Learning to fish, and the Isles of Scilly

We left Ireland on Sunday the 25th August and took on our last long passage of our circumnavigation, across the Irish Sea. The forecast was for a decent breeze, but the sea conditions were set to be moderate/rough.

The first day went well and we tried out our new fishing gear as we passed the small islands just outside Kilmore Quay. I reeled in the first pollock, and then Helena caught the (marginally more impressive) second:

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Later in the day we were followed by dozens of dolphins. They came racing over to us before playing across our bows. At one point we had three or four groups join us like this all from different directions and, although impossible to count, we estimate that there were between thirty and forty dolphins zipping around the boat all together at one point.

As the evening closed in and we were getting further offshore, the direction of the waves changed entirely and they became much bigger, hitting us across our rear quarter. The wind was also coming from directly behind us which, in combination with the waves made it virtually impossible to sail. To maintain our course we ran the engine through the night and took our three hour watches in turn. The clear skies allowed the bright moon to light the surreal watery landscape around us; it was a beautiful and quite humbling scene.

In the morning, as we approached Scilly, I sailed in slightly calmer seas while Helena slept under Buxton’s watchful eye:

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Scilly is a stunningly beautiful group of islands about 20 miles south west of Cornwall. I took this photo just as we were arriving at the entrance to New Grimsby Sound on the north side of Tresco, it was tricky to make out the entrance between the rocks:

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We’d been joined on deck by a small fish that must have decided that he’d had enough of the Irish Sea and that life on board with us would be better. Buxton wasn’t too impressed and didn’t seem to know what to make of a meal that hadn’t come out of a packet:

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We spent three nights at anchor in the Scillies (there are no marinas), and moved from one stunning location to the next each day. This is us anchored in Old Grimsby Sound, where we spent the second night:

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Sadly there wasn’t enough wind to kitesurf but I did dust off the kites and have a play on the white sandy beach that you can see in the background. Another few knots of wind and this would have been just about the most perfect kitesurf spot imaginable.

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The last night was spent alone in a very remote anchorage. There were no other boats there and absolutely no light pollution which, combined with a perfectly clear sky, meant that the view of the heavens was incredible and we could clearly make out the Milky Way.

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This morning we set off to find another anchorage. As we worked our way around the north side of the islands, we realised that the sea was flat, and that the wind direction was good for a crossing back to the mainland. With Cornwall clearly in sight the temptation to take advantage of the good conditions won us over and we changed course for Penzance. We are now at anchor just outside the harbour there, in sight of St Michaels Mount.

Tomorrow we will round Lizard Point and head for Falmouth where we’ve arranged to collect my Dad. He’ll be joining us for a few day’s as we head along Cornwall’s Jurassic coast.

If you’d like to see more photos from our circumnavigation, then take a look at our Facebook page

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Buxton disappears again!

Once again there was panic on board this morning as we couldn’t find Buxton!

We’d spent the night at anchor outside Rosslare, a busy ferry terminal, so there was no pontoon for him to escape on. If he wasn’t on board, it could mean only one thing: he was away with the fishes!

I’d seen him in the night when I’d got up to silence a few things  that were bumping around as the boat rolled in the wake from the ferries, but in the morning when I got up it was just like Lossiemouth all over again and he was nowhere to be seen. We searched in all the cabins, and the heads, and under the table where he generally hides himself away. The port holes were barely open so we couldn’t see how he could have managed to even get out on deck but we still searched the topsides anyway.

Then we thought we heard the jingle of his collar. Sure enough, it led us to him. He’d managed to climb into one of the cupboards I’d opened in the night to fix a rattle. I’d closed it again in the morning inadvertently shutting him inside:

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So, a short panic and a false alarm. Thank goodness.

Republic of Ireland

Last weekend we left Amalia in Dun Laoghaire marina and stayed at an old friend from university's place in Dublin. We packed a light bag for the weekend and a box with a cat in it too.

Nicola was, as ever, a great host and took us on a tour of the city, starting at the Guinness brewery where we took a walk around the exhibitions before enjoying the best ever pint of the black stuff in their sky bar with great views of the city:

We then walked around the Temple Bar area, eating in a food market and enjoying public art installations before retiring to a bar for another round of refreshments.

