Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A game of two minds......

Several months and 2000 + miles since I last updated so will cover the trip as quickly as possible.

After we left Little Killary we worked our way up to Clare Island before heading north to the Hebrides. More crowded than even last year including one anchorage that we shared with a 42.5 metre “super yacht”. Winds were fickle but we arrived finally at Stornoway, much changed, and were greeted by Eve and Andrea pootling around the harbour in the dinghy. The town now boasts a brand new marina and consequently far more visiting cruisers bringing some money into the place perhaps. We moved on after a couple of days, heading for the mainland and north to Orkney. We anchored round the corner from Cape Wrath in a small cove overlooked by a couple of hidden houses – lovely spot.

Across to Orkney trying to make sense of the tides...the winds were light and we needed to motor some of the time. The intention had been to enter Scapa Flow at Kirkwall but I “worked” out the tide would be against us so had to enter the Pentland Firth; making sure we hugged the Orkney coast to avoid being swept through. Moving through the water at 8 or 9 knots at 30 or 40 degrees to your heading is an alarming feeling made worse by the knowledge that the bit we were in was only just the beginning of the damn thing. We made it to the southern entrance of Scapa and I realised that Scapa Flow ebbs and floods via both entrances not in one and out the other. Luckily inside the entrance the flow is less strong and we made progress to our chosen anchorage. The next week was spent wandering peacefully around Scapa Flow, watching the world go by whilst all the time my mind was mulling the prospect “how do I get us out of here”? We lacked proper tide tables/tidal streams and I'd already proven I had got the entrance very wrong so as the days went by I found the task ahead becoming more and more of a weight. 
 
The celebrated Italian POW built chapel

Anchored off Kirkwall, I tried to make sense of the tide with little success and when the weather forecast indicated that we would experience northerly winds for the next week I opted for an easier option than beating into strong tidal streams and suggested we turn south and revise our plans. In the end we ran through the narrows with no fuss, Bee pointing out that we have successfully negotiated the minefields that litter the Passamaquady; Hurst Narrows and many others so she was unsure why I felt to nervous about the tides around this area.....

So south we went, exploring the mountainous western coast of Scotland and eventually back onto the Irish coast. In the little town of Arklow we tied up in the fishing harbour helped by a very friendly local. He came rushing along the dock, asked our draft and warned us to go slow as the harbour had silted up...we crept in with 30 cms under the keel and tied up to the boat he skippered. Getting out proved interesting as the only deep water was where we were and turning the boat around involved a bit of “ploughing” but south we continued. We were heading for Rosslare but the wind meant a day long beat and in an effort to make inroads into the distance we used the engine to keep a decent angle. Sadly we had left Arklow with a Dutch single-hander who was sailing a modern, light bermudian rigged boat and we watched as he easily pointed higher than us even though we were motoring..... He was heading for Wales whilst we carried on tacking through narrow channels to Rosslare. A good anchorage for the night despite the radio message that a local fishing boat had sunk in 10 metres of water a few miles from the harbour and we watched as local fishing boats combed the spot where it had sunk.

We needed to catch the tide to round the SE point of Ireland and I looked it up and realised that if left early next morning we'd have it with us for much of the journey. Or we would have done if I hadn't looked up the LW times instead of the HW times and condemned us to hours of bucking the tide. Onto to see Phil and Mary, cruisers we met when we were first setting out years ago, spent a pleasant few days catching up and watching the activity in the harbour.

For reasons I now can't remember we opted to head back to England rather than onto France – I think we were ambivalent (still) about whether we intended to continue or probably we wanted to seriously consider hauling the boat and sorting the hull paint. Luckily the yards we considered could only haul us at big springs and in the waiting period we changed our minds. 
 
River Tamar

But in between we'd sailed up the Tamar, met up with friends we hadn't yet met and some we had, then decided to head south to sunnier climes and cheap wine.

The journey across the Biscay took too long with light winds, tides that swept us far too close to Ushant for comfort but eventually saw us sailing into Muros in Northern Spain. Now, like Stornoway, boasting a new marina but still with the option of anchoring as many boats do. A day or so after we'd arrived we were amazed to see another gaffer sailing in. And I do mean sailing in as it turned out to be Thierry, a Wylo owner we'd last seen in Lunenburg where he and his family live. With no engine at all he chooses his anchorages carefully....

Muros remains one of our favourite Spanish haunts, it has tourism but doesn't seem to be the main reason for existing and all the better for it. Narrow street giving plenty of shade and an interesting waterfront plus a working harbour all add up positively.

But from Muros the trip south has not been easy. The “normal” NW trades have given way to winds from the south resulting in heavy fuel bills for most boats. Some, mostly the larger, motor direct to their destination whilst some motor tack or simply try and sail but a frustrating time for all. Unlike previous trips down this coast we can afford, from time to time, to tie up in a marina breaking the journey as anchorages are often not within a days sail from each other. To date we have used two but only one new one. Figuera Da Foz we went into under “duress” as we had it in mind it would be very expensive and unwelcoming. It was neither and the guy on duty recognising our lack of manoeuvrability assigned us to an easy berth, coincidentally away from any boats that may get in our way. Ah the luxury of the first shower for a month........

Figueara Da Foz
Sept 5.

I'll post pics when I can


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