Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Heading North....

We left Southampton for a trial run – to see how we felt about things – and just kept going... well we stopped in Saltash to catch up with Tony and Jen before they, too, headed off to southern Portugal via the Biscay. 

Walking up from the river, the scene that greets us...
   A short hop and into the Helford to catch up with Nige and Jude, who live off the Helford and provide a wonderful sanctuary from the rigours of sea life. The Febuary storms had taken a toll and we helped shift some wood from a storm toppled tree, test their new shower, swap war stories and then on.

But not before we were greeted one morning by a bowsprit sliding very close to our stern as Luke Powell manoeuvred Agnes past us.... “Isn't that Richard somebodies old boat”? he asked, “No but it used to belong, 14 years ago, to Martin and Roma” I replied. His face lit up “That's right, built up the river from here and a fine job they made too”

We anchored off Penzance for a night before entering the harbour earlyish the following morning. We'd never been into here before and really liked the place. A working harbour that tolerates yachts as long as they're prepared to raft up and charges reasonable rates. 

The shower is good and whilst entry to the harbour is restricted to -2HW to +1HW (the harbour has a lock gate) it was a peaceful night we stayed. Oddly enough we were tied up astern of a Wylo that turned out to be owned by the ex-wife of the guy who built our hull.

We set off for Baltimore, Ireland but the wood shifting had taken a toll on my back and even Bee had felt the effort for a day or so after. Not fancying an over-nighter or two I made a fateful decision to stop over in the Scillies and sail up from there. True it made it a slightly shorter crossing but we do not share other folks opinions that these islands are wonderful for several reasons. The anchorages are, for the most part, average and coming under the Duchy of Cornwall they levy fairly steep charges for this indifference. Still we knew all this and still opted to stop so can't really complain. After a couple of days we headed off with two options; move to another anchorage or carry on, depending on conditions. We chose the latter though with a forecast of N5 or 6 we must have been doolally. Still we kept on, slowly making our way west and north. Drama presented itself in the form of a shackle distorting under load and shedding its clevis pin and later on, the sister block on the same running back coming somewhat apart. Both were relatively easy to sort out and, eventually, repair. In time we made Baltimore, chosen as it is an easy 24H entry admired the colourful waterfront and slept. With a SE forecast we moved on the following day to Schull (Skull), then onto Glengariff and then to what became our favourite anchorage for a while: Dunboy Bay. 

There seems to be more water than charted and whilst the best spot was already taken by a Vertue out of Falmouth they left after a few hours leaving us free to move in closer and have a wonderful, quiet evening. Bit of a mechanical the following morning when we left which needed us to re-anchor and sort before a long day of much motoring to get to Valentia. Valentia Harbour offers a choice of anchorages, all of which we explored before settling on our first choice although every other boat opted for the marina . Our choice was better and great shelter. Big hills and lots of trees. The following day gave us a wind shift to the NW and we moved onto our second anchorage. The scenery had been getting better the further north we got, and we were looking forward to the sail through the Blasket Islands and the dramatic mountains beyond. In the event we needed the engine to deal with the NW slop left over in the sound as we were thrown about a bit. 

Smerwick is a large bay with a number of communities around its edge and we liked the place. The fishing boat we chatted to was very friendly and helpful and though we rolled a little we left the following morning full of positive feelings for the place. But onwards as we were getting to the area we really wanted to see – Connemara. It was a longish day with reasonable winds although we needed engine help to be sure we arrived before dark. Our destination before the stiff NW's came in was to be Inishmore...... with 6 miles to go Bee read that NW winds throw an uncomfortable swell into the harbour and we switched destinations to Cashla Bay arriving about 10pm. A big, easy buoyed entry with good anchoring. A new marina exists and the harbour caters for fishing boats and the numerous ferries that run between there and various Aran Islands. The following day a local told us that the new pier in the harbour at Inishmore made it very secure and no roll entered. Well we'll just have to visit another time...

Picking up Passage Weather it looked as though we were due a long period of stiff easterlies and so it proved. The sailing was great, the scenery stunning. The sun shone and Ireland was at its best. We could see shades of Labrador and Newfoundland everywhere we looked. Small communities (although a lot more than either of those two places) huddle on the coast. Folks go about their business, unfazed by this brightly coloured boat that wanders amongst them. And it is on our doorstep!

Gull Rock
 We have used the easterlies to get a bit further north, one day romping along under double-reefed mizzen and a couple of headsails at 6knots, another day beating our way slowly to the point where we now are. Possibly our favourite for a very long time. We arrived yesterday afternoon in a tremendous downpour with lightening above the hills and mountains that surround Killary. We had had a wonderful, exhilarating sail up the coast, dodging rocks and enjoying the bright sunshine. The entrance into Little Killary is narrow with rocks and we motored in. 

The gusts come down the mountain, hit 34knots and the engine never faltered as we slowly made our way in. Despite the rain and wind we were both looking to see if we could spot the cottage that might form the “Dribble Farm” the, as yet, mythical place where Robin, Jac, me and Bee hope, one day to find and create. A land base where old cruisers can retire to.... Well this could be it. Great harbour and big hills and mountains abound. Trees too! We love it here.

Dribble Farm material....?

Much has happened on this trip, yesterday for instance the shackle that holds the flying jib to the traveller unwound itself with the consequence of the #2 jib suddenly being free to flog. Luckily yesterdays winds were lighter than those previously and we were quickly able to get it under control and a new shackle substituted. On an earlier jaunt when the winds were kicking up and Bee was changing the jib to a smaller one she made a simple mistake resulting in the jib block half way up the shrouds and wrapped around itself and any other line it came into contact with. To make it worse the baggywrinke has a tendency to “grip” a line that comes into contact with it making retrieval difficult. Well we needed that block as we were under-powered without a headsail and despite the heaving deck, lumpy seas and general unpleasantness we had to get it back. The one piece of luck we had was although it was out of reach from the deck with a boat hook it wasn't so far up as to be out of reach if someone could climb up the mast using the mast-rings (they connect the sail to the mast and are leather covered steel) In situations like this Bee always volunteers on the grounds that if she fell in she had more chance of being recovered than if I fell in although, as I vividly remember, the score is 1-0 in her favour on that front. Anyway we devised a plan - “OK you do it” and she began the climb. I guess she needed to climb 3 hoops ( so about 3 metres off the deck) before she was in a position where clinging on with one arm she used the ally boat hook to snag the block and slowly managed to get it to where she could grab it. From there it became more difficult as the line needed feeding around the shroud which required her to lean out from the centre-line toward the edge of the boat, all the time hanging on at full stretch. But it was done, the block recovered, a new sail set and we carried on.

Sadly one thing we haven't been able to recover is our log. Installed by Martin and Roma when Hannah was built it appears to have died. In the past this was usually a lump of weed that stopped it revolving and was easily cleared but all attempts have been unsuccessful and the conclusion is that the small paddle wheel has dropped off. 

And lastly: Fladen suits. We bought some over the winter after we'd seen them in the Fisherman's Coop in Stornoway last year. Just the thing for cool/cold climate sailing and how I wish we had had them on the last Greenland swannee.

Little Killary
50 36.7N
09 51.09W

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