On Sunday the wind was up so we took Nicola out for a day sail around Dublin bay. She proved to be a natural at the helm. Check out her look of concentration:

Even Buxton seemed relaxed with her sailing skills:

We have now moved south again to Arklow and are assessing the weather for the next leg of our journey.

Finally, these caught my eye in the supermarket this morning – proof if you needed it that we are actually in Ireland:

 

Heading south

We’ve now reluctantly left beautiful Scotland in our wake and are heading south.

In the past week we have covered about 200 miles from Oban, through the Crinan Canal, around the Kyles of Bute to the Isle of Arran, and then after a night at anchor in Loch Ryan across the North Channel to Bangor in North Ireland. Today we left there and crossed the Irish Sea to Peel in the Isle of Man.

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The trip through the canal was pretty and, unlike any other canal we’ve been in, the locks all needed to be operated manually. Our friends Brian and Jayne were still on board so there were plenty of crew to share the work.

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Brian and Jayne left us to return home just after Crinan and Helena and I proceeded on to the stunning Kyles of Bute. I’d initially imagined that seeing all this scenery every day would dumb the senses to it, but the variety of colours and textures found in the Highlands meant that this never happened:

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The weather forecasts have been a bit hit and miss recently. We got caught in a quite viscous blow between Arran and Loch Ryan, and then the opposite problem today when the 15 knots that was forecast amounted to nothing much more than a gnats fart. With this in mind, and given the fact that we’re not in a hurry, we’ve decided to be conservative with our route planning until the series of low pressure systems that’s been causing the havoc passes over. Our aim this week is just to make it back across the Irish Sea to Dublin to meet up with an old Uni friend for the weekend.

Running at a slow pace has also meant that we’ve had a chance to get a few odd jobs done, including giving the boat a good clean. Yesterday I spent the entire afternoon applying a little TLC to the topsides which had started to look a little tired. Here’s the result, I’m quite proud of it:

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So now, we’ve finished our dinner and are sat in a nice pub with free wifi just a short walk from the boat. Just time to write this blog entry before checking the weather forecast.

If you’d like to see more photos and movies from this part of our journey, then take a look at our Facebook page.

The Western Isles – Part II

Well I guess in the inevitable has happened and we’ve finally seen some true Highlands’ weather!

On the night of the 29th we had a quiet evening with good weather at anchor on the Isle of Ornsay. The next morning we had a great sail to Malaig, even Buxton enjoyed it – listen out for him purring in this video clip:

Our friends Brian and Jayne travelled up from Kent to meet up with us in Malaig, and we all set off the following morning, to head back out to the small isles.

While en-route, a quick re-check of the forecast showed that it had changed significantly and that a low pressure system was now headed our way, bringing with it gale force winds and rain. The anchorage we were headed to would have been too exposed so we changed course and headed south to picturesque Tobermory on Mull where we knew we could spend some time ashore. We ended up spending three days there, giving us plenty of time to visit all the attractions and to try (two bottles of) the local distillery’s whiskey.

Here’s a great photo I managed to snap of a double rainbow during a downpour yesterday afternoon:

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In case you’ve never seen it before, check out this YouTube clip of the guy getting very excited over a double rainbow. “What does it mean?”

This afternoon we left the shelter of the anchorage at Tobermory and set course for either Loch Spelve (if the wind did as predicted and dropped) or Oban (if it didn’t). This was our eventual track:

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As you can see from this, we decided not to go to Loch Spelve and headed across to Oban; here’s the reason why:

The video above was shot using my phone after we’d reduced both sails to the size of handkerchiefs, and started to head across the bottom of Loch Linnhe to Oban. This area was more exposed to the wind and swell coming in from the Atlantic and we had a consistent F7 for most of the way. The waves look quite harmless in this video but just after we stopped filming one caught the side of the boat and crashed over into the cockpit drenching me.

Rather than dropping as we reached Oban, the wind peaked to a F9 reaching 45 knots across the decks. Finally, just to add a little more spice to the mix, the local ferry started to follow us in but after a short VHF conversation with Brian, he very graciously agreed to slow down and give us time to get in well ahead of him.

Thankfully both Brian and Jane are very experienced sailors, and they’ve taken this week comfortably in their stride. They are great people and it’s been a pleasure having them on board and listening to their sailing stories from the years of living aboard their boat in the Caribbean.