company with the world’s best strapline was still in business!
In the evening we had our second top-notch, at Mary Ann’s Michelin rated fish restaurant.. fabulous. Lily’s pub up the road provided music as part of a wedding do.
21 July Castletownsend – Crosshaven 52nm wind SSW 5>6
Wind was predicted good for a long passage, so we got up early, motored out of the river and made slightly south of east to clear the dangerous Doolic Rock (mostly underwater today) off distant Galley Head, then due East for seven Heads and then the Old Head of Kinsale which we took outside to avoid overfalls.
Heading north-ish for Cork we had to tack downwind for comfort and speed, skirting the Daunt Rock and then getting into the harbour at Roche’s Point to down sails and motor into the Owenboy River leading to Crosshaven. My favoured stop here is at Salve Marina because the understanding Dutch owner Wiese has always allowed me to stay where I have chosen to tie up on an easy berth given Leonore’s manoeuvring restrictions.. no such liberties at the Royal Cork – and it’s closer to town.
Going down to town we stopped at the Oar where we again met Kevin & Tina Roberts for a quick chat but we had to search out dinner, and promised to meet again at Fitzgibbon’s. Not much luck at Cronin’s but we were lucky to get a place sat up at the bar at the Ship which was crowded with families taking Sunday evening dinner. Ours was excellent and we rolled down replete to Fitzgibbon’s and had a pleasant late evening chatting with Kevin and Tina, and our expectation was to wait another day to see off heavy weather before heading for home.
22- 23 July Crosshaven – Pembroke Dock 129nm wind SSW 4/5 due to fall
Over a coffee in town we realised that although the wind was currently strong, calm weather was coming and we saw that we would have to leave today to get a decent stretch under sail, so we got back to the marina, showered up and went back to the coffee shop for lunch, and got ready to leave by 2pm. With a useful help from Kevin we turned around and headed out under engine and then at the harbour entrance set up the wind vane and sailed for St Ann’s 115 miles distant with the wind just forward of the beam whilst we cleared the next headlands and offshore rocks. These passed we bore away and went well, bringing the distance down to 70 miles by nightfall, when we also reefed the genoa.
The night presented us with lights from a number of mercurial fishing boats and a big ferry, probably Rosslare to Le Havre, and several distant big ships. Dawn came as we began the TSS crossing at The Smalls, although we had no troublesome traffic. Then passing south of The Smalls lighthouse with the wind backing eastwards we began to struggle with a strengthening north-going tide and realised we had failed to make south as much as we could have done earlier on. Eventually before Skokholm we had to tack south for a bit to get ourselves past St Ann’s into the Haven, at first sailing through Thorn Island Sound but then with a dead-east we motored against the tide up to our mooring at Hobbs Point by early afternoon. A journey that started so well, but was frustrating at the end. However, it was a good job we set off a day earlier than planned as the wind fell and what there was left now was easterly.