Waiting for a weather window…again

Friday 28 – Sunday 30 April

It was decided to take advantage of the two extra free nights offered by the marina, as the weather was windy with showers, and it seemed a good opportunity to catch up with laundry and attempt some internet admin in the office. This seems to be the Mate’s preferred strategy for ignoring inclement weather – some sailor. She did return eventually to get stuck in to a long-overdue needlework project, which occupied her late into Saturday night and most of Sunday.

A relaxed farewell

Thursday 27 April

A last lazy morning onboard was enjoyed by all. Mate cooked a delicious lunch of fresh hake on a base of pearl barley mixed with roasted aubergine and tomatoes, while conversation ranged from the students’ plans and prospects to the forthcoming general election. My crew accompanied the visitors back to the coach stop where they would pick up a transfer to the airport: Aircoach is very straightforward and not too expensive. A light dose of retail therapy was the next order of the day, to distract from any goodbye blues you understand, before coming home to a light supper, and reflections on a most enjoyable weekend.

Exploring ROI’s Capital

Monday 24 – Wednesday 26 April

The party left me to the mercy of the cold wind and rain, to ride the DART into central Dublin to wander through Trinity College, St Stephen’s Green and Iveagh Gardens. They were disappointed to find entry charges for Christ Church and St Patrick’s Cathedrals, and made the most of the outside areas of Dublin Castle. They absorbed the atmosphere in the Temple Bar district and the ‘creative’ area nearby known as ‘Purple Flag’, reminiscent of London’s Soho. The National Library was a lovely example of classical architecture, built in the round with a beautiful high domed roof.

On the last full day of the visit, everybody enjoyed a lazy morning, before making the most of the three-day saver ticket to ride the train back into the city centre. The visitors explored a second art gallery of the trip, while my crew wandered along the river to the replica tall ship the Jeanie Johnston, near the memorial to Ireland’s potato famine, which they found very moving. They strolled into the shopping district up O’Connell Street to the GPO, the post office building where the 1916 Easter Rising began.
A delicious ‘farewell’ Italian meal was enjoyed near the rendezvous point of Ha’penny Bridge (not Haypenny, if you ask the Second Mate’s brother), after which the “real Irish experience” was discovered, according to SMB’s girlfriend, in a hostelry in Temple Bar offering proper Guinness and live music – great craic all in all.

Our private Royal Visit

Sunday 23 April

Having given up waiting for confirmation of berth availability from Howth, we had a very helpful conversation with Dun Laoghaire, who offered us a choice of moorings, so we made our way back through the shipping out of the River Liffey and across the bay to one of the largest and emptiest marinas I’ve ever been to. It seems the adoption of the Euro and EU financial input into the economy of the Republic of Ireland encouraged strong growth in many areas, including the maritime leisure industry, but the present downturn of this all-too-familiar ‘boom and bust’ cycle has resulted in many cruising sailors being unable to maintain their hobby, leaving large areas of the marina unoccupied. My crew’s main frustration was the lack of reliable wifi, as the marina is too large for the shore-based signal to reach across to us.
After some tidying and general preparation for visitors, my crew went off to meet my VIPs from their flight and bus ride into town. They were delighted to see my Second Mate’s brother again, and to become acquainted with his girlfriend from University.

Busy waterway

Saturday 22 April

This morning my crew wandered into town, and enjoyed its proper high street and interesting historical buildings. After lunch, the fenders and mooring lines came back aboard green (“Well, it is Ireland, you know”), and we were off again, under motor again, heading North again, through a very slowly racing fleet of J-boats, towards Dublin. Abeam of Bray Head I was suddenly cruising in company, surrounded by more vessels than we’ve seen all season: a diving rib, yachts in a variety of design and vintage, container ships, cargo vessels and ferries in and out of the River Liffey. Once round Poolbeg Light, I squeezed South of the fairway to keep out of the way of the commercial shipping bearing down from behind, and soon arrived alongside the concrete outer breakwater pontoon of Poolbeg Yacht Club marina.
This was probably our worst landfall so far: the marina office had ignored our radio calls as we approached, the concrete was broken just where we landed, and the facilities were unimpressive, and only available when the clubhouse is open: 1000-2200. Having booked for a week to welcome visitors, my crew decided to transfer elsewhere tomorrow, and so were charged €39 for one night, and decided to do without shore power at extra cost. The atmosphere was not peaceful.

Where has the wind gone?

Friday 21 April

Today we motored yet again in flat grey conditions, but at least it was only for a couple of hours. We tied up on long lines to the East Pier inner wall in Wicklow, enjoying the colourful murals painted by Pat the Postman of important vessels that have visited this interesting town. We were welcomed by promenaders wandering the quay walls in the evening sunshine, and the famous Sammy seal, resident of this harbour, made two brief appearances during our stay.


Refuelling…by tanker

Thursday 20 April

Arklow was once a thriving town, dominated by a huge factory producing explosives, but sadly these days little evidence remains of any gainful activity. My diesel tanks needed replenishing after so much motoring, and the crew wandered around the commercial harbour in search of ‘the man with the tanker’. Eventually they found themselves in the RNLI station, where the helpful crew sourced a phone number for said man, and contact was made to arrange delivery for later that afternoon.
A hefty pipe was led down the bridge and onto my side deck, for fuel to be dispensed straight from the tanker, who is more used to delivering orders in the thousands of litres to thirsty fishing boats, than my paltry 300 litres. Skipper was pleased with the price, though, as it wasn’t subject to UK rates of VAT.

Another non-entry

Wednesday 19 April

Again a day of very little wind, so we motored on towards Carnsore Point’s wind turbines, and turned North to pass Rosslare ferry port. This is supposed to handle 80 ferries a week, but it seems the Pilot Book is out of date, as I only heard one all the time we were in the vicinity. My crew got very excited at the sighting of a minke whale, until it came close to say hello and turned out to be a bottlenose dolphin. It’s amazing how much bigger these are than the harbour porpoises and common dolphins that have swum with us so far…but still a lot smaller than a minke, and the dorsal fin is a quite different shape.
Somewhere Mate had always been keen to visit was Wexford, and we found the clear water mark at the beginning of the approach channel, just at high water, as the Pilot suggested. The harbour’s website insisted the buoyed channel must be followed carefully, as the bay was prone to silting and the channel changed shape frequently. Unfortunately there was only one other red mark to be seen, and trying to rely on the chart plotter almost proved disastrous when my hull touched a sandbank, and I nearly got stuck. Part of the log that sits just forward of my keel was broken, so I can no longer report boat speed and tidal flow. In the end we conceded defeat, and once again continued our passage to a more suitable stop. Thanks to the less fierce tides on this more attractive stretch of coast, and lighter nights, we were able to reach Arklow and tied up safely to a pontoon in the Avoca river. The marina here was very small, and I was happy to be left outside its walls. Just ahead was an attractive bridge, and the trees lining the riverside were in full Spring blossom.

Boat show sales? Boat show sails!

Tuesday 18 April

We were ready to set off at HW slack, and of course made a perfect exit, while no one was watching. Skipper helmed me downriver, to take in the scenery he’d missed on the way up, and once in the bay hoisted the main while the wind was on the nose. Rounding Hook Head and the lighthouse, he unfurled my gennaker and staysail, and we all enjoyed a wonderful reach at six knots in eight knots of wind. The scenery along this stretch of coast is fairly tame, but all the better in the sunshine and when viewed from a flat sea.
We made good time for the recommended approach to Kilmore Quay, and picked up the transit, with the seabed clearly visible at low water. Mate suffered a sudden nosebleed while setting up my ropes and fenders for mooring. Disappointingly, when we got close to the entrance, we found it blocked by a large fishing vessel on each wall, and had to turn back out, Mate muttering about having to remove all my ropes and fenders, as Skipper decided on an anchorage in the lee of Great Saltee instead. A grey seal came by to check us out, as news from home was caught up with: a snap General Election has been called.

Tourists in Waterford

Monday 17 April

Unlike usually in England, Easter Bank Holiday Monday in the Republic of Ireland was warm with light winds and sunny spells, so the crew took themselves off to seek out the sights of this interesting small city of Viking origin. They treated themselves to a first delicious Guinness with a good pub lunch, and were later delighted to come across a wonderful al fresco concert by the wonderful folk ensemble ‘Newfoundland’. They rounded off the day in the Medieval Museum, an excellent source of information about the development of the city, and were awed by the exhibition of Cloth of Gold Vestments